Reveling in its grandeur
Tencent Games has announced that its most popular mobile game, King of Glory, will automatically log out players below 12 after an hour, sparking a debate on how best to regulate online games that has 36 million players below the age of 17 in China. Three experts share their views with China Daily’s Wu Zheyu on the issue. Excerpts follow:
A 13-year-old boy jumped from the window of a fourth-floor apartment in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, on June 22 after his father scolded him for being obsessed with online games. Media outlets have even reported that some children have used their parents’ bankcards to purchase online games and game equipment.
Children have become online game addicts partly due to lenient parents, some of whom even encourage their kids to play such games so that they can enjoy some “free” time. So blaming game companies alone for children’s addiction is not fair.
Also, totally banning kids from online games might have other serious consequences. As media reports suggest, King of Glory has become a new channel of social interaction for children, especially because it is a multiparty game. As such, children no familiar with King of Glory will feel lost when their classmates discuss the game.
To prevent children from becoming online game addicts, parents have to shoulder the major responsibility. And the authorities must take measures to ensure the game companies fulfill
their corporate social responsibility. Making the game provider set a time limit for players below 12 is a good start. But more regulations and technical means are needed to ensure the health of the children and game providers both.
An increasing number of children have been using their parents’ bankcards without authorization to buy online game equipment. Lawyers familiar with such cases say two big obstacles prevent the parents from getting the money back.
First the parents cannot gather enough evidence to prove that a minor, not the cardholder, made the payment. And second, a formal complaint needs to be made in person to the consumers’ association or local cultural administration department in the area where the game provider is registered to get a proper response, which usually calls for a lot of efforts, especially if the complainant doesn’t live there.
Tencent has limited the playing time for children aged below 12, but there is no legal basis behind the decision. The General Rules of Civil Law views children aged 8 or below as not having the capacity to conduct civil activities, and thus the payments they make can be considered invalid. It also views a child aged between 8 and 18 as a person with limited disposing capacity, that is, any contract they are involved in will be valid only after their legal representatives confirm it. If the online game providers can design a classification system that conforms to the civil law, it would be easier to resolve the disputes over money.
King of Glory has more than 200 million registered players in China, with women accounting for 54.1 percent of the total. Players aged below 14 account for 3.5 percent and those between 15 and 19 add up to 22.2 percent, according to data analytics company Jiguang.cn.
The game has become so popular because of several factors. Tencent’s user community is huge thanks to its previous successful products such as QQ and WeChat, which provided the game a wide platform for promotion. Moreover, being a multiparty mobile game, King of Glory enjoys wider acceptance than most web-based games, because a person can play it anywhere, anytime.
And since King of Glory has a slower rate of attrition compared with other games and the number of its registered players has already peaked, Tencent won’t lose its competitiveness by curbing the playing time for children below 12. In fact, it could gain in reputation as a conscientious game company.
The real loophole is the rather loose ID registration system for the game, which many juveniles can navigate through. So instead of trying to “officially” limit the playing time for children below 12, the parents and the gaming company should educate them about the pitfalls of online game addiction in order to prevent them from spending excessive time on King of Glory.