New game rules for under-18s in China undermine the sport’s power status in the country

In glass-paneled conference rooms, members of Shanghai’s Rogue Warriors sports team yell into their phones as they train from 11 am until late, occasionally interrupting for food.

“I spend 15 of my 24 hours a day playing video games,” said Zhang Kaifeng, 19, who professionally plays Tencent’s online battle arena game “Arena of Valor,” adding that long hours are necessary to keep up. competitive.

China is the world’s biggest e-sports market, with more than 5,000 teams, but tough new government rules aimed at curbing gaming addiction should make careers like Zhang’s difficult to imitate.

Sparking the outcry of many Chinese teenagers, the changes mandate game companies to limit online gaming for under-18s to just three hours a week. Even before the changes, minors were restricted to 1.5 hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends.

The best electronic sports players are usually discovered in their teens and retire in their twenties, and experts compare the intensity of their training with that of gymnasts and Olympic divers. One of Riot Games’ “League of Legends” best-known players, Wu Hanwei, also known as Xiye, started playing at age 14 and joined a club at 16.

“The new regulations almost kill young people’s chances of becoming professional electronic sports players,” said Chen Jiang, an associate professor at Peking University’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

In doing so, the rules also hurt the big business of electronic sports in China, where tournaments are often played in billion-dollar stadiums and broadcast live to many others. Chinese sports fans are estimated to total over 400 million, according to the state-run People’s Daily, while the domestic esports market was worth around CNY 147 billion (about Rs. 1,66,820 crores) last year, says Chinese consultancy iResearch.

Rogue Warriors, a club of 90 players who train in a three-story building that includes dormitories and a cafeteria, declined to comment on the expected impact of the new rules.

An executive at another big Chinese club said the new rules will leave many talented people undiscovered.

“True top players are usually talented and don’t necessarily play many hours before joining the club. Others can be very good eventually, but they need a lot of practice to get there,” said the executive, who declined to be named citing the sensitivity of the issue.

The new rules are not laws in themselves that punish individuals, but place the onus on gaming companies, who will be required to require logins with real names and national ID numbers. Experts note that certain Chinese teenagers can still circumvent the rules if they have parental support and are able to use adult logins.

Chinese officials have not addressed the impact of the new rules on the e-sports industry, but Chen of Peking University said he has leeway to grant exemptions to some young e-sports players.

“The country can still introduce corresponding policies,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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