Kids in China are trying every trick in the book to beat the facial recognition software that puts a mandatory time limit on popular video games

TencentChinese video game publisher Tencent said young players are using photos of sleeping relatives to try to circumvent the company’s new age verification process.
  • Chinese video game publisher Tencent recently implemented facial recognition software to verify the ages of the people playing its games in China.
  • The software uses a government database to verify a player’s identity. Players are under the age of 18 are limited to playing two hours a day, while those under the age of 12 are limited to one hour a day.
  • Tencent reports that since the facial recognition process was implemented, underage users have tried multiple ways to beat the system, including using pictures of sleeping relatives and impersonating their grandparents while on the phone with customer service.

Young gamers in China are using just about every trick in the book to try to circumvent new age restrictions on China’s most popular games.

The country’s biggest video game publisher, Tencent, recently started using facial recognition software to verify player identities and limit playtime for those under the age of 18. Tencent’s age verification process uses an official government database to confirm player identities with their photo and personal information. Players are under the age of 18 are limited to playing just two hours a day, while those under the age of 12 are limited to one hour a day.

Tencent uses artificial intelligence and data collection to monitor player behaviour, and the company claims it will eventually be able to detect when an underage user is playing using an adult’s information.


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After officially implementing the facial recognition software for its most popular game, “Honour of Kings,” the company reported that about half of the accounts linked to underage players have successfully completed the process.

Of the accounts that didn’t complete the process, 98% failed or declined the facial recognition test. Those who fail to complete the facial recognition are automatically limited to just one hour of play.

Tencent reported that young players have been using a number of methods to try to get around the verification process. Some attempted to use photos of sleeping relatives, while others tried to impersonate their grandparents while talking to Tencent’s customer service. The company said that some kids had even convinced their parents or other adults they know into calling customer service to try to remove the age-based time limit.

In a statement following the rollout of the facial recognition software, Tencent said that attempts to circumvent the system made it more determined to successfully implement the technology. The company has previously said it intends to add age restrictions to its 10 most popular games.

Tencent’s age restrictions preempt Chinese video game regulations

With about one-fifth of the world’s total population, China is the largest video game market on the planet. Despite heavy regulations on media and online content in the country, Chinese gamers spent more than $US34 billion on video games in the past year, according to New Zoo.

But while China’s audience for video games has seen consistent growth, officials in the country have expressed concern about potential gaming addiction and the impact video games have on the country’s youth. As a result, Chinese regulators have slowed the approval process for new games in the country, and limited the monetisation of games that have already been approved.

As China’s largest publisher, Tencent has borne the brunt of the freeze. Tencent’s share price has dropped nearly 30% since the year began, and the company has lost about $US200 billion of its overall value. Analysts have viewed the Tencent’s decision to implement age restrictions for its most popular games as a form of cooperation with Chinese regulators.

China is slowly reconstructing its process for approving new games, but Tencent’s age verification process could mark a turning point for the the country’s growing interest in video games.

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