Written by S. Bowyer

     Sarang, a 3-month old baby that died in Korea due to her parent's neglect while playing a video game, was one of the first cases in the country where Gaming Addiction was noted as the cause of a fatality, and sentences reduced because of it. Gold farming in particular was analysed as a leading reason for gaming addiction, along with other activities where monetary rewards were the motivation. 

     In 2005, the New York Times investigation found that over 100,000 Chinese people were full-time gold farmers, with financial benefits of up to 900 million US dollars per year. It's estimated each of the 100,000 or more farmers were earning 145USD per month on average. Korea's high court note that Gold farming is a legal profession, however is subject to taxation. 

     E-sports are very popular in Korea, sportspeople often signing million dollar contracts. It's suggested Korea exported 4.2 billion dollars of cultural content last year, 50% contributed to the gaming industry. The Internet economy in South Korea is worth 7.9 billion dollars alone. Although Korea was a slow starter in technology, the government put large funds into technology during the 90s to push their progress forward. Nowadays, Korea has some of the best services in the world.

     The effect of online gaming is so strong that South Korea recently added Gaming addiction to its list of "drugs" that need control. It might soon join alcohol, gambling and amphetamines in its level of negative impact on human life, and psychiatrists now want to add it to the DSM-4, which is the directory of noted mental illnesses. Symptoms to be listed are: emotional shutdown, lack of concentration, withdrawals. Some studies have shown white cells in the brain during gaming addiction mimic those of meth and coke addicts. The games give "highs" in a similar way that drugs and alcohol does.

     Love Child, the documentary of the death of Sarang, focused into the impact of gaming addiction, and what the different sides are saying about it. The filmmakers spoke to Joon Kim, a gamer, who states he began playing in 4th grade, and later became interested in gold farming.

     "The trade became legal when I was in middle school. From then, I did legal trades with strangers online."

     "It (gaming addiction) is worse than alcohol. You could go to bed after being drunk, but games excite your curiosity since they always have new scenarios and stories."

     Tae-Geon Kim, a leading game developer in Korea states that MMOs are the most common, being games that multiple people interact with and with each other.

     "People are more responsive to the emotional story than the technological and visual features."

     Game developers state that their job is to create games that people desire to play. 

     "If a game developer fails to lead users to be immersed in games, then it's a neglect of duty."

     The prevalence of people with gaming addictions is estimated up to 2 million people in Korea, where one third of the population are gamers. 

     Yun-Jae Jung, Deputy Director of Game Content Industry Divison in Korea, states that excessive game play needs attention. They have since introduced the Juvenile Protection Act, which states children under 16 cannot play video games 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. It's also known as the shutdown law.

     Jung states, "A game addiction is a result of many other factors than just the game itself. . instead of making strict regulations on gaming culture, it is important for all of us to think more carefully about this issue and to come up with a remedy."

     In the western world, gaming addiction is as impactual. Similar to the case of Sarang, an American couple who were obsessed with Second Life DJ'ing were arrested for child neglect after their two-year-old child was almost starved to death. Their child was unable to walk or speak smoothly, according to the detective involved.

     The Internet Addiction Clinic in Korea have programs to assist in gaming addiction. One includes therapy relaxation videos, where nature scenes are viewed for 10 minutes, then aggressive gameplay that causes aversion, back and forth for behavioural conditioning. One of the lead psychiatrists told Love Child interviewers, "Actually, most of the people here enjoy playing games. We usually make a joke about that. We wouldn't understand. . . without playing games ourselves. . . I personally enjoy playing games as well and I once tried to be addicted to it on purpose. Then I could understand why people gain pleasure. It made me to keep thinking of the games in my real life. It's not exactly like I wanted to play the game, but the scenes and images kept coming across my mind."

     "For some people who suffer from boredom, lose vigor, become depressed, video games provide the only comfort. They play games because they have nothing else to do. They become hermits. . . But video games reward the users."

     It's said that gaming addiction has become a bigger problem in recent years, when technology became mobile and games could be played anywhere. 

     Gaming addiction often causes social isolation in several ways:

- friends get sick of hearing the person talk about the game all the time, so avoid them
-  they refuse outings with friends to continue playing the game
- neglected partners feel unwanted and leave the marriage or relationship. Up to 50% of gaming addicts report it causes strain on their marriage
- social skills aren't developed properly for future use
- lack of sleep due to playing games instead of resting makes the gamer irritable and unpleasant to others

     The above traits of isolation cause the gamer to further seek their gaming for comfort, hence making a vicious circle of addiction progress and maintain itself.

     Video Game Addiction states that while America is not as affected as Korea, who have over 100 clinics to treat the condition, a nationwide survey found that 1 in 10, or 8.5 percent of young gamers, showed addictive traits. Of the 11 symptoms listed as pathological gambling traits, some of the affected youth showed as many as 6 or more traits.

      "While the medical community currently does not recognize video game addiction as a mental disorder, hopefully this study will be one of many that allow us to have an educated conversation on the positive and negative effects of video games," said Dr. Douglas Gentile, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at ISU.

      Video game addiction is considered a symptom of underlying emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, as well as other psychological issues.

      The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has listed Video game addiction as a subject requiring further study, and confirm the thoughts of Korean researchers that state the symptoms and affects are similar to substance abuse. The APA has listed 9 criteria for "diagnosing" gaming addiction: 

1. Pre-occupation. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about games even when you are not playing, or planning when you can play next?

2. Withdrawal. Do you feel restless, irritable, moody, angry, anxious or sad when attempting to cut down or stop gaming, or when you are unable to play.

3. Tolerance. Do you feel the need to play for increasing amounts of time, play more exciting games, or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get?

4. Reduce/stop. Do you feel that you should play less, but are unable to cut back on the amount of time you spend playing games?

5. Give up other activities. Do you lose interest in or reduce participation in other recreational activities (hobbies, meetings with friends) due to gaming?

6. Continue despite problems. Do you continue to play games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others, or neglecting important duties?

7. Deceive/cover up. Do you lie to family, friends or others about how much you game, or try to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you game?

8. Escape adverse moods. Do you game to escape from or forget about personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression?

9. Risk/lose relationships/opportunities. Do you risk or lose significant relationships, or job, educational or career opportunities because of gaming?

     The University of Bergen in Norway linked gaming addiction with other health programs. People with gaming addiction reported an increased rate of head aches, neck or back pain, digestive problems, sleep problems, sadness, daytime drowsiness and palpitations.

      There are many theories to explain gaming addiction, one such stating prenatal testosterone loads might cause addiction in adulthood. Others state psycho-social causes. Whatever cause determined, the symptoms and impact are the same.

      Treatment for Video game addiction is considered alternative experience training, be it with a particular program, or local-based psychological treatment. Korea uses aversion therapy, suggested above, while other options are Wilderness therapy programs and therapeutic boarding schools, which offer "highs" from more healthier activities, such as outdoor projects, peer group programs, alternate ways for emotional fulfilment and in-depth counselling. Many of these courses are given to teenagers with substance abuse issues, who also need to rearrange their lives. Please note: There has been some contraversy about such programs, see Kidnapped For Christ. For this reason, families may prefer to opt for psychiatric care in local facilities with family-intervention plans.

      Online gaming and gaming addiction groups are available for affected persons in many countries. Details can be found, ironically, online.

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