League of Legends, Call of Duty, Maple Story, etc. You have probably heard of these games around school as you tend to your daily business everyday, and there is good reason for it. South Korea’s fad for gaming is known throughout the world. The New York Times even went as far as describing South Korea as “a home to world’s most advanced video game culture: where more than 20,000 PC bangs attract more than a million people a day.” This culture has been driven by one demographic in particular: adolescents. With the ending of school, students often flock to the nearest PC Bangs in order to get a few hours of rest before returning home or heading over to hagwons. The sheer excitement and adrenaline from immersing in virtual reality will also often times keep students up till late in the night, as they notch up their kill streaks, undertake new adventures, or simply get “fed”.
However, in 2011, the Korean government passed the “Shutdown Law”, otherwise known as the “Cinderella Law”, in order to curb what many people in the country believed to be an epidemic of game addiction among the youth. Since then, gaming websites have been banned after midnight for gamers younger than 16, and PC Bangs have also been mandated to refuse service to these individuals after midnight as well. Such laws were passed after a study conducted in 2010 by the National Information Society Agency reported that approximately 8% of Korea’s population from between the ages of 9 and 39 were game addicts. Additionally, the most severe demographic was 9 to 12 year olds with 14% having a game addiction.
Over the years, the “Shutdown Law” has softened, with some students being exempt with parental permission. However, the issue of gaming affecting students’ academic performances still remains, and subsequently, one question arises from this gaming phenomenon: how are KIS students affected by gaming? A poll taken by 42 students showed some interesting results.
*Options “After 3AM” and “No Sleep” both poll at 5.3%
The survey showed that 53.4% of the respondents gamed more than 3 days a week, and 52.6% of the respondents stated that they stayed up after 12AM playing games.
According to the logic behind the Shutdown Laws, our school would be an example of the necessity behind strict and regulated restrictions to gaming.
“Before my interest on gaming took place, I was just a normal 8th grader. As I played more and more, it took up most of my free time, and eventually my study time. This really messed me up in 9th grade and 10th grade.” — Anonymous
However, many proponents of game playing argue that, as long as students are able to keep up with their schoolwork, gaming is not a problem. The problem is not the game, but rather the ability to refocus on tasks after gaming. Poll results also show a similar trend among KIS students as well.
Despite nearly half of students admitting that playing games does cut away from being able to spend time on studying, the overwhelming majority have not seen severe backlashes from their gaming experiences. In fact, many of the survey respondents explained that gaming had benefits such as “stress relief” from KIS’s notorious academic regimen, as well as “strategic thinking skills” and “social bonding”. These benefits often help students cope with school life by facilitating friendships start over a match on League of Legends. When I met with a game enthusiast to discuss some of the other benefits of gaming that were not so clear to most people, the interviewee had a lot to say.
“The benefits of gaming extend beyond just improving in one’s skills as a gamer. They can also improve their hand eye coordination and increase their strategizing skills. Furthermore, it can increase the person’s spacial awareness and reflexes. Most games will involve a movement in the hand that will make a certain character move, which increases hand eye coordination. Such skill can increase the spacial awareness and reflexes as well since the gamer has to look beyond his or her character and into the map as a whole, and he or she must reflect fast enough to not have a disadvantage in a game. However, the most beneficial part of gaming is the fun of playing it. Not only does gaming keep someone entertained whether he/she is on his/her smartphone in a long train ride or by him/herself at home, but it can also relieve stress.” — Anonymous
Ultimately, gaming is one of many forms of entertainment that help students balance their life with their rigorous academic demands.
“These days, social media seems to be taking away most of our time at home, with various videos, music, and chatting services that grasp our interests and focus. However, we can also use gaming to accomplish similar things. For example, while playing games, he or she is able to communicate inside the game about topics ranging from games all the way to academics. If people have time to watch dramas and chat, they must have time to play games if their schedules are managed well. While keeping gaming as a hobby outside of school, people can therefore still maintain their school grades. Unless one spends majority of his or her day playing games, keeping up with grades should not be a problem. Gaming is no different from taking a break and watching a TV. Even the most busy students eventually find time to play at least a little bit of games or watch TV.” — Anonymous
Although the Korean populace may see gaming as a vice for the future of students across the country, as well as continued gaming becoming a gateway to addiction, the story seems to be different for KIS students who are able to manage their time and balance their academics/extracurriculars with a stress relieving past time.
Feature Image by Ye Chan Song