The Chinese Government is flexing its muscles by forcing online game publishers to reveal their players' true identities, in a bid to crack down on youngsters who spend an unhealthy amount of time tooling around virtual worlds. According to the Xinhua news agency, from June, all Chinese online game manufacturers will have to install technology in their games which makes players reveal their true names and a Government identification number.
Xinhua added that a pilot study was launched last year, in which seven purveyors of MMOs made a total of 100 games inaccessible to those who didn't register properly - and, apparently, those companies worked with the police to ensure that registrations had not been faked. Xinhua said: "The new system is aimed at helping parents track how many hours the teenager has played and which games he or she plays".
In keeping with the culture of piracy that exists in China, the proffering of fake identities to MMO publishers is rife in the country, according to the news agency. Last year, the Chinese authorities attempted to introduce measures which would automatically log players off from MMO servers if they exceeded a set number of hours' continuous play.
To Westerners, such measures may come with more than a whiff of Big Brother (Orwell not Endemol) about them, but it isn't difficult to sympathise with the Chinese authorities - latest figures suggest that the country has 111 million Internet users, of whom 20 million play online games. And given a level of obsessiveness which has led to reports of several MMO-related deaths in the country, it can't really be blamed for wanting to take drastic measures.
Still it does seem a rather draconian approach to us and whether those measures will prove effective remains to be seen.
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