Video game addiction is a known issue around the world, with the advent of broadband technology in the 2000s it has evolved into a different level of addiction which involves the creation of an avatar and living a ‘second life’ through MMORPGs massive multiplayer online role playing games. World of Warcraft has the largest MMO gaming community on-line and there have been a number of studies about the addictive qualities of the game. Addicts of the game range from children to mature adults such as University professor Ryan van Cleave who almost lost everything as his life became consumed by on-line gaming.
B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning claims that the frequency of a given behaviour is directly linked to whether it is rewarded or punished. If a behaviour is rewarded, it is more likely to be repeated. If it is punished, it becomes suppressed. Orzack says variable ratio reinforcement is the idea that the best way to optimize the desired behaviour in the subject is to hand out rewards for correct behaviour, and then adjust the number of times the subject is required to exhibit that behaviour before a reward is handed out. For instance, if a rat must press a bar to receive food, then it will press faster and more often if it doesn’t know how many times it needs to press the bar. An equivalent in World of Warcraft would be purple (epic) loot drops. Players in World of Warcraft will often spend weeks hunting for a special item which is based on a chance system, sometimes with only a 0.001% chance of it being dropped by a killed monster. The rarity of the item and difficulty of acquiring the item, gives the player a status amongst their peers once they obtain the item.
Orzack, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts claims 40 percent of World of Warcraft (WoW) players are addicted.
Globally, there have been deaths caused directly by exhaustion from playing games for excessive periods of time. There have also been deaths of gamers and/or others related to playing of video games.
In 2007, it was reported that Xu Yan died in Jinzhou after playing online games persistently for over 2 weeks during the Lunar New Year holiday. Later 2007 reports indicated that a 30-year-old man died in Guangzhou after playing video games continuously for three days.
The suicide of a young Chinese boy in the Tianjin municipality has highlighted once more the growing dangers of game addiction, when those responsible do not understand or notice the risks of unhealthy play. Xiao Yi was thirteen when he threw himself from the top of a twenty-four story tower block in his home town, leaving notes that spoke of his addiction and his hope of being reunited with fellow cyber-players in heaven. The suicide notes were written through the eyes of a gaming character, so reports the China Daily, and stated that he hoped to meet three gaming friends in the after life. His parents, who had noticed with growing concern his affliction, weren’t mentioned in the letters.
In March 2005, the BBC reported a murder in Shanghai, when Qiu Chengwei fatally stabbed fellow player Zhu Caoyuan, who had sold on eBay a dragon saber sword he had been lent in a Legend of Mir 3 game, and was given a suspended death sentence.
In February 2012, a man in New Taipei, Taiwan, was found dead facing a computer after gaming for 23 hours. In July 2012, an 18-year-old man identified by surname Chuang died after playing 40 hours of Diablo III in an internet cafe in Tainan, Taiwan. Both cases were reported as death by cardiac arrest.
In 2005, Seungseob Lee (Hangul: 이승섭) visited an Internet cafe in the city of Taegu and played StarCraft almost continuously for fifty hours. He went into cardiac arrest, and died at a local hospital. A friend reported: “…he was a game addict. We all knew about it. He couldn’t stop himself.” About six weeks before his death, his girlfriend, also an avid gamer, broke up with him, in addition to his being fired from his job.
In 2009, Kim Sa-rang, a 3-month-old Korean child, died from malnutrition after both her parents spent hours each day in an internet cafe raising a virtual child on an online game, Prius Online.
An Earthtimes.org article reported in 2007 that police arrested a 13-year-old boy accused of murdering and robbing an 81-year-old woman. A local policeman was quoted as saying that the boy “…confessed that he needed money to play online games and decided to kill and rob…” the victim. The article further related a police report that the murder by strangling netted the thief 100,000 Vietnamese dong (US$6.20).
In February 2002, a Louisiana woman sued Nintendo because her son died after suffering seizures caused by playing Nintendo 64 for eight hours a day, six days a week. Nintendo denied any responsibility.
Press reports in November 2005 state that Gregg J. Kleinmark, 24, pleaded “guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter”. He “left fraternal twins Drew and Bryn Kleinmark unattended in a bathtub for 30 minutes, in order to go three rooms away and play on his Game Boy Advance” while “in the mean time, the two ten-months old kids drowned”.
A New Mexico woman named Rebecca Colleen Christie was convicted of second degree murder and child abandonment, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, for allowing her 3 and a half-year-old daughter to die of malnutrition and dehydration while occupied with chatting and playing World of Warcraft online.
In November 2001 Shawn Woolley committed suicide due to the popular computer game Everquest. Shawn’s mother said the suicide was due to a rejection or betrayal in the game from a character Shawn called “iluvyou”.
Ohio teen Daniel Petric shot his parents, killing his mother, after they took away his copy ofHalo 3 in October 2007. In a sentencing hearing after the teen was found guilty of aggravated murder, the judge said, “I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea at the time he hatched this plot that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever.” On 16 June 2009, Petric was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.
In Jacksonville, Florida, Alexandra Tobias pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shaking her baby to death. She told investigators that the baby boy’s crying had interrupted her while she was playing a Facebook game called FarmVille. She was sentenced in December 2010.
In November 2010 in South Philadelphia, Kendall Anderson, 16, killed his mother for taking away his PlayStation by hitting her 20 times with a claw hammer while she slept.