Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Suicide by Warcraft

In China, a class action lawsuit is being brought against Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft. The suit is being filed on behalf of the parents of a 13 year old boy who they claim leapt to his death "imitating a scene from the game".

Most of the internet chatter you will hear about this is staunchly in defense of Blizzard, and falls back on the tried and true "Parents need to get more involved" argument. It is a legitimate argument, and any kid that throws himself out of a 24 story building to "meet his night elf hero" certainly has issues that go beyond simply too many video games.

But I DO think that people are writing this issue off way too easily. Video game addiction is a serious problem among the youth of China and South Korea, and it is easy to see why: in video games, ESPECIALLY RPGs (Role Playing Games for the truly uninitiated), there is a real opportunity to play in a world much better than the one you're living in.

It wasn't that long ago that a man in South Korea dropped dead of exhaustion and dehydration after over 50 straight hours of Warcraft.

The thing is, these are what appear to be reasonably normal, stable people up until their respective deaths. By all accounts, nobody really saw this coming.

Before anybody gets the wrong idea though, I want to make it clear that I do not feel that Blizzard is responsible for this. I don't feel that television or movies or music or any other media can be held accountable for the actions of somebody too screwed up to separate song lyrics from philosophical foundations upon which to build your lifestyle. If you need other people to tell you the right way to live, you'll find that in religion, political affiliation, or your workplace just as easily as you'll find it in mass media.

However, parents can't be held completely responsible either when a 13 year old kid does something this crazy. Should they have been more involved and monitored their son's video game habits more closely? Hell yes. But you can't tell me any parent can reasonably predict that a child is going to hurl themselves 24 stories to their death in the hopes of meeting their pixelated alter ego.

It is for reasons like this that I don't think the argument "It's the parents' fault" is entirely fair. When it comes to this, a LOT of people screwed up, not just the parents.

Parents need tools to be able to do their job. With TV, you can get a chip that blocks certain ratings of shows if you feel they are unacceptable. The shows aren't the problem in my opinion, but the option is important because its very availability makes parents think and talk about their child's viewing habits.

Similarly, Blizzard recently introduced parental controls (some speculate because of this incident) for World of Warcraft, whereby a time limit can be set on play time. This, too, is a good tool.. by itself it does nothing, but again its availability will make parents consider the issue.

The Chinese government is even talking about regulating online play time themselves. This is rife with a host of issues (economics being the least of them), but this would only cure the symptoms, not the problem. Remember, these people are dead because there wasn't happiness for them in the REAL WORLD. Without Warcraft, I would argue that the odds are very good they would have killed themselves some other way.

Which brings me (finally) to the real point: regulating online video games is no more ridiculous than regulating the radio airwaves, the television airwaves, or anything else that exposes people to content beyond their direct control. So it's time to stop chuckling under our breaths about how ridiculous China is for considering these measures and realize we do the exact same thing here.

And guess what? All the regulation in the world isn't going to stop a confused kid from making a really bad decision or an already depressed, recently unemployed guy with nothing to live for from ending his misery in whatever way he deems best.


chornbe said...

Gaming: the new drug du jour.

Call me a little too... something... cynical? base? simplistic? black-n-white?... but I think that addiction is addiction - regardless of whether the drug of choice is heroine, crack or a digital escape into a world of make believe and fantasy - and you either have to get out from under it, or be crushed by it. There is no middle ground.

I no longer play games like that because I recognize my own addictive nature and I knew had I stuck with UO or other such games, I'd have had a hard time giving them up. Not to the point of jumping out of windows, but certainly bouncing from game to game trying to find that ultimate (gaming) rush. I joke about "I got out, man. I can't go back there, man"... but it rings of the truth.

For the record - I'm happy to point out my only current *real* addiction is Pepsi, tho' some people might argue I have an Elmelda Marcos-like addiction to motorcycles. Screw them - what do they know?? I can stop buying bikes any time I want to!! I've only bought one this month. ( http://chornbe.com/motorcycles/sabre )

When I was younger I thought that addicts were just pitiable and contemptable. Now I think they (we?) are just a little weak-natured. I recognize my own addictive nature and I keep tight reigns on my own self control. Others, apparently, aren't so fortunate and their addictions get the best of them - again, the addiction is immaterial. The only differences between the various addictions is *HOW* harmful they are, not whether they are, and how far you can fall under their weight.

