Online computer gamers in China will be penalized for playing their favorite game for more than three hours at a time, as part of a plan to prevent young people from becoming addicted to fighting dragons and warlords in cyberspace.
The system went into effect yesterday for 11 of the country's most popular online games, including Shanda Networking's "The Legend of Mir II," NetEase's "Westward Journey Online" and The9's "World of Warcraft" as well as other games operated by Kingsoft, Optisp, Sina and Sohu.
Players that spend more than three hours online at a time will lose experience points and weapons in the cyber world.
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, often zero.
Players must take a two hour break before logging into the game again to avoid being penalized.
The new system will soon be adopted in all Chinese online games.
"This timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games," Kou Xiaowei, deputy director of the Audiovisual and Internet Publication Department, said in Beijing.
Game players and industry officials, however, complained the system infringes upon consumer rights.
"It's absolutely a foolish decision," said Yankee Song, a 23-year-old game player.
Song started to play video games when he was 10, and is now a senior-level player in "World of Warcraft" and spends four to five hours a day playing the game.
"In the game, even a simple mission would take players three to five hours to finish and complex ones may take a whole day. After the system's implemented, players can achieve nothing in the game, and we will have no reason to play it anymore," he said.
Only 16 percent of Chinese online players are under the age of 18 and more than 50 percent of them are between 19 and 25, according to iResearch Inc, an Net consulting firm.
Another senior WOW player David Tian said: "I am sure cheating programs that can make the system think we have logged off will soon be formed."
Tian, 23, has already created various accounts in the same game and he plans to switch among them when his time limit runs out each day.
(Shanghai Daily October 21, 2005)