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Chinese state media calls gaming ‘spiritual opium,’ slamming stocks

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Chinese state media on Tuesday slammed online games as “spiritual opium,” sending stocks of the country’s largest video game company tumbling.

Economic Information Daily — a newspaper affiliated with China’s biggest state news agency, Xinhua — made the provocative comparison in an article in which it said young people in China were addicted to online games and called for a crackdown on the industry.

The story specifically called out “Honor of Kings,” a popular online game created by Tencent, the country’s largest video game developer.

“‘Spiritual opium’ has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions,” the newspaper wrote. ”No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation.”

Shortly after the article was published, Tencent shares dipped more than 10 percent in trading before markets opened and were down 7.4 percent early Tuesday afternoon.

Tencent's "Honor of Kings" takes part in China Digital Entertainment Expo ChinaJoy in Shanghai, China, July 31, 2020.
Tencent called for an industry-wide ban on gaming for children under 12 years old.
Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The company’s stock has plummeted nearly 40 percent over the past six months amid investor fears about the Chinese government’s broader crackdown on tech, which has also slammed companies like Alibaba and Didi.

Shares of US video game maker Activision Blizzard also fell about 5 percent Tuesday, although that move may have been more related to investor concerns about the company’s internal turmoil over sexual harassment allegations than access to the Chinese gaming market.

As Tencent’s shares were tanking, the company said it would further curb minors’ access to Honor of Kings and called for an industry-wide ban on gaming for children under 12 years old.

A child plays online game 'Honor of Kings' on July 2, 2017 in Dezhou.
It is still relatively easy for Chinese children to access online games because they can lie about their age.
Visual China Group via Getty Ima

Since 2017, Chinese regulators have pushed to limit the amount of time minors spend playing video games — and companies including Tencent already have anti-addiction systems that they say cap young users’ game time.

However, it is still relatively easy for children to access online games because they can lie about their age.

Economic Information Daily’s comparison of video games to opium is particularly charged in China, which has a long and contentious history with the drug.

Visitors are seen at the Tencent Games booth during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference.
Economic Information Daily’s comparison of video games to opium is particularly charged in China, which has a long and contentious history with the drug.
REUTERS

In the 1800s, British traders sold opium to China, resulting in widespread addiction.

When China sought to crack down on the opium trade, the British military intervened and forced the Chinese government to cede control of Hong Kong in an 1842 treaty.

With Post wires



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