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Time Limit Penalties Now Mandatory for Online Games
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All online games in China must be equipped with an "anti-indulgence system" before July 16, or they will not be allowed to continue operations.

Recent surveys show that most netizens in China surf the Internet 2 to 3 hours every day, and most online game players spend on average about 1 hour on gaming per day (63.5 percent). However, there are concerns that many users, particularly adolescents, are spending too much time and energy on gaming.

Therefore, the General Administration of Press and Publication has decided to develop an anti-indulgence system to control the unhealthy gaming habits of adolescents. In a game equipped with such a system, which has been proven effective in testing, an underage player will get only 50 percent of points and upgrades earned after more than three hours of game play in a single day. After five hours of play, the user will receive no points or upgrades.

The system was launched yesterday nationwide. From now on, online gamers are required to register with their IDs to confirm their ages. However, experts and netizens alike are still wondering if the system can really work.

It is currently impossible to detect if an underage user registers with an adult ID. Additionally, many may choose to play computer games rather than online games, which only require a single computer. There is no need to register and gameplay is unlimited. Even games like Counter-Strike or Command & Conquer: Red Alert, which require teamplay, can bypass the system by meeting with other players on private servers.
Aside from gaming, underage netizens will still be able to chat online and watch streaming TV or movies at any Internet cafe, because there is no "anti-indulgence system" to restrain those kinds of activities.

Some parents suggested to China.org.cn that the real move should be to strengthen government departments' scrutiny and administration on Internet cafes; otherwise, the so-called "anti-indulgence system" is nothing useful.

Ironically, on the same day when this system started operating, Beijing Netcom, a China Netcom Corp subsidiary, had to stop its new plan of cutting off lines for users who keep surfing online for over 48 hours.

The controversial plan, which was only instigated last Sunday by Beijing Netcom, has caused strong public outrage and criticism and was forced to come to an urgent halt, Beijing Business reported Tuesday.

The company later explained that their measure was intended to avoid prolonged use of broadband and avert unintended fees for customers. But many users felt the rule was unfair for those who hold a yearly or monthly contract with Beijing Netcom since their contracts give them the rights to enjoy extra time and services.

(Chinanews.cn, China.org.cn by Zhang Rui July 17, 2007)

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