What Monster Did China See in Gaming?


Header art by Major Sniper

I don’t pretend to be an expert on China, but I do know that country values social coherence.  When I look at the effects of big tech on my own society, the benefits of free and unfettered access to information are hard to see through all the tribalism, misinformation, and divisiveness that America contains.  In a democracy, we are accustomed to a certain amount of debate.  Thomas Jefferson said, “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.” Most Americans are disillusioned about the effectiveness of their government in recent years.  How much worse must this be disillusionment be in an authoritarian state like China that depends on centralized control? 

Three Hours Per Week

After a takedown of their own Big Tech industry, costing many tens of billions, China recently enacted a law restricting children to playing only three hours of video games per week.   While we may scoff that such a restriction would be unenforceable in most countries, in China everyone must use their real name and social security number equivalent when they create a gaming account.  The internet is heavily censored and controlled.  With gaming platforms now implementing user facial recognition, it is a very real possibility this law will have its intended effect.  

China says they are trying to fight video game addiction and help their youth.  I am not a student of sociology, but I do have kids of my own and friends with kids.   As a parent, I am pretty laissez-faire.  When my child was preschool age and just starting to sound out words, I set him in front of Minecraft and a wikipedia page for crafting recipes.  He learned to read, write, and search for information long before his classmates.   I’ve put almost no restrictions on his screen time, and while he spends a significant portion of his free time gaming, today he is in high school with straight A’s and is active in the community.   His friends with much more restrictive parents can’t say the same.   I think the idea of video game addiction being a bane to society is a generational concern and a cover for Chinese censors.  

Fear of addiction or fear of ideas

Video games are also great distributors of ideas.  The game’s content may contain many ideas, for example capitalism in EVE Online, but also those ideas communicated amongst the players themselves.  The Imperium has thousands of members from around the world who unite around a single idea to accomplish an objective.  Along with other alliances, we’ve demonstrated the ability to break world records for the entire gaming industry.  When groups of thousands of players from numerous nations and cultures around the globe coordinate themselves around an objective in a video game, it makes it that much easier for them to coordinate around the world to address global issues in the real world. Look at Project Discovery, for example. And these new ideas and perspectives, picked up from “others,” will not be so different from their own ideas. They are just reinforced.  

Perhaps the government of China is most afraid of gaming’s potential as a platform for the spread of ideas. When they think about restricting video games, it may not be entirely for the the mental health and productivity of their people. Perhaps they are concerned about what would happen if 10,000 players decided that a real world issue was “next?”  China has gambled that the best policy is to turn out the lights where monsters lurk.  Time will tell if this strategy out-competes the boisterous West. 

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  • RaiderStu

    A really interesting topic. I’ve seen some Chinese players in Eve but not had a lot of contact with them. But the little I’ve had just reinforces the fact that we’re all the same once you scrape the political system, religious conditioning and social systems away. A populations need to be happy and healthy is something that any government struggles with but none more so than the over-bearing authoritarian states.

    I’ve seen more Chinese players in Ark, they use VPNs to connect to European servers and no doubt other servers too. In a much smaller sandbox there is bound to be far higher contact between people and this might be something the Chinese government are worried about their children growing up with.

    The children are always our best hope, not just for railing against a regime like China but also for some of the real problems in democratic political systems in the west. When a two party system grows stale and becomes more about trying to look different to the other party than promoting what’s best for the country as a whole then is that still really democracy? I’d say not, but I’m sick of it and most definitely biased.

    I loved the Minecraft story, using a Wiki to teach reading is a very clever idea o7

    September 5, 2021 at 10:27 AM
  • Novartis

    In my own opinion, this things still don’t have what the author think in the fear of ideas. This restriction only applied to minors, so adult won’t be bothered by this rule.

    September 5, 2021 at 12:06 PM
    • Guilford Australis Novartis

      The argument isn’t necessarily tied to EVE Online, and minors are not the only population susceptible to ideas their government doesn’t like.

      September 5, 2021 at 1:49 PM
      • Yeah, but to enforce this kind of rule to the rest of the gamers(which the majority will be adults), they need a better justification, a better reason, since if they tried to apply another policy like this that will cover all game they just spark massive protest all around the globe. So is it an alarming things? Yes it is for a freedom of speech and idea, but is it something that will be applicable to the whole ROC population other than minor? Highly doubt that one.

        September 5, 2021 at 2:10 PM
    • Shocku Novartis

      Thank you for your comment. I have already begun to see articles about adults in China wondering if they are expected to abide by the same restrictions.

      September 7, 2021 at 4:29 PM

        The articles you have read is just about a proposal put forward by a congressman with a stick in his head.

        September 8, 2021 at 1:28 PM
  • kwnyupstate .

    So is this the end of Frat?
    Interestingly China has has a history of clamping down on things based on the flavor of the month including on VPN use and the CCP knows full well that many Chinese use still use VPNs to play games in way which they are not monitoring. I wouldn’t be surprised if the CCP went further and restricted VPN access to further reduce this “problem”.

    September 5, 2021 at 1:05 PM
    • Guilford Australis kwnyupstate .

