Love Child

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Love Child TV Poster Image
Docu explores gaming addiction related to infant's death.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The movie takes a superficial look at the phenomenon of online gaming addiction, specifically as it has manifested in South Korea, a leader in the Internet industry. Experts consider to what degree this condition influences habitual gamers' real-life behavior, and arguments are made both for and against its ranking among addictions such as alcohol and drugs and its credence in courtroom discourse. It's not an exhaustive research project, as it's framed by the story of a baby's death from her parents' negligence, which was attributed to their gaming addictions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Online gamers are shown to be obsessive and prone to addiction, which puts at risk other aspects of their lives. In the case of the parents at the center of this story, it led to the death of their infant daughter. 


Two police photos show a dead baby covered by a blanket. Her head is visible, but her face is blurred in a close-up shot. Many segments replay scenes from video games that often are violent. Avatars fight with swords, knives, and guns; in one game scene, two arms in the foreground extend to show wrists that have been slashed and are bleeding. A game's story line includes the sacrificial death of a young character whose adult "master" then gains her powers, which narrators relate to the tragic death of a real-life child.


Female avatars usually are shapely and move in ways that draw attention to their curves. Some also wear scant clothing that shows cleavage and thighs. 


Some mention of particular games such as "Prius."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one scene, a man is shown smoking. Many connections are drawn between the addictive nature of gaming and that of alcohol and drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the documentary Love Child raises timely concerns about the dangers of excessive online gaming. Although the topic -- and its broader theme of media overload -- is relevant to the habits of kids today, the content can be upsetting and is geared toward teens and adults. Viewers follow the story of a South Korean couple whose infant daughter died of starvation because of their gaming addictions, and testimonies from detectives, lawyers, and the child's father are disturbing. You'll also see images of the baby after death, though they're blurry and her face is obscured. Some of the game scenes show characters fighting with weapons (guns, knives) and bloodied, and, in one, a young avatar dies. This affecting story is an eye-opening glimpse into the culture of online gamers and the dangers their lifestyle can pose. 

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What's the story?

The 2010 death of a South Korean baby shed light on the dire consequences of online gaming addiction when she starved while her parents frequented a public game room nearby. LOVE CHILD is a documentary about the tragic death of Sarang -- whose name means "love" in Korean -- and the far-reaching impact of Internet gaming in industry leader South Korea. It juxtaposes interviews with those directly involved in the case, which was the first to suggest gaming addiction as a defense akin to mental illness, with accounts from other professionals and gamers themselves about the benefits and dangers of the hobby.

Is it any good?

The story of Sarang's tragic death sets the stage for a rather disturbing glimpse into the all-consuming world of virtual gaming and its implications for players' real lives. Some experts suggest it's an addiction equal to those of alcohol, drugs, and gambling and should have similar recognition among those proven to carry mental illness status. Others disagree, particularly in the case of the infant's death and the consequences her parents face. The movie doesn't set out to prove one side or the other; rather it provides viewers with copious factors to consider on both sides of the discussion, shared by psychiatrists, journalists, police detectives, and self-identified gaming addicts.

If you've never thought too hard about the effects of the online virtual gaming culture, that's sure to change after watching Love Child. It's easy to see how what starts out as a hobbyist's escape from real life can take on a life of its own in a place where reinvention and reincarnation are the reality. On the other hand, one has to consider the benefits of our access to others through the Internet, even when it comes to online gaming. This methodical documentary touches on all these points and then some in a poignant effort to connect the dots between the explosion of access to mobile technology and the surge of addiction related to virtual gaming. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the benefits of mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets. Which aspects of your life are improved by having constant access to communication and information? In what ways are you safer for it? Happier? More content?

  • On the other hand, does this kind of constant access complicate your life in any way? Do you ever feel like you can't unplug? Does social media open avenues for negative discourse that affects you in real life? How has the law had to change because of safety issues related to technological advances?

  • Teens: What's your take on the idea of gaming addiction? How does addiction alter a person's behavior? Is addiction inherently bad, or can you be addicted to a behavior in a positive way? 

TV details

  • Premiere date: January 17, 2014
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Educational
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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