Thursday, April 28, 2011

Online Gaming Companies Find Loopholes in Underage Ban

It is estimated that almost two million South Koreans have an internet addiction.  Funding for treatment programs for people with internet (and specifically online gaming) addiction has been increased in the last three years.  However, the government is also trying to legislate preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing internet addiction.

Last December, the government announced that there would be a midnight to 6am ban coming for underage gamers.  This did not make the online video game industry in Korea happy, and they are already finding way around it so that they can keep their underage users in the PC Bangs and gaming between the hours of midnight and 6am.

Online game operators are likely to bypass a shutdown system for underage gamers proposed by ruling and opposition parties simply by changing registration rules. The shutdown aims to prevent youngsters under 16 from playing online games from midnight to 6 a.m.

The Legislation and Judiciary Committee in the National Assembly on April 21 unanimously passed a revision to relevant laws that introduces the shutdown, and a plenary session is to ratify it later this week. It will go into effect as early as October. 
But Korea's largest online game company NCsoft has already changed its registration procedure for some games it deems "for all ages," so now only an e-mail address is needed instead of the resident registration number previously required. Six of its 20 games fall into the category.

Many e-mail service providers do not require age verification, so it is impossible to know how old users are.

NCsoft's decision is likely to be copied by smaller firms that are fiercely opposed to the shutdown. An official at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said, "We have not discussed ways to prevent youngsters from playing games late at night. Hopefully, we will have some measures in place before the revision comes into effect in October."

NCsoft in a statement denied it simplified the registration process to beat the shutdown but said its aim was to stop the unnecessary collection of private data. Ironically, the government has been prevailing on Korean online businesses to scrap the requirement for resident registration numbers, mainly to prevent ID theft.
It is the familiar debate of what a government should be doing to protect children and what parents should be doing to protect their children.  I really do not see this ban as a huge infringement on the personal freedoms and liberties of children.  I think they should really be sleeping instead of earning meaningless points in an imaginary world that contributes nothing meaningful to their real lives.


Steven Breu said...

Well, online gaming is very popular nowadays, from adult to even children's under 16. I guess it is impossible to implement the ban if there are no corrective methods to be done first so that their will be no loopholes on the usage of playing at midnight. Even myself, I can change right away my age whatever I want and even the web cannot control me from doing it. So I guess it needs to investigate first that issue.

Ji Ji Park said...

Loophole or none, I think it's still largely the responsibility of parents to know what their kids are doing over the internet. Proper parenting beats age restrictions.
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