Tencent will check the age of Chinese gamers with the police
Recently, Beijing has been very afraid that kids are getting addicted to games. Now for the first time ever, Tencent says it will check the identity of new players signing up for its hit game Honor of Kings (known as Arena of Valor overseas) against police records.
The company says it wants to make sure that minors are contained inside its “health system” introduced last year. It limits game time to an hour a day for under-12s, two hours a day for 12 to 18-year-olds -- and enforces a curfew between 9pm and 8am.
Tencent says the police check will begin around September 15.
For most people playing online games in the West, the most personal data you'd have to surrender is your email address and date of birth -- and the latter is laughably easy to fake.
On the other hand, asking for someone’s real name and national ID -- and verifying the information through a government system -- goes a huge step further.
But real-name registration has a long history in China. As early as 2003, authorities hoping to ban children from internet cafes ordered operators to check customer IDs.
But it goes further than protecting minors. In the following years, regulators started requiring social media users to sign up with their real name. Supporters said it’s necessary to monitor criminal activities, yet critics worried it could hurt privacy and free speech.
Still, enforcement was lax for a while. But it all changed last year, when China’s controversial cybersecurity law went into effect. Soon, Weibo slapped a deadline for users to verify their accounts. Following new guidelines from the Ministry of Culture, Tencent, NetEase and others introduced real name registration for online games.
Registration comes in various forms. Some simply ask users for a cell phone number. That’s because most telecom providers in China already require subscribers to provide a real name and national ID.
Others, like some of Tencent’s platforms, directly request a real name, national ID, and even a physical address.
Users are still free to use any alias within a game; only the company knows their actual identity.
The regulations were apparently designed to root out game addiction in children, as well as unchecked spending by minors. But they also apply to games that cater primarily to a more mature audience such as Love and Producer -- a virtual boyfriend game that became a blockbuster among women, even those living outside mainland China.
Still, China’s gamers have found ways to cheat. Some Honor of Kings players say they’ve been “borrowing” other people’s IDs because they were either underage when they first registered, or had their original accounts stolen.
Others suggest facial recognition might be more accurate: “Scan your face every time you play,” one wrote.