The State Of Video Game Addiction In China

Since video game addiction has been recognised as an official mental health disorder by the World Health Organisation, countries all over the world have been employing rehabilitation and treatment options for affected individuals. China however has been cracking down on what the consumers are allowed to buy and how they spend their time gaming. Government officials have been willing to go to rather extreme measures to safeguard and treat residents with video game addiction. So today, we are going to run through the impacts video game addiction has had on the world superpower.


Rates Of Gaming Addiction In China

China has the world’s largest video game market so it makes sense that there was no shortage of options for young gamers to get their hands on. This alongside the alarming rates of video game addiction, may have heavily influenced China’s decision to clamp down on gaming as a whole.

With population sizes so big it makes for some surprising video game addiction statistics. China’s average playtime as of January 2021 was 12.39 hours per week. Data was collected from individuals from the age of eighteen and over so this is not considering the young children with video game addiction.

Comparatively, countries such as South Korea which have considered video game addiction as a national crisis, only clock in 5.88 hours a week. Putting China at more than double their playtime. This could be due to the rehabilitation camps set up by the South Korean government to treat young boys and girls with video game addiction, as they were one of the first countries to take the condition seriously.

Scientists in China conducted experiments attempting to determine the association of personality traits and the development of Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) colloquially known as video game addiction. The studies investigated the personality types of males and females aged 15-25, those diagnosed with video game addiction and those who were unaffected. Scientists concluded that personality type does influence susceptibility to IGD. Individuals with high traits of neuroticism and low conscientiousness are said to be more likely to develop video game addiction. They advised that individuals who work with the youth such as teachers, parents and social workers pay particularly close attention to those who exhibit these traits.

The relevance of this study focused on the 17% prevalence of IGD among the Chinese population which is very serious considering that only 3-4% of gamers are addicted worldwide. When we think about 3-4% in the context of 7.9 billion people on earth that still leaves millions of gamers officially diagnosed with IGD not accounting for those who are yet to be diagnosed.

China’s Gaming Laws and Restrictions

With the data indicating a change must be made, the Chinese government in 2019 opted to restrict video games for minors to 1.5 hours a day during weekdays and 3 hours on weekends, between the hours of 9 am to 10 pm. The restrictions also came with limitations on the amount that minors could spend on video games ranging from 28-$57 depending on the age of the child. In order to regulate things such as these, logging onto Tencent and NetEase, the biggest gaming conglomerates in China required full names and national identification numbers to check the age of the individual browsing.

Tencent went one step further to introduce a facial recognition program to prevent children from logging on after curfew. However, not satisfied with the progress made, the government increased the restrictions in place in July of 2021 completely banning children under the age of 18 from playing video games during the week. Minors are only allowed to play for 1 hour between 8 and 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Major gaming outlets such as Steam, have been restricted in China to enforce these changes. Many games on the Chinese version of the gaming marketplace require age and identification in order to download and play the games. Games such as CSGO and Dota 2 have curfew monitoring meaning they cannot be accessed by children during restricted hours.

But it’s not only the amount of video games being allowed by the government as they have ensured censorship over blood and violence. The popular battle royale, PUBG has all blood effects removed from the game and players that have been eliminated are fitted with a wave animation to let you know that they’re okay.

Although the censorship of their gaming content might seem a bit excessive, many Western countries agree as Germany created “Youth Protection” laws aimed at violent games and to replace violence with less gritty alternatives like making blood green for instance. Furthermore, Australia also sought to rid violent depictions in video games by banning games including assault or drug use.

The opinions of various countries differ in actions that should be taken against video games and the threat that they pose in influencing the youth. However, one thing that remains consistent amongst them is the danger of addiction and excessive use of video games.

Effects Of The Pandemic

Although not a problem exclusive to China the effects of the pandemic on video game addiction are an important subject to mention due to the global impacts it has had. Within the last year due to national lockdowns millions of people have been stuck inside with large amounts of free time and limited sources of entertainment. Over this year alone the Guardian reported that cases of gaming addiction in children and young adults have tripled.

The founder of the Indian Institute for Psychological Health Dr Anand Nadkarni states that he has seen twice the amount of patients with video game addiction since the first lockdown began. Doctors claim that there are numerous reasons for this emergence but one that stood out is that the pandemic making life much more difficult for many people led to them looking for a means of escape. Oftentimes when people become reliant on their escape tool, in this instance video games they can develop a pathologic attachment.

With lockdown restrictions starting to ease up and many people returning to their normal lives, those who have developed these addictions may not be able to do so until it is addressed. Video game addiction treatment can come in different forms. Finding the best treatment catered to you can help to get your life back on track. But, more on this later.

