China has banned those under 18 from video gaming for more than three hours a week. This came as the government aimed to pull the plug on the ever-growing addiction that looks no less than “spiritual opium”.  

The brand new move comes as a part of a massive shift by Beijing to practice tighter control over its society and significant sector of the economy, namely education, tech and property. 

The new rules, applicable to all devices, including phones, are a blow to the global gaming industry that thrives as the most lucrative in the market.  

“They limit under-18s to playing for one hour a day – 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. – on only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” according to the Xinhua state news agency. They can also play for an hour, at the same time, on public holidays.

“Teenagers are the future of our motherland,” Xinhua quoted an unnamed NPPA spokesperson as saying. “Protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people’s vital interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation.”

“Gaming companies will be barred from providing services to minors in any form outside the stipulated hours and must ensure they have put real-name verification systems in place,” said the regulator. 

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The rule earlier stated that those under 18 could play video games for three hours on holidays and 1.5 hours on a regular day. With the change in the rules, Weibo was abuzz with reactions. Some were supportive of the new rules, while some were shocked at the unexpected dramatic change. 

“This is so fierce that I’m utterly speechless,” a user commented.

Others had a doubt that these rules could be enforced. “They will just use their parents’ logins, how can they control it?” asked one.

The NPPA regulator plans to inspect online gaming companies more frequently to ensure time limits and anti-addiction systems were put in place.