‘Love Child’ Examines Death Linked to Game Addiction

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‘Love Child’ Examines Death Linked to Game Addiction

Post by penix » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:01 pm

http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2014/01/10/l ... addiction/

‘Love Child’ Examines Death Linked to Game Addiction
By Jeyup S. Kwaak
January 10, 2014, 1:48 PM

In March 2010, police arrested a South Korean couple for allowing their 3-month-old baby to starve to death while they played a videogame.

The ensuing furor online and off over parental neglect was aggravated by the revelation that a key mission in the couple’s game of choice involved nurturing a virtual child, giving a stark contrast to the real-life baby’s malnourishment.

Charged with abandonment and endangering a child by criminal negligence, the husband was sentenced to two years in prison, while his wife, pregnant with a new child, was given a three-year suspended sentence.

Nearly four years later, the story of the couple is retold in “Love Child,” a feature documentary that will have its premiere at this month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Director Valerie Veatch, who shot the film over six weeks last year in South Korea with producers David Foox and Danny Kim, said she wanted to raise questions about how — and how much — a virtual-world experience could influence real-life human senses and decisions.

“Love Child” shows that the gamer couple spent hours in one of the ubiquitous communal cyber cafés in South Korea, known as “PC bang,” or PC rooms. They were engaged in an online role-playing game, a genre where players assume the roles of fictional characters in a virtual world. The night their child died, they had spent more than 10 hours there.

Videogames also were the couple’s only source of income, the film reveals. Items won after game missions could be traded in for cash, and staying for longer hours gave the couple discounts for usage fees.

The documentary also raises the argument — which the judge for the couple’s trial accepted — that addiction to computer games impaired the couple’s judgment, much like addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Ms. Veatch said the work ethic of South Korean society helped drive the couple to spend more time playing electronic games.

“The immersive aspect of media really influenced where they had their biological sense,” said Ms. Veatch, referring to the couple, adding that Internet addiction needs further study.

According to the documentary, the parents had little information about childcare and showed ignorance to things like fresh milk’s expiration date.

In South Korea, equipped with the world’s fastest broadband connection, videogame addiction has been a nationwide debate for years. Last year, an addiction law introduced in parliament included videogames alongside alcohol, drugs and gambling, causing an uproar among people who believe the categorization is too broad.

The bill hasn’t been voted on, and its advocates have said they will hold consultations with experts before putting it to a vote. A different law from 2011 banning online videogames between midnight and dawn for people aged 15 and under currently is being appealed by game developers and activists at the country’s constitutional court.

One in ten South Koreans play videogames, according to a 2010 government survey. Another national study two years later said 2.2 million South Koreans, equivalent to 4.4% of the population, are addicted to the Internet, though critics say the definition of the addiction is nebulous and needs better calibration.

“Love Child” will have five screenings during the 11-day Sundance festival, which kicks off Jan. 16. Ms. Veatch said the film will be released this summer on HBO in the U.S.

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