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Rating system needed for online games


13:27, August 13, 2012

A recent survey has indicated a growing desire for the establishment of a rating system for online games, as the industry's explosive growth and popularity among young Chinese have led some parents to worry about the content of their children's games.

Seventy-two percent of 1,718 respondents said they back the establishment of such a system, while just 11.3 percent voiced opposition, according to survey results released Friday by the China Youth Daily.

"I am eager to know what kind of games my son is playing and whether those games are appropriate for him," said Tan Faqin, a mother of a 15-year-old boy from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

She said her son learned to use the Internet at the age of six and has become "inseparable" from his computer.

The survey results showed that 44.5 percent of respondents believe a rating system will effectively help protect children from being exposed to online violence and pornography.

China's online gaming population is estimated to be around 330 million, while approximately 150 million of China's Internet users are believed to be below the age of 19, according to figures from the China Internet Network Information Center.

The online gaming industry took in revenues worth 24.84 billion yuan ($3.89 billion) in the first half of the year, an increase of 18.5 percent year-on-year, according to figures revealed in July at the 10th China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference.

Shi Yuzhu, CEO of online entertainment company Giant Interactive, has previously called for the creation of a rating system for online games. Although he predicted in 2008 that a system would be in place by 2010, his expectations were not met.

Su Fei, vice president of Beijing-based online game company Gamerbar, said he also supports the creation of such a system, adding that standards should be created by a third-party non-government body made up of experts from multiple areas, including education and psychology.

The government may not participate in the rating process, but it should establish relevant laws and regulations to give legal heft to the system, Su said.

"Online games are not harmful to children and can even be educational as long as they are 'clean' and the play time is reasonably arranged," said an online video game programmer who gave only his surname Xie.

Xie said the system will ensure the cleanliness of games and provide developers with a segmented market, which will make it easier for them to target specific audiences and ultimately expand the marketplace.

Some government efforts have been made to create a clean online gaming market. Game developers in China must gain operational permits issued by the Ministry of Culture before being allowed to market their products.

Newly-developed games cannot be offered to the public until after they have undergone an in-house check, a second check by the Ministry of Culture and a trial run of the game's beta version.

"Anti-addiction" systems have also been adopted since 2007 to prevent underage gamers from playing for too long at a time. Players must input their identification number, which is used to confirm their age, to access the games, with those under 18 only allowed to play for a specified amount of time, usually five hours.

Xie said administrative forces should play a large role in implementing a rating system, as not all game developers regard the protection of children as their responsibility.

Xiang Yong, deputy director of the cultural industry research institute at Peking University, said the definition of "violence" and "pornography" is very ambiguous in China.

Although he said he supports the system, Xiang said overbearing censorship or the "blind killing" of games could impair the development of the billion-dollar industry.

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