South Korea Continues To Criminalize Behavior Around Online Gaming At The Behest Of Video Game Industry

from the give-me-a-boost dept

While we’ve spent some time here talking about the emergence of eSports and online gaming generally, it’s safe to say that South Korea was one of the trailblazers in this space. This has led to a remarkable ecosystem in the country for online gaming and competitive gaming. But it’s also led to South Korea introducing some fairly problematic laws at the request of the gaming industry. For instance, criminalizing cheating in online gaming is very much a thing in South Korea, though this is actually done by making it illegal to break a game’s ToS, which nobody reads.

Now, however, South Korea is going a much more targeted and direct route by criminalizing “boosting”, the practice of experienced players of a particular game contracting their services to help less-able gamers to climb the level ranks.

An amendment has passed in Korea’s National Assembly that could charge players found guilty of boosting with a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine up to $18,000 (20 million won), according to Korean news site Inven.

The law, an amendment to the Game Industry Promotion Act, was first proposed in June 2017. Working with game developers in the country, the government will target boosters and boosting companies that charge for rank inflation across a number of games, including Overwatch and League of Legends.

This is yet another one of those situations where it’s important to fight off the initial normal reaction, which is typically to decide that anything that negatively impacts those cheating within online games is just fine. There is such a thing as overkill, in other words, and assessing five-figure fines for the crime of playing an online game for somebody else so the game thinks he or she is better at it then they actually are should certainly fall into that category.

This isn’t to say that boosting isn’t a problem for these online ecosystems of course.

Boosting is a problem in games that rank players by skill; artificially inflating one’s rank disrupts the normal flow of play. The business of boosting is complex and far-reaching. A number of Overwatch League players have been punished for past boosting in the league’s first season. Philadelphia Fusion player Kim “Sado” Su-min was suspended for 30 games for the practice, while Son “OGE” Min-seok sat out four gamesfor boosting. Blizzard continues to issue large scale bans against boosters nearly every month.

The problem is that these developers are outsourcing the enforcement of their own platforms to the South Korean government, often to the tune of large sum fines and potential jail time. Does nobody else remember when we were kids and couldn’t pass a level in a game, so we handed the controller to an older sibling to get past it for us? That’s essentially what this is, with the big difference being that doing so effects the experience and rankings of everyone else playing as well. That’s certainly annoying, and no doubt a problem.

But worthy of this kind of litigation? It’s hard to make sense of that argument.

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Comments on “South Korea Continues To Criminalize Behavior Around Online Gaming At The Behest Of Video Game Industry”

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Anonymous Coward says:

What makes this even more absurd is the examples coming from Blizzard. They just got done effectively killing the eSports ecosystem that they had been supporting for Heroes of the Storm, with no advance notice for the professionals involved. At the same time they announced that they’re tapering off development of the game, which will pretty much kill off any independent eSports events, which would be hard to do anyway without getting a cease & desist order from Blizzard even though they’ve clearly indicated they don’t want to be involved themselves. This affected not just players but hosts and announcers who are all depending on this game for their livelihood, hence the term “professionals.”

So Blizzard wants to stop people from selling their services in beefing up the characters for players with more money than time? I say not until they can be more transparent with their customers about their plans to avoid a similar bomb being dropped on the fans that have made a living providing what essentially amounts to free promotion for their products.

The sword of regulation has two edges. If Blizzard really wants to use it to cut down on activity they don’t like, they damn well better be ready do face the music when they do things like what they did to Heroes of the Storm.

Anonymous Coward says:

I mean… yea? Boosting is annoying… but you know what is more annoying? Terrible drivers on the road.

They are like boosted players, but are operating large metal death machines.

See these idiots accelerate quickly to an intersection, slam the brakes, move at an absolute crawl around the corner then take off like a bat out of hell once they finally straighten up the wheel.

Can we have laws against people like this instead of a bunch of people wasting money in games for fake points?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“but you know what is more annoying?”

Terrible politicians. They are like boosted players but are operating large numbers of zombie voters. See, these idiots open their mouths quickly in response to reporter’s questions then pull a 180 very slowly only to race off again never straightening up anything in their path.

