You must’ve heard the saying, “You can have too much of a good thing”. And as old, boring, and repetitive it may seem, it holds true. Even the things that bring you great joy or serve wonderful purposes can become negative and detrimental if used excessively. What better to illustrate this idea than technology, of all kinds? Among all the entertainment and media that technology has made possible, one stands out as a curious double-edged sword – gaming. The thrill, the possibilities, the wonder of playing video games remains unparalleled for a lot of young people today, but they can be just as much of a bane as they are a boon. While gaming addiction can be crippling, is there a solution to battle this invisible ghost?
Tencent’s concern over a growing gaming addiction
Anyone who has ever played any video game at all is familiar with the Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company, which also happens to be the world’s largest video game vendor:Tencent Holdings Ltd. They own some of the world’s most popular(and unfortunately, addictive) video games, from PUBG to League of Legends to Call of Duty, to name a few. Naturally, you’d expect this company to be in favor of fueling gaming addiction, right? Well, it may be because China is cracking down on underage gaming addiction legally, but Tencent is actually working on a technology that could promote a regulated and restricted gaming environment.
‘Gaming disorder’ was recognized as a specific mental disorder by WHO in 2019, and it was not without good reason. There have been numerous reports of people, especially teenagers, experiencing deteriorating physical and mental health as they become overly engrossed in gaming. The Chinese government has imposed curfews, made companies require real names for age verification, placed a 90-minute game time limit, but sneaky children have found ways to circumvent these rules. However, it would be much harder to evade the facial recognition technology that Tencent has come up with.
How would it work?
Midnight Patrol, as much as it sounds like a game itself, is in fact quite the opposite – an agent to weed out excessive gaming. Announced in July 2021, it is a time-sensitive system that will activate between 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.- you know, the period when kids sneak off with their gadgets under the blanket and play games all night? Yep.
After a certain amount of gaming is done during the night, the software will conduct a face screening for accounts registered with real names; that is, names of verified adults. If the individual refuses or fails the face-screening, they’ll be treated as a minor and kicked offline in accordance with Tencent’s anti-addiction health guidelines. Tencent has employed this technology in 60 of its games so far.
As you can imagine, such a system set off heated controversy amongst the public. Some believe that it is a much-needed imposition to deal with stubborn kids, but others find faults with it. They say that the company may be overstepping and assuming the role of a parent, and more importantly, the software would allow them access to a lot of personal data, causing risks of security breaches. Even though facial recognition technology is commonplace in China – from hotels to banks to airports – people are wary of it when it seems to enter their homes in the form of the Midnight Patrol.
Need of serious action to curb addictive gaming
No matter if such huge legal and technical steps are taken or not, it is important to personally regulate your own and your family’s gaming time. Kids are more likely to fall prey to gaming addiction, but even adults, with all their responsibilities, might tumble down this void that gaming threatens to become. Leading by example, gently monitoring gaming behavior, having frequent digital detoxes, introducing your kids to the outdoors and team activities, etc. are some common but effective ways to deal with this problem. Of course, if all else fails, professional help has to be brought in to truly pull out the addiction, but it’s better to just curb it before it becomes serious.
In the new age, games have been an incredible and admirable source of knowledge, critical skills, imagination, and emotional stimulation, but they would just become another addictive drug if used uncontrollably, being played out of habit rather than for pleasure.
Midnight Patrol to curb addictive gaming is certainly a highly debatable topic, so don’t forget to drop your thoughts below!
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