The Weekly Raid: Should Governments Restrict Game Time?

Governments in Asia have been imposing various restrictions on underage users for years, but Tencent has upped the ante with their recent changes to the mobile MOBA Strike of Kings.

Following criticism from The People's Daily (a Communist Party affiliated newspaper), Tencent has implement severe restrictions on underage gamers. Those under 13 will be able to play for only 1 hour a day while those under 17 can play for 2 hours. While matches in Strike of Kings are far faster than those in PC mobas like Dota 2 or League of Legends, they can still take a good 10-15 minutes each. That means teens can only play 4-8 matches a day, tops.

The health hazards of addictive gaming are very real, and the Chinese government's rebuke of Tencent came after reports of several minors injuring themselves:

A 17-year-old from Guangdong Province suffered a type of stroke after spending 40 consecutive hours on the game, and a 13-year-old jumped off a building after being lectured by his father for spending too much time playing on his phone.

Addicitive gaming behavior isn't restricted to Asia. Many Western media outlets have been publishing their takes on a recent economic paper by University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst who claims young men are dropping out of the labor force due in large part to the attractive alternative provided by immersive video games. MMOs in particular are generally singled out in these reports. In a speech, Mr Hurst used his own son as an example of this addictive behavior:

"If it were up to him, I have no doubt he would play video games 23 and a half hours per day. He told me so. If we didn't ration video games, I am not sure he would ever eat. I am positive he wouldn't shower."

As an avid gamer, I can't dispute these academic findings. Playing MMORPGs certainly feels like work at time, but a rewarding kind of work where your next "promotion" is always within reach. With that in mind, do you think governments should do more to restrict gaming time for minors, and more generally do you think society will have to find some solution to so many young men choosing gaming over pursuing low skill labor?

Further Reading:

What Are Young Non-Working Men Doing?
Why Some Men Don't Work: Video Games Have Gotten Really Good
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs

Lifelong gamer always looking for the next virtual adventure. I'm still waiting for the next big MMORPG. Until then, you can find me hopping between multiple games.

  • Dana Petersen

    Hm... That's tough to answer.

    It is unfortunate that there are young men that do abandon responsibilities when they reach a critical point in game addiction. I have read dozens of stories of men's careers and marriages falling apart due to game addiction, and also the lost of assets (bankruptcy, reposession, foreclosure, and so on). I have read a smaller handful of similar hardships by women as well.

    Everyone I know personally that is a gamer also works, typically full time. That is, people I know in the physical world. Why I have never befriended a man who is a stay at home gamer is a little perplexing, seeing as in game I do occasionally run into them (However, I could be playing with a lot more of them than I realize!). Perhaps, and this is going out on a limb here-- it may just be harder to meet someone like the would-be version of Hurst's son described in your article. That kind of person probably doesn't get out much.

    I do have my personal experience with shorter lived gaming addiction. When I was seventeen, I fell into a deep depression. I became irritable with family and friends. I avoided responsibilities more. I cried all the time and drank a lot. When I quit drinking, I went on a few more months being depressed, irritable and avoidant. I still went shopping for necessities. I still saw my friends. I was just not happy.

    Then I got a laptop. For a bit, I enjoyed taking my laptop to my friends house, and watching movies and other harmless fun. A month or so into being a laptop owner, I downloaded a game I had enjoyed playing with a boyfriend of mine when I was a freshmen (in a non-addictive fashion). I downloaded WoW, and started playing. This time, I was instantly immersed. it was nothing like when I played in freshmen year. It was different. I was different. It was better than my friends I argued with, it was better than shopping and cooking and dealing with family. It didn't give me anxiety, it didn't make me feel worse about myself, and best of all-- when I did something right or finished a task, I was rewarded. The rewards in WoW gave me more pleasure than whatever minor praise I would get in the physical world, if any at all.

    I quit talking to my friends. I quit leaving the house. I quit bathing regularly. I quit eating right. I quit shopping for necessities, groceries, or things I might like with my family. I quit being mad, or sad, or angry. And I quit crying. I played WoW from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. Occasionally there would be a break from that norm, but not often.

