Kids are trying to outsmart Tencent's facial recognition system by pretending to be their grandads
Tencent is now using facial recognition to verify the identity of players of its blockbuster mobile game Honor of Kings, known as Arena of Valor internationally. The system was introduced to prevent minors from spending too much time on the game, which has been described by Chinese state media as “poison.” But kids in China are already coming up with all kinds of hilariously unsuccessful tactics to cheat the system.
Here are some examples, according to Tencent Games:
- Secretly registering with your mother’s ID card and scanning her face while she’s sleeping.
- Pinching your throat and pretending to be a 70-year-old grandfather while talking to Honor of Kings customer service personnel.
- Coaxing or even commanding your parents to speak to customer service.
- Asking the lady working at the snack bar next to the school to impersonate your parents and convince customer service that their gaming doesn't need to be restricted.
The face recognition verification system for Honor of Kings was rolled out on Monday after a trial period. According to Tencent, this is the first time such data has been used by the gaming industry to screen users.
The company, one of the biggest gaming firms in the world, introduced real name verification for gamers after criticism from the Chinese government. The new requirement, awkwardly called “health system,” is meant to restrict minors’ playtime to 1 hour a day for children under 12, and 2 hours a day for 12 and older.
The move came after Honor of Kings was criticized for fostering gaming addiction, with the Chinese government accusing the gaming industry of contributing to myopia among kids. China’s military mouthpiece, People’s Liberation Army Daily, went so far as to call out the popular game as a national security threat saying it could “undermine combat capability.”
Chinese regulators have been restricting new game publications since March. Tencent was also forced to stop selling hugely popular “Monster Hunter: World” on its WeGame platform and shut down its poker game “Texas Hold’Em.”
In the wake of that, the company announced plans to make verifications mandatory for every single game in its library -- both on mobile and PC.
But this week's introduction of the facial recognition system didn't go entirely smoothly. Some annoyed players took to Weibo to complain about hiccups.
“Today the game mistakenly believed that I had logged in the wrong account and refused my real name,” said one Weibo user. “Now it's included in the ‘healthcare system,’ how do I go online? It's very urgent.”
Another user complained that he cannot access his precious game because his little brother has been secretly playing it.
Tencent told Abacus that the system is continuously being improved. Meanwhile individuals awaiting approval are subject to the same limits imposed on kids under 12.
The company published a post on WeChat on Wednesday saying that nearly half of the users suspected to be minors passed the verification successfully. Among those who didn't get approval, 98.2% refused to undergo facial recognition.
The game maker suspects there are two reasons behind this: Privacy concerns, or the players weren't using their own accounts.
To address the first concern, the company said that identity information won't be stored or used for any other purpose other than real name verification. They also said the data will be encrypted.
As for those kids who try to dupe their grandparents into registering for them, Tencent says it plans to check users above 60 even more strictly in the future. The company told Abacus that they use advanced technology such as machine learning to determine if a player is a minor of not, by evaluating their in-game behavior such as game time.
The system also looks at other criteria, but Tencent is keeping them secret from us for now, to avoid revealing their tricks to the black market – which we have no doubt will arise soon.