Video games have been a continued source of controversy in China. From gore to gambling, the country has continuously implemented strict regulations on gaming despite massive economic success for the industry in China. One of the most recently passed rules was an “anti-addiction” regulation for minors, giving children a gaming curfew and capping in-game purchases to fight “addiction” to gaming.
The regulation has barred minors from playing video games between 10 PM and 8 AM. During weekdays, children are limited to 1.5 hours of playtime per day. This increases to three hours on weekends and holidays.
Tencent has decided to support this initiative, launching a facial recognition system that prevents children and teenagers from gaming after dark.
To help China monitor players who “spend a significant amount of time” gaming at night, Tencent has created “Midnight Patrol.” This will conduct face screenings for accounts registered with a real name “that have played for a certain period of time at night,” Tencent said.
Anyone who “refuses or fails” the face verification will be “treated as a minor.” Those individuals will be kicked offline. Tencent’s facial recognition system will be initially launched for over 60 games. These titles include Honor of Kings and League of Legends. More games will be added to the list in the future, Tencent said.
Critics of the move have referred to it as an excuse for Tencent to track facial profiles of all of its players, regardless of their ages. While the restrictions only apply to minors, all players are required to expose themselves to the facial recognition software in order to play.
The NPPA is China’s primary online game industry regulator. The NPPA approved 33 foreign games for commercialization in China in 2021. Video games are a huge market in China, but many games are banned due to gore, violence, blood, or other types of mature content.
As of 2017, Pokemon GO is banned in China. The game was seen as a “big social risk” that could disrupt road and pedestrian safety, according regulating officials at China’s NPPA.