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.