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When your love of online gaming goes too far

— Filed under: People & Culture, Science & Technology
Here's what many young people in Seoul do for ...

Image via Wikipedia

I remember reading in March about a South Korean couple, who were addicted to online gaming. Internet addiction is something that many people struggle with to some degree, but they were apparently so obsessed with the game Prius Online that they neglected their 3 month old baby daughter and she died of starvation.

The website for the game maker, Netmarble, has a banner at the top of their website for Prius Online which features a pretty fairy, and says "Now it's my turn to protect you." Isn't it one of the most basic human instincts to protect our own children? How could both parents be so wrapped up in this online world that they would abandon their basic parental responsibilities of feeding and caring for their own child?

The parents have just had their sentencing for the death of their daughter. Prosecutors had requested a 5 year jail term, but according to the BBC, "Judge Yu decided to give a lighter sentence because they had expressed remorse and were awaiting the birth of another child." That's right, the girl's mother is pregnant again, and due to give birth in 3 months. But it's been reported that she promised the judge that she would take good care of her new baby. The father got a 2 year sentence, but the mother may get off scot-free if she doesn't get into any other trouble in the next 3 years. She starved her baby while she and her partner played games in an imaginary world, and she may get away with no jail time for it.

I really hope that a similar fate doesn't befall their second child, but after all that happened with their first child I can't help feeling that they shouldn't be trusted with another one. What do you think should happen to this family? Should they be allowed to keep their next child?

Kuncen's picture

Well spoken

Great article, thanks for the submission. Online gaming seems to be a national obsession in South Korea. I seem to remember hearing about someone who died from lack of sleep due to playing games online.

Is there any hope for this couple?

Kuncen

Ethan's picture

a sad story

Wow thats a really sad story. People can become addicted to online gaming like its a drug but that still does not excuse something as horrible as allowing a baby to starve to death. And then they have another baby when they cared so little for the first one. In the very least the baby should be checked on at least once a week, but I would think there should be a more severe punishment for a crime so horrific.

Winston Smith's picture

Yeah, I agree, I think the

Yeah, I agree, I think the punishment really seems out of proportion to the crime... I mean, they killed someone who depended on them.

PenyuSepi's picture

Blaming the parents?

That is horrifying. But having been deeply immersed in the world of those addicted to virtual realms, it's actually easy to see how this can happen. I'm all for believing people learn more from atrocious mistakes than from the punishment, so I'd probably be right up there with that judge giving her a chance... even if she doesn't deserve it. I do think Ethan's right - the 'drug' of Online Gaming is no excuse, (I can't really think of any excuse for neglecting your baby), but for people who don't suffer from this kind of addiction, it's too easy to dismiss as voluntary stupidity. It's not. And I think more people should laying blame on the gaming companies who've devoted all their resources into creating a perfect weapon that attacks a certain type of mind and convinces it to give them all their money and their time and their life. After all these sleep deprived players and babies keep dying every year, why does it seem as though no one in the world feels like maybe the gaming companies ought to be put on trial?

Winston Smith's picture

Blame game

You make some good points, and I agree that online gaming can be an addiction, and maybe it should be treated more seriously as a proper addiction.

PenyuSepi wrote:
And I think more people should laying blame on the gaming companies who've devoted all their resources into creating a perfect weapon that attacks a certain type of mind and convinces it to give them all their money and their time and their life.

But a lot of companies try to do that. Isn't that the point of marketing - to get people to give you their money?

PenyuSepi wrote:
After all these sleep deprived players and babies keep dying every year, why does it seem as though no one in the world feels like maybe the gaming companies ought to be put on trial?

Yeah, I dunno, I just get tired of everyone saying the businesses are to blame. What about individual responsibility? Online gaming is not chemically addictive. You still have control of your body. You can get addicted to anything.

