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China sets up a video game ethics panel in its new approval process

Country concerned with internet addiction and a bunch of other issues

Hong Kong Marks 21 Years After Its Handover To China Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

In China, it’s about ethics in video games.

The South China Morning Post reports that the nation now has an “Online Game Ethics Committee,” as a part of the government’s laborious process for game censorship approvals. China Central Television, the state’s broadcaster, said this ethics-in-games committee was formed to address national concerns over internet addiction, “unsuitable content” and childhood myopia (nearsightedness, apparently with video games as a cause?)

The state TV report said the committee has already looked at 20 games, rejecting nine and ruling that the other 11 have to change “certain content.” The titles of the games were not revealed.

This wrinkle on Chinese game censorship comes at the end of a year in which China has frozen approvals for new video games as it puts into place new licensing procedures. wWile that freeze is expected to wind down soon, it’s gone on long enough to dent the stock price of publishing giant Tencent. The Morning Post notes that total revenue in China’s domestic video games market rose 5 percent over the first half of 2017 — a gain, sure, but the slowest growth rate in at least a decade. Video games consoles have been legally for sale in China only since 2014.

China is a huge growth opportunity for video game makers foreign and domestic, but the country’s control over what goes into them has caused all kinds of discomfort as the market has opened up. Rainbow Six: Siege recently changed a bunch of visual assets changed so as not to piss off Chinese censors. That ended up pissing off western Rainbow Six: Siege players instead, to the point that Ubisoft walked back its decision to force them to play the same version.

China is also awaiting the launch of Kingdom Hearts 3, which may run into problems because that features Winnie-the-Pooh, and Chinese censors have a big problem with him. Really.

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