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No Reduction in Excessive Gaming Despite China’s Video-Game Restrictions

There are growing concerns in China regarding the amount of time individuals spend playing video games. China implemented a policy on November 1, 2019, which imposed time limits on video game access for individuals under the age of 18. The aim of this policy was to combat gaming addiction. However, a recent study conducted by David Zendle and his colleagues at the University of York in the UK suggests that this policy had no immediate impact on heavy gaming.

The study focused on analyzing over 7 billion hours of playing time from 188 million unique gamer profiles in China. These profiles were linked to Unity, a popular game development tool. The data covered an 11-week period leading up to November 1, 2019, and an 11-week period afterward. The ages of the players were not known, and the study deliberately avoided the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in China in early 2020.

Surprisingly, the study revealed no decrease in heavy gaming, which is defined as playing for more than 4 hours per day, six days per week. In fact, the data showed that individuals were slightly more likely to engage in heavy gaming after the policy was implemented. The authors of the study argue that this increase is not statistically significant, but the findings challenge the assumption that the policy was effective in reducing excessive gaming.

Catherine Flick, a member of the research team from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, expressed surprise at the limited impact of the policy. She noted that there was no evidence of people attempting to circumvent the time limits imposed by the government.

It is important to note that the data set used in the study includes individuals who may not have been affected by China’s rules on minors. This raises questions about the broader impact of the policy. To gather more accurate data, the researchers suggest the need for technological frameworks that preserve individuals’ privacy while allowing access to extensive behavioral and demographic information, including age.

These findings should prompt regulators to adopt a data-led approach when considering interventions to address gaming addiction. It is crucial to reevaluate the effectiveness of policies and ensure that rule-making is based on comprehensive and reliable data.

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