PenyuSepi wrote:
I'm all for believing people learn more from atrocious mistakes than from the punishment

I definitely agree with you here. The parents are probably mortified and traumatized for life. They'll never forget this, and should probably never play online games again. How about that for a sentence? No online games ever again, and if you DO touch them, you get life in prison? ;)

Ritrat8's picture

It's true!

"Yeah, I dunno, I just get tired of everyone saying the businesses are to blame. What about individual responsibility? Online gaming is not chemically addictive. You still have control of your body. You can get addicted to anything."

You really can get addicted to ANYTHING.

One time, I got addicted to water.

Yes, WATER.

Now, that might not SOUND bad, but consider how many times I had to use the restroom while I had that addiction.

Too much of ANYTHING is bad, that's why it's called TOO MUCH.

To people who say "But you CAN'T have too much water!", I call @#$%. I'm sure a good number of you have read about drinking contests where people drink huge amounts of water without using the bathroom.

People DIE from this sort of thing.

Hmm? How the hell'd this soapbox get under my feet?

I better get off.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

addicted

Im addicted to this website dang nammit!

Ethan's picture

addictions

I remember seeing somewhere that China has a program for people addicted to online gaming as it is becoming a big problem there as well. Banning the parents from online gaming if they want to keep the second baby is definately something that should be done.
This reminds me of some disturbing scenes I witnessed when I used to work in Casino Surveillance. The slot machines now are designed to draw people in and make them addicted. Many times I would go home then come to work the next day and see the same person still sitting on the same slot machine having undoubtably lost huge amounts of money.

Winston Smith - does 2 + 2 always equal 4?
I love that book

PenyuSepi's picture

...

Quote:
Online gaming is not chemically addictive. You still have control of your body.

If our brains have control over our body, and our brains become compromised, do we really have control over our body? I'd be pretty surprised if there haven't been studies to examine how 'mental' addictions like gaming amount to the same patterns of behaviour and symptoms of withdrawal as a chemical addiction. If we're reasonable enough to see a drug addict and think, "Okay, so maybe they weren't the sharpest tool if they got themselves addicted to heroine, but now their body is physically screwed, and they're somewhat helpless until it gets all fixed", then maybe we should be able to lend a similar sort of sympathy to gaming addicts and victims of similar psychological addictions. It may not be a substance controlling them, but I would argue that it's just as capable of conquering their body and mind.

Quote:
The slot machines now are designed to draw people in and make them addicted. Many times I would go home then come to work the next day and see the same person still sitting on the same slot machine . . .

Quote:
. . . a lot of companies try to do that. Isn't that the point of marketing - to get people to give you their money?

Hah, you're sure as hell right about that - a lot of companies, and probably a lot worse than these Prius Online people. Just because I think the gaming companies deserve punishment doesn't mean I think they're the only ones who do. I think we've let all kinds of marketing & commercialism go too far, (add casinos to the list), and if we took more time to stop and think about where we're headed as a society if we let this insane stuff continue, maybe we'd care enough to step in and lay down some heavier restrictions on how much these companies are allowed to mess with us and take advantage of the weaknesses of human psychology.

When I was a kid my dad told me about the initial trials of subliminal advertising in the cinemas (flashing images inserted into the film, flickering so fast you wouldn't notice, but your subconscious mind would.) He said that they managed to put images in that made watchers feel so unbelievably thirsty that instead of the typical handful of people who bought soda at intermission, something like 95% of everyone in the theatre flooded the drink stand to get a coke. He said it was immediately banned for having too much power over people, in a way that we don't have the ability to fight. Why does it seem like companies still have free rein over any number of equally effective methods of mental domination? How many of their devious tactics should be left to our willpower to overcome, and when does it fall into the category of brainwashing?

Winston Smith's picture

PenyuSepi wrote: I'd be

PenyuSepi wrote:
I'd be pretty surprised if there haven't been studies to examine how 'mental' addictions like gaming amount to the same patterns of behaviour and symptoms of withdrawal as a chemical addiction.

You're gonna have to give me a link or something if you want me to believe that. Assumptions ain't enough.

