Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Korea and D3—A Love/Hate Relationship

Every Wednesday I post an original article about gaming

PC Gaming being the national pastime that it is, the Korean government has recently stepped in with regulations to protect consumers. So much money is spent by the millions of gamers in this country that problems have cropped up. Consumers are getting hacked and robbed by third-party websites and gaming addictions has been the cause of several deaths. Some regulations seems a bit odd (as well as completely unenforceable) such as encouraging PC rooms to limit individuals’ play times, but others might just stick.

As few weeks ago, the Korean government announced a law prohibiting players from using bots. While this has always been against the Terms of Service of gaming companies like Blizzard, why would a government spend its resources preventing people from cheating on a game? Are they going to slap a ticket on me next time I grab a cheeky 500-dollar bill in Monopoly? When asked, the official response was “to protect citizens from game addiction.” Wait. That doesn’t make sense. Bots help players farm (materials, gold, experience, gear) faster. Removing their ability to use a botting program removes their ability to step away from the computer to potentially get food and fresh air. My opinion (based on 10 years of observation) is the person who answered the “why” question had no idea what was really going on. He gave an answer based on what he thought normal Koreans (not just gamers) would respond to.

“What you have to understand,” a known bot-maker told me “is that most people who run bots do so as a team. Imagine a room with thirty guys at 30 computers, each with five accounts running. That is the reality of botting.” Why do they do it? “Of course it is to sell gold.” My guess as to the real reason for the law is to protect consumers. Gold sellers are in business to hack accounts and financial information. If you use one of these sites, you are putting your credit card, your computer and your game account at risk. A law against botters is a law engineered to stop other criminal activity.

Blizzard has its own method of protecting would-be victims. The Diablo 3 real money auction house was set up so players could safely (and within the Terms of Service) purchase gear and even gold for actual money. Now, there is no need to go to dodgy 3rd-party sites in order to buy upgrades. Your bank information is secure and you don’t worry about other headaches associated with it. I find it ironic that the goals of the Korean government and Blizzard seem to be the same, but the RMAH has been banned here. What gives?

Speaking of Diablo 3, how about a good ole’ fashioned error 37 meme?

As a matter of fact, the police raids that happened last month had nothing to do with problems logging into D3. Yes, Koreans experienced the same thing we did, but most people understood the issue—too many people trying to sign in at once. After a few days, that wasn’t a problem anymore. The reason the government stepped in is the same reason people all over the world have given up o play the game at all: lots and lots of lag.

Blizzard has a policy that restricts refunds of products once they are already in use. Korea’s own law “guarantees a refund within seven days of purchase if the problem with the product is not caused by a consumer.” These two policies were in direct conflict with each other. Consumers had the game, but couldn’t play it. Blizzard refused to give refunds so the police stopped by for a chat. Although I can’t find details of the actual raid itself, you can rest assured that your images of movie-cops busting down doors carrying flashlights and automatic weapons are not true. Things like that are much more polite here. They likely came by to ask a few questions, gathered information and let Blizzard Korea know that refunds needed to happen. As you might think, national law trumped the policies of the American company, and consumers were offered a refund.

At the risk of sounding like a Bliz fan-girl, I’ll say that I love this game. The story is compelling, the artwork and music are beautiful, and the game play is satisfying. My Wizard’s lightening bolt is like crunchy candy and she shoots a fire lazer that makes monsters go all explodey. Last week, I scheduled some playtime with a friend. He laughed as he saw my character pop back and forth across the screen. I didn’t get a chanced to kill anything because he always got there first. Nearly three months after the release of D3, the game is still virtually unplayable for me.

I believe that the future of PC gaming will be online, and that Blizzard will be considered pioneers in this trend. I also believe that many other aspects of our lives will go in the same direction and that what we now call Wifi will eventually be made available everywhere all the time. However, the world isn’t there yet. We still need wires going into our homes and some countries still have bandwidth limits (I’ll never understand that, Australia). Pioneers that they are, Bliz might have jumped the gun on this one. If gamers who enjoy the fasted internet in the world are still experience lag, then I say: Yes, they deserved their refunds, but they might be rebuying the game in five years when all this is sorted.

See you on Friday,


  1. Ah yes I remember your little talk about the botting laws on GGW. I must say things seem to be a lot more level-headed than what I experienced in my home town. Still I think Blizz underestimate how many people are struggling to play D3 at this point!

  2. What did you experience in your home town?

  3. I just changed like four things. I'm used to having an editor... such a spoiled writer :P

  4. I tried D3, but just can't get into it. But, all that talk about how the government is trying to regulate many aspects of gaming is interesting. Even here in the US, when a mass shooting occurs, the media always try to bring up the fact that the shooter is/was a gamer. So far, that hasn't sparked any laws about gaming, thankfully. On the flip side, if people in the US wanted their money back for the game being down, I'm sure the government would not act on our behalf.

    Thanks for another fascinating post about Korea and the gaming culture! I like the changes you made to your site, too!

  5. Hey Styxer! Just now seeing this, sorry.

    After a while, the fact that someone is/was a gamer just won't be news. Nobody is really buying the idea that it could turn people into killers, far as I can tell. At least not anymore...