With an estimated 5,000-plus team, China is the world’s largest esports industry, but the government’s strict new rules aimed at combating gaming addiction are likely to make careers like Zhang’s difficult to replicate.
The regulations, which have sparked outrage among many Chinese teenagers, require gaming businesses to limit under-18s’ access to online games to three hours each week. Minors were already limited to 1.5 hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends before the reforms.
Members of the Shanghai-based esports team Rogue Warriors tap away at their phones in glass-paneled conference rooms from 11 a.m. to late at night, with intermittent breaks for lunch. Experts equate the intensity of their training to that of Olympic gymnasts and divers. Top esports players are often discovered in their teens and retire in their mid-20s. Riot Games’ one of the most well-known gamers in the world. “League of Legends”, Wu Hanwei, also known as Xiye, began playing at 14 and joined a club at 16.” The new regulations almost kill young people’s chances of becoming professional esports players,” said Chen Jiang, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science.
The limitations also jeopardize the lucrative esports industry in China, where competitions are frequently held in multibillion-dollar stadiums and live-streamed to millions of people. According to the state-run People’s Daily, Chinese esports fans number over 400 million, and the domestic esports business was worth 147 billion yuan ($23 billion) last year, according to Chinese consultancy iResearch.The new guidelines aren’t so many rules that punish individuals as they are rules that force gaming corporations to require real-name and national ID number logins. Experts point out that if determined Chinese teens have their parents’ backing and are able to use adult logins, they can still get around the laws.
The impact of the new restrictions on the esports business has not been addressed by Chinese authorities, but Chen of Peking University believes they have the authority to allow some young esports players exemptions.