That said, I am in favor of showing sympathy to people who show mental addiction, I'm just not sure it's in the same category or severity as physical addiction. I would argue that a heroin addict is affected mentally because of the physical addiction, not the other way around.

PenyuSepi's picture

Took me a while but...

Alright, yes, for a heroin addict the addiction would probably be that way around: physical, and then mental as a result. But a gaming addict who is mentally addicted and then physically as a result has still been conquered in both areas, so is that really an important difference?

As most people I'm sure, I've seen friends addicted to gaming, and witnessed how some of the toughest people can be broken by it... And whether or not their bodies are being chemically altered doesn't enter my mind as relevant, because to me something designed to attack their mind is just as evil as something designed to attack their body. But that's just me, looking at both psychology and physiology as vital parts of sustaining a human being. And if I were to kill a man by feeding him cyanide, or by brainwashing him with some form of psychological manipulation in order to convince him to jump off a cliff, I still killed him.

But that said, I figured I'd be called out by someone on that "I'd be really surprised if"... so here ya go. :)
(Unfortunately this is far from what I think it would take to convince someone. But I gave up on google after a while. Maybe I'll go to the library...)

Quote:
At this stage, most countries don’t consider video game addiction as a mental disorder. Their argument is drug addicts are addicted because they have chemical dependencies. Video game players do not have a chemical dependency with the game, therefore they cannot be addicted in the sense most people define the word.

In fact studies at the University of British Columbia have found that the physiological effects caused by excessive gaming and drug addiction are very similar.

Furthermore, videogame addictions display the same withdrawal symptoms as drug, alcohol and gambling addictions . . .

In this case they go on about dopamine dependency, which can be brought on by a lot more than just gaming. Dopamine runs through you after stuff as simple as exercise, and some people get addicted to that too. My fear is that people will see this as even more ridiculous now, because if you got yourself addicted to the chemicals produced by exercise and stuff, then it's clearly your fault. But I think the important difference we have to remember is whether the person began the addictive activity of their own accord, or whether they were hooked by some form of psychological persuasion to the max... and whether any of the ways that marketing try to do this should be banned for having to much power to influence the human psyche.

I'm all for research into psychology since it helps us see the ways we can be coerced, and brings insight into some of the reasons we might have certain problems on a personal scale, as well as global. But it would be hard to convince me that psychological breakthroughs haven't already been put into use in ways we shouldn't be allowing. Whether someone was physically abusing a child, or psychologically abusing them, we still call it abuse and believe it needs to stop. I think we're all victims of this — the media, the corporations, there are so many in a position of power and we're letting them run around whipping us into a desirable shape. And even though some of us can endure the abuse and remain intact, I don't think we should abandon the ones who can't, arguing that they aren't being as strong as they need to be.

I rather think maybe we oughta be takin' away the whips...? ._.

(Some extra stuff I found....) wrote:
A 2009 study suggested that brain structural changes were present in those classified by the researchers as Internet addicted, similar to those classified as chemically addicted. . . . In 2008 Jerald J. Block, M.D., Hilarie Cash, PhD, Kim McDaniel MA, argued that Internet addiction should be included as a disorder in the DSM-V. Block observed that diagnosis was complicated because 86% of study subjects showing IA symptoms also exhibited other diagnosable mental health disorders. (source...)

Winston Smith's picture

The first source you quoted

The first source you quoted from (nzgamer.com), although it was interesting reading, unfortunately the author didn't cite their sources and simply said things like "according to a study at the University of British Columbia". They didn't list the title of the study, the researchers' names, the year it was conducted, or even a weblink for more information. So... interesting, but there's no way to tell if it was based on real evidence or just the author making stuff up.

I've been "somewhat" addicted to online games in the past. I don't think I was anything like the extreme cases in this article or others, but I had my 8-hour days, and sometimes longer. When I finally gave that up, it made me feel weird and want to play them again, but it was nothing like the cravings and other symptoms that I experienced while quitting smoking. And that's only cigarettes. There's no way that a person who quits online gaming, regardless of how much they play, is going to have anything even remotely resembling the withdrawal symptoms of someone quitting heroin, crack, or meth. It's just night and day.

