April 10, 2007

Online gaming in China

A few weeks ago, I commented in this space about online games in China, describing the tension between the wild financial success of the domestic online gaming industry and the state’s serious fretting over youth game addiction.

This morning’s Shanghai Daily front page headlines, “Online game rules to help Internet addicts”, added the latest twist to the story. As of July, the government will require online gamers to register their real names, identity card numbers and residence permit information when they log on to play.

If this reminder that someone is watching you play is too subtle to deter excessive habits, a next-level Pavlovian system will kick in: After three hours of play, teen players will lose half their accrued points, and after two more hours, they’ll lose all their points or weapons.

So far, the game companies are taking a high-road response, saying the new rules will create a “long-term benefit.. of a healthy environment”. Adult players were a bit more skeptical, saying that “It sounds weird to provide ID cards for playing a game.”