In short: One of the many areas where China is imposing severe restrictions is online gambling for under-18s, which is said to be a way to prevent young people from becoming addicted to gambling. But do the rules work? Not according to a new study, which says there’s no evidence the restrictions reduce heavy gaming.
It was 2021 when China further tightened restrictions on the number of hours under-18s can play online games in the country. Since November 2019, minors have been allowed access for an hour and a half on weekdays and three hours on public holidays and weekends. They were also not allowed to play between 10pm and 8am, but this has been reduced to just one hour of playing time – on Fridays, weekends and public holidays – between 8pm and 9pm.
One might expect that such extreme restrictions would have a major impact on how much time China’s young people spend playing online games. However, PC gamers reports that a new study by several computer scientists suggests otherwise. The headline reads, “No evidence that Chinese game time regulations have reduced intense gaming in a segment of the video game industry.”
The study finds that governments around the world are considering regulatory measures aimed at reducing the time young people spend on digital devices, especially video games, raising questions about how effective China’s measures have proven.
The study used a huge amount of anonymized data covering 1 million separate game IDs, 7.04 billion game hours, and around 2.4 billion gamer profiles (there were multiple accounts for individual users) collected between August 16, 2019 and January 16, 2019 by Chinese users were collected 16. 2020; These dates were chosen to avoid skewing the results due to the lockdowns. Data provided by Unity Technologies, maker of the Unity engine, used by 61% of game developers.
Since the data is anonymous, it is not possible to identify which users are under the age of 18, i.e. different methods were used for interpretation.
The results showed that the majority of players played less than one hour per week before the regulations came into force, but there was a slight increase in intense games (four hours per day, six days per week) after the restrictions were put in place. It should be noted that using VPNs and sharing accounts always means that studies like this cannot cover every scenario.
“For gaming, our study provides evidence that wide-ranging restraints on young people’s digital behavior may not result in widespread and smooth declines in usage,” the researchers wrote, adding the caveat that “while our analyzes suggest that the likelihood is significant.” While some parts of the gaming industry may not have reduced play time following regulation, they cannot assess how prevalent this phenomenon is, particularly among young people.”