Gaming

In a China that depends on esports, children are deprived of video games

By Simon Leplâtre

Posted yesterday at 9:00 pm, updated at 6:18 am

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ReportageWhile it shines both on esports podiums and in the rankings of the industry’s largest companies, China has practically banned minors from playing video games. At the risk of jeopardizing the future of the industry.

The atmosphere becomes tense as the game begins: collars twitch, thumbs flick on smartphone screens, and sentences only come out in chunks, a few quick words sent out to inform partners. “Watch out, I’m leaving, there are four, he’s not dead yet!” He’s not dead yet! The coach of the team, one of the best in the country, follows on the big screen the role of Honor of the Kings (distributed internationally under the name Arena of Valor), the most popular video game in China. The team takes hits. Some players have boyish faces, a bit of acne, or a light brown fuzzy mustache. But they are all over 18 years old: on August 31 China announced that it would limit the practice of video games for minors to three hours a week.

“It destabilized everyone: there were minors in all teams,” testifies a player, crossed at the exit of the large building that houses the headquarters of the Royal Never Give Up (RNG), one of the main stables in the country with more than 200 employees, a hundred players in different games and world titles to his name. When players speak under the gaze of their coaches, the speech is more polished: “I support this policy, because studying is very important,” said 18-year-old Lu Shushen, who joined the team in September. Previously, the young man avoided the restrictions already in force by using the identity cards of his parents and his older sister. A harder practice today: Tencent, the world’s number one video game company based in Shenzhen, southern China, is tightening controls, including facial recognition, to make sure gamers are the right person .

At the Royal Never Give Up (RNG) team headquarters in Shanghai on December 23, 2021. At the Royal Never Give Up (RNG) team headquarters in Shanghai on December 23, 2021. Liu Xuehuang, 23, a member of the RNG esports team, won the league's best player trophy in 2018. On the right, 18-year-old Lu Shushen is also a member of RNG.  Before coming of age, he circumvented the ban on gambling for minors by using the identity documents of his family members.  In Shanghai, December 23, 2021. Liu Xuehuang, 23, a member of the RNG esports team, won the league’s best player trophy in 2018. On the right, 18-year-old Lu Shushen is also a member of RNG. Before coming of age, he circumvented the ban on gambling for minors by using the identity documents of his family members. In Shanghai, December 23, 2021. Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Ban on online video games for minors: “The Chinese State’s decision could mark a turning point”

The Chinese paradox

In China, communist authorities have tried for years to limit the amount of time young people spend staring at screens. These efforts came to a standstill in August, with the imposition of the strictest rules ever adopted: those under the age of 18 can only play three hours a week, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. A virtual ban endorsed by the majority of parents, concerned about their children’s academic success, but which has rocked teen forums.

At the same time, these rules run the risk of destroying the dreams of greatness displayed for the esports industry. the professional practice of competitive video games. An illustration of this paradoxical relationship that China maintains with the media: the 2022 Asian Games, organized in Hangzhou, one of the digital business centers west of Shanghai, will be the first to include electronic competitions -sport alongside traditional sports.

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