The Korea Herald


[EDITORIAL] Gaming culture

By Yu Kun-ha

Published : July 25, 2016 - 08:08

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[THE INVESTOR] The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has come up with a new set of measures to promote Korea’s slumping game industry.

Dubbed “A Five-Year Plan to Enhance the Gaming Culture,” the new measures focus more on creating a healthy gaming culture than supporting game developers.

The policy shift is based on the realization that the game industry cannot prosper unless people’s negative perceptions toward online games change.

The government’s policy toward the game industry has been contradictory. On one hand, it has sought to foster the industry into a major export business. However, it has also imposed strict regulations on game companies to prevent people from becoming addicted.

For instance, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family introduced a ban in 2011 to prevent those 16 or younger from playing online games between midnight and 6 a.m.

In 2014, the Culture Ministry set limits on the amount of money that players of web board games, such as those modeled after the traditional Korean card game “Go Stop,” could spend on purchasing in-game items.

But these overly restrictive regulations generated negative perceptions about online games, undermining the very foundations of the industry.

According to a report released by the Korea Economic Research Institute in February, the number of game developers fell from 30,535 in 2009 to 14,440 in 2014. The number of employees at game developers also fell sharply during this period.

The Culture Ministry is seeking to turn the tide by establishing a positive game culture. To improve public understanding, the ministry plans to stage diverse campaigns in cooperation with game developers.

It plans to set up the Gaming Culture Promotion Forum to study measures on enhancing the game culture and building a sustainable ecosystem for the industry.

The ministry also intends to establish a meister high school to cultivate students with talent in game development.

Overall, the ministry’s plan is well-advised, as the game industry can be fostered as a growth industry only when games are recognized as part of daily lives.

Yet the ministry’s plan to replace the ban on late-night gaming with new rules that allow teenagers to play games after midnight with parental consent has drawn concerns among parents.

The ministry thinks the ban should be lifted as it has been one of the main sources of negative perception toward online games.

Yet many parents are opposed to the proposal as the ban has proven effective in preventing kids from becoming addicted to games. A study by the Korea Creative Content Agency found that the proportion of game addicts among game players has plummeted by 67 percent since the regulation was introduced.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that the regulation is constitutional in light of the negative effects of game addiction.

The abolition of the late-night gaming rule requires revision of the Juvenile Protection Law, which means the ministry needs to obtain approval from lawmakers. This might prove to be a tall order.

The mobile game “Pokemon Go” has recently taken the world by storm, showing the vast potential that the game industry could bring.

Korea badly needs a new approach to foster the game industry.

Relaxing regulations may be necessary to provide game developers with a fresh impetus, but concerns about addiction also need to be addressed.