Establishing online game rating system is urgent

Cao Xinyu
A great number of parents are complaining that their children are addicted to electronic devices. They are eager to know whether those games are appropriate for their children.
Cao Xinyu

CHINA is the world’s biggest online gaming market — accounting for about one quarter of global revenue.

According to China’s Gaming Industry Report 2017, which was jointly released by the China Culture and Entertainment Industry Association and entbrains, a private think-tank, the country’s gaming population had skyrocketed to 583 million people.

Moreover, the report claimed that the players are getting younger.

Take “King of Glory”, one of the most popular mobile games at the moment, as an example. Players aged 11 to 20 account for 54 percent of the total gaming population, according to a report published by www.thepaper.cn.

A great number of parents are complaining that their children are addicted to electronic devices. They are eager to know whether those games are appropriate for their children.

Ironically, the parents need to take more responsibility regarding how long their children use digital devices and what games they play.

Unlike adults, teenagers are still learning to judge what’s best for them as well as how to exercise self-control.

Teenagers are searching for their identity and looking for new experiences, even risky ones.

For teenagers, exposure to online games can be risky — some games may contain violent, pornographic or illegal content, while others might have in-game-purchase traps.

Last June, a 13-year-old student in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, jumped off a building after being scolded by his father for playing “King of Glory”. In another incident, a 17-year-old student in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, nearly died from a stroke after playing mobile games for two consecutive days.

Some students even squander a substantial amount of their family wealth on games behind their parents’ back.

A correctional institution for juvenile delinquents in Beijing reportedly said a growing number of its inmates had been influenced by violent or erotic online games. All these show the urgency of establishing a rating system for online games.

Yu Xinwei, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, recently called for the creation of a compulsory game rating system. The system can classify online games into categories meant for different age groups and guides parents to make informed choices.

In Yu’s opinion, the government should play a leading role in setting up and promulgating such a system so as to exercise stringent supervision over the online gaming industry.

According to reports, the US, Germany and Japan have in place their own rating systems for games and mobile apps and are stepping up supervision of game companies in responding to the threat of game addiction.

China has also gained some experience in this regard.

Anti-addiction mechanisms have already been in place in China for over a decade. Tencent, the producer of “King of Glory”, came up with a “guardian” platform a year ago. The platform allegedly allows children under 12 to play only for an hour a day at most.

Unfortunately, these measures prove ineffective. It is easy to see that without supervision from the higher authority, the profit-driven online game companies are only too happy to allow children to play as much as they like.

Therefore, government efforts are needed to draw a red line and launch a compulsory game rating system, which sets clear standards concerning the age limit for players as well as the maximum gaming time allowed per day.

Games that are not rated properly should be banned. Meanwhile, technologies such as real-name authentication and facial recognition ought to be implemented.

Admittedly, the problem that online game players are becoming younger in China cannot be solved by the compulsory rating system alone.

It requires concerted efforts and coordination from the government, the online game industry, schools and, most important of all, the parents.

Parents’ company and supervision play an irreplaceable part in teenagers’ growth. They should play a bigger role in supervising their children to ensure that the children are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous game producers.

The author is an intern at Shanghai Daily.

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