IF YOU'VE EVER found yourself moaning about nanny state interventions to a surely fascinated listener, then be glad you don't live in China. Over there, the government has just announced plans to control when and for how long under 18s play online games.
The plan which is apparently intended to avoid "harming the physical and mental health of minors", comes in three parts. First, under 18s are allowed 90 minutes of online game time per day during the week, doubling to three hours on weekends and public holidays. Secondly, no online gaming is allowed between the hours of 10pm and 8am. Finally, the money spent in online games has been capped to 200 yuan (~£22) per month for those ages eight to 17, and 400 yuan (~£44) for those aged between 16 and 18.
Enforcement will come via gaming companies and online platforms, which will require real names and identification numbers from players for authentication. Parents are also expected to guide the new rules - presumably to ensure the precocious little wazzocks don't just log on with parental accounts.
"The State Administration of Press and Publication is working with the Ministry of Public Security to lead the building of a unified identification system, which would provide user identification services to video game companies so that they can accurately verify the identity of minors," a government statement says.
"We are also going to gradually perfect and enrich the functions of the identification system, to achieve gaming time data sharing across platforms, so we could know and therefore restrict the total time every minor spends on gaming across platforms."
Oh, and over 18s are impacted too. The guidelines state that everyone is prohibited from playing titles that show "sexual explicitness, goriness, violence and gambling" regardless of how many birthday candles are on their cake.
You'll notice we've been putting the word "online" in front of games. That's not because we're so old that we don't understand young people's things like MTV and the Snappety Chat, but because these rules specifically apply to online games. It's not clear what's happening with offline single-player games where restrictions would be harder to enforce.
The scientific research on gaming addiction and the like is distinctly shaky for various reasons, which we covered in this interview with Dr Peter Etchells earlier in the year. But regardless of health risks, when esports are part of the 2028 Olympic Games, this is going to look very shortsighted. Even if eyesight in the country as a whole ends up being better. µ
Hype for HyperThreading
Hey kids, leave them iPhones alone
The Mac lady sings
Babel in yo ear