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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 4:19am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bt Garner (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 4:43am

    Well that marks the end of the Gaming As A Service (GAAS) industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 4:45am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 5:47am

      Classic whataboutism. ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 6:29am

      Re:

      Guess who just had a bad drive home from work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 8:06am

      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?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 6:08am

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:01am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 6:59pm

        Re: Re:

        In the end they will never take complete control of the internet, also it is not close to happening like Anonymous Coward is saying.

        This article not even about the internet!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 8:09am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:01pm

      Re:

      This article has nothing to do with the internet, are you really starting to rant about this in every article

      And for the last time they will never take complete control of the internet and its not close to happening!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 6:27am

    Stranger than real life

    For some odd reason, when i read the arricle, I heard the narrative of voice of Dexer Thomas in my head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:50am

    I don't know why a law would be required; it seems to me the problem would be self-correcting. If a player pays for a boost to a higher competitive rank and isn't actually good enough to compete there, they'll quickly fall back to a lower rank. Any "disruption of normal play" will be temporary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 8:13am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:16am

        Re: Re:

        Is it an unintended consequence of *boosting* when certain players you go up against seem to have superhuman powers, or is that due to hacking of some sort?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:56am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:56am

    Yikes

    They sure take their gaming seriously in South Korea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2018 @ 5:55am

      Re: Yikes

      It's not surprising. Gaming is such a high-profile thing in South Korea, professionals can defer conscription to game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 7:57am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 8:12am

    How might this tie in with the citizen scoring system seen in China? Is this simply a precursor to laws against helping people increase their social score?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:35am

    This seems asinine. I'm disappointed in Blizzard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 17 Dec 2018 @ 9:54am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Dec 17th, 2018 @ 9:35am

      It's Activision-Blizzard and the whoke thing can be teaced to the MBAs from Activision.

      They seem to be doing a bangup job of pissing off their player base, killing off all their old properties and making governments unhappy with them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cwcriner, 17 Dec 2018 @ 10:04am

    it has to do with how Korea handles game accounts. Accounts are tied to the national ID # to enforce gaming curfews. Boosting means you pay someone to commit ID fraud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 1:40pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2018 @ 5:19pm

    Don't the police and government have better things to do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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