Statement on China’s Gaming Regulation
Recently, Chinese authorities announced a three-hour gaming restriction per week for minors (see the announcement here).
Since I have commented on the gaming question on numerous occasions – in Dauntless* in particular – I thought to share my take on the matter here as well. On a personal note, I probably spent more than three hours of gaming per week in my teens. This did not cause any issues for me. In fact, I am supremely grateful for having been able to play games such as Age of Empires and Total War growing up. However, I also did many other things in my youth, and I was quite physically active.
That being said, gaming is a problem for many youths today, and I do believe it was, overall, a good call by China to limit the time minors are allowed to game. Had I been an Enlightened Despot (more on that in Podcast Episode 13. Archetypes), I would not necessarily have put an as strict restriction on gaming as the Chinese government. The focus must be on presenting attractive alternatives. For teenage boys, sport is the primary alternative. Team sports are fun and have similar aspects as online gaming (many online games resemble team sports).
Schools also have a responsibility to improve the health of the youth.
- More classes outside
- More outdoor activities
- More athletic activities
The Libertarian Argument
Should the government decide how minors spend their free time? Yes. In limiting the amount of time spent on gaming, the minors will be forced to come up with more creative and active ways to spend their time. There is nothing morally wrong with the state limiting certain negative activities.
What is wrong, however, is when the state restricts the freedom to participate in healthy activities. A good example of this is the various Covid lock-downs we have seen since 2020.
The Enlightened Despot’s Plan
Had it been up to me, I would have approached the question in two ways. Restrictions in addition to promoting other fun activities. A reasonable restriction could be a total of seven hours per week.
For example: a group of friends will decide what to do on a Wednesday afternoon after school. They know the following:
1. That they are restricted to seven hours of gaming per week.
2. That there are many fun after-school activities to choose from.
What do they do? Most likely, they will save their gaming allowance for the weekend for longer gaming-sessions, and choose to participate in another activity instead. Even if they choose to play for an hour in the evening, they will still have extra time to do other things.
The Board Game Alternative
On a last note, board games are, in most ways, superior to computer games. The social aspect is, on a biological level, more pronounced when playing a board game in the same physical space with your friends – as opposed to playing with them online. The social interaction in a board-game setting is different to the interaction online.
Moreover, the constant strain on the eyes that comes with a marathon gaming-session will not be present when engaging in board games.
I am personally an enjoyer of Warhammer Underworlds (for two players), Britannia (for four players), and Diplomacy (for seven players).
* Note, I am currently re-writing Dauntless; the new edition will be out in November this year.