    Fast forward about a year. I had gained 10 lbs, my hair grew out to a nice length since I quit going for a regular trim (I'm a woman, so that was a plus!), I'd made no real developements over the year, and I realized I had a problem. I went to a psychiatrist, and I got a prescription and some minor therapy. My moods improved. I started seeing some friends again. I was halfway through age 18, it was definitely time to get a job. I started talking to a new guy that wasn't from WoW. Then, I sort of just quit.

    The take-away here is that for me, my unhealthy love affair with WoW manifested out of depression, anxiety and self-worth issues. I sought professional help and the result was that I took a break to reavaluate my life.

    Now I'm 25 and engaged, and throughout this time I have played WoW on and off casually. I first started playing again not too long after finding what became long term employment at age 19. I continue to play other games also, all the while working and going to college, and having my own apartment. To this day I see my phsychiatrist and take a prescription SSRI. Only once did I stop taking my meds (I was not really gaming at that time, it was around fall midterms) and the result was that I quit the job I had because the general emotional/mental instability returned.

    I think efforts put towards gaming limitation would be better put towards improving awareness and accesibility for mental health and wellness programs, counselors, etc. for younger individuals.

    I know no one person is alike, and game time limitation could be beneficial for someone where mental health evaluations and counceling were not, but game time limitation does not seem like an appropriate fix to forcibly impose on families, kids, or teenagers. That is a decision best made on a case by case basis among oneself or with the family.

    As for adult young men concerning their effect on the labor force...

    I did not see the study and this article just asks for our opinion on "so many young men choosing gaming over low skill labor". "So many" doesn't paint a strong enough picture for me, and there are many other factors involved.

    One primary thing to acknowledge is that Americans couldn't fill the demand of unskilled labor even if we tried. According to the BLS, we will need 3 million people to fill the least-skilled jobs over the next decade. Only 1.7 million Americans will be entering the work force in that same time frame.

    Even if every young and aspiring high school and college student dropped out of college right now and intended to fill an unskilled labor job in the next decade, they would only manage to fill about half of those jobs.

    So what's the answer? Well.. Getting every unemployed gamer off the console or computer and into the labor force wouldn't make a dent in the problem. Those jobs will be filled in the same way as they have been for decades; jobs that current Americans simply could not, even if they wanted to. They will be filled by people from abroad.

    Three out of four of the new essential unskilled jobs opening in the next decade will be filled by workers coming into the U.S.

    And this is not a bad thing, it's actually essential.

    Anyway, that's my two cents on it! have a great day!

  • ivan_

    As a kid I spent a colossal amount of time on video games, and looking back on it a lot of it was a waste of my time. Why? Because I didn't really appreciate the games in the same way I do today (older, wiser, better reflexes). I go back and play games made 5-6 years ago and find them to be absolute masterpieces - but playing them back then I just rushed through it to "beat the game" and moved on to the next one. I was amused by flashy violence, guns or not, game or not. Hell, I watched so many awful b-movies because they had flashy stuff in it. It was juvenile but amusing... but juvenile. I feel like I lived too hedonistically, like I should've read more books, developed more hobbies (I have plenty now, but I could have more), and overall do more long-term things other than play video games.

    Whether or not video games are good for working-age youth is a different issue (I would consider working-age to be 18+ based on increasing life expectancy, higher incomes, and increasing retirement age). The economy is shit for young people right now, and even trying to search for evidence of "economy is GOOD for youth" shows negative projections. Baby boomers are not leaving their jobs, again pushing that retirement age later, part of which is the government's and corporate responsibility as they manage pensions. Income inequality (which has been proven to result in higher crime rates, poverty, and generally poorer social outcomes) is at an all time high (https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson/transcript?language=en - this is an older TED Talk when TED was still a reputable academic source), meanwhile automation continues to remove the need for human labour. And worst of all, people are buying into the hegemony that they are still middle class despite its shrinking for several decades now. It's shrunk so much that most people still consider themselves middle class but are either upper-middle class or just fully upper class (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-powers/why-the-term-middleclass-_b_8885636.html).

