The new year is proving life-threatening for Taiwanese gamers with unhealthy addictions.
On Jan. 1, a man in New Taipei City died in an Internet cafe after playing video games for five days straight. The 38-year-old, surnamed Chu, was found by cafe workers after he collapsed in the restaurant bathroom. Authorities speculated that preexisting medical conditions may have been escalated due to exhaustion and fatigue from his five-day gaming marathon.
Barely a week later, a second Taiwanese gamer has died of heart failure and exhaustion after playing for over three days without stopping.
Internet cafe attendants found a 32-year-old man named Hseih slumped over in his seat after his marathon session. Hsieh was homeless and spent long hours in the cafe, according to cafe workers. Attendants told the Taipei Times that they were so used to seeing him sleeping or slumped in his chair that they did not initially realize Hsieh was dead.
The problem of gaming addiction leading to dangerous Internet cafe marathons has been a recurring one for Taiwan and China. In the past few years alone a number of deaths have occurred as a result of gamers whose marathons lasted days at a time.
- In February 2012, 23-year-old Chen Rong-yu died in a Taipei Internet cafe after playing League of Legends for 23 hours straight.
- In July 2012, an 18-year-old with the surname Chuang booked a private room at a Taiwanese cafe and then played Diablo III for 40 hours straight without eating before collapsing and dying.
- In January 2013, a 21-year-old man named Xiao Jun checked into an Internet cafe in Guangxi, China, and played an MMO for 40 hours before dying.
- In February 2014, a 43-year-old man named Wang died after gaming at a cafe in Taiwan for 12 hours straight.
Gaming addiction has proven a problem in other ways, too, not only in Taiwan but around the world:
- In February 2014, a Filipino teen killed an 11-year-old boy in a gaming-related dispute. In March, another Filipino teen murdered his grandmother after she interrupted his gaming marathon.
- In April, a gaming father in South Korea killed his infant son so he could continue gaming.
- Also in April, a French father strangled his adult son in a dispute related to the son’s long hours spent gaming.
- Again in April, a Chinese mother and son each died after jumping into a river over an argument related to the son’s League of Legends addiction.
- And in July, a Chinese couple was arrested for selling its children to human traffickers in order to continue buying in-game purchases.
The problem is so severe in various regions of Asia that governments have attempted to restrict access to the games themselves. In 2011, Vietnam banned online gaming between the hours of 10:00pm and 8:00am. Other countries have instituted regulations that require game developers to include regular timers and warnings to take frequent breaks while playing. Last year, South Korea pondered regulating video games like medication and other restricted products.
Though the science of video game addiction is still the subject of intense debate, the billion-dollar global industry continues to appeal more and more broadly each year.
And as more people begin to join in, Taiwan and other regions of the world may find themselves asking the question, “How do we get them to stop?” more and more often.
Photo via doctorow/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)