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Is Japan going to start “anti-addiction” too?

On March 18th, the Kagawa Prefectural Assembly of Japan officially passed the “Regulations on Countermeasures against Internet and Game Addictions” (hereinafter referred to as “Regulations on Dependencies”, hereinafter referred to as the “Regulations”), which will be implemented from April 1. It is also Japan’s first bill related to “game addiction.”

It is conceivable that in the big gaming country Japan, the news about this bill once triggered a huge controversy and heated discussion. But unlike people’s imagination, outside controversy and discussions did not have much impact on the resolution of the Kagawa Prefecture Council. From the submission of the draft on January 10, the formal adoption on March 18, and the implementation on April 1, the promotion of the Regulations in Kagawa Prefecture was rapid and smooth.

Seeing keywords like “anti-addiction” and “game addiction”, of course, players are very concerned, and many people will sniff or dismiss them. However, calm down, we may see more from Japan’s first “anti-addiction” regulations.

■ Strict or loose?

The full text of the PDF version of the Regulations was published on the Kagawa Prefecture website, with a total of 5 pages. The opening part mentioned the incident in which the World Health Organization (WHO) identified “Gaming Disorder” as a disease in May 2019, and called it “a major social issue at home and abroad.” Therefore, they decided to take measures to train talents who provide medical services for game addicts, and issued the Regulations in order to “protect the county’s residents, including children, from Internet and game addiction.”

It can be seen from the content that one of the focuses of the Kagawa Prefecture Council in the Regulations is to divide the responsibilities of the government, schools, guardians, game manufacturers, telecommunications operators, and related industry practitioners.

For example, Article 4 of the Regulations stipulates that Kagawa Prefecture will provide information and technical support to subordinate municipal governments, cooperate with citizens, schools and other institutions to popularize educational knowledge, and recommend that parents allow their children to participate in outdoor sports and ensure outdoor activities. Sports venue safety and more. Articles 5 and 6 stipulate that schools should provide training to parents. If minors need to bring their smartphones to school, the school and parents must provide guidance and filter information that is harmful to minors.

The Regulations stipulate that governments, schools, and guardians should bear different responsibilities

At the same time, Article 11 stipulates that the game industry needs to implement self-regulation and restrict violent content and payment systems in games, and telecommunications operators should also use filtering software or other measures when conducting business to avoid citizens (especially (Minors) rely on online games.

However, none of these suggestions mentioned specific measures. The most specific provisions of the entire “Regulations” come from Article 18: Minors under 18 years of age cannot use smartphones or play online games for more than 60 minutes a day, and not more than 90 minutes on weekends and holidays; below junior high school students Minors (including junior high school) should stop playing games and using smartphones after 9 pm and high school students after 10 pm.

Regulations on the use of smart phones and games in Article 18 of the Regulations

But even with such specific provisions, the Regulations do not give corresponding punishment standards, only to advise guardians “should ensure implementation”. At the same time, there is a saying in Article 18 that “the guardian and the child discuss the rules for using smartphones and games with the child’s age and the actual situation of the family”.

It is not difficult to see that on the one hand, the “Regulations” hope to guide minors to stay away from Internet and game dependence through the cooperation of all parties, on the other hand, they put forward relatively “harsh” restrictions, but there are no punitive measures. Not mandatory.

Such strict standards but not strong regulations often cause problems in actual implementation. After the passage of the Regulation, discussions on it have not stopped.

Atsushi Tanaka is a lawyer born in Kagawa Prefecture and currently works in Osaka, Japan and New York, USA. His main business areas are intellectual property law and entertainment law. At the same time, he is a veteran player who loves “Mario”, “Pokémon” and some classic fighting and RPG games. He is also happy to play games with his two children.

Lawyer Tanaka read Touch’s report on the “Regulations” of Kagawa Prefecture on social platforms. We took this opportunity to have a dialogue with him, asking him to introduce some issues that everyone cares about from the perspective of lawyers and players-what impact will this “Regulations” have on the gaming industry in Kagawa and Japan? What thinking should people get from the Regulations?

■ “Regulations”: Is it incomplete or hasty?

According to Tanaka, the advantages and disadvantages of the Regulations are obvious.

As a gamer and father of two children, he has a clear understanding of the risks of children playing games and surfing the Internet for a long time. In fact, some minors do not have enough ability to manage their time. Therefore, even if it is only to provide guidance, the Regulations can provide an official example for minors, so that minors can learn to improve their time management capabilities “with evidence”.

On the other hand, the Regulations may in some ways interfere with the self-determination process of minors. It is also important for them to arrange time in their own lives with their own efforts and their own decisions. From this perspective, some problems in the family do not need to be regulated by laws and regulations. The reason why parents need to supervise their children is not because of the law, but that they must protect and improve their children’s health, ability, and rights. That is, if parents say to their children, “You will break the law by playing games again!” Obviously, it is not a good way of education.

Therefore, from the perspective of Tanaka, it is difficult to predict the impact of the Regulations on minors, parents, schools and other institutions. If it can promote minors to discuss their lifestyle with parents and schools, and enhance their ability to make autonomous decisions about games, it is definitely good for minors (of course, provided they can communicate with adults in Dialogue under relatively equal conditions).

Can the lives of Japanese students become more regular after the implementation of the Regulations?

However, so far, not only does the “Regulations” lack specific guidance for teachers, parents, and ordinary people, Kagawa County has not yet published other bills to regulate the behavior of game companies and network operators, and how all parties should work together — -Without specific measures, it will be difficult to enforce the Regulations.

At the same time, many people have questions about the contents of the Regulations. A writer wrote that Kagawa did not give enough arguments for the length of the game stipulated in the Regulations-why is it 60 minutes and not other lengths? How did they come to this conclusion?

