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Korea Fights Gaming Addiction With New Law

A new mandate will help parents control when their kids play online games.

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By Bryan Le

07/05/12

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Video game addiction plagues South Korea—perhaps worse than anywhere else in the world. In an attempt to curb the problem, a new law mandates that video game makers must create a “Selective System of Game Availability Period”—a built-in tool that allows parents to control exactly when their kids play. The restrictions will apply to several big-name online games, like League of Legends and StarCraft 2—but games that are 18-and-up only like Diablo 3 will be exempt. Officials also recently introduced the “Shutdown Law” which blocks kids from playing any games online between midnight to 6 am. But while such legislation can reduce excessive gaming among youth, it will do little to help adult gamers, who are some of the worst offenders. Video game addiction can be deadly: in 2005, a 28-year-old man died after a 50-hour StarCraft session and in 2002, a 24-year-old man died after playing for 86 hours. In another case, an infant starved to death while her parents raised a virtual baby online. Online video games are often demanding, competitive and require intense focus and endurance—in addition to being addictive. “They are the types of games that completely engross the player. They are not games that you can play for 20 minutes and stop,” says psychology professor Mark Griffiths, who specializes in gaming addiction. “If you are going to take it seriously, you have to spend time doing it.” More than 15 million people (30% of the South Korean population) are registered online gamers.

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