China imposes online gaming curbs

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China imposes online gaming curbs

China imposes online gaming curbs

Some 1.5 million people play World of Warcraft in China
Gamers in China are facing new limits on how much time they can spend playing their favourite online game.
The government in Beijing is reported to be introducing the controls to deter people from playing for longer than three consecutive hours.

The measures are designed to combat addiction to online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft and Lineage II.

More than 20 million Chinese play games regularly, mainly in net cafes.

Extreme devotion

Games are serious business in China. Last year, Chinese players spent almost US$500m on online games.

The government has been encouraging the growth of online gaming. It is hosting a two-day games conference in September in Beijing in the hope of attracting more foreign investment.

But the phenomenal popularity of online games has fuelled concerns that some people may be losing themselves in the virtual worlds of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).

In one extreme case, a player killed a fellow player who had stolen his virtual sword. The gamer received a suspended death sentence in June.

The measures announced by the Chinese authorities are due to be introduced from October.

Central control

The new system will impose penalties on players who spend more than three hours playing a game by reducing the abilities of their characters.

Gamers who spend more than five hours will have the abilities of their in-game character severely limited.

More than 20 million people play online games in China
Players will be forced to take a five-hour break before they can return to a game.

"The timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games," said Xiaowei Kou, of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), the body which regulates online gaming.

All the biggest online game operators in China have said they will adopt the new system.

According to the Interfax-China news agency, the gaming firms said they were prepared to sacrifice short-term revenues to create a healthy environment for online gamers.

The operators face little choice as they need government approval to offer online gaming.

Among the games affected in initial trials of the system is the MMORPG game, World of Warcraft, which has 1.5 million players in China alone.

Other games include The Legend of Mir II, The Legend of Mir 3G, Lineage II, Westward Journey Online, Fantasy Westward Journey Online, MU, JX Online, First Myth Online, The World of Legend and Blade Online.

Liz Woolley