Oh, but of course they’re allowed to continue studying until any time of night.

A government crackdown on video games sounds, ironically, like the plot to an edgy near-future-setting video game from the mid ‘90s. “In the year 2020, Governor Nobrane Dorkmyer has banned video games, turning the citizens of Coast Rock City into spiritless zombies. It’s up to YOU to bring the fun back to the people as you blaze through six action-packed levels!”

But here in the real 2020, there’s now an actual video game ban in Japan. On the morning of March 18, the prefectural assembly of Kagawa passed the Ordinance for Measures Against Internet and Game Addiction, which prohibits children under the age of 18 from playing video games for more than 60 minutes on weekdays. On weekends, though, kids are allowed to go crazy and play for up to 90 minutes!

The logic behind the measure (which was just proposed in January) is the familiar “Playing too many video games is bad for kids,” also with the familiar lack of concrete reasons why, and it’s not like the ordinance mandates kids spend more time studying, exercising, or doing any other industrious, traditionally wholesome endeavors. Apparently if kids switch off their game consoles and go immediately to watching TV dramas, all while staying in the exact same prone position on the couch, Kagawa’s politicians feel like they’ve earned the right to pat themselves on the back over the positive effect they’re having on the prefecture’s youth.

▼ Finally, the children are safe.

Video games are far from the only leisure activity it’s possible to spend more than an hour on, though. Watching a baseball game or soccer match on TV? That’s definitely more than an hour. Watching a movie is also going to take far more than 60 minutes, and there are plenty of music albums with run times over an hour too. It’d be one thing if Kagawa was banning any over-60-minute leisure activity for minors during the week (though misguided in its own, separate way), but that’s not what’s happening here. Maybe the thinking is that watching sports encourages kids to be more physically active themselves, and that even the most vapid rom-com or pop song is still part of the artistic fields of acting or music, which can spark an interest in those disciplines. But shouldn’t that also apply to video games, which are a culmination of not only audio and visual art, but also technological and scientific skill in programming and physics modeling?

In addition, the ordinance says that children of junior high school-age or younger are not to use smartphones after 9 p.m., and those in high school have to stop at 10. Oh, but don’t worry, the ordinance makes a special exception: kids can use their phones until as late as they want if they’re using them to study. Of course, there are plenty of people who are deeply concerned with children’s well-being and mental development who would say “Kids in junior high, and especially elementary school, shouldn’t have so much homework that they’re still studying past 9 p.m.,” but the ordinance at least provides a method for kids to start getting used to the soul-crushing situation of doing massive amounts of overtime, an all too common aspect of working in Japan.

▼ No going to bed until you do some more studying and teach yourself how to poop in the toilet!

Arguably the most exasperating part of the ordinance is that by setting time limits, it effectively removes responsibility from kids themselves. Just as there are days when you’ll have more than an hour of free time, there are also days when the things you have to do leave you with not even a whole hour to goof off. Learning to differentiate between those two is an important life skill, and one that it’s much safer to develop as a kid, where poor time management and unfulfilled responsibilities mean a bad grade on a test. As an adult, the same sort of behavior can lead to getting fired from a job or kicked out of an apartment. It’s not like the number of temptations get any smaller once you grow up either, when you’re suddenly granted access to alcohol, night clubs, host/hostess bars, pachinko parlors, and all sorts of other pleasurable but non-productive things adults have to be able to show sufficient self-restraint in regards to.

On the plus side, there’s currently no penalty for violating the ordinance, nor any framework to enforce it, though the motion does acknowledge that “parents and caregivers have a responsibility” to encourage their children to comply with it. However, in what’s perhaps the cruelest part of all, the Ordinance for Measures Against Internet and Game Addiction goes into effect extremely soon, on April 1, at which point it’s possible a lot of schools will still be closed and families encouraged to keep their kids inside at home because of the coronavirus outbreak. But remember, children of Japan, it’s still OK to watch an unlimited number of hours of anime every single day, and if it’s after 9, you can always say that you’re reading SoraNews24 in order to study English.

Source: Livedoor News/Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, Nihon Keizai Shimbun
Top image ©SoraNew24
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he somehow managed to get an education and a job despite growing up in the lawless environment of a world where the government didn’t tell him how long he could play Final Fantasy VI or Valkyrie Profile for.