Midweek Cuckoo: Gaming Addicts

I enjoy the idea of gaming as much as the next atypical girl. I especially enjoy the idea of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. I’m currently embroiled in a bitter fight with the South African Telecommunications monopoly Telkom to get my ADSL line installed before the end of the year, for no better reason than to play World of Warcraft. I can completely see how someone could play online for hours and hours on end without a second thought.

But here’s where it goes too far: to play so long that you die, or get so involved that you’re willing to kill. That’s when we cross the borders into cuckoo country.

Over the last few years, there’s been an amazing run of deaths and psychotic episodes directly related to gaming, be it from marathon sessions, or from people becoming way too involved in their virtual lives. A few examples:

  • Date unknown – a South Korean grammar schooler killed his brother with a hammer for interrupting his game. 
  • Date unknown – a 21-year old American college student played EverQuest for 36 hours straight, before having a psychotic break and  hallucinating that the characters had stepped out of the screen and were chasing him.
  • November 2001 – a 21-year old American man shot himself on Thanksgiving morning, and his family blames his addiction to EverQuest, which he was still playing just minutes before killing himself.
  • May 2002 – a 17-year old Hong Kong gaming center employee died after playing Diablo II all night. 
  • Jan 2003 – a 28-year old Hong Kong gamer died at his screen in an internet cafe, after playing Diablo II all night. 
  • March 2004 – a 31-year old Chinese man died at his screen in an internet cafe, after a 20-hour Saga marathon. 
  • Dec 2004 – a 13-year old Chinese boy jumped from the roof of his 24-storey building. His suicide note claims that he has gone to join the heroes of his favorite game, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.
  • June 2005 – a chinese gamer was sentenced to life in prison after stabbing a fellow gamer to death. The victim had borrowed a sword from the gamer in the online game Legend of Mir 3, and had then sold it.
  • August 2005 – a 28-year old South Korean man collapsed after playing Starcraft for 50 hours straight, and died shortly after being taken to hospital.

Firstly, i think the people who end up killing others over an online game are probably unstable to start off with, it just happens to be rather funny that they snapped over something so trivial. Sure, get the guy kicked off your guild, have your friends spawncamp his character unto eternity, email an administrator…. but kill him? Over something he did in a game? That’s just plain crazy.

Secondly, anyone who collapses after a mere all-nighter in front of a PC certainly has never graduated from college, or they would have learned by now how to handle something like that. A 50-hour marathon, on the other hand, requires dedication well beyond the normal boundaries of sanity.

So what exactly is it that kills these people? Some attribute it to outright exhaustion, some to a combined lack of sleep, food and water, some to pre-existing conditions, and some to a condition similar to ‘economy class syndrome’, or deep vein thrombosis. Put simply, a blood clot forms after long periods of sitting in a cramped position that limits blood flow, the clot moves up to your brain or heart, and suddenly it’s game over for good. But as far as i’m concerned, there’s only one reason that people die after extended gaming: poor form.

Yep, that’s right. As a long distance traveler, there are certain things i know i have to do to minimize my suffering in cattle class. Drink lots of water and fruit juice. Get up every couple of hours to walk around and stretch. Avoid alcohol. Try to sleep. The same can be said for any experienced gamer. It’s not very easy to concentrate on the game when you’re tired, hungry, thirsty and in pain. Even less so when you’re dead.

So it seems that gaming is the new crack. Forget Betty Ford, now gaming addiction clinics are springing up all over the world, from the USA to Asia. There are even online support groups like EverQuest Widows, a yahoo group for women who feel that their husbands are so addicted to EverQuest that they might as well be dead. Horror stories include one man who demanded to be allowed to play EverQuest in the delivery room while waiting for his child to be born. 

One way or another, gaming related deaths seem to be on the rise. There were no less than 10 in South Korea last year, up from only 2 in the previous four years. But the South Koreans seem to have cornered the market on gaming related insanity, so I guess the rest of the world has got some catching up to do.

