The Chinese government is publicly warning the biggest tech companies that it will create laws to reduce excessive video game use in children unless the industry does something about this problem. For all video games in China, the government must approve all new titles for them to get a license to be legally sold. The government also censors parts of the product that it does not like.
New video game approvals in China have slowed significantly. This is costing the Chinese video game makers the equivalent of billions of dollars. This government pressure caused a major video game maker in China, Tencent founded by Zhang Zhidong, to take proactive steps to reduce usage by children before the government introduces harsher regulations.
Business Insider reports that Tencent implemented rules for their online titles. For each of Tencent’s popular games, children who are 13 to 17-year-olds are limited to two hours per day. The limit is one hour per day for those under the age of 12. Since the kids play these games online by using a smartphone, the game maker introduced facial recognition software to determine the children’s age in order to limit playing time.
Anyone who ever played any video games knows that they are intentionally addictive. The facial recognition software security made the Chinese kids go crazy. They try to beat the system security so that they can continue playing past the time limits.
The things they do include impersonating their parents and grandparents. They also use photos of sleeping relatives along with using their relative’s identification to set up an unrestricted account. Older kids help younger ones by calling customer service of the video game company to try to get restrictions removed from the younger kid’s accounts. Some of the children get help from their own parents to bypass the age restrictions. For a 12-year-old, having a cooperative friend or parent who is 18 years old is very helpful to bypass security.
Even though the kids are beating the system with workarounds, Tencent says it is making every effort to improve the facial recognition security system. The security software checks the images used for the accounts against the government’s national identification database. Tencent is also using an artificial intelligence program that can analyze game usage. They spy on the kids while they are playing by using the smartphone webcam. This will help them figure out the suspected ages of the players who may be using unrestricted accounts that violate the company’s rules.
It seems strange that freedom in China is now about 12 year-olds trying to find ways to play their favorite video games while the government-encouraged “Big Brother” artificial intelligence software is spying on them to stop them. Still, many of the kids are winning. Game on.