Hi. My name is Chris and I'm a UO addict.


karri said...

I agree with Chornbe. These people who play these things so much that they become more important than anything else, and more real than anything else are addicts.

And some of them, like some drug addicts, have a harder time than others differentiating to the point of being able to recognize when they are going over the edge. Especially if the person is either too young to know better, or has something that he/she is trying desperately to escape from in the really real world. And short of these people learning to take control of their lives and going to get some help, there isn't much than we can do about it.

Yeah, when you are talking about a minor, maybe his parents should have been paying more attention, and maybe they could have initiated getting their kid some help; but ultimately, at 13 years old, the kid's going to do whatever he pleases anyway. He's old enough to know how to get away with things.

But, since a 13-year-old kid should, in theory, also be old enough to know better than to think that jumping out of 24 story building sounds like a swell idea, I have only one word for him. And it is the same word that I gave to the situation with the guy who played so long that he died of exhaustion and dehydration a while back. And that word is: Darwin.

I mean, seriously, it sounds cruel and crass to put it that way; but if you have broken with reality and self-preservation to that point... well, you cease to qualify for inclusion into the category of those fit for survival.

Still, I guess looking at it that way isn't politically correct enough. It always has to be the fault of everybody else. Be it a musical group, a video game, a movie, or whatever... hell, just recently, the media kept trying to implicate D&D in the actions of John Eichinger.

It's all ridiculous, if you ask me.

chornbe said...

Agreed. Responsibility for a person resides squarely on their own shoulders; the very young, the mentally retarded or comatose excluded. Screw political correctness. Sometimes people just need a good slap in the face. That's all there is to it, some times.

LastBestAngryMan said...

I'm going to have to come out and agree with karri; the name to invoke here is 'Darwin.'

I realize that the death of this boy, and the death of the man in Korea, are indicative of terrible conditions of existence. Still, though, going fifty hours without resting, eating, or drinking is nothing short of stupid. And anything less than a retarded 13-year old SHOULD be able to understand that leaping off a 24-story building is going to result in horrific injury at least, with death much more likely.

There's also a basic fact of life involved here. People are going to die doing stupid things. People are going to commit suicide. The reason that World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs are becoming the new thing to blame for suicides is because they ARE NEW, and now it's passe to attribute suicide to heavy metal music or death from stupidity to kids trying to copy a stunt they saw on "Jackass."

Anonymous said...

It's all about responsibility. How can the parents of a kid that commited suicide due to playing an MMORPG sue Blizzard? It's their fault that they weren't watching or paying attention to what their kid was doing. Maybe playing a game for 12 hours a day might be something the parents should look into. Makes no sense to me. "I'm gonna sue Burger King for making me fat, even though I was the one that bought the burgers and knew full well that I would gain huge amounts of weight!"

Orangebudge said...

Okay, umm everyone one who posted something was right in their own way, But as many say, You have to take charge of ur own life, You cant have me or the news or music or even games telling u wat to do, and really in my opinion as a gamer and an EX Drug user, this is for u too karri, cuz ur comment was way to stupid. Drug addiction is usually done by an older person who needs to get away from reality or someone that just has a really bad life, or even from a friend who just got them hooked. Game addiction is not the same as drug addiction. Yes an addiction is an addiction but they arnt the same.

