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Midnight Ban on Online Games

Posted April. 13, 2010 03:35,   


“Other people sacrifice their sons to the nation, but I gave my son away to online games,” said a mother with a sigh after watching a TV report on the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan. It seemed like her “struggle” to keep her son away from playing games has a lot of drama of its own. Her son, who was introduced to his habit through game consoles such as Nintendo, became addicted to online games such as StarCraft later. Despite his mother’s desperate attempt to break his addiction, including taking his computer keyboard with her to work, he went to Internet cafes to master his online gaming skills. Not surprisingly, his grades plummeted at school.

Her son is not alone in being addicted to online games. According to the Korea Youth Counseling Institute’s survey of 1,564 public school students, 29.3 percent showed signs of game addiction, with 39.9 percent of male students addicted. Certain experts attribute the higher chance of addiction among boys relative to girls to male genes programmed to enable long hours of hunting. Game addiction has many negative side effects such as violent and aggressive behavior, destruction of verbal ability, and sexual impulsivity. The worst, however, is confusion between reality and the virtual world. The excitement from many hours of battling online makes reality hard to deal with.

In response, the government will limit access to three online games popular among students – “Maple Story”; “Mabinogi”; and “Barameui Nara” – between midnight and 8 a.m. from September. It will also expand the “slowdown system,” which literally slows down the speed with which users can attain prizes in a game after a certain number of hours have passed since the initial log-on. The purpose of the system is to hinder users’ immersion in the game by making it less fun. Such measures are part of an attempt to prevent game addiction, especially in the wake of the death of a baby due to neglect and starvation because the parents were addicted to games.

Korea’s game industry is so competitive, online game exports earn 50 times that of the film sector. The good always comes with the bad, however. Korea has high percentage of online game addicts. Teenagers usually return home late from attending academic institutes and can easily meet up with a game partner at night. As a result, many of them stay in front of their PCs late into the night. Despite the government’s proposed measures to limit their access late at night, addicts could take advantage of their parents’ social security numbers to gain access. Parent attention and care alone are not enough to prevent their addiction to games. Thorough government measures that can effectively prevent game addiction are urgently needed.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)