      VPN access has always been frowned upon by CCP (the developer, to be clear), except that they very curiously don’t enforce that policy for Chinese players and also, interestingly, didn’t enforce it during the major DDoS attacks about 18 months ago when the only way anyone could play was to use VPN to access the game through Berlin or wherever.

      This gets into the touchy question of why China gets deferential treatment by tech developers to accommodate its ham-fisted censorship policies. The cynics will say it’s all about the money, and perhaps they’re correct about that. But is it right?

      September 5, 2021 at 1:31 PM
      • Because if they can get the legal market of China, that means at least one billion of potential customer. One Billion of potential customer means more potential to generate money for those companies. Some deferential treatment is a small price to pay for them if the benefit outweigh the turnaround to pass their censorship policies.

        September 5, 2021 at 2:12 PM
        • kwnyupstate . Novartis

          CCP like any company operating in China is not supposed to allow Chinese players to use VPNs to play and if the Chinese government noticed and found it objectionable they could force CCP to shut down operations. If I were CCP I would prevent Frat from playing using VPNs because it risks losing their entire “legit” access to China.

          September 5, 2021 at 5:58 PM
          • Garreth Vlox kwnyupstate .

            Given that china just resticted ALL video gaming to 3 hours a week on weekends they already “lost” access to the “legit” chinse market.

            September 5, 2021 at 6:55 PM
          • William Doe Garreth Vlox

            It’s only 3 hours per week for people under eighteen. Adults are unaffected, and it’s basically being acknowledged that the more savy children use their grandparents’ id’s to bypass this. It’s still a considerable number of people who will be forced to play less, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it may seem for the intended effect.

            September 6, 2021 at 8:41 AM
          • Novartis kwnyupstate .

            True, it’s illegal to use VPN in China, on written law. However most of the time rules there isn’t strictly enforced, until the Beijing said that it’ll be thoroughly enforced. So, illegal? Technically yes. Bringing problem? Maybe. Should company enforce that? Not really until Beijing said so.

            September 6, 2021 at 8:28 AM
  • Noob

    The Party in China doesn’t care about exposure to capitalism – they only care that China’s citizens accept and acquiesce to a one party state.

    As Deng said about capitalism, “I don’t care if it is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches mice.”

    September 5, 2021 at 1:51 PM
  • Elithiel en Gravonere

    I think one great thing about Eve is it puts you in contact with so many other nationalities, even those from states very different to your own. When it boils down to it, we’re all human. I get to regularly deal with Chinese members from Ranger Regiment and Dracarys and they’re just as much fun to talk with as Imperium members. Many of our prominent members in Imperium these days are from the Chinese Diaspora (Chinese ethnicity living outside of China). I think games like Eve, breakdown this ‘fear’ of the other, we develop friendships with people from all areas of the world. I get to talk and interact and achieve goals with Russian players, with Chinese, American, French and German on most days of the week.

    Gaming has its upsides but I also understand to restrict down on children getting too hooked on it (or screen time in general). Children’s brains need to develop their own imaginations and they cannot necessarily do that if they’re relying upon other people’s ideas (which is what the screen does). I do the same with my own children, they play video games but only after they’ve done their homework and chores and even then, I try to limit how many hours a week they do.

    Why China feels the need to be a parent, begs the question, do Chinese parents feel they’re unable to control their children’s behaviour on their own?

    September 6, 2021 at 4:57 AM
  • MiLashykia

    Your all over analysing this. The root of the issue is screen time damages eyes. Kids under 3 should not watch ANY TV (I fail here and limit mine to 1 hr a day) and kids up to 6-7 should have less than an hour a day. The reason the eye lenses harden and create short sightedness. At the moment large numbers of Military recruits need glasses. People with glasses are often restricted from certain duties. This creates manpower issues, and the Politicians realise this and corrects it – albeit in an overly heavy handed way.

    September 7, 2021 at 7:58 AM
    • Shocku MiLashykia

      Maybe, but its possible to adjust the virtual focal point with technology if that is the real issue. Have you ever seen the 3D handhelds that don’t require glasses? In any case, the same can be said from reading books. I read every book in my middle school library, and then got Lasik!

      September 7, 2021 at 4:32 PM
      • MiLashykia Shocku

        I do apologise, I didn’t mean your over analysing this (good article btw) – I meant some of the other responders.

        September 7, 2021 at 11:59 PM

    I live in China and that’s what happens:
    It doesn’t matter at all
    Chinese EVE player are mainly adult.
    Besides, the regulation of games is only applicable to games “approved” by the government, and the tranquility is not in the list.
    The teens can just easily use their parent’s ID card to sign in, and they can play without any district.
    This is just the “self-protection” of some 70 year old die hards when they feel that they are backward. If they don’t want to build a second USSR or 1984, it just simply not working at all.

    September 8, 2021 at 1:22 PM

    In ancient Chinese culture, playing is a “crime” second only to disloyal and “filial piety”. This phenomenon is very significant in the upper level of the conservative government, quite shitty

    September 8, 2021 at 3:06 PM