Posted by: reisendame | September 17, 2007

Online gaming: People are dying to play

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A 30-year-old man from Southern China died Saturday after a three-day gaming binge at an Internet Cafe. The report did not specify which game the man was playing at the Guangzhou cafe, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

This incident is certainly not the first in the area, a fact which reflects a highly disturbing trend among internet users. A 28-year-old South Korean man died of exhaustion after a 50-hour gaming marathon at an internet cafe in 2005. 2002 saw two similar deaths: one 24-year old South Korean who died after 86 straight hours of gaming, and a 27-year old Taiwanese man who could only take 32 nonstop hours before it killed him.

Internet addiction is mostly recognized as a theoretical disorder, and health professionals have many different opinions on the issue. Some psychiatrists will say that a so-called “internet addiction” is really a symptom of some other mental disorder, such as depression. There are others who would say that online addictions can be just as serious as gambling, drugs, or alcohol. Like with controlled substances, internet use becomes abuse when the addict lies about or hides the problem, craves to get back to it, and allows their fixation to hurt personal relationships.

Whether or not all professionals consider internet abuse ito be a valid disorder, it’s horrifying that people have died in the name of a video game. It’s equally troublesome to know that it is not at all uncommon for serious gamers to play for hours and days at a time, even if it doesn’t kill them. These people are being sucked into virtual worlds that have nothing to do with real life, except for the fact that the person’s real life is going to suffer as a result. This kind of behavior hurts the addict’s family and friends as well.

All over the world, people are dying as murder victims, casualties of war, and disease-ridden, disadvantaged members of society. I can’t imagine being a mother whose son died prematurely while playing a video game.

There have been no deaths of this kind reported in the United States (yet?), but a reported 13% of Chinese internet users under 18 are addicted and there are several clinics in the country that aim to treat this disorder. In fact, a new summer camp in China targets addicts between the ages of 14 and 22 and boasts a 10 day program of therapy and military-esqe drills. Some companies are even installing internal timers in games which will limit how long one game may be played. I don’t know that this is the right answer. Any way you like it, something must be done to stop these senseless, self-imposed deaths.

Are Gadgets, and the Internet, Actually Addictive?

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