In glass-paneled meeting rooms, members of the Shanghai-based esports team Rogue Warriors tap their phones as they train from 11 a.m. until late, pausing occasionally to eat.
“I spend 15 out of 24 hours a day playing video games,” says 19-year-old Zhang Kaifeng, who plays Tencent’s online battle arena game “Arena of Valor” professionally, adding that the long hours are necessary. to stay competitive.
China is the world’s largest esports market with an estimated 5,000 teams, but the government’s strict new rules to curb gaming addiction will make it difficult to match careers like Zhang’s.
With much protest from many Chinese teenagers, the task of gaming companies is changing to limit online games for under 18s to just three hours a week. Even before the changes, minors were limited to 1.5 hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
Top esports players are usually discovered in their teens and retire in their mid-20s, and experts compare the intensity of their training to that of Olympic gymnasts and divers. One of the world’s most famous players of Riot Games’ “League of Legends”, Wu Hanwei, aka Xiye, started playing at age 14 and joined a club at age 16.
“The new regulations are almost destroying young people’s chances of becoming professional esports players,” said Chen Jiang, an associate professor in Peking University’s School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science.
By doing so, the rules also undermine the big business of esports in China, where tournaments are often played in multi-billion dollar stadiums and livestreamed to many more. Chinese esports fans are estimated to be worth more than 400 million, according to the state-run People’s Daily, while the domestic export market was worth some CNY 147 billion (about Rs. 1,66,820 crores) last year, according to Chinese consultancy iResearch.
Rogue Warriors, a club of 90 gamers who train in a three-story building with dormitories and a cafeteria, declined to comment on the expected impact of the new rules.
A director of another major Chinese club said the new rules will mean that many talented people will go undetected.
“The real top players are usually gifted and don’t necessarily play long hours before they get to the club. Others can end up being really good but they need a lot of practice to get there,” said the director, who declined to be named. citing the sensitivity of the issue.
The new rules aren’t laws per se that penalize individuals, but put the responsibility on gambling companies that will be required to log in with real names and national ID numbers. Experts note that determined Chinese teens can still get around the rules if they have the support of their parents and are able to use adult logins.
Chinese authorities have not addressed the impact of the new rules on the esports industry, but Beijing University’s Chen said they have scope to grant exemptions to some young esports players.
“The country can still pursue corresponding policies,” he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021