Tencent announced last July 5, 2021, that they will release facial recognition technology in China to prevent minors from playing video games past the curfew. According to an article from The Verge, the gaming giant has already imposed this new technology on 60 games, including Game for Peace and Honor of Kings, and has been tested out only for mobile gamers.
Birth of “Midnight Patrol”
Tencent’s move to release this new technology follows after the Chinese government imposed a law that prevents minors from playing late at night. The law stated that Chinese minors are not allowed to play video games between 10:00 pm to 8:00 am. They also have limited screen time for playing, with only 90 minutes in one day to play games. Moreover, the law also prevents minors from purchasing micro-transactions of more than $28 to $57 a month.
However, the Chinese government provides additional rules to law. In June 2021, games will now require individuals of all ages to register using their original identity. Apart from that, it also prevents people from playing games with themes like goriness, violence, sexual explicitness, and gambling.
According to Digital Trends, Tencent describes this new technology as a Midnight Patrol. This technology allows them to scan the player’s faces and compare it to their database of faces and names. With China’s national citizen database, Tencent can easily flag minors playing beyond curfew hours or more than the required limit.
How Tencent’s Facial Recognition Operates
According to Chinese game industry analyst Daniel Ahmad on The Verge, how “Midnight Patrol” works is that it will detect people who are playing the game for a long time after midnight or spending beyond the maximum limit in a game. If detected, Tencent will prompt users to verify their identity through facial recognition. The results will then be compared from their database or from the data they’ve used before.
Additionally, Tencent said in their press release that those who refused to undergo facial recognition will be removed from the game. But for adults who are mistakenly removed will be given a chance to submit a new face scan.
Facial recognition is just one of the programs that Tencent has utilized to curb the gaming addiction of Chinese kids. Few of these programs include digital contracts that let kids and parents negotiate playtime terms and the ID verification system.
Tencent’s newly introduced program may have drawn flak to Chinese players, particularly in the aspect of data privacy. However, the use of facial recognition in China is not new. Moreover, Tencent has also tested this program way back in 2018 for thousands of players from Honour of Kings, which was one of the most addicting games until now. Nevertheless, let’s wait and see if Tencent’s move is effective in curbing online gaming addiction.