Chinese government officials have unveiled new plans to discourage users from playing online games for more than three consecutive hours. Officials first announced plans to limit online use in August, when they also banned anyone from under the age of eighteen from playing online games where it was possible to kill other players.
"This timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games," Kou Xiaowei, deputy director of the Audiovisual and Internet Publication Department of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said during a press conference, in remarks reported by China's Interfax press agency.
The new system, developed under the guidance of GAPP, cuts the ability level of a player's online game character by half after they have played for more than three consecutive hours. Once a player has played for more than five consecutive hours, the system cuts the ability level of that player's character to the lowest level allowed by the game. Players must be logged off for a minimum of five hours before the system resets.
The system also lowers the ability of players to find treasures or prizes available in an online game after they have played for more than three consecutive hours, but it does not at any point actually prevent the user from playing the game or communicating with others online. Development of the system is scheduled for completion at the end of September 2005 and will become compulsory by at least spring 2006.
Seven of China’s largest online games publishers – Shanda, NetEase, The9, Optisp, Kingsoft, SINA and Sohu – have already agreed to the measures and signed up to an agreement nicknamed the “Beijing Accord”, which will see them pledging to "sacrifice short-term revenues" to create a "healthy" environment for young Internet users.