Tencent has introduced facial recognition software measures to prevent young gamers from playing late into the night. Their "curfew" system, which is supposed to stop minors from playing between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., will now use facial recognition to catch out or monitor users in what is the latest in a long line of crackdowns on "gaming addiction".
The software will monitor accounts that play for extended periods during the night, and attempt to "face check" the users even if they are registered to an adult. Failure to pass the facial recognition check will result in the user being treated as a minor and their play being restricted, with (of course) no option to opt-out included at the time of writing.
There are also changes being made to parental locks that now require facial recognition for any changes made to accounts, as a reaction to some young players apparently finding ways to trick their parents, or more likely just get hold of their phones while unattended. These moves reflect wider worries about the amount of time kids spend gaming, with some experts even claiming there has been an uptick in cases of myopia due to increases in screen time across the nation.
As of June 2021, an average of 5.8 million accounts have triggered facial recognition verification during the login process and 28,000 accounts during the payment process every day, according to Tencent. Forcing the company to curb addiction of their own users may seem odd, but it falls roughly in line with regulations aimed at other industries like tobacco and alcohol, even if gaming hasn’t yet been proven to be as harmful as either of those.
China as a whole has been locked in dialogue on the topic of "the dangers of gaming" for some time now, with multiple restrictions on kids playing games coming into effect back in 2019. These include restricted playtime, the aforementioned curfews, and limiting spending in games, as well as regulations aimed at things like lootboxes, to cut down on the amount of in-game gambling young players are exposed to.
Failure to comply with these rules — which set limits to 1.5 hours a day on weekdays and 3 hours a day for weekends and holidays — could see companies lose their licenses, and being on the wrong side of the Chinese government is never a good thing. Tencent is notoriously acquiescent when it comes to working with the Chinese authorities, and as owners of multiple massive gaming titles are able to roll out these initiatives to millions of gamers.