A computer game addict got a taste of the real world when he was reported to police Thursday for allegedly playing an online game nonstop for 438 hours and 38 minutes at an Internet cafe without paying for it.
The 22-year-old man, identified only as Mr. Jin, began playing Lineage 2, a new online role-playing game, on Nov. 29 at an Internet cafe near his home in Seoul, and remained there for 18 days.
While he was at the Internet cafe, he ate instant noodles that were sold there 24 hours a day or ordered Chinese noodles from an outside restaurant when he was hungry, and only slept for a short time when he was tired, while the game was still running, police said. The Internet cafe’s owner filed a complaint with police when Mr. Jin allegedly refused to pay for playing the game and for the food he ate there. He owed 452,500 won ($380).
Police said Mr. Jin never set foot outside the Internet cafe and went to the bathroom as little as possible, never washing himself. „He smelled so bad it was difficult to investigate him,“ said a police officer.
„I wanted to play Internet games so much. I wish I could just play games without having to think of anything else,“ Mr. Jin told police.
by Yoon Chang-hee
Online game players are threatening to file a class action suit against NC Soft, Korea’s largest Internet game developer and publisher. They claim the fees to play the game Lineage are too high and that the company has been negligent in attending to various technical and ethical problems involving the game.
The Online Consumers League, an Internet-based civic group, sent a statement, signed by 1,060 members, to NC Soft yesterday, notifying the company that it would file the suit.
The league claims that the game is too expensive. It noted that the monthly fee of 30,000 won ($25.40) was almost double the rate in some other countries. Monthly rates are $15 in the United States, 2,000 yen ($17.60) in Japan, and $480 NT ($14) in Taiwan. „Korean game players are being discriminated against,“ they said.
The league also said that the game’s server crashed too often, and that there was significant fraud or hacking of the game, yet the company has not taken action to improve conditions. They said that they would file the suit if the company did not act by May 28.
Recently, users have informally asked many other online game developers to lower their charges as well.
In this year’s first quarter, NC Soft reported sales of 60.9 billion won and operating profits of 31.7 billion won. „It is difficult to make a comparison with other countries because the market itself is different,“ said Kim Ju-young, the company’s public relations director. „Also, compared to other modes of entertainment here in Korea, the charges are still very low.“
Another problem that users pointed out was the cash trading of game items offline. Within the game, there are many different „items“ such as weapons, clothing or potions, that have different levels of power. Acquiring more powerful items can take hours of playing time. The ability to acquire more powerful items also depends on the level of skill of the player. Therefore, for players unable or unwilling to devote the necessary time, buying and selling items for cash has become a widespread trend.
„Offline or online trading of items has nothing to do with the company,“ a company official said. „If it is illegal, then the government should make a law forbidding cash trade of online items,“ the official added.
Many users, however, disagree. „The basic structure of online games is that if one has good items and equipment, then he or she can win,“ one game player said.
Since the game was launched in 1999, 520 million accounts have been opened in Korea alone. That figure can include multiple accounts for an individual subscriber.
by Yoon Chang-hee, Wohn Dong-hee