China is the world's largest games market, exceeding 200 billion yuan (US$32 billion) in 2017, with more than 580 million players, according to China's Game Publishers Association Publications Committee. Mobile gaming makes up 57 percent of the sum. But the fact primary and secondary school students are increasingly playing these games – especially on mobiles – has many people alarmed. In a commentary for The Paper, Shi Hongju calls for an online rating system to protect children from becoming gaming addicts.
Young students are characterized by curiosity, a desire to win attention from others through competition, and poor self-discipline. Many of them lack company and playmates, so they opt for online games as a substitute. And many become addicted, neglecting their learning, Shi argues.
While, Shi acknowledges, some games operators have rolled out anti-addiction measures, the absence of a national law makes the measures ineffective. Some profit-driven operators do little to prevent addiction. For example, he says, it's technically feasible to detect when a child registers a gaming account using their parents' ID card to circumvent anti-addiction measures, and yet the practice remains widespread. Operators are not sufficiently motivated to remove this loophole, he concludes.
Shi proposes a compulsory online games rating system. Games would be classified based on their content and nature; different games would suit different players with the duration of play for each group defined. He argues this should be the criterion and threshold that a game must meet before public release. Technologies like real-name authentication, portrait discrimination, and random verification should be adopted to prevent children from using parents’ ID numbers and establishing multiple accounts, he says.