Game addicts usually start playing games on their own will and for fun or for boredom and more then half of them being children, They obviously love their games and the rest being older who are usually people who need a break from reality and play here or there, or even on a regular basis, But not EVERY single gamer is going to fuck them selves over by playing one game on a daily so it can take their lives over.. Sure some love one game but sure some love 1 drug, 1 type of food, 1 color. So why blame them they arnt exactly ADDICTS. Iv seen some play 1 game for over 6 years now and still counting. iv been shooting people on counter strike since the age of 7. Like i said People need to take control over their lives, a kid got addicted to the game, so his PARENTS need to take control of his life, give him limits to the game, not let him spend all his time with the game. If it were an older person like the 30 year old who killed him self for playin over a couple days of warcraft, It would still be his fault because He CHOOSE to play the game on a daily, he CHOOSE to not eat and drink for days, HE CHOOSE his death basically. when this kid went to the side of the building to jump, did he not choose to go all the way up look down and say, im going to fly like my characterÉ.. Now i personally as a gamer never played WOW not my type of game, and honestly iv heard shit from back in the day like people getting addicted to everquest and then killing them selves, The real reason isnt always the game, its the shit happening behind the game. There could always be a bully that made him wanna kill him self or maybe it could be the same reason as the everquest guy, met a girl in the game or a character and they had an argument or someshit one thing lead to another and the guy shotgunned him self in the face. So u never know, its not always because of the game. Now ur thinking this guys retarded because hes a junkie and a gamer, Wrong fuck everyquest and WoW iv seen people get sucked in to companys like sony and blizzard and lose they`re lives but they usually come too after a while. But really if i had self control over doing my drugs (Lets say if i were to do it on a monthly basis Instead of daily.) would i get addictedÉ NO, Meaning if that kid or anyone else whos died over a game were to play once a week. would they get addictedÉ NO. Self controll is all the person needs, I hate blizzard and all their games except starcraft, even tho it was made in 98 its still being played by MANY users across the world especially koreans and chinese, You know who plays itÉ The addicts and only the addicts i have not yet once played on a server and won a couple times in a row, its impossible. ill tell u why, because over 80% have been playing since 98 so tell me why arnt they commiting suicide..Because not everyone thinks alike Not everyone is an idiot, or thinks suicidal, sometimes it depends on the mood situation or even life style the person is having, So really u cant judge this game, u have to judge what was going on in his life that made him want to jump, hey maybe some kid on WOW told him that he can go to the top of a building and jump and he`ll fly, but thats not blizzards fault.. Not everyone is gonna go say imma kill people cuz of this game or kill my self cuz of it.

Also, Games have ratings iv been playing counter strike since the early versions and iv been playing the next gen games that just came out. Iv played so many gory and awsome games in the passed year and technically im still sane and an okay person. Almost every game i play is rated 16+ or 18+ Iv played games with disgusting gore and realistic kind of stuff ONLINE with kids younger then 10, Some 8 some older. Now in my opinion, 8 year olds shouldnt be playing the games im playing because i just recently came out of my teens and since a certain age iv been into First person shooters. Now being an 8 year old playing a first person shooter for all ur life this can REALLY mess with ur mind, and i deffinatly agree with this. if this kid grows up thinking about shooting people and bloody head shots and cutting up peoples bodys whilst they`re dead, hes going to be one messed child, i wouldnt be suprised if he shot a bunch of people up for talking shit or bullying him. So it really depends on everyone around that single person. U never know something u say on the internet might lead to someones death.

But when i heard about that woman who lost her 21 year old son to everquest it was messed, cuz she blamed it on the company and she said when her son disincluded him self from everyone he disappeared for a few days and when she finally got in his house she saw him on his comp with his head blown off with a shotty in his hand and the everquest screen with his characters name ``iloveyou`` so... Apperently they think he fell inlove with some online girl and they broke up or something and he killed him self. As i said its not always the game itself thats addicting, it could be shit thats going on in that persons life that makes the game addicting, Otherwise every RPG out there is addicting, because they never fucking end, U CAN NEVER BEAT THE GAME so Technically thats the point of it, Every rpg iv played or seen never ended. you go from one world to another what else is it... Like in WOW, Apperently the game really STARTS at level 70,(Even tho it takes over a year to get there) and thats the last level up.. So what do u really expect from playing an RPG, Ur basically making a commitment to the game.


The assholes not only charge u up the ass for the game and the expansion but hey, you have to PAY to PLAY , and there is no one player just in case u did buy it and didnt have money to play online or pay for internet.

Anonymous said...


I play WoW. Responsibly. And so do millions of people. So...Enough stereotyping. And..seriously, Do any of you HONESTLY think some man, sat down on his ass to enjoy a game, for FIFTY hours, didnt have a drink? I call bluff. I don't care how engrossed you are. It's a freak coincidence, for all it could be he stuffed his face with too many salty snacks. No disrespect to the dead, however.

WoW can be an escape..one that may even depress a person when coming back to reality, but the same goes for anything in the genre then. A good fantasy flick, or book..But you don't hear about people stabbing their eyes out with fake wands to be like Harry Potter do you? So WoW takes the fall. Yippie.