Update: Some more gaming related insanity, including people who left their 4-month old infant at home while they went to an internet cafe, a bunch of people who took GTAIII too seriously, and six people beaten to death over a stolen x-box. Seriously, people are crazy.

14 Responses to “Midweek Cuckoo: Gaming Addicts”

  1. You forgot one more death.

    A guy stabbed his friend, so that the friend would not roll on a sword in Ever QUest .
    google it.

  2. I have to admit I’m very suspicious of the “died after gaming session stories”. they’re always from countries where the truth is difficult to verify AND the authorities in those countries preach regularly about the evils of online gaming. Having said that, the obsessive gamers are pretty funny. I deliberately avoided ever starting because i know I’d get addicted, I’m that way with games so I do the AA thing and don’t touch them at all.

    I got broadband solely for YouTube. Now I’m completely obsessed with that 🙂

  3. wallyson: the only game sword related stabbing I can find is the one listed above for Legend of Mir 3. If there’s another one, link please!

    Mr. Angry: you have a disturbing point there… not sure which is crazier, dying after gaming marathons or claiming people had died after gaming marathons to discourage gaming.

  4. with the legend of mir 3 thing:
    in all fairness the wronged party (the stabber, not the stabbee who kinda deserved some retribution for being a dick… maybe not death though) did approach the police first.
    unfortunately the police said that since there was no actual physical object involved the law didn’t cover it, so bugger off.
    it could be argued that a verbal contract was struck between the parties (i’m lending you the sword implies that i want it back) and that the breach of contract means that the breacher (also the breached after the stabbing) should have either handed over the cash, or hunted down the buyer and bought the sword back to return it.
    but he was being kinda a dick.

  5. being a dick is no excuse to kill someone. like i said, there are plenty of in-game ways to deal with the situation, including getting the guy kicked from the game. or take the guy to small claims court on a the verbal contract issue. either way, he was insane to decide that stabbing was the course of action to take.

  6. The 13 year old who killed himself in Dec 2004 would have been 2 when Warcraft: Orcs and Humans came out.

    He would have been 5 for Warcraft II.

  7. These guys need a serious reality check. I think they may have been a little disturbed to begin with.
    I tend to be a little obsessive when it comes to certain things and I have realised early on that gaming is one of them…. hence I stay away from online gaming. I doubt though that I would violent or be able to sit infront of my pc for more than 50 hours straight.

  8. 50 hours is stupid. There is no possible way you could a) be enjoying yourself or b) be doing ANYTHING constructive, after that long.

    And I’m willing to bet that a fair portion of these are campfires, either of the poprock variety, or of the Evil Government Conspiracy kind, although I doubt the latter. I’m not saying that CRAZY people don’t play games, I’m just skeptical about the quality of the various stories.

  9. Synk: Crazy peope do play games, then do stupid things. Crazy people also go bowling and do stupid things. Crazy people use the internet, and obviously, do stupid things. Crazy people get locked in institutions and do stupid things. Crazy people breed and do (and make) stupid things.

    To sum up: Crazy people – stupid.

  10. synk: actually i found all of those in news articles, just didn’t feel like pasting in five million links. You can google it yourself. The only ones i’d feel are suspect, for aforementioned reasons, are those that were found in Xinhua, which like all Chinese newspapers is owned by the government.

  11. Just remember that you do get ‘newspapers’ of questionable integrity like The Tatler and The Fish Hoek Echo in other countries =P And that’s not even going into The Voice or Die Son.

  12. i think bbc.co.uk and the WaPo can be considered reasonable sources, although i guess they too have to get the news from somewhere.

  13. 50 hours aint stupid ive done 1-2 50+ hour sessions on wow and countless 30hours + ones,

  14. Are you able to provide sources and/or links to the sources of your information. I ask only because I am working on a project about the cultrure of world of warcraft and am intersted in the addictive aspects of it.

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