Let’s not scapegoat computer games

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Let’s not scapegoat computer games


It happened more than 30 years ago. In middle school, I was a quiet girl who liked to read, but in high school, I was into pop music and culture. My parents gave me money to pay my tutor, but I used it to buy a ticket to a concert of an American pop star. It was something a model student would never do. My parents were furious and investigated who was the “bad friend” who led me into such a deviation from my routine. My parents found out that I was often spotted at a record shop with a certain friend and urged me to promise that I would not hang out with her again. Of course, the friend hadn’t done anything wrong.

When something happens to a child, most parents react similarly. I understand the psychology better now that I am a parent. Parents try to find a reason to blame others. “My child is good-natured but has bad friends,” they say. Nowadays, most parents, especially those with sons, blame computer games. When stories of parents with game-addicted children made headlines, the community became concerned about the harm of computer games.

Recently, ?an “Addiction Act” has been proposed, which would define “online games and media content” as one of four addictive substances, along with drugs, gambling and alcohol, and a National Addiction Control Committee is to be established. The game industry and gamers vehemently oppose the move. They are against the idea of classifying computer games in the same way as drugs and gambling. Also, it does not go along with the government’s policy to make cultural content, including computer games, as the growth engine for a “creative economy,” opponents argue.

Ewha Womans University professor Ryu Cheol-gyun, who writes novels and game scenarios, says that the Addiction Act is a terrible law that deprives games of their identity as cultural content and creates the possibility of state control over all gamers, just like drug addicts. He is concerned of “fatal oppression and control over game-related creators.”

Author Kim Tak-hwan said that before games, all criticism and blame was put on novels.

“They claimed that crime novels inspire crimes, and sexual novels encourage homosexuality. In such a perspective, all creators are addicts. To me, they are addicted to laws,” Kim said.

Moreover, we need to consider whether the authorities are making the same mistake of parents who blame the “bad friend.” They are trying to get psychological relief by blaming computer games, obscene or violent cartoons, movies and television programs.

I look around the subway car, and every rider is looking at his or her smartphone. Since this “harmful and addictive” content is distributed over smartphones, wouldn’t it be more effective to make a law on “smartphone addiction?”

* The author is a deputy culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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