The multi-billion-dollar gaming industry is fighting WHO’s decision to classify gaming addiction as an official medical condition.
In the ROK, the government is setting up a team of experts to assess the decision and how it may affect the development of video games in the future.
Jack Barton reports from Seoul.
Eighteen-year-old gamer Kim Seo-Jin plays online at least six hours every day, hoping to turn pro. Under the U.N. World Health Organization’s new classification, he might be considered to be suffering from a mental health disease.
“I couldn’t understand it. Games are played for fun. I think it is bad to judge the game itself as bad,” Kim Seo-Jin said.
It’s not just players who are outraged. Almost 90% of game companies, trade unions and other organizations have now come together to fight the WHO’s classification of gaming as a mental disorder along with any attempt by the government to adopt the ruling.
The industry generates more than five and a half billion dollars a year in South Korea, the world’s fourth largest online game industry.
“We are worried that it will be certainly lead to a decline in sales, job insecurity and investment in the gaming industry,” Han Tae-Hee, Director of the Seoul Institute of Game Academy Education, said.
But some Korean mental health experts warn the dangers are real. Games that have no end are one alleged cause of over immersion. Then there is paying real money in a lottery like system for prizes offering game advantage, encouraging gamers to spend more to recoup losses, just like a real gambling addict.
“Almost every game company uses that gambling element in the game design and because of that without doubt they earn lots of money, but because of that element the WHO can argue the game is a disease, the game is an addiction, because that element is the same as gambling,” Tack Woo from the Digital Art Design Department at Kyung Hee University, said.
Even some game developers strongly opposed to the WHO decision acknowledge some good may come of it.
“In this situation I think it will make us much more stronger in a rightful way and a standard way, compared to before, so I think this will be our new opportunity,” says Tack.
The Ministry of Culture is opposed to the U.N.’s designation of excessive gaming as a disease. But the government is gathering health experts, civil groups and industry officials to consult on what is expected to be inevitable change to the way games are designed.