Tencent taps facial recognition to stop kids in China from gaming past curfew

Tencent has announced that it is now using facial recognition to enforce China's gaming curfew for minors, one that forces them to play games only during allotted hours during the day and to turn off their games by 10 PM. The law, which has proven controversial within China and beyond, doesn't apply to adults.

In November 2019, China's government announced new regulations that would prevent minors under the age of 18 from playing games outside of the hours of 8 AM to 10 PM. As well, the restrictions limit minors to only 90 minutes of gameplay per day. The only exception is national holidays during which minors are allowed to play for up to three hours during the day.

These rules have, as you'd expect, proven controversial among many; some complaints on Chinese social media include the issue of older teens who are near 18 years old and who have finished their schooling, yet are still impacted by the gaming restriction. Under this law, China requires all gamers, including adults, to register their names and phone numbers for online games to aid in the enforcement of these restrictions.

In an announcement last week, Tencent said that it is now using a facial recognition system to spot kids who are still playing games after 10 PM, including those who may have registered as an adult or who may be using a parent's phone. Failing the facial recognition or refusing to partake in it will result in being kicked offline.

Tencent said its facial recognition system is now live in more than 60 of its games, including titles like Peace Elite, and Glory of the King. Additional games will also get the age verification systems in the near future, according to the company. More than 5 million accounts were subjected to the facial recognition system as of June, Tencent said.

The verification system is part of China's wider movement against video games. Under the same crackdown, China also banned anyone in the nation — including adults — from playing games that feature content like gambling, sexual explicitness, violence, and gore. If there's an upside to the draconian system, it's that minors are also limited to spending only up to $57/month on microtransactions.