The logical continuance from that article is that you can become addicted to anything. And I guess you can. You can be addicted to sex, to exercise, to gambling. So online gambling might be an addiction, I suppose. Although that Wikipedia article you quoted had quite a few people who felt it should be called "Internet overuse" instead.

Sorry to be such a stickler on this. Yes, people who play games online too much do need our sympathy and help. I just feel that giving the "addiction" label to everything that people "do too much of" kind of cheapens the seriousness of real addiction.

PenyuSepi's picture

True...

You aren't being a stickler. You're making me seriously consider my position and evaluate the validity of the reasons I believe it, which is what discussions should do.

Yeah I noticed the lack of anything that would suggest that article was legit. But in my naïve, trusting nature of all apparently well-meaning internet writers, I decided to throw it in there anyway. Also, someone else with more patience and google competence than I might come across this and actually go track down that unnamed UBC study. (These and other elements of my character: good indications I should not be an academic.)

Fair enough, I don't have any personal experience on the battle field with a chemical addiction, and you illustrated the comparison well. In fact, there was only one extra factor I could think of, so tell me if you think it should be added to the equation.

If people are affected by drugs slightly differently depending on their body type and other physiological, genealogical traits.. etc, should that be reflected in this medium as well? The demographics of gaming and internet addicts have confirmed that certain types of people become more harmfully addicted than others, especially if their mental disposition inhibits real-life social interaction, and they live deprived of this basic need. (Examples given in the study were introverted men, and middle-aged at-home women). I've had an extent of gaming obsession, and have come to believe that any mind with an active imagination like yours, and I guess mine, could become somewhat addicted to it. But you could let it go, and I'd hazard a guess that your friendships and capability of true, human connection in face-to-face situations would make you a strong enough kind of individual to not be completely taken by the gaming, because you don't need what it gives you as much as some might.

I think the potency of this 'drug' depends heavily on psychological constitution, and this is the main reason why I still feel like some people might actually be as trapped in it as chemical addicts. I've had some small taste of what it's like to be shy, not by choice, but from a lack of some essential ability, and how deeply you can still hunger for human connection. This is probably why I can't shake my compassion for people who become irrevocably latched to an interface that lets them wear masks and run around with people who finally respect them for their minds, even when there isn't any evidence to show that I should feel they are victims as much as drug addicts. But I really wish there was an easier way to measure whether they are, since that's the only way most people would take this seriously enough, and the only way marketing could ever be forced to bear some responsibility. At the very least, even if no one else thinks it's on par with drugs, I hope more eventually become convinced that it should be classified as some kind of mental health affliction.

Winston Smith's picture

Gaming meets a social need

I won't disagree with you that some people may be more psychologically inclined to become addicted to online gaming. The reason you laid out makes a lot of sense - that those who aren't able to function well socially are more likely to become addicted to something which meets that need for social interaction. In that case, I suppose you could argue that addiction to online gaming is a symptom of society's inability to aid people who are socially underdeveloped. I do believe that we should try to help these people who become addicted to the Internet... I'm not against that.

Here's probably the wrong way to do it:
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article7145877...

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Social need

Yeah i think you maybe onto something there. It also comes down to brain chemistry etc. Endorphins etc from gaming or chatting or looking at porn. At what point does something become an addiction though? I have always ask myself this question. Its a personal one for me too.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Addicted

I have been addcted. Im not saying to what. But i think that they should be punished. And then be banned from owning a computer or many.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Uh.. The dates of the pregnancy dont make any sense?

Do they?

Bernard's picture

What do you mean?

What do you mean?

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Dates

Baby died at 3 months due to drop again in another 3?

PenyuSepi's picture

Obviously the sentencing took

Obviously the sentencing took at least three months.