Chinese Tencent Says They’ll use face recognition to keep minors at night from playing

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Tencent’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China, in Guangdong province, seen here in May 2021.
Photo: Noel Celis / AFP (Getty Images) – “This is so desperate news for us high school pupils two months from 18,” reportedly one WeChat user writes. Shenzhen, a gaming giant based in China, Tencent has announced that it is going to use an identification system to prevent minors from playing video games late in the night.

Tencent is trying to stamp what the Chinese Government considers to be excessive and mischievous gaming habts ahead of latest regulations. China adopted a law in 2019 that was apparently designed to prevent minors “playing online games.” The NPR states that minors are prevented from playing video games at between 10 a.m. and 8 a.m. and that their playtimes are limited to 90 minutes per day.

Minors were also prohibited by law from using micro-transactions of up to $28 to $57 a month. New regulations have also been introduced, which require all people, irrespective of age, to enter games that utilize their real identity and prohibit people from playing games which include “sexual clarity, gornesty, violence and gaming.”

At the time, NPR reported that they had collaborated to build a “unified identification system” for games by the State Press and Publishing Administration and the Public Security Ministry. Tencent is a Chinese technical company involved in implementing the draconian censorship laws of its government that prohibit a wide range of language that authorities regard as sensitive. It was also on the other end of the stick, though, as when the regulatory moratorium on licensing of new games in 2018 lost massive revenue.

Digital Trends reported that Tencent calls the new system “Midnight Patrol” and says that it scans players’ faces and compares the result to a faces and names data base. Users who are flagged minors are then locked away from games every time they play or try to play for the maximum of time during prohibited hours. In a release, Tencent also said adults would simply submit another face scan should they be locked out incorrectly. It could presumably be decided by Chinese authorities to add Tencent face reconnaissance data into the country’s existing social credit system.

Sixth tone, a Chinese state-owned media outlet for Westerners, provides more detail about face recognition. Sixth Tone cited many factors to explain the system, including the allegation that young people in China spend considerable time in online café theft by teens looking for micro-transaction funds (one of the only ways many people in China can afford to play games that run on expensive computer hardware).

“We will perform a face-screening of accounts with real names which we played at night for a certain time,” said Tencent Games in a press release. “Whoever refuses or does not perform face checking will be treated as a minor and as stated in the Tencent game health system addiction supervision and kicked offline.”

Sixth Tone also quoted the Eastern Jiangsu Province account manager, Chen Lina, as saying “Facial recognition is a welcome sign because verifications of the real name cannot keep children away from the sports.” The site also cited WeChat users who were supposed to be upset by the Midnight Patrol:

However, it does not seem to everybody happy with the news, with the social platform WeChat announcement of many minors expressing their dissatisfaction.

“I was caught as a minor,” a user said. “For us high school graduates twomonths away from 18,” a new one writes. “This is such a desperate news.

Tencent is initially scheduled to include 60 games but according to Digital Trends, one of its most popular sports activities, the Riot Games’ League of Legends, does not feature on the list. Tencent acquired 93% of the Riot Games in 2011 and a few years later, acquired the remaining 7%, and introduced its own mobile esport knock-offs.

With the consultancy Niko Partners estimating that their gaming sector will reach 781 million gamers and sales of $55 billion by 2025, China is considered one of the world’s largest game markets. In addition, Tencent has a major market share and posted $43.6 billion in total gaming revenues in the first quarter of 2021. WeChat also owns a Messaging Platform.

That revenue was partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, during which stay-in-home orders and other restrictions were implemented by the Chinese government and achieved despite the increasing warning of regulatory repression in China’s tech sector. Sources reported on Tuesday that, according to Reuters, the Governmental Administration of the Market Regulation rejected Tencent’s proposal for the merger of China’s two largest video game sites, Huya and DouYu.