Parents sue over WoW death

Written by Geoff Richards

November 21, 2005 | 14:47

Tags: #lawsuit #world-of-warcraft

Companies: #blizzard #chinese-government #games #jack-thompson #vivendi

Yet more parents are passing the buck and blaming computer games for the death of a teenager rather than take responsibility themselves, this time in China.

According to the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, the parents of a 13-year-old Tianjin boy are suing Blizzard, claiming that the online game World of Warcraft (WoW) was responsible for killing their son. They claim the boy was "re-enacting a scene from the game" by jumping to his death. Presumably Blizzard failed to mention that the Magic Belt of Flight* doesn't actually work in real life.

The parents are said to be backed by the anti-Internet addiction advocate, Zhang Chunliang. A Chinese translator was unable to confirm that this was Mandarin for Jack Thompson.

WoW is big business these days, with some 4.5 million players worldwide, 1.5 million of which live in China. Some analysts believe the game could be generating more than US$30 million per month in basic subscription fees alone. The online gaming market in China has raked in US$580 million this year, and is set to triple to US$1.7 billion in the next four years.

A lot is at stake then, with the industry facing increasingly invasive government regulation to curb the obsessive all-night gaming sessions that have actually claimed the lives of several people in recent years. These people didn't jump off a balcony or go on a shooting spree, but rather died from heart failure and other biological conditions associated with dehydration and extreme fatigue.

The Chinese government is said to be hatching plans with developers whereby their character will suffer a handicap or reduced abilities once the player logged a certain number of hours of consecutive play. Should they ignore this first stage, a second tier handicap kicks in after a few more hours and players risk being "locked out" of the game for a period should they defy the restrictions and continue playing.

Is this Big Brother gone mad? Are gamers so helpless that they can no longer decide for themselves how long to play a computer game for? One wonders if these restrictions are being introduced just because they can - players must log into a remote server to play an online game like World of Warcraft, so they are susceptible to regulation. Restricting more traditional PC and console games remotely would be far harder.

This reporter can recall dozens of games over the years that were played by millions with great enthusiasm: Space Invaders, Super Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter 2, DOOM... why is it that none of these games caused dangerous levels of "gaming addiction", ultimately leading to death? Could it be that parenting these days isn't what it used to be? Maybe they need to teach gaming discipline at an earlier age.

Are you addicted to games? Is WoW worse than crack? Do you sleep with a BFG under your pillow in case the local Under 12 Counter-Strike clan attack during the night? We want your thoughts on this subject.

*not a real object in the game
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