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China to ban online games with foreign players, enforce real-name authentication

China to ban online games with foreign players, enforce real-name authentication

Joshua Wong/Twitter

China is set to launch strict video game legislation that will have a significant impact on online and offline gaming in the country.

In an attempt to remove communication with gamers from other countries, the Communist Party of China’s (CCP) new laws will restrict gamers from playing online games with those from other countries.

The move comes after the recent controversy surrounding the newly-released Animal Crossing game on Nintendo Switch. Although the game is not officially available in China, players had been able to purchase copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the grey market and express themselves in a creative online community.

The game allows players to socialize in an online environment at a time when the world has been significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). With strict social distancing guidelines now in place in many countries, gamers are seizing the opportunity to socialize and interact in an online environment.

Particular interactions, however, have caught the eye of Chinese authorities. On April 10, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong tweeted in support of protesters who were producing and sharing pro-democracy content in Animal Crossing. Several in-game screenshots showed protests targeted at Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The CCP now wants to destroy the opportunity for Chinese players to interact with players from around the world. A story by Liberty Times Net states that the CCP believes it’s far too easy for gamers to communicate freely in an online environment and that they are currently able to do so without direct monitoring.

And in addition to the laws that will prevent playing with gamers from other countries, the new laws also seek to boost surveillance for single-player, offline games as players will be required to register for games using their real name. Restrictions will also prevent map editing and roleplaying, effectively diminishing the freedom of gamers further.

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