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.