No evidence that Chinese playtime mandates reduced heavy gaming in one segment of the video games industry

David Zendle*, Catherine Flick, Elena Gordon-Petrovskaya, Nick Ballou, Leon Y Xiao, Anders Drachen


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Governments around the world are considering regulatory measures to reduce young people's time spent on digital devices, particularly video games. This raises the question of whether proposed regulatory measures would be effective. Since the early 2000s, the Chinese government has been enacting regulations to directly restrict young people's playtime. In November 2019, it limited players aged under 18 to 1.5 hours of daily playtime and 3 hours on public holidays. Using telemetry data on over seven billion hours of playtime provided by a stakeholder from the video games industry, we found no credible evidence for overall reduction in the prevalence of heavy playtime following the implementation of regulations: individual accounts became 1.14 times more likely to play heavily in any given week (95% confidence interval 1.139-1.141). This falls below our preregistered smallest effect size of interest (2.0) and thus is not interpreted as a practically meaningful increase. Results remain robust across a variety of sensitivity analyses, including an analysis of more recent (2021) adjustments to playtime regulation. This casts doubt on the effectiveness of such state-controlled playtime mandates.

TidsskriftNature Human Behaviour
Udgave nummer10
Sider (fra-til)1753-1766
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2023

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© 2023. The Author(s).


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