Boosting, account sharing and ‘duo gaming’ in games like Overwatch could land you in jail in South Korea, as new laws have gone into effect on June 25.
The new law, first passed in December 2018 by the South Korean National Assembly, aims to curb boosting in popular games by handing out harsh punishments.
Prison sentences up to two years or fines of up to 20 million won (~$17,300 USD) can be meted out to players found guilty of a variety of different offenses, under an amendment to the law on Game Business Development.
The term ‘boosting’ refers to a highly-skilled player using another player's account to artificially ‘boost’ their rank in competitive playlists. For example, a skilled Overwatch player may accept payment to level-up a lesser-skilled players’ profile.
Games like Overwatch and League of Legends rely on these rankings to determine skill groups, and the very best players can often reach professional status.
As the new law describes it: (Boosting): the act of playing on a client’s account in his or her stead and raising his or her points/achievements.
Even professional players have boosted in the past, with the most high-profile example being Dallas Fuel’s Son ‘OGE’ Min-seok, who was handed a four-match ban, and Philadelphia Fusion’s Kim ‘SADO’ Su-Min, whose even more egregious boosting record earned him a 30-match ban.
The new law primarily targets boosting but also covers other related ‘offenses’, such as ‘Duo Gaming’ (the act of playing with a client to raise their points/achievements) and even game coaching (the act of playing with a client and coaching him or her to improve).
Advertising boosting services is also covered in the legislation.
South Korea has implemented new games industry laws to deter account boosting and sharing.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) June 25, 2019
Users who boost or share accounts could face a fine of up to $17,300 and 2 years in jail.
The law was conceptualised in June 2017 and passed in December 2018. Goes into effect today. pic.twitter.com/NF5n9sh47D
The decision on whether prosecution takes place is based on three factors: “whether the game company authorized it, whether there was payment, and the frequency of the act," according to an English translation on Reddit.
Blizzard’s own rules on duo gaming and ‘smurfing’ might render these parts of law ineffective when it comes to Overwatch, as the developer allows duo gaming, meaning any potential violations could be covered by the prosecuting criteria that the game company authorized it.
The law will also not be applied retroactively, meaning players with a record of boosting can rest easy - provided they don't do it again.