Mobile Gaming in China

As a nation, China is no stranger to placing restrictions on the use and sale of video games. From 2000 to 2015 the sale of Sony Playstations and Microsoft Xbox’s by Chinese retailers were banned. This was done out of fear of the negative influences of gaming. However, this restriction in console gaming was met with a massive surge in mobile gaming. Tech giants like Tencent with a rather questionable agenda capitalised on this by releasing numerous games for mobile and in some instances allegedly ripping off and reskinning existing successful video games that they were shareholders in.

It was said that the low barrier to entry for gamers to pick up their smartphones and start gaming has contributed massively to the popularity and addictive nature of mobile games. This alongside the fact that there are 911 million people with smartphones in China, it was simply a recipe for disaster.

Tencent’s own Honor of Kings, a mobile gaming titan was one of the biggest things to come from this ban. Developers of the game explained its release in 2010 was catered to the shortage of gaming options available and made it more social by integrating it into their social communication app WeChat. It was stated that making the games free-to-play, social and easy to access led to millions of downloads and dedicated fans.   

The implementation of microtransactions in the form of loot boxes to monetise the game vilified the company for the same gambling-related reasons that this format usually receives. Encouraging payments for game boosters and skins not knowing what they will receive, added to the excitement, intrigue and addictiveness of the mobile game.

Although the company Tencent has been labelled evil by many, its power and economic leverage through investments has kept the company safe from harm. In 2015 Tencent gained complete ownership of the MOBA League of Legends just as they rose into popularity as an Esports powerhouse and the most played PC game of all time.

Sadly the company provides an essential service in the form of a sociocultural practice. Their contribution to gaming has found an ally in the youth. Gaming is a social experience and an important way for people to relax and unwind. Despite posing a risk of addiction to many of its user’s video games do have their purpose when played in moderation.

Treatment Options For Video Game Addiction

Treating video game addiction doesn’t usually have a one size fits all approach. Within the various forms of treatment, there may be some methods that are more effective than others and creating the correct environment to change your relationship with gaming is essential. Here are some of the most popular treatment options available to help overcome video game addiction.

Rehabilitation Centres

In some cases, video game addiction can be so severe that addicts’ impulses to play video games completely control their lives. Despite video game addiction being defined as a behavioural addiction as opposed to an impulse control disorder, people still struggle to carry out a normal life without video games. One solution is in-patient rehabilitation programmes. During this rehabilitation, patients will live in dorms where internet and access to technology are limited in order to give them a break from gaming.

Patients will receive one to one therapy sessions to learn about their addiction and techniques to curb their behaviour. It’s also likely that patients will be encouraged to take part in group therapy sessions involving other fellow video game addicts to build support and work through problems together.

These rehabilitation centres have varying methods and time’s of stay so it’s best to contact your local centre which can be located with the help of your doctor. Understandably, rehab centres can be scarce, expensive and time-consuming. However, not to worry, there are more treatment options available.


Video game addiction therapy usually refers to CBT which stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, an extremely effective way of proactively identifying the roots of our addictive behaviours and working to change them. CBT can be delivered during one to one therapy sessions that involve talking to a therapist to understand the current problems you are dealing with in relation to your addiction. From here they will educate you on what you are experiencing and the best exercises to use in order to overcome them.

A lot of the time CBT will involve giving patients mental exercises to carry out at home or in their spare time. This is done in order to deal with their addictive symptoms as and when they feel them. The overall goal of CBT is to make you self sufficient in overcoming your addiction so a lot of it is like learning a new skill.

Alternatively, CBT can also be completed through audio lessons and online courses. Considering the high costs of private therapy, sometimes this is a much cheaper and more convenient approach. Online courses for video game addiction can contain all of the most effective treatment techniques and exercises that one would discover through in-person therapy. These courses often have a pragmatic approach to solving gaming addiction based on what video game addicts are likely to be experiencing on their journey to recovery.

Online therapy courses and apps, by all means, don’t have to be a replacement for in-person therapy but can certainly serve as a valuable resource or even accompaniment.

Addiction Helplines

Addiction helplines can be a great option for someone in need of a person to talk to. Many of these addiction hotlines allow you to talk to a trained operator that can give you some great actionable advice and support. Most of the lines are completely confidential so whatever you are dealing with, or however vulnerable you feel will remain private.

Addiction helplines can usually be linked to rehabilitation centres and self-help programs so many of them will offer consultations and referrals to receive this treatment. If this isn’t what you are looking for, they also refer to medical professionals or specialists that can begin advising the next steps and pushing you in the right direction.

If you’d like access to some of these hotlines or learn more about them take a look at our article on video game addiction helplines.

Developing a video game addiction can be devastating and many people choose to suffer in silence as opposed to reaching out. If you feel like your gaming habits are getting out of control, The Mindful Gamer is always here to help.