Case Korea – Getting Over Addiction Blues [Social Gaming]

What do you think, when coding on a machine in your office lately? “My farm will be ready in four hours? The coconut trees are 73% ready? The calf is cute, and I bought it a shelter”.  Or thinking of some social warfare game with a bunch of experts sitting somewhere else? How much do the social games engage you? Of course, online gaming is social, viral and addictive like never before. And that comes with a price. There is continuous noise in one’s mind to do this, to do that and one tends to invest some serious time into a game achieving short virtual satisfaction.

South Korea is one example to look at, when one talks about gaming mania and its serious implications. And a poor one.

Korea among the most wired countries in the world with highest Internet speeds and almost 100% penetration, is struggling to come out of its gaming addiction. Since the early days, online games have been a popular pass-time for Koreans that has occasionally led to reports of compulsive match-deaths and even murders of the loved ones to satisfy the addiction. In a domestic market valued at about $2.4 billion in which 30 million people are thought to play regularly, the Korean Government has recently introduced a night-time shutdown to curb mass-scale citizen addiction. Guess what: the curfew was imposed after a shocking discovery by police that a real 3-month-old baby starved to death while her parents were busy nurturing their virtual baby on a game at an Internet café.

In February, a 22-year-old Korean man was charged with murdering his mother after she pestered him to stop playing. And in 2005,  a 28-year-old man suffered a cardiac arrest after playing StarCraft for 50 hours straight. Numerous, petty cases of games motivated assaults are recorded almost daily with the Korean police. Even though, South Korea has been at the forefront of treating the disorder for years, it seems the problem has only grown. In 2002 the Korean government opened the region’s first Internet-addiction treatment center. Since then, hundreds of private hospitals and clinics in the country have opened specialized units to treat the disorder, and the Government even opened a hot-line for gaming addicts in 2006. At the treatment centers, patients typically spend a few weeks detoxing from video games by partaking in outdoor activities, arts and crafts. Counselors solve their problems by releasing general Gaming anxiety bringing the patients back to healthy and social life.

Incidentally, video-game addiction is officially not recognized by the American Psychological Association. But the disorder is notably rampant in East; typically including symptoms like becoming withdrawn or angry when not allowed to play. In severe cases, addicts’ simply skip eating or sleeping until they’re back on action. The growing engagement of Indians, our fellow friends with social gaming lately, could mean a tip of big burgeoning problem too coz our crowd is virgin. And we need to be wary of that. Besides we w.r.t psychological treatments, the infrastructure in place is at a huge disadvantage [not in place]. So play but play sensibly.

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