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On Your Radar: Film Review Love Child
by Karen Pecota

An actual account where internet gaming addiction causes death. Preposterous, right? Not anymore.

In 2010, a young South Korean couple stood trial for manslaughter when their addiction to a virtual gaming child-fairy, Avatar (or Anima) took the place of their live daughter, Kim Sarang (translated as Child of Love). Their own human daughter became secondary to a virtual one. Sarang was only an infant and sadly died of malnutrition. Kim Sarang needed the loving care of her parents but they chose to abandon her, allowing her to die.

An HBO documentary directed by filmmaker Valerie Veatch sheds light on the first trial of internet addiction and appropriately adopts the film's tagline: virtual is the new reality. Veatch chooses not to focus on condemning the parents for their immaturity and selfishness. Instead, she explores the reasons such a tragedy can take place in modern culture today with her account of LOVE CHILD.

Korea is often referred to as the digital capital of the world due to its heavy monetary investment in the Internet industry. An achievement worth noting for a latecomer to the high-tech world jumping-in during the 1990s. Today its investment is roughly estimated at 7.9 billion dollars. Known to have the world's most developed economy in InfoTech, Korea's IT industry has grown by 5.3% compared to a consistent decline in other economies. Their advantage has been starting out with a more advanced broad band and continuing to build effectively. Coupled with the ability to create quality high-tech animation Korea's product is by far the most sought after for gamers and industry technicians.

In order to process the realities of the gaming addiction, Veatch interviews key authorities such as police investigators and the public defender. They help to explain the simple facts, the legal procedures, the prosecution stance, the response from the defendants, the court's ruling and the public response to the surprising decision.

Veatch digs deeper for more accountability from the Korean Ministry of Gaming. She talks with Korean developers at one of the country's most profitable gaming companies, Nexon, where the game in this case was developed. They explain how they create games that appeal to gamers with emotional stories by creating empathy for digital characters, drawing the gamer to attach themselves to role playing. The younger generations relax from a stressful day in Korea's gaming cafe's. On gamer shares, "When playing games, all problems go away." And, the hours tick away without notice. It's their drug of choice.

LOVE CHILD focuses on one case in Korea but the issues are universal. Veatch says, "In the United States, there is a movement to have Internet addiction formally added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)." This is a classification published by the American Psychiatric Association. Consumer beware: Internet and gaming addiction across the globe will take hold of our daily lives when we become inseparable from our mobile devices and the odds of making millions are at the fingertips of developers.