This Sunday is Easter, a time to usher in spring
Video games do big business, stateside and abroad. In many Asian countries and elsewhere, internet cafes are dominated by gamers. Some of these players get a little carried away, to put it mildly. They play so hard and so long that they die of exhaustion or a heart attack.
This phenomemon sounds unreal, but an otherwise healthy 32-year-old man (known only by his surname, Hsieh) died in a Taiwanese internet cafe after playing video games for 3 days straight. The cause of death? Cardiac arrest. Hsieh was known for his endless gaming binges. His family watched him regularly disappear for days on end. The most disturbing part of Hsieh’s story is how his fellow gamers didn’t even notice he died until several hours later. Police noted that his corpse had already started to stiffen by the time anyone realized something was amiss.
This disturbing report isn’t the first time someone has died at the hands of a video game controller. A different Taiwanese man died on Jan 1 after a similar binge in another internet cafe. In 2012, yet another Taiwanese gent succumbed to death. 10 hours passed before anyone realized he was dead. It’s difficult to assess who’s more addicted — those who died or those who were too absorbed in the latest Call of Duty incarnation to notice the dead body next to them.
Let’s pull out another unfathomable story before we get down to business. In 21, a South Korean couple was charged with neglecting and starving their baby daughter because they were so addicted to a role-playing game about raising a virtual daughter.
Video game addiction is real. Sufferers think nothing of spending the majority of their waking hours fondling a controller. They report genuine withdrawal symptoms that include migraine headaches, anger, and cold sweats. They lose their families, their jobs, their life’s savings. And yet they play on and on and on.
The DSM-5 developed a fact sheet about this relatively new addiction disorder, including the following description: “When these individuals are engrossed in Internet games, certain pathways in their brains are triggered in the same direct and intens e way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance. The gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward.”
Certainly, the gaming industry does not discourage addictive behavior. 2014 industry statistics show that $10.5 in annual revenue depends on players getting hooked on “sticky” games. The psychology behind game addiction is astounding. These games are “built to exploit [the] part of our brain” that focuses on pleasure and reward. The formula is primitive: “Kill monster, get points. Complete level, get happy music. Win game, feel satisfied.” In almost no time, a hobby can turn into a sickness.
Some quick facts on gaming addicts: Single white males are the most likely sufferers of gaming addiction. Games played in internet cafes are often multiplayer endeavors, and addicts don’t only get swept up in the “get reward” aspect of games. They also feel “duty bound” to their opponents and allies. They build online relationships by joining in-game factions, which present even more rewards in most games. The group factor — however impersonal — is a contributor of peer pressure to keep playing. Those who miss playtime in World of Warcraft will be left out of future “raids.” The guilt helps keep people hooked until a full-on addiction develops. These groups often form a lifetime commitment that, in increasing numbers, only ends with the death of the gamer.