NGO suing Tencent wants to protect kids from gaming dangers

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The National Press and Publication Administration has announced new rules limiting the amount of time children can play games online. The notice, issued on Aug 30, quickly became the subject of intense public debate. Tech giants including Tencent and NetEase have all expressed their agreement with the new rules.

The news has brought some relief to lawyers from Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center, as the organization has spent the past three months battling Tencent in court. On July 1, Yu Xukun and Chen Qiang, two lawyers from the organization, went to the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court and filed a public interest case against the tech giant. During the past two years, staff from the center have held several meetings with Tencent, pointing out that many elements of “Honor of Kings”, one of the firm’s games, were likely to cause users to become addicted. The center eventually started legal action against the company after failing to persuade it to change the design of the game.

News reports on the case soon went viral online. Meanwhile, the center published a number of articles introducing its legal action and asking internet users to give their views. In a survey, 88 percent (14,652 votes) agreed that “the gaming industry needs to be restricted by the government”. Lawyers from the organization conducted lengthy interviews with 103 parents and the center also received letters from 49 parents. A majority of those who wrote in said that their children played online games for at least 10 hours each day, with 8 percent of children gaming for more than 15 hours daily. Some parents even said that their children’s mental and physical health were being impacted due to the amount of time spent playing games. Rates of obesity, cervical spondylosis, lumbar disc herniation and depression are all on the increase among children who game regularly. And the amount of time spent playing games is a frequent cause of friction between parents and children, with some kids even running away from home or becoming abusive in an effort to avoid their parents’ rules.

“We do not oppose the development of the gaming industry,” said Tong Lihua, director of the center and someone who has previously called on the government to tackle gaming addiction.

“The development of video game companies should not be at the expense of child development. Elements of violence and pornography can be seen in the games, which certainly harm children’s health.” Tong believes that the case against Tencent will help deliver justice to those who have been harmed by online games.