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 China imposes online gaming curbs

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Date posted: 26/08/2005

Well, this news was not unexpected. Indeed it has long been known that eventually the physical world would see the virtual as a threat, and try to mitigate it. The Chinese government is introducing a new law, to prohibit more than three hours spent in an online environment.

The government in Beijing is reported to be introducing the controls to deter people from playing in VR gameworlds such as the large MMOs for longer than three consecutive hours. It does not however, seem to differentiate between game playing, and alternate life, or social practice.

Such virtual environments, including gameworlds, dreamworlds, and social environments are serious business in China. Last year, the Chinese spent almost US$500m on such landscapes.

The government has been encouraging the growth of these online worlds; particularly gaming ones. 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 these environments, and the draw they have over the messy-about physical one has fuelled concerns that some people may be losing all grip on the ugly physical world, and diving completely into the virtual to escape it. This is apparently bad.

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

Under the new system, the VR gameworlds will be expected to punish players who spend more than three hours logged in by reducing the abilities of their character down to a basal level. Gamers who spend more than five hours will have the abilities of their in-game character severely limited.

This does mean that no such limitations are present for dreamworlds and social worlds ? YET ? but the dangerous precedent is now there, and with many in government perceiving everything that is virtual as a ?game? it will not be long before these too, are targeted.

"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.

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.

See the full Story via external site: news.bbc.co.uk

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