Back in March, we brought you a look at the issue of morals and ethics in gaming. Today, James Morris gives us his take on the state of gaming in the real world, in an article adapted from a lecture series he presented earlier this year at Ravensbourne College.
Kids today are in dire danger. Too many of them spend hours in front of their consoles and computer screens, imagining themselves inside fictional pixellated worlds. This is gravely affecting their ability to deal with real life, or ‘RL’ as they dismissively call it. The results are plain to see.
Few can forget the case of Qui Chengwei, the Shanghai gamer who murdered his friend Zhu Caoyuan over a fictional sword ‘magic item’ the latter had stolen from him and sold for 7,200 Yuan (around £500) in the online role playing game Legend of Mir III. He took his revenge using a sword that was considerably more real than the one stolen. A similar fate could befall any child left to play unattended for too long.
But the potential for violence to leap out of the game world into reality is not the only danger. Your health could be at risk as well. In August 2005, a 28-year-old South Korean man collapsed in an Internet café in the city of Taegu after a 50-hour Starcraft session. He hadn’t slept at all or eaten much during his mammoth bout of ‘real-time strategy’. The end result was death from heart failure induced by exhaustion. His gaming addiction had recently gotten him fired from his job, which was why he had so much time on his hands.
These kinds of events grab the headlines, and we’ve presented them here in the style you often see such cases reported in the general media. Games have become the new whipping boy of the press. After all, what parent wouldn’t be worried if their kid spent hours locked in a darkened room, oblivious to the world around them? In such a situation, it might even be a relief to find the pile of Playboys under the bed – sign of a more ‘normal’ adolescent life outside the computer screen. But how much of the fear induced by games is just hysteria in the face of something new and poorly understood, and how much is real danger?