[PRO] For a healthier gaming culture
Will the gaming evaluation system work?
*The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is pushing forward an evaluation system on computer games for young players. Before starting the “shutdown” system that restricts youngsters’ online game play next year, the ministry seeks to establish standards to evaluate the games. The plan has been strongly protested by the game industry for impacting business. Earlier this month, the industry hosted a game competition to ridicule the proposal.
The debate over the “shutdown” of Internet games began in 2005 and hasn’t stopped. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, in charge of advocating for parents and civic groups and protecting youngsters, supports the system.
Its argument is based on the rapid increase of undesirable incidents associated with excessive playing of Internet games and the official study run by a state-run institute that found one out of 10 children in the country are addicted to computer games. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which is in charge of the game industry, has opposed it, worrying that it would shrink the industry.
The confrontation continued for six years, and the official legislation of the shutdown system in 2011 appeared to have ended the debate. But it is regretful that the system has had a very limited effect. Under the system, only children under 16 years old were banned from playing Internet games late at night, while older children, the heaviest users and addicts, were excluded.
Recently, supporters and protesters are butting heads again over the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family’s plan to evaluate Internet games that are included in the curfew. Those opposed to the restriction complain that the evaluation questions were created under the context that Internet games are harmful and that the ministry wants to apply the curfew to the games available on smartphones and tablet PCs.
The argument appeared to come from a lack of understanding of the evaluation plan or efforts to eventually taint the intention of the shutdown system by provoking unnecessary debate. The evaluation plan was created based on the Juvenile Protection Act and the Game Industry Promotion Act.
The laws allow the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family to consult with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to conduct a biannual evaluation on the games that are controlled by the shutdown systems. The evaluation requires looking at the format and content of Internet games and their means to be played as well as factors that prompt excessive usage of the games.
The evaluation plan reflects the legal clauses. The questions are focused on evaluating the games’ technical characteristics and features that prompt excessive usage. It has nothing to do with the harmfulness of the games.
Whether a game is harmful or not is evaluated by the Game Rating Board. Moreover, the evaluation plan has not been finalized, and it is in the process of being decided by consulting with the Culture Ministry and various social opinions.
There is also speculation that the Family Ministry plans to include the games offered through smartphones and tablet PCs in the curfew.
But no such plan exists in the evaluation proposal. The Juvenile Protection Act requires the games offered through such devices to also be restricted. But the Family Ministry and the Culture Ministry have agreed to postpone the application of that clause for two years. Whether that postponement will be extended or not will be decided later.
When a healthy game playing culture is established, the ongoing debate and the restrictions will disappear. But right now, we need the system for the Internet games, just like the government banned the late night cram schools, or hagwon, to guarantee youngsters enough sleeping time.
Instead of having a wasteful debate, it is time to put together wisdom to improve the effectiveness of the system and create a healthy game culture to promote the youngsters’ physical and mental health.
*The author is a professor of mass communication of Chung-Ang University.
By Yu Hong-sik