As for..cheery little Orangebudge, you sir, are immensely retarded. No skill huh? Ever actually play WoW, doubt it, you probably hit level ten then your trial ended and you went whining about how 'too damn hard it is'. Yea? Boo-hoo. You're allowed your opinion, I'm not denying that. But, PvP? Not hard? Rofl. Takes a lot of skill to master a class and use its talent efficiently against an opponent, or a group of enemies. So don't give me or anyone else the. "No skill, never ending crap" The game ends when you stop having fun. Besides having class knowledge, you need a minimal amount of creativity, hence the fantasy genre? Catch me yet? Probably not, you strike me as being simple minded. People create complex stories for their characters, and interact with others accordingly, which brings me to another thing, You have to have social skills, and a sense of placement in WoW's very own society.

...And, You get what you pay for, and I can honestly say, the 15 bucks a month I pay for WoW, is worth it. If not for the game itself, but the friends I've made around the world that I've met on Warcraft.

~World of Warcrack addict. XD

Anonymous said...

LOl ok the dude who is above me is a nerd but who am I to judge i play wow to and oragnebuddy or what ever your name is i couldnt be bothered reading your comment and I think you have way to much time on your hands or you have to much time on your hands UMMMM global warming is going to screw us all over and theres a gay recision thing going on and people will escape reality with more online games and all dat but I reckon all of you should think to your selves "have i spent to much time on the computer? is my life going no where? I need a fucking misses" hmmmmmm people who play dis game 4 50 hours obvisouly arnt right in the head and have also got to much time on there hands if i spent 36 hours on wow as yet another chinese kid did i would commit scuiside to excuse my spelling... Any way im andy judge me before you know me ummm save those metal things that attached to drink cans that you use to open them and get allot and give them to hospitals please it magically fights cancer... because cancer sucks balls

Tony said...

Lol Warcraft is going out of hand.
All my friends play Dota and WoW and all they ever talk in school are about it. They even use hundreds of dollars just to buy some items on the stupid game. Itihkn the game should be banned, it's killing people.

Van said...

Addiction = an excuse for weakness. Done deal. If you have an "addictive nature" than i guess you are weak by default and should confront that weakness and control it. I have been weak at times by playing WoW a little more than i should. But the guy who made the article here is no less than 99.99% right, if anything.

Control + discipline = Strong

C said...

Well, I used to play it in college, but it was too big of a time waster, so I stopped. 6 hours would go by and it felt like 1.

My best friend though kept playing and eventually dropped out of college because he was playing it too much.

There's more to it, but the short of it is that he quit playing and was getting his life back together. Then he bought it again and started playing, a few months later he committed suicide. Can you blame the game? It wasn't the only thing, but I know it was a major contributing factor.

I know from my experience with it, it can be difficult going in this "virtual reality" and back to reality. Eventually, when reality gets worse and worse I think the jolt from "virtual reality" back to reality can be to hard to handle.

Its kind of interesting though now that I think about it, I was playing Final Fantasy as a kid for hours (never had abuse or depression in my life) one day and I actually had very very strong impulse to jump out the window to kill myself.......I think its just very interesting.......

Now not every person that plays one of these games is going to kill themselves but I think there is a correlation somewhere. Maybe it has to do with going in and out of alternate realities.

But, the bottom line to me is: its not a productive use of time, if I had kept playing it I would not be where I am today.

What do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to put in my 2 cents about wow and addiction since it has been a day and a half since i deleted 4 lvl 80s and a 72. I had heard of wow from people from work and decided to buy it. Since then, i was layed off and had nothing to do so i started playing wow more and more. I cant believe it but i am at the point i cant stop thinking thru the day about the damn game and actually do feel depressed. I believe this is due from being unemployed but more so i feel that when you are in the "digital world" and accomplishing fake things that seem to make you and others say gratz and feeling proud of these achieves by this time it is time to go back to the real world and you feel back to the regular old Joe. I agree with many bits and pieces from the articles people have written but i do think its just to easy to just say those people had problems before. All in all, i never believed this crap about hearing people getting addicted to games but it is time for me to face the truth about mmorpg's and bury them again for good.