China’s long struggle with video games

Some tech wizards should really make a video game out of it. Chinese leaders on Tuesday again struck a blow to the left at its online gaming industry. They accused the industry of spreading “spiritual opium” among Chinese youth, creating drug addicts who fail in their studies and other suspected effects.

“No industry or sport should develop at the cost of destroying a generation,” said the Economic Information Daily, a media outlet for the ruling Communist Party. The article called for new rules to curb what he called “electronic drugs”.

The impact was as swift as a Fortnite shootout in the world’s largest video game market, home to around 740 million gamers. The stock prices of Chinese gambling giants have fallen. Official restrictions on the industry could be imminent. To avoid this, the biggest games company, Tencent, which is owned by the richest person in China, immediately proposed new measures to restrict the use of its flagship game, Honor of Kings, among children.

Chinese leaders have come here before – like many parents around the world – to try to figure out how to adapt video games to their expectations of young people. In 2018, the party imposed a temporary ban on new games. In 2019, it set time limits for young people playing online games. His paternalistic actions seemed justified after the World Health Organization added “gambling disorder” to its list of official afflictions.

A similar concern is playing out within the International Olympic Committee. In May, after years of declining audiences for its Games and growing calls for the IOC to recognize esports as a type of athletics, the IOC launched the Olympic Virtual Series. The games are only for five sports – baseball, cycling, motorsport, rowing and sailing – but without any medals. The aim is to encourage sports participation and “promote the Olympic values”.

The IOC, like China, is trying to find the best in video games. Many games develop useful skills, such as cooperation, team building, and self-confidence. The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games included music from video games like Sonic the Hedgehog. What really worries the IOC, however, is that most games are violent, focused on murder rather than kindness. One of the main goals of the Olympic Games is to promote peace between peoples and nations.

As many parents have discovered, the key to protecting children from the frenzy of play is finding out what is missing in their life, and then filling it with care and affection. Does a child need to know how to make friends? Would a family discussion about a game put it in perspective? Can a game (or should it) be played in real life?

China may be nearing a time to step back and reflect on video games. Shortly after the article appeared in the Economic Information Daily, the China News Service published an article calling on schools, game developers, parents and others to work together to prevent the obsession with game. For young players, this common concern could begin to fill what is missing in their life.

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