The effects of China’s new under-18 video game restrictions continue to ripple through the country’s gaming industry, with impacts now starting to be felt in the world of esports.
After the initial August 30th statement, gaming companies like Tencent, NetEase and miHoYo made announcements pledging their support of the new restrictions and promising to proactively implement them across their platforms.
Honor of Kings was the first game to release a statement regarding how the new policy would affect its esports division, announcing that matches for its upcoming KGL league were postponed. This was followed by Game for Peace, the sanctioned Chinese version of PUBG, making a similar announcement.
So far, no esports teams have made any official announcements, but popular gaming blogger 狂很子老 revealed that many teams had already been notified that none of their players under 18 would be allowed to participate in tournaments. Sure enough, earlier today Honor of Kings released a follow-up statement confirming that no under-18 players would be allowed to play in their KGL league.
TJ Sports, the League of Legends tournament operator in China, also announced they would be changing the rules of LoL tournaments to abide with the new guidelines. Though they didn’t elaborate on specific changes, it seems reasonable to assume under-18 players will be banned from LoL competitions as well.
Many users on Chinese social media expressed a grim outlook for how this will affect the development of Chinese esports. The average age for esports players varies by game. In 2017, the average age of a professional League of Legends player, for example, was 21. Fans of esports know, however, that aside from there having been many under-18 world champions in different games, the 16–18 age range is often a crucial breakout period for upcoming players, not to mention the age when most players decide whether or not to seriously pursue esports.
It is worth noting that China was one of the earliest countries to recognize esports, having started the process back in 2003. China sent official teams to the esports demonstration matches at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. In a 2019 report by the General Administration of Sport of China, esports was listed alongside football, basketball, table tennis, and other traditional sports. This official recognition does not seem to have spared esports from being affected by the new gaming restrictions, however.
Some under-18 players have already made statements relating to the ban. GuXing, an HoK player for team TOP Esports, who was born in December 2003, posted a short message: “See you at the end of the year.”
Many esports players have segued into streaming when they are no longer able to play, but for a large number of underage competitors in China, this may not be an option. Current regulations ban under-16 minors from streaming, while 16- and 17-year-olds can only stream with permission from a parent or guardian.
It remains to be seen how the age restrictions will affect competitions outside of China.