State-owned Chinese newspaper denounces online gaming as ‘opium for the mind’

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A Chinese state-owned newspaper on Tuesday condemned online gaming as “opium for the mind,” prompting Chinese tech giant Tencent to announce new game controls and fueling investor fears of a start to government crackdowns on the gaming industry.

The original version of the Economic Information Daily article included an argument that “society has come to recognize the harm caused by online gaming and it is often referred to as ‘opium for the mind’ or ‘electronic drugs,’” according to The Wall Street Journal

While the article was eventually deleted and reposted with some of the harsher language removed, both versions detailed a rise in gaming addictions, arguing that it is negatively affecting child education and is fueling social alienation. 

While the article did not target specific media companies by name, it criticized Tencent’s game Honor of Kings, which has been the world’s top-grossing game for the past two years. 

The article argued, “No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation.”

Hours later, Tencent announced that it would be implementing a series of new measures based on requests from “relevant authorities” to develop greater protections for minors and fulfill their “societal responsibility,” according to The Guardian

The media giant said it would be enforcing more limits on playing time, including restricting young gamers to playing for an hour on weekdays and two hours on weekends and holidays, according to the Journal. 

Additionally, only people ages 12 and older will be allowed to make in-game purchases. 

The Journal reported that Tencent’s shares dropped more than 10 percent on Tuesday, though it recovered some losses after the article was temporarily removed to close at a 6.1 percent loss in Hong Kong. 

The move has prompted fears from some that video games could be the latest target of the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to crack down on large technology companies. 

The Journal reported that a senior Chinese Communist Party official said at an industry expo in Shanghai last week that combatting video game addictions was becoming a top priority for the government. 

Yang Fang, the deputy director of the publication bureau of the party’s central propaganda department, reportedly said at the time, “We will keep a close eye on it.”

Last month, five Tencent-owned companies were among the 22 fined by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation for their roles in anti-monopoly cases. 

The Chinese government at the time cited concerns that the tech companies were expanding “into finance, health services, and other sensitive areas.”

Tags China China Communist Party Chinese Media Outlets Tencent The Guardian The Wall Street Journal Video game Video game developers

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