In South Korea, gaming is taken to a completely different level than it is in the United States. It’s a way of life. It’s considered a very social activity. Many people gather in internet gaming cafes, called “bangs.” Gaming can be a profession, and the best have attained star status, complete with their own fan clubs, paparazzi and press events. One of the most popular games in Korea is Starcraft, a real-time strategy game, with almost ten percent of the South Korean population being players at one point. Not bad for a country with a population just under 49 million.
Recently, a new law was passed that would require gaming companies to restrict the gaming of children to prevent addiction and ensure they get at least six hours of sleep per night. The “Shutdown Law” will prohibit teens’ online game play from the hours of 12-6 a.m. Originally, this law was written for PC games but is now being expanded to include consoles, affecting both Microsoft’s Xbox Live service and Sony’s PSN. Sony, which tracks the age of its PSN users, has a lead on its Microsoft counterpart, which never elected to collect this information from its South Korean users. Civic engagement group MoonHwaYunDae filed an appeal with the Korean Constitutional Court on behalf of Korean teens, stating that is a violation of their right to pursue happiness. And with professional gaming being an option for Korean students to pursue, this law may also be getting in the way of some well-needed practice for a future career.
Though this plan is facing some opposition in South Korea, what would happen if someone tried to make a similar law here in the U.S.? For starters, it would have to be very specific. The easiest way to go about it would be to ban internet access for all minors from 12-6 a.m. Of course, there would have to be concessions made for certain basic forms of information, weather reports, journalism. And who can say that a teen shouldn’t know the sports score of a game that goes past midnight? These are some of the questions that would have to be addressed in restricting internet access, but limiting online games is almost as complicated. Certain very strict guidelines would have to be set for what a “game” is. There’s also the issue of getting an accurate age out of anyone on the internet, something we’ve never taken seriously as a society. I can imagine a scenario in which, we needn’t pass a law at all. The major online gaming companies could form a neutral board (like the ESRB) to regulate late-night play and ensure that minors don’t have access to internet-based games after midnight or so. Of course, our culture views gaming in a completely different light and addiction seems nowhere near as prominent. So is a law of this nature even necessary here? I can think of several reasons: freedom of expression, time zones, sleep-disorders, emancipated minors and several other extenuating circumstances why this kind of action wouldn’t work in America. Can you think of a good reason why this wouldn’t work in America or how someone would go about banning games for minors in America from 12-6 a.m.?