“Can we have laws against people like this instead of a bunch of people wasting money in games for fake points?”

Anonymous Coward says:

when are people going to realise and accept that everything that is happening Internet restriction-wise is at the behest of the entertainment industries and is for the explicit purpose of taking complete control of it! they have been after this for the last 25 years! why? because they were, as usual, too fucking slow and stupid to understand just what the potential of the Internet was and how, if used with sense, profitable it would be for them! now, as they have taken so long, they have only one option, to take it over completely, start restricting who can use it and when/how and charge for it! and just about every government in just about every country is bending over backwards to help as much as possible! keeping the ordinary people off the Internet keeps the corrupt officials in politics, in security services, the rich and famous from being exposed as to what they are up to and spreading their information far and wide in seconds! it’s oh, so close to happening! if you dont believe, tell me what other industry, what other individual is constantly going to court worldwide and getting ‘yet another law introduced’ or yet another website shut down or another business stopped from trading, all because the industries dont like them and wont compete with them! bunch of fucking wankers trying to hold back time and limit progress as much as possible for as long as possible!!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just wait for the battle between entertainment industries (movies, books, music) and entertainment industries (online gaming) for total control of the Internet. Any pesky government whining about terrorism or fake news with regard to one party or another will be rolled over with bribes (err, political party contributions) in the wake of forthcoming devastation.

At which point the dark net will become the new Internet and control will be a thing of the past. And this evolution will be just a stepping stone as the dark dark net will be under development and by that time in beta testing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“everything that is happening Internet restriction-wise is at the behest of the entertainment industries and is for the explicit purpose of taking complete control of it! “

I’m not so sure about that. They want complete control of everything but I think it’s more than just the entertainment folk.

Anonymous Coward says:

S. Korea culture, boosting and progressivism

It should not surprise us that South Korea, being a conservative, anti-communist authoritarian country, would very much look down on the whole practice of ‘boosting’ – which could basically be considered a communist-like practice which literally spits in the face of the entire Meritocracy principal that is the central tenet of South Korean society (and proudly distinguishes S. Korea from their enemies to the north).

The part that makes less sense is why it is that in Western countries, people reflexive equate "boosting" in multiplayer games with cheating. Why don’t people instead demand MORE BOOSTING in order to equalize scores across MARGINALIZED GROUPS such as younger or female players as well as those with physical or mental handicaps? We essentially do this very thing with many other aspects of life in order to assure a more equal and equitable outcome.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Boosting is done for the temporary gains, not the long term. Most games reset the scoreboards periodically so whatever your status now it likely will be back to zero in 3 months or so, tops. The short term gains, though, can be significant enough to warrant paying someone real cash to give you a boost.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is more likely hacking or, in some rare instances, actual skill. Boosting, as noted above, doesn’t endow the paying gamer with improved skills, just higher levels/ranks. That player will still suck just as bad at a higher level as he did at his previous level.

It’s sometimes very hard to tell the difference between real skill and hacking. A careful hacker can appear to just be very good at a game. I’ve seen some players who seem to be able to instantly twitch-headshot anything that moves. I’ve had a few “on” moments myself where I totally dominated a match and couldn’t explain how. And I’ve observed many players who I suspected of cheating. Some were, some weren’t. Boosting won’t get any player to that tier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Criminalizing the assisting of others
– what’s next …
felony compassion?
misdemeanor empathy?

I just see little Johnny being handcuffed for his felony mowing of granny Smith’s front lawn because she can no longer do it herself. And this will be met with cheers from the lawn maintenance industry. Soon they will offer a lawn maintenance insurance policy to cover your very expensive lawn care products/services.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don't see boosting as cheating

My view on this is that Boosting is something done by people that don’t want to go through the mindless grind in order to get to the end game content. (jokes on them because the end game content in most games is a grind too).

Boosting won’t do you any good in a competitive PVP type game. If I paid to get boosted in Counter Strike so that my ratings were very high, as soon as I went into a match I would be done so quick my head would be spinning.

For PVE type games, I mean who really gives a crap about boosting and why the hell would the game company care? It is a paying account.

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