S.Korea faces off with Apple, Google over mobile gaming

Let the games begin

Teacher: “What did you do this weekend?”

Student:  “I played computer games”

Teacher: “That’s nice; did you do anything else?”

Student: [No response (vacant and uncomprehending expression)]

For an English teacher working in Korea, the above conversation is a routine Monday morning ritual.

The teacher’s objective? Increase the student’s expressive vocabulary in the hope of a response next Monday.

The objective of the S.Korean government? Immediately review the use of online and mobile games available to Korean children.

The student’s blank expression holds deep seated fears for the S. Korean government. Has an overdose on a diet of mobile and online gaming left teenagers unable to process two consecutive questions? Or has their weekend of non-stop gaming depleted their energy sources making it impossible to respond twice in a row?

Such fears are not unfounded. In February a 32 year old man died after five days of nonstop gaming. Then, in March, a three month old baby was found dead as a result of neglect, in the capital, Seoul. The parents’ game addiction had become more of a priority than caring for their child.

In response to the prevailing online gaming problem in the country, the government is due to introduce a ‘fatigue system’ in December whereby the penalty for spending long periods of time playing a game with no break, will be the loss of game points. 

However, with Google’s Android expected to be a market leader this year, boosting the sale of online games in Korea, the government has another problem on its hands.

In a response to Korean Telco KT’S release of the iPhone, rival SK telecom released Android platform phones provided by Motorola, Samsung, HTC and Pantech last month.

However, with over 15 million people registered for online gaming in Korea, the government has started to take precautionary action against the potential new generation of mobile phone gamers.

In March Google was warned to obey the local Korean Law which stipulates that all games receive a rating from the rating board.

Google has since decided to discontinue its games in Korea and has started a withdrawal process that is expected to take one month.

The firm claims that regulating content just for Korea would be unfeasible as the games are sold on an international platform. Apple has also followed suit, snubbing the demand to have its games on the App store regulated for iphone users.

The government attempts to filter game content is encouraging, admirable and essential, but is it just a little bit too late?

As it goes, for those game buffs desperate to play and, for that matter, any type of addict: “a will finds a way”.

The availability of games on the international market represents a loop hole for game enthusiasts. By setting up a secondary foreign account, addicts can get their fix from the abundant choice of games available outside Korea.

So for now at least, it’s Korean gamers: 1 Korean government: 0