Why Korean MMOs are Hardcore (Ethnography)

During my time in the Korean servers of Closers, I learned about how different the MMO experience is when it’s designed for a Korean audience in comparison to a Western/Japanese audience. My experiences were documented here. To summarize briefly;

Closers is a Korean-developed MMO by Naddic Games and published in Korea by Nexon. Originally released in December 30th 2014 in Korea. As of 2017 there are currently only 3 other servers live right now; Japan, China, Indonesia while an international US/EU server in alpha testing.

The overall aim of this research is to utilise this personal experience to outline aspects of cultural experience, making characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders (Elis, et al, 2011)

In the time I’ve played Closers, I’ve done a lot of research regarding why things are the way they are. One of my first discoveries when signing up for a Korean Nexon account was the sheer amount of security surrounding the sign up process. Originally a KSSN (Korean Social Security Number) was required to sign up for all MMOs. However due to the large amount of companies and services requiring a KSSN, cases of identity fraud and theft became commonplace. Because of this, the system was changed from using a KSSN to using I-PIN which is a form of identification that is only available to residents of South Korea. In addition to this, Korea has something called the shutdown law in place. This law forbids anyone under the age of 16 to play online video games from 12am to 6am. With this law in place, children stole KSSNs of adults to circumvent this barrier but led to identity theft and fraud.

As for why they have such a rigorous security system that requires so much to get past is because of the Cyber defamation law . Essentially this law is in place to prevent anonymous acts of defamation. Whatever a person does online, it’s linked to their real self. This allows perpetrators to be easily tracked if doing inappropriate acts online. While there are many debates of anonymity in the western world, South Korea already has an act in place to prevent any sort of anonymity online.

In my previous post, I pointed out that online services in Korea have strong security. With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder they take such measures to protect your account. Because your identity is out in the open and you can’t hide it like in the western world.

Another thing I discovered while playing Closers was the stamina system. While it isn’t unique to Closers, quite a few Korean developed MMOs (Dungeon Fighter Online, Elsword, etc) have a stamina system. In regards to western games these systems are commonplace in mobile games but rarely implemented if at all in MMOs. This topic is often discussed in forums and the common answer as to why the system is implemented is because it combats the act of “botting”.

The use of a bot to act out tedious tasks in an MMO. This is then used to gather resources or items to sell in the market to make in-game money. The act of botting is frowned upon as it ruins the in-game economy. In regards to Korean MMOs, grinding and farming (a term to describe repetitive acts of killing enemies or leveling) is a common thing. Korean MMOs are infamous for requiring to invest numerous hours of doing repetitive tasks which lead to people using bots. The solution to this is of course, the stamina system.

Another benefit that comes from the stamina system is that it makes the game last longer. It forces the player to take it at a slower pace than they normally would. Personally after playing the Japanese version of Closers where stamina could be refilled with in-game money, reaching level 70 within 8 hours is very possible, even at a casual pace. On top of this the game feels repetitive (even more so) without it. The stamina hides that repetitive nature of the game.

Throughout my time with Closers, it’s given me a new perspective on game design. Before Closers, I was very familiar with the different principles of Japanese/Western game design. But after playing Closers I’ve learn many new things and I’ve gotten context for so many things that I questioned in Korean games.

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

 

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