A laid-back reactionThe Korean government announced out of the blue an outline to promote the game industry. The measures include an incubating institution to foster professional game players and easing the controversial curfew barring minors from playing online games from midnight to six in the morning by allowing access upon parents’ consent. Kim Jong-deok, minister of culture, sports and tourism, declared that the country needs to build an environment where a global sensation like Pokemon Go can be born.
Such improvising from the government is hardly surprising. When Nintendo’s DS game console became a global blockbuster in 2008, President Lee Myung-bak asked his cabinet whey the local industry cannot make such a hit product. A few months ago, the government concocted a plan to invest big in the artificial intelligence area following the milestone machine-vs-human Go game in which the computer AlphaGo defeated world champion Lee Se-dol. The game industry is no longer bothered: it now prefers the government leave it alone than meddle through sudden and excessive attention.
Korea has long lost its mighty place in the game industry to China due to various regulations, including the gaming curfew. Game companies that reached 20,658 in 2010 shriveled 30 percent to 14,440 last year. Employees in the field also decreased to 39,221 last year from 52,466 in 2012. The industry no longer has its past vitality.
Pokemon Go became an instant phenomenon because it is based on the augmented reality, which brings together the real and virtual world. The new genre has become a buzzword in the technology sector along with virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The fourth revolution, led by intelligence, will be defined by innovations in these fields. Games are an area that can incorporate all of them.
Losing the game industry is losing future value for the local economy. Korea became a powerhouse in game software with no help from the government. What the government should do is lift the barriers and regulations and stay away if it really wants to help the struggling industry.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 30