Taiwan should heed the painful lessons that are being learned in South Korea, where an ill-conceived government policy to boost the nation’s gaming industry has resulted in more than 2.4 million youngsters, or 30 percent of young people, suffering from the side effects of Internet and video game addiction, Taiwanese and South Korean academics say.
The warning came after the victory by Taipei Assassins, a Taiwanese professional gaming team, in the grand final of the League of Legends Season 2 World Championship held in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The landmark triumph has sparked a gaming frenzy in Taiwan, with several opportunistic government officials from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Economic Affairs pledging to boost the gaming industry by providing professional gamers with a special channel for their educational advancement, incorporating them into the public sector and granting them the privilege to serve the country in gaming as an alternative to military service.
“In light of the severity of Internet addiction among South Korea’s younger generation, [concerned agencies] are struggling in their desperate attempt to find a solution,” said one of the attendees at a symposium on worldwide addiction hosted by the China Youth Corps and the Teacher Chang Foundation on Wednesday in Taipei.
In an effort to address the escalating problem, an Internet addiction rehabilitation school has been established in South Korea, the participant said, adding that the government had also acknowledged that government policies were to blame for the phenomenon.
South Korea-based Cyberculture Research Association head Min Kyung-bae and I Will Center Internet Addiction Protection Counseling Center manager Cho Eun-suk also attended the forum.
Cho said the relationship between the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which had offered financial support to game operators, and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which is concerned about the nation’s well-being and future, is conflicting rather than cooperative.
“These ministries need to seek common ground on which they can make a concerted effort to mitigate the impact of the government’s support for the gaming and Internet industries,” Cho said.
However, Cho said that because the Internet culture trumpeted by the government has become so deeply rooted in the country, the government can now only “save what is left to be saved.”
“The government only realized there was a problem when it was too late. Now they have their hands tied,” Cho said, adding that the invention of the smartphone only worsened the already serious situation.
Touting incorporating the bitter experiences of top-notch gamers and former Internet addicts into the school curriculum, Cho said she has found that such a method is effective.
Cho said that according to confessions from South Korea-based game operators “with a conscience,” many video games are designed to gradually trigger gamers’ obsession and dependence.
“That confession is like a wakeup call to addicted youngsters, many of whom express regret over sacrificing their social life, family and school work for the virtual world,” Cho said.
Wang Chih-hung (王智弘), a professor at National Changhua University of Education’s department of guidance and counseling, cautioned the government not to fall into the illusion of building a nation of “gaming champions.”