Videogames, the invention that prevents under-18s from playing at night

The stop from 10 p.m. onwards. Gaming giant Tencent will use a facial recognition system to ban minors from using video games at night.

Chinese gaming giant Tencent has launched a facial recognition system designed to track who is playing a particular game. The goal is to prevent those under 18 from using video games at night and ties into the law passed in China in 2019 to ban young people from engaging too much in online gaming. Tencent's technology allows it to detect minors who log on between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and disconnect them.

How the technology that prevents nighttime gaming works

Tencent, in order to block nighttime access to games by youngsters, uses Midnight Patrol software, which is connected to China's central public security system and allows it to detect who the minors are who are connected to any online game between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. the next morning. Once detected, the kids are taken offline and can no longer play. The system is designed specifically to enforce measures introduced in 2019 that require players to identify themselves with their true identity and limit hours of play and even microtransaction spending.

Currently, the software is running in China with more than 60 games, including the popular Honor of Kings and Game for Peace. The developer of "Midnight Patrol" explained that the software scans players' faces, which are then matched against the identities contained in a database. Users who are detected as being under 18 are then blocked from playing the games both when they exceed the maximum time period in which they can use the games, and if they attempt to play during the prohibited hours, which is between 10pm and 8am. The technology, however, could also run into mistakes and block older people. In case an adult should be disconnected from the video game he or she is playing, the company Tencent has informed that the user will be able to send more scans of his or her face in order to be unlocked. Those who refuse to be scanned, on the other hand, will be removed and will not be able to access the games.

The company began testing the facial recognition software back in late 2018, randomly selecting some players in Beijing and Shenzen. Now the new technology is ready to be extended to as many games as possible. Instead of video games, children could instead play with adults. One study would have identified that spending time with young children in playful activities would also have positive effects on the psychophysical well-being of adults.

Stefania Bernardini