Regulating online games in China: policy, practice, innovation, and change
Arnason, Stephanie Lara
The policy and practice of media regulation in China is quickly evolving to cope with the regulatory challenges presented by the rapid development and convergence of new media technology. These challenges include the increasing economic power of international and private stakeholders within this space, as well as the constantly evolving uses of highly converged media. Online games are a central part of this evolving dynamic, which is characterized by strong tensions between producers and operators, government regulators, and users of online games. This research explores the changing dynamic of online games regulation in China as it responds to the forces of internationalization and privatization. It also seeks to identify critical issues for policy development in China that are raised by the new and innovative ways that this media is being used. It draws from and contributes to scholarship from a number of disciplines, but primarily approaches the research from a media studies and area studies perspective. The thesis is presented in five chapters. Chapter I begins with a discussion of emerging practice in online games and its wider policy implications. This is followed by a literature review and an explanation of the methodological approach, which included: case study methodology, participant observation, and key informant Interviews with policy, legal, and game industry experts in China. The core research is then presented in three chapters. Chapter II is a detailed contextual narrative that describes China’s online games policy and places it in historical perspective. Chapter III is an exploratory analysis of key institutions, stakeholder interests, and interactions that shape practical regulation of online games in China. Chapter IV presents a focused analysis and discussion of the gold farming case. The thesis concludes with a summary and discussion of research contributions in Chapter V. The final discussion highlights how the thesis contributes to knowledge in three key areas: new media in China, policy studies of China, and media convergence.