    But I digress... My point is that video games were never the problem with youth, they were a symptom of a bad economy for youth and a strong economy for those supporting the youth (parents and taxpayers). I understand my argument is still finger-pointing at best, but is it really that far-fetched compared to "kids are just lazy, don't want to work, video games are more fun"?

    Very thought-provoking tragedies in China, I'm glad that Erhan brought this up on MMOs.com.

    • Good points! I think people use video games as a form of escapism from other issues as well

  • I think it's a problem, but not one that governments should get involved with, unless it becomes a much bigger issue. These extreme examples are exceptions and it seems silly to build rules/regulations aren't extreme examples which don't happen often.

    • Michael Carroll

      I don't see how it is a problem at all. What business is it of any ones what happens with their free time, if they want to kill themselves, get fat, or whatever they want to do, who the hell cares. I don't get people like yourself, who decide to call something a problem which 90 percent of the time has to do with the personal person, and doesn't affect the public in any way.

      You want a bandwagon to jump on, try the one where if the Human population, doesn't stop breeding its billions upon billions of livestock, and burning tons of garbage, the planet is going to lose like 40 percent plus of its tillable land. Here you are saying video games are a problem....... I am 100 percent sure either way, if someone plays video games, drinks alcohol, thinks they are super because they waste 6 hours a day jogging, or any of the other useless tastes humans partake in, none of them are going to make humans go off the destructive course we are 100 percent on.

      So in conclusion, it's 100 percent certain this kind of life we humans have now is over within the next 100 years. Live it up while you can, and stop worrying about what someone else does with their time. Yes I know, I am doing what you are doing right now, but hopefully we both learn a lesson.

      • I don't think pointing to a bigger problem proves the little problem isn't real. While personal liberty is laudable, I'm sure governments would see a growing mass of millions of idle young men as a problem. But economically (less taxes being paid), and socially (idle men lead to violence/revolution)

        • Michael Carroll

          So in your mind, you think that videogames are going to lead to violence and revolution, with no one paying taxes. I cannot recall any time in history, where your uneducated guess that idle men lead to revolution is reality. The Americans revolted which had nothing to do with idle people. The French revolted, once again nothing to do with idle people. Same with the Russians, and revolts in Roman times, nothing to do with being Idle. Always had to do with some right that group of people decided they should have, that they didn't

          You guys are getting way out there, with your desires to control what people do, and by way, I mean off the charts, you guys that condone this garbage, are right up there with Mao and Stalin.

      • Mid-Nite Drive-Thru

        Interesting inconsistency. On this board you advocate letting people have personal liberty; yet elsewhere you openly declare support for "killing off all religious people" because of some deranged notion where ManBearPig is coming to get you and the oceans will drown us all. Seek. Professional. Help.

        • Michael Carroll

          You are taking it out of context. The conversations were totally different, and about different things. One was to bat shit crazy info warriors, who already understand personal liberty, minus the other crazy shit they believe, and one was to gamers who think that the government should take part in what they do.

          As for my conversation with the crazy religious warriors, I do that to get them going, cause it amuses me.

          As for being fascist if you want to think that go for it.

  • Dana Petersen

    .........

    The number of adults who don't work presumably only to play video games is a number that would not even make a major impact in unskilled labor positions opening in the next decade, which can not even begin to be filled by Americans alone anyway. (see bls lol) Their effect on those positions, wether they take them or not, would be minor. I don't see the government being too concerned or investing changes towards manchildren gamers futures. They have much better opprotunities to fill those positions with people from other and much larger... Demographics, if you will.

    I think gaming habits for kids/teens is a family matter, not a government one.

    • In Korea everyone has to use their government ID number when registering for any account online. So game companies like Nexon know the age and real identity of all their users/accounts. I assume China has a similar system.

