Tencent Games Is Using Facial Recognition To Limit Minors' Game Time In China

The company has rolled out a new measure to try and curb video game addiction among minors to comply with government regulations.

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Tencent Games has rolled out a new initiative in China that forces players to submit to a digital face scan to verify they aren't minors. This is the company's effort to comply with the Chinese government in its bid to curb video game addiction among minors.

The software makes use of AI to determine if players are attempting to trick the system, forcing players offline if they either fail or reject the request for the scan. This applies to all Tencent's games between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM. The use of AI will allow the system to detect players using tricks to circumvent the check, while continually learning from fraudulent attempts that were successful.

The measure, called "Midnight Patrol," is another system that Tencent has implemented since Chinese authorities drafted a bill of requirements aimed at curbing video game addiction among Chinese minors. This included the requirement to have games use real names for account creation, so that play time and spending could be monitored and restricted for players under the age of 18. These requirements were put in place after gaming-related incidents sparked the authorities' interest, according to Sixth Tone.

Tencent is the largest publisher for games in China, accounting for 55% of gaming market share in the first-half of 2020. It also produces the country's most popular mobile game, Honor of Kings (a MOBA inspired by League of Legends), which was the highest-grossing mobile game in 2019 and 2020. It was the game called out specifically by Chen Lina, an accounting executive in eastern Jiangsu Province, who praised the new facial-scanning technology.

Tencent is a big player internationally, too. The company owns Riot Games, makers of League of Legends and Valorant, as well as Klei, the creators of Don't Starve. It also holds stakes in numerous development studios, with investments into Remedy Games, Dontnod, and Bohemia in 2021 alone. It's also not the only company clamping down on minors and video games, with Minecraft receiving an above-18 age restriction in South Korea.

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