Tencent is being sued for getting kids in China hooked on video games. On Tuesday, a children’s rights organization filed the lawsuit. At the case’s center is Honor of Kings, Tencent’s smash hit battle arena game that shares a format with Riot Games’ League of Legends.
The plaintiff, Beijing Children’s Law Aid and Research Center (BCLARC), said Tencent’s game impairs minors’ self-control by making inappropriate content part of its imagery. This includes revealing outfits for female characters, suggestive poses, violence in the gameplay’s combat, and vulgar comments.
Honor of Kings has 100 million daily active users, Tencent reported in November 2020.
BCLARC’s lawsuit was filed on the same day that China’s revised Minors Protection Law came into effect. The organization said it is the first ever public interest lawsuit filed on behalf of minors in China by a civic group.
BCLARC was formed in 1999 and has provided pro bono legal assistance to approximately 50,000 people, according to the NGO’s website. Specifically, it has represented more than 500 clients, and coordinated with local-level affiliates in another 500 cases. In general, BCLARC exists to safeguard the rights and interests of China’s underage citizens, it says.
Honor of Kings is the subject of another lawsuit, but with Tencent as the plaintiff. The company sued Douyin, a ByteDance subsidiary, for violating Tencent’s copyright of the “continuous images” generated in Honor of Kings by livestreaming gameplay on Huoshan, a platform operated by Douyin. In a hearing that took place in Guangzhou in late April, the court ruled that Douyin was at fault for “inducing, encouraging, and organizing” gamers to play the game on Huoshan livestreams—for Huoshan and Douyin’s profit—after Tencent demanded a cessation of the practice.
Video game addiction is a serious matter in China, so much so that it once spawned a cottage industry of “boot camps” that were meant to ween gamers off their habit. But mistreatment of minors and a teen’s death in one camp drew nationwide condemnation of the practice and led to new legislation—no beatings, electric shocks, or drugs for the gamers who are siphoned into the facilities.
In May 2020, Tencent said it would limit the screen time of underage players of Honor of Kings to 1.5 hours per day, and specifically lock minors out of the game between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.