A few days ago I wrote about China banning Animal Crossing: New Horizons following a series of online protests regarding Hong Kong’s government. Today China has taken things to an extreme level by banning all online video gameplay with people outside of the country. Players in China will not be able to play with or even chat with anyone outside of China’s Great Firewall.
Additionally, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will monitor all online single-player games and institute a real-name mechanism to keep track of what individual people are doing in games. In what seems to be a direct retaliation against the Animal Crossing protests, organizing a union in a game, map editing, and apparently roleplaying will be banned. In what seems to be a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all games involving a plague or zombies will also be banned.
To add to this substantial list of restrictions, gamers under the age of 18 will be restricted to a set amount of money spent on micro-transactions and will be subject to a strict gaming curfew between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am.
One of the most confusing stipulations of these restrictions is that of roleplaying. Fundamentally almost every video game involves the player taking control of an avatar or a team and playing the role of them within the world. This is likely not what the CCP means, as this would make essentially every game illegal, but considering they have only approved a grand total of 3 Nintendo Switch games, to begin with, this wouldn’t be unfathomable.
The release of this news is fairly new, so there has yet to be an in-depth analysis of what exactly is banned, and our understanding of the regulations my be hindered by translation… but it is very clear that they are extremely harsh and all-encompassing. Many gamers will certainly find a way around this, but as of now, there will essentially be no legal way for someone in China to gain access to world information that the CCP does now wat them to have access to. The Great Firewall already restricts most forms of media, but online gaming is one medium that remained free. Alas, it seems that for now this too has fallen, and 1.4 Billion people have essentially been isolated from the outside world entirely.