China plans ratings for online games

/ Source: The Associated Press

China plans ratings systems for online games, books and movies to protect children from violence and sexual content in the nation's latest effort to tighten controls on various media, reports said Friday.

The system for censoring online games will be introduced by the end of October and will come ahead of "any similar actions on books and movies," the state-run newspaper Shanghai Daily said, citing officials attending a conference in Shanghai.

Online games will be divided into five categories: games suitable for all; those for junior high school students and older; those for high school students and older; those for 18-year-olds and older; and those for adults, it said, without elaborating.

The ratings will be based on various factors such as horror, violence and sexual content.

Games considered suitable for all would be known as "green" games, the report said.

"We plan to strongly promote 'green games' across the country and they may even become teaching aids in the future," the report cited Shao Youde, head of the China Youth Association for Network Development, as saying.

The reports did not detail exactly how the ratings system will be enforced or when ratings for movies and books would take effect. China currently has no ratings system for movies.

The online games ratings system has been accompanied by other efforts to control public access to the Internet, such as installation of surveillance cameras, filters and official registration in cyber cafes. Authorities in Shanghai and other cities have sought to bar children from such establishments by threatening to close any that allow access to children.

Most of China's 14 million online gamers are under 25, according to state media reports. The number of players is expected to soar to almost 42 million by 2007.

The domestic online games industry earned revenues totaling $160 million in 2003, and contributed $1.8 billion to other industries such as telecommunications and media, the reports said.