Sony Automating Parental Controls Based On Player Behaviour

"PS5 price to increase in select markets due to global economic environment, including high inflation rates" | Source: PlayStation.Blog


  • Sony Interactive Entertainment has recently published a patent for an automated parental control system that provides predictive customisation of supervisory controls over gameplay.
  • Based on historical gameplay data, the system monitors gameplay and predicts starting and/or stopping timing points within gameplay sessions.
  • A setting preference set by a supervisory account is applied at the next predicted timing point, providing a more tailored and customisable set of supervising controls.
  • The system improves the experience for both players and parents/supervisors by allowing for more flexibility and reducing the cognitive load of having to adjust rigid limits continually.

Sony Interactive Entertainment was recently awarded a patent titled “Parental Controls of Gameplay Sessions,” filed in August 2021 under the name of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. The patent, published earlier this month, offers a predictive customisation of supervisory controls over gameplay based on the historical gameplay data.

In simple words, the patent suggests that the parental controls could be personalised based on the player’s past gaming behaviour, allowing parents or supervisors to more easily set limits and rules for when their child can play. The system would predict when the game should be paused or stopped based on previous data and the preferences set by the parent or supervisor. This would give parents and supervisors more control over their child’s gaming habits.

Flowchart of an exemplary method for providing predictive customisation of supervisory controls over gameplay. | Source: Patent Public Search

“Systems and methods for monitoring gameplay for stopping points and applying a setting preference at a next predicted timing point. The monitored gameplay may be based on object data received from an object server. The supervising control server may predict one or more starting and/or stopping timing points in stopping periods within a gameplay session,” reads the abstract for the patent. “The predicting of the one or more starting and/or stopping timing points may be based on a comparison of the gameplay data to historical gameplay data. Then, a setting preference set by a supervisory account may be applied to a next predicted timing point.”

With the increase in the popularity and accessibility of video games, particularly multiplayer ones, there has been equally increasing concern among parents and supervisors regarding the behaviour of players playing them. Presently, most video game platforms offer settings that allow parents or supervising accounts to set rules and permissions over other accounts, such as restricting time spent on gameplay, access to certain content, and spending constraints.

However, these controls often entail setting a rigid limit, which may frustrate players and not necessarily commensurate with parental or supervisory objectives in all situations. Sony Interactive Entertainment wants to make it easier for parents and supervisors to control their children’s video game playing time.

The company understands that sometimes it’s hard for players to stop playing because they are so involved in the game. So, it has devised a way to predict when players might take a break and allow parents or supervisors to adjust their controls accordingly. This will help parents and supervisors manage their child’s video game time better.

According to the patent’s claims, the system analyses past gameplay sessions of a player and predicts when certain events will happen during a current gameplay session. The method will look at how a player has played video games and use that information to predict when certain things might happen during a gaming session. It will save information about the supervisor and player accounts and analyse the past gaming data to see if there are any patterns.

Then, it will predict when certain events might happen during the current game and let the supervisor know when to set controls. Additionally, the system will keep track of when players have taken breaks during past gaming sessions and use that information to suggest how long the current session might last. The system will record and divide gameplay videos based on when players took breaks in the past. Then, it will send these videos to the supervisor account and predict when the current gaming session will end based on when it thinks the player will take a break next.

Exemplary table of various objects and associated events. | Source: Patent Public Search

Furthermore, the system would generate an overlay notification by comparing the specified time limit for the gameplay session with the tracked duration to display to the player and help them manage their time. “The method of claim 1, wherein the setting preference is associated with an predetermined expiration time period,” the patent further clarifies. Additionally, the overlay notification may include a message from the supervisor account to be shown to the player without pausing the gameplay session.

“The system of claim 8, wherein the communication interface further receives a message from the supervisory user account; and wherein processor executes further instructions to generate a display of the message as an overlay notification provided within a display device of the identified user, wherein the overlay notification is displayed without pausing the gameplay session,” it reads.

It is important to note that this is not the first time Sony Interactive Entertainment has allegedly been working on advanced parental control features. In October 2019, it was discovered that the company was supposedly working on a biometric parental control feature using machine learning for PlayStation 5 controllers, which the patent described as “establishing communications between a controller for operation by a user and a center device.” However, this was never actually implemented, of course, so it remains to be seen whether the company would implement this recent patent or not as well. Either way, this system’s potential benefits to players and parents are significant.

By offering more flexible and tailored supervisory controls, players can enjoy their video game experiences without feeling overly restricted, while parents and guardians can ensure that their children are engaging in appropriate and healthy gaming habits. While it is unclear when (or if) this patent will come to fruition, it shows a promising development in the ongoing effort to balance video game enjoyment and responsible supervision. It seems like Sony Interactive Entertainment is serious about it.

What do you think about this? Do tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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