  • Michael Carroll

    "The health hazards of addictive gaming are very real, and the Chinese government's rebuke of Tencent came after reports of several minors injuring themselves:"

    Haha, I am sorry, but if you kill yourself, or hurt yourself in anyway from playing a videogame, you need to die. If you need a government to tell you what to do with your video game time so you don't die, again I dont feel bad in the slightest for you. I started playing video games in 1998 with UO, and I was 13. I played some days 12 hours or more. If you are to stupid to take a break, or exercise or do something else, and make yourself die, no one should feel bad for you. If your parents are too stupid to teach you how to function, well no one should feel bad for you either, that is life, the retards die, and the better adapted live. Can't believe anyone takes this seriously haha. Bad as the retards who turned anti smoking into a religion, and back up that cigarettes are bad for you, on total junk science.

    • That logic applies to literally everything government already regulates. Drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, gambling, you name it. I'm very much against governments regulating video game time, but the same logic that allows governments to set drinking ages / driving ages / gambling ages / etc specifically for minors would apply to video games as well. The laws in China are specifically for under 18. Do you think a 12 year old should be allowed to gamble and drink alcohol? It's their business! If yes, then at least you're consistent.

      • Michael Carroll

        Yes I do, if the parents want to let their 12 year old drink, or gamble, than I do not see a problem with it. You are right though, Americans are turning communist to Mao, and Stalin standards by the pile. They think that the government should watch every one 24 7, and make sure they are doing what everyone else thinks they should be doing. China only does it, because they are worried about productivity of their slaves. America is getting close to that, especially because your right banning alcohol, gaming, and tobacco from minors, is no different than video games. The hypocrisy, of America though, is Americans give their kids way worse than alcohol and tobacco. "ADHD drugs are as dangerous as street meth " Not that I honestly care those parents were stupid enough to give their kids ADHD drugs, but I would be pissed if someone came up to me, and told me I had to.

        Which is 100 percent why I live in the a tiny populated area, where the rule of the land is, don't bother me and I won't bother you. I couldn't handle a major city, where everyone is interested in what I may or may not be doing.

  • TianlanSha

    If people want to do something, they will always find a way to do it. In post communist countries people were drinking perfume and aftershave to get drunk.

    No need to restrict games, it won't do a thing and some people also indulge on single player games, so this won't affect them at all... unless some component is installed into Windows that allows the government to regulate what people do on their computers and if a game is detected it cuts off the power or something... but then again you can disconnect from the internet and bypass this too...

    Oh the possible outcomes...

  • irn4l

    dudes, dudes, im not even read this trash, you are just a bunch of retards, thats what you piece of shits are. the solution doesnt come from taking away what we love to do, comes from giving us the life

    we deserve with real cash economy systems. you fucking assholes, all of you.

  • Nubatron

    Personally, I too - as many commented before - played a ton of video games. Hell I do it even now. In fact, I may do it even more. Yes, it's addictive. But basically everything is addictive to a human that they can find joy in. For example take something "harmless" for example. A painter who loves painting. Take away their brush and canvas and they will be depressed. Take the car away from a racer who loves driving and ban them from sitting in a car. Guess what happens next?
    The thing is, everything can be addictive and "harmful". It's not video game addiction that makes people jump off rooftops or don't work. It's addiction that does it. Chinese were always more strict with limitations. So I guess it's their thing to do.
    As a kid I used to rage and do some really crazy things whenever I was told that I can't play. Like, rolling on the floor screaming... or scratching the wall as if the world was about to end... or keep hitting my mother. I regret a lot of it and I don't really want other people to do the same, but this kind of regret made me think the way I do today and appreciate a lot of things that I don't think I could do if things happened any differently.
    This is why I think that if the chinese want to limit the underage playtime, then sure, it's their thing to sort out. Chinese people think differently than I do. They grew up differently. And they experienced different things. If there would come a day when someone wants to limit my playtime... well, I guess we will have to see how I think at that time. Can't really tell how things change in the meantime.
    So yeah. Maybe it's a selfish opinion, but for me it's the right one.

  • Guest

    uhhhh.... no?