China forces gamers to abandon nicknames for real names

Anton P. | August 5, 2020

The gaming community in China will soon face a tremendous lifestyle change. The Chinese government will require players to sign up using real names to build a more refined and restrained gaming world. Instead of playing under nicknames, gamers will need to verify their identities to the registration system. This questionable regulation marks another step towards closely-monitored internet in China and revocation of citizens’ digital freedom.

The state-run name verification system

Last week, Feng Shixin, the Deputy Director of the Publications Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department, participated in the ChinaJoy expo. During his speech, he shared the government’s plans for the video game industry. The biggest revelation came with the announcement about the state-run name verification system for all gamers. It will reach players nationwide in September. However, the sudden announcement did not come completely out of the blue. The Chinese government has expressed concerns over the current condition of the gaming world before.

How will the name verification system work? The state-supported authentication mechanism will operate by matching provided player names with an ID number. Once users register to play, the government will have the capacity to monitor their activities and time spent online. In fact, calculating the time spent gaming is one of the pro-claimed reasons for this system.

The Chinese government wants to regulate minors from spending too much behind computers, smartphones, or consoles. According to the new rules, minors will get 90 minutes of gameplay per day, and 3 hours on holidays. Tencent, one of the gaming companies in China, introduced a similar identity system in 2018 as a part of its anti-addiction campaign. However, the Chinese government will roll out the first state-run one.

Can the new regulation be effective?

Looking at the history of comparable identity systems, people managed to find workarounds. Fake IDs, physical gaming centers, and other trickery have worked in the past. The effectiveness, accuracy, and potential fraud detection of the new name system remain unknown.

However, the government continues to express quality over quantity values, meaning that only state-approved games reach consumers. Recently, Apple had to fix a loophole, allowing game makers to smuggle unauthorized gaming apps to Chinese players. Many western games receive bans for containing political controversies, vulgar content, or other unpatriotic behaviors. So, the government might take sophisticated measures to make players follow this new verification process as well.

The censorship tendencies in China

China is one of the countries that impose strict regulations to control and subdue the content available to its citizens. For the gaming community, most of these blocks hit close to home. They are unable to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Plague Inc., Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Mobile, and many other games.

In some cases, game owners need to transform the game into a completely new product. This situation happened with PUBG, developed by Tencent. To meet the government’s demands, the company rebranded PUBG as a Game for Peace. One of the notable adjustments is the way players defeat others. Instead of dying on the battlefield, victims wave white flags as a sign of surrender. Besides reviewing games for vulgar or offensive allusions, the government prevented Chinese gamers from cooperating with people outside China.

Hence, the internet in China undergoes an extensive censorship process. One of the salvations for the heavily-monitored nation is to use a VPN. It allows netizens to mask their IP address, and, in turn, their location. Even though your physical location remains the same, digital services treat you as if coming from a completely different region or country.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



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