How Minecraft became R-rated game in S. Korea


Minecraft photo of Microsoft via Korea Herald / Asia News Network

SEOUL – Minecraft is a 3D computer game where players can build anything. Often described as “online Legos”, the best-selling video game of all time involves building blocks and creating structures across different environments and terrain.

Some schools classified as suitable for ages 7 and up have begun incorporating Minecraft into the classroom, as children can naturally learn teamwork, problem-solving skills, and basic programming while playing the game with friends and helping each other build new creations.

In South Korea, the rather harmless game developed by Mojang Studios in 2009 is now only available to players aged 19 and over.

Frustrated users are directing their anger at the country’s “shutdown law”, which prevents children under the age of 16 from playing online video games between midnight and noon. 6 to protect them from side effects by playing games late at night and losing sleep.

The “Cinderella Act,” which has been in effect since 2011, is the fundamental reason they are denied access to Minecraft, they said in an online petition filed Friday at the Cheong Wa Dae presidential office.

“Korea’s gaming market risks being the only place in the world where Minecraft is branded as an adult game,” the petition said, calling for the abolition of the law. As of Sunday morning, it had received support from over 15,000 Koreans.

Some coherence is needed to understand what happened to teen users of Minecraft.

When Korea introduced gaming regulation back in 2011, it posed technical challenges for global gaming companies. Creating a new system that can filter out users of a certain age for a certain period of time in Korea can cause irreversible damage to old servers.

Instead of launching new servers dedicated to Korea, Microsoft simply changed its policy in 2012 and asked Korean users to certify via Xbox Live – Microsoft’s online gaming service – that they are 19 years or older if they want to play Microsoft games.

After Microsoft acquired Mojang Studios in 2014, it allowed Minecraft Java Edition users to access the game through their Mojang Studios accounts rather than Xbox Live. This is how Korean teenage users have had access to the game so far.

An issue occurred in December when Microsoft began requiring Xbox Live accounts to play Minecraft Java Edition due to security issues and asked global users to migrate their Mojang Studios accounts to Xbox Live. Microsoft apparently did not realize the consequences for Korean users.

By making Minecraft Java Edition playable via Xbox Live accounts that require users in Korea to confirm that they are 19 years or older, the game was suddenly R-rated in the country overnight.

While migration is currently underway on a voluntary basis globally, Microsoft recently ended the news period for Korean users and posted a message on the official Minecraft website that states, “For players in South Korea, you must be 19 years or older to purchase and play the Java version of Minecraft. ”

Over the controversy, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which played a key role in the introduction and implementation of the Cinderella Act, claims that Microsoft is to blame.

Microsoft’s management policy is the problem, it claims.

“Every responsible gaming company should make adjustments to different systems in different countries when making a policy change and make investments to protect its users,” said a ministry official.

The effectiveness of the Cinderella Act has been challenged several times over the last decade.

According to a report written by the National Assembly’s fourth industrial revolution committee in 2019, the Cinderella Act increased teenagers’ sleeping time by only 90 seconds.

A report entitled “2020 Game User Panel Survey” released by the Korea Creative Content Agency in May suggests that “the shutdown system requires a review in terms of effectiveness, as there is no correlation between game time and sleep time.”

The report adds that the shutdown system, which only applies to computer games, has limits, as 91 percent of Korean game users are mobile game users.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are working to scrap the Cinderella law. Rep. Jeon Yong-gi and rep. Kang Hoon-sik of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea last month each proposed a revision of the shutdown law. Jeon wants to kill the shutdown system once and for all, while Kang intends to maintain the system but let parents invoke it on a voluntary basis.

Rep. Her Euna from the main opposition party People Power Party and Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong of the Liberal Minority Justice Party is scheduled to propose a revision together this month.

“How much time children play should be determined by a conversation between parents and their children,” she said.

Ironically, President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook celebrated Children’s Day on May 5 last year by filming a video in Minecraft. The video, posted on YouTube, shows President Moon and his wife guiding children on a virtual tour of Cheong Wa Dae.

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