China is one of the largest gaming markets in the world and home to major games companies such as Tencent, but its regulators have also labelled online games "spiritual opium" and imposed tough restrictions, such as a mandate for companies to prevent youth (opens in new tab) from playing online games for more than three hours a week and make their games "good, clean and secure."
In the country's latest move to restrict videogame exposure and internet usage among youth, China's State Administration of Radio and Television and other agencies are ordering online streaming platforms to impose new age-based restrictions. Guidance published over the weekend (which caught our attention by way of Reuters (opens in new tab)) states that a recently mandated "Youth Mode" on major Chinese livestreaming sites must prevent under-18s from tipping streamers or sending virtual gifts, and a 10 pm viewing curfew must be in place "to ensure sufficient rest time for teenagers."
The rules are similar to rules already in place for services like WeChat, which Nikkei Asia (opens in new tab) reported last year has an identical 10 pm youth curfew and tipping ban.
Domestic livestreaming services will also have to prevent users under the age of 16 from becoming livestreamers themselves, and to obtain guardian consent before allowing older teenagers to stream. Customer service teams dedicated to youth issues will be required for the companies in question, which have also been told to strengthen internet literacy education relating to security, safety, and conduct.
These measures are part of an ongoing campaign by the Chinese government to clean up the "chaos" it perceives to be growing among livestreaming and video platforms. The affected platforms include Douyin (the name for TikTok in China), Kuaishou, Bilibili, Huya, and Douyu.
Last month, China approved its first batch of new videogames in almost a year following a freeze that was intended to "reduce gaming addiction," and curb the representation of "obscene and violent content," same-sex relationships, and behavior such as "money-worship and effeminacy."
That freeze took a big hit on major Chinese companies like Tencent and Bilibili, which were among the dozens of companies who last September agreed to abide by new rules going forward. Among those rules was the imposition of facial recognition technology to track the amount of time children spend in front of the screen.