When China first announced that it would be using facial recognition technology to weed out bad actors in society, and help maintain individual “social credit,” it seemed scary. But now gamers will be affected by it as well, in part to help combat China’s epidemic of visual impairment.
Forbes is reporting that Tencent Games’ Arena of Valor MOBA game — also known as Honor of Kings in China — would be one of the first games to utilize the facial recognition technology that will tie game user IDs to the state IDs issued for each of its citizens. It’s a highly popular game in the region, just like Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends is popular in the West.
The facial recognition technology will coincide with the new requirement to use a real photo ID from the citizen database when playing video games, in order to link up the identification numbers to monitor the playtime of citizens.
At the moment, 1,000 randomly selected gamers from the MOBA will be selected to participate in this exercise, which will ensure that anyone under the age of 12 does not exceed the limit of playing for more than an hour a day between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
China’s government mandated a curfew for young kids, citing a growing number of children in China suffering from myopia. The nearsightedness is said to be a result of people starring at their screens for too long throughout the day; this led the government to blame video games as being one of the major issues in causing myopia. That’s why Tencent is now using the facial recognition technology — so that people who sit too close to the screen will see the screen become blurry to encourage them to sit at a safe distance.
This is also part of China’s efforts to curb video game addiction in the region, which the government believes is a huge problem. Militarized re-education camps were opened several years ago in order for China to deal with video game addiction in youths. South Korea also opened up these camps to help treat video game addiction, which their government labels as one of the “four evils” plaguing the country — along with gambling, drugs, and alcohol.
However, China is going beyond camps and curfews. Now gamers will have to deal with facial recognition tech that will store citizen ID data, which Forbes suspects may be used for more than just monitoring playtime activity.
China also withheld game licenses from publishers like Tencent to publish new games in the mainland. This ended up costing Tencent $16 billion, since the company was set to publish Capcom’s highly popular hack-and-slash game Monster Hunter World in the region. However, with new licenses being withheld by the Communist Party Propaganda Department, and under guidance from the Ministry of Culture, it means that Tencent won’t be able to make money publishing new games in the mainland.
Other companies like Ubisoft have had to alter games like Rainbow Six: Siege to also coincide with China’s 10 Rules of Censorship. However, now companies will have to deal with its playerbase being monitored for playtime activity and other “social credit” based on China’s strict facial recognition protocols.