China Reels in Video Game Usage: Should We Follow Suit? – Liberal Article
Video games have quickly become an important element of children’s lives. They are not only a way to play but also a way to socialise with friends online. However, the number of hours spent on video games has skyrocketed. The average gamer plays nearly nine hours a week and even that is misleading. 25% play more than twelve hours a week and nearly a third of a 2021 survey regularly play for over five hours straight.
Although there are positives to video games, there are significant drawbacks to consider. They can create serious physical and mental health concerns, as players become addicted and engulfed by the game. Additionally, video gaming can harm academic performance. Therefore, for children, this can have a detrimental effect on their education which is critical at a young age. Instead of studying, they are gaming. A study has demonstrated this negative association between screen time and school achievement.
Consequently, the Chinese government has banned under-18s from playing online games for more than an hour a day, and then only between Friday and Sunday. This restricts children to three hours a week. Online gaming companies in China require that users register accounts with their ID cards; therefore, they are now easily able to track the time spent on these games. This was implemented to try and prevent addiction and lessen the impact on children’s academic development.
Following this, should similar measures be imposed in the UK?
Undoubtedly the UK faces comparable issues because of the introduction of video games. Children’s usage is currently the parent/guardian’s responsibility to restrict where necessary. After all, free choice continues to be a key element of our society. However, most parents/guardians are an older generation who have never experienced video games. As a result, they may not understand the negative impact it can have on children’s development.
I do not advocate for measures such as we have seen in China. However, the implementation of less drastic restrictions would encourage time away from video games. Additionally, information about both the benefits and drawbacks must be available for parents. I would even suggest that schools discuss it with children. As technology develops we are continuously learning about the wider, long-term impact of gaming on children’s development.
I am not suggesting authoritarian control. I do understand the positive elements of gaming. However, the government still has a responsibility to ensure that video games are not holding children back.
As to the viability of any measures, restrictions would be criticised and difficult to put into place. In the UK, there are no ID cards for citizens. Therefore there is little way to track time online. Additionally, accounts can be—and are—set up without identification. This, however, is a wider issue about confirming online accounts with real identities and does not pertain to this debate. The important point is that without any ability to track usage, restrictions cannot be implemented. In light of this, educating citizens—particularly parents/guardians—about video games is critical.
Video games are a way to socialise and escape. However, there are questions over the potential to negatively impact academic development, alongside other issues. Restrictions in China are too authoritarian and restrict free choice; yet in the future, the government may need to regulate gaming. How we deal with online gaming remains open. I am open to suggestions but I primarily believe that education is a good starting point.
Written by Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Point of Information
Games are big, but are they getting too big? – A Labour Response
China is quickly becoming a massive developer of games. Global market companies such as Tencent and miHoYo are quickly becoming recognisable developers alongside their games Pokemon Unite and Genshin Impact. Furthermore, massive Chinese conglomerates also hold large stakes in many national games development companies. Tencent alone has stakes in Riot Games, Supercell and even Epic Games and is one of the biggest companies in the world.
While we have seen some attempts from governments to grab the gaming industry by the horns, with the most notable example being Belgium’s loot box ban, China is the first major government to put outright limits on the amount of time children can spend playing online games.
What this means for both the Chinese video game industry and the entire world game industry is unknown. It is an unprecedented move. For starters, if we assume that online games and offline games are perfect substitutes, we may see a boom of Chinese developers developing story-based games and gacha games (a sort of random toy vending machine in game form). With the massive middle class in China serving as a prime market for games—as well as Chinese investments abroad—we may see many more mass appeal games being created without online capabilities.
One thing is for certain, this will be a dent in the online gaming industry. In 2020, the global online gaming market generated about $21.1 billion in revenue. Furthermore, this was a staggering 21.9% growth of the previous year and China, among East Asia, makes the biggest market for these games.
As a game developer, I am concerned that a government is potentially limiting the creativity of an entire genre of games. Yet as a labour activist, I hope that this shines a light on the exploitative conditions that online games are usually made in.
Epic Games, for example, has put the developers of Fortnite under massive strain to continually produce new purchasable content month after month to keep the game relevant. Epic employees reported 70+ hour work weeks, deteriorating health conditions and a culture of fear that kept employees working. This happens in many large studios across the world. This process of extracting surplus value from these developers is crucial to keeping these games profitable and relevant.
If companies have to deal with a slowdown in demand for online games it would be a perfect opportunity for many developers to unionise and strike for better conditions. However, whether or not they would be successful in reforming the industry is another question.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Joseph McLaughlin
A Responsibility of Parents Not Government – A Conservative Response
While excessive use of video games can be detrimental, it should not be a major concern of the government. Instead, it should be one for parents. I agree with the sentiment of the article that a soft-touch approach involving greater education is the way to go. This information, however, must be accurate so as not to needlessly frighten parents. Additionally, the advice must be proportionate. However, the current approach has already gone too far and the government and health services are beginning to present the issue as a medical one.
Currently, overuse of video games is reflective of “addiction” in certain circumstances, according to the NHS. In this regard, the social and occasionally moral panic around video games must be tempered rather than inflamed. The idea that the withdrawal of a games console will have a severe consequence for an apparently addicted child is false. The NHS, in comparing such issues to the struggles of alcoholics, heroin addicts or even chain smokers, wastes time and resources on something which parents ought to deal with.
The real solution to the overconsumption of video games where it impacts studies or becomes compulsive is for parents to take necessary action. The article suggests that technological advancements prevent parents from taking action due to a lack of knowledge. It may be more accurate, however, to blame the widespread undermining of discipline amongst children both at home and in schools. After all, similar concerns were voiced about TV long before household gaming emerged.
It is easier to simply suggest that children are helpless victims of a given form of entertainment than to consider that the parenting methods deployed by concerned parents might be lacking. In this regard, the widening of access to information will certainly be of help. However, alongside such information campaigns the state and healthcare services should withdraw from this medicalising behaviour that poor discipline has spurred on. They should trust parents to make appropriate choices for their children with the information provided.
Things like social media and video games can certainly be habit forming but the use of the concept of addiction to cover these behaviours ignores the fact that they are very easy to overcome when someone wishes to do so. Deleting apps from your phone or setting aside time to enjoy these things in moderation are all well within the reach of everybody. The current suggestion from health services—that medical intervention is required—is a confusing one.
When we consider some of the loot crate style business models which have stealthily introduced gambling to young children, concern and government intervention can be justified to ensure that gambling is a pastime solely enjoyed by adults.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Oliver Pike