In addition, the lack of research and understanding of games in the “Regulations”, almost no mention of the more controversial payment system in the game industry today-as early as 2016, the Ministry of Culture of China adopted “out of the box” in games Measures such as public drop rate; in 2018, 16 countries in Europe and the United States jointly signed an agreement to review whether “opening the box” in the game constitutes gambling. The Netherlands, Belgium and other countries have explicitly stated that “opening the box” is gambling, which has led to Nintendo, EA, Blizzard, SE and other manufacturers have announced that they have cancelled the out-of-box function in these countries, or they have simply stopped serving.

Countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium have considered “out of the box” in games as gambling

Regardless of whether the practices of European and American countries are correct, but talking about “anti-addiction” but not talking about school fees, this makes many people question the professionality of the “Regulations” of Kagawa Prefecture. Some people even think that if the “Regulations” do not focus on playing time, but limit the consumption of school fees for minors, external evaluations may be completely different.

For games, there are many more details to discuss: if it is an RPG or simulation game, the progress within 1 hour can be said to be quite limited. What should players do? What if eSports players and eSports games are “one size fits all” for all minors? Are the functional games used by schools and educational institutions restricted? These issues are also not addressed in the Regulations.

The “Regulations” also referred to the WHO’s recognition of “gaming disorders” as a disease as a prerequisite for restricting minors’ playing time. However, even the WHO International Classification of Diseases ICD-11 (the eleventh updated version, which includes the entry for “gaming disorders”), will not take effect until January 1, 2022. Therefore, some people think that Kagawa County seems to be too hastily based on WHO’s “gaming obstacles”.

Equally “rushed” is Kagawa’s attitude towards public opinion.

■ Public Comments: Process and Results

According to Tanaka, according to news reports, the earliest discussion of the “Regulations” in Kagawa Prefecture occurred in September 2019, after which it was discussed by local councils and experts. From January 23 to February 6, 2020, the Kagawa Prefecture Council will openly solicit opinions from local residents and businesses, and plans to announce the results on March 17. On March 18, the “Regulations” were passed, but the results of the solicitation were only made public to some people. On April 1, the Regulations will come into effect.

This has led to some discussions on the operating procedures of Kagawa Prefecture Council. First of all, the main way of publicly soliciting opinions in the Regulations is to conduct public opinion surveys on residents, groups, and enterprises, and the findings are not legally binding on local governments. Secondly, in the public opinion collection of other laws and regulations in Kagawa Prefecture, the number of comments is often only a dozen or dozens. In contrast, the number of comments in the Regulations exceeds 2600, of which 84.4% (2268) The Regulations support it. The personal information of all commenters is kept secret from the outside world.

Age distribution of residents in Kagawa participating in discussion of the Regulations

Residents, groups, and companies participating in the discussion can submit their opinions by writing, faxing, e-mailing, and personal delivery, so people can’t see the full contents of these comments except the Kagawa Prefecture Council. In the public opinion results of Kagawa Prefecture, only one page was in favor of the opinion, while the opposition and Kagawa ’s response accounted for 81 pages. The lawmakers participating in the discussion can only see the processed content, not the original opinion. Soon after, some lawmakers filed an application for public opinion to the Kagawa Prefecture Council. Many opponents also believe that transparency in the legislative process is not guaranteed and that more information must be obtained.

From the results, “individuals” and “enterprises” have very different views on the Regulations.

Tanaka believes that, although not legally binding, public opinion is an important consensus on the Regulations. Perhaps the Kagawa Prefecture Council did not have time to review everything and hurriedly discussed and passed the Regulations, but they should have read and studied the opposition more carefully.

It is important that public opinions are not voted informally, so the focus is not on the number of opinions, or the ratio of favor to disapproval, but on their content and details. “Even if 99% of the comments are supportive, we must pay attention to the 1% minority.” Attorney Tanaka said that this is because the point they made is also to protect some people’s important rights.

■ Afterword

As Chinese players, we often envy the game environment of Japan, the United States and other countries. In fact, even for “big game powers”, many people still have negative opinions about games. The passing of the “Regulations” in Kagawa Prefecture may be an example. Coincidentally, after Kagawa Prefecture, Odate City in Akita Prefecture also began to formulate similar local regulations.

According to Japanese media reports, the Education Commission of Odate, Akita Prefecture has also begun drafting an “anti-addiction” bill

Tanaka expressed concern. Without adequate research and discussion, the regulation of games will spread to other regions.

During the discussion and adoption of the “Regulations”, many gamers (whether they were in Kagawa Prefecture or not) reacted very fiercely. There are a lot of valuable opinions and suggestions, but also ridicule and paragraphs-think about the reactions of Chinese players in some events, we should be able to understand them very well. But in fact, the game is not contradictory to “anti-addiction.” Letting people who like games enjoy their games healthily and reasonably may be a consensus among people.

Due to the speciality of udon noodles in Kagawa, some netizens often associate “limiting games” with “making udon noodles”.

“Game play dishes = Kagawa people”?

The Japanese netizens who made these stalks should have not seen the domestic “anti-addiction” system

This problem is not only related to games, but also to family communication and the local environment. If the “Regulations” only exist in Kagawa Prefecture, then the statement “Leave Kagawa if you want to play a game” may be a bit effective, but if the same regulations spread to other areas, “Leaving Kagawa” will not help.

“I hope that young people in Kagawa can think more about the Regulations,” said Tanaka lawyer. “If there is something wrong with the Regulations, they can think about what they can do to change.”

Author: Chen Jing
Source: Touch Music
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