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Jan 14, 2004



Focusing on the symptoms of the social ill sells more papers and garners more votes than addressing its causes. Possibly because causes implicate much more of the constituency than symptoms do, and people tend to like for social problems to be 'fixed' without thinking they are any part of it...

Of course this is the GTA hysteria in another guise. Substitute the notion of "sports fanatic" for "online gaming addict" and the story reads the same: stealing money (sports gambling), running away from home (a favorite adolescent pasttime), hours in front of the tv watching games rather than playing them, aspirations to professional status, and so on.

But something I note in the tone of the article, which I mentioned regarding another recent Korean story. Stuck in amongst all the social woe:

" 'One 25-year-old unemployed man confessed he had once sat up three straight nights to win game items in order to sell them back to other players for real money,' Hwang Jang-min, a researcher at Yonsei University, said in a research report. The man said he made almost $1,400 by selling them."

Confessed??? I'm not sure why this is bad, especially for an unemployed guy. And the kicker:

"Concerns over growing illicit trade in cyber items..." [emph. added]

"Illicit" is a shaming word. In usage it doesn't really mean illegal, but implies a moral evil that any upstanding citizen knows to be undesireable. I'm curious whether this tone comes from S. Korean culture, or from a general Western media morality that assumes that easy money is inherently suspect. We could devise the greatest economic structure mankind has ever developed, intertwining virtual and RL economies--but if the news media portray such trade as inherently transgressive (and the politicians follow), it will never see the light of day.


"We receive reports of some 30 new troubled cases every week but the numbers keep rising. Parents are only now becoming aware of the seriousness of the problem."

"Neither the game makers nor the government are fully prepared to tackle the problems once and for all, given their relatively few years' experience in the online gaming sector," said Lee Wang-sang, an analyst at LG Investment & Securities.

These two quotes used near the end of the article are the two key take-aways. More and more people will focus on this. With Webzen now listed on the NASDAQ as an ADS, it will be interesting to read their English annual reports and financials.



"There be witches..." These articles operate on the daytime talk-show level, serving as society's gatekeeper on acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Not that there isn't addictive and harmful game play, but in a TV society, what exactly is the problem with an interactive screen as opposed to a passive one?

We'll know that gameplay has "arrived" as an issue when the health nazi's come after us.

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