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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Gaming, dosing and saving the virtual world

If you were given a choice between three hours of Call of Duty: Black Ops and a line of pure cocaine, which one would you pick? According to new research, you would be better off choosing the blow. In his piece “Gaming Addiction Grips Youngsters,” UK counselor and therapist Steve Pope states that “spending two hours on a game station is equivalent to taking a line of cocaine in the high it produces.” To most of us, comparing a few hours of our favorite video game to a hard drug that kills hundreds around the world seems comical and even facetious. But when you dig deeper into the matter you slowly start realizing that our Xbox’s and PS3’s may really just be society’s newest designer drug.

Cocaine kills people, video games don’t, your brain retorts. Think again. Kids all over the world are dying, yes, DYING due to video game ‘overdose.’ That the terminology about gaming is virtually identical to dosing isn’t just striking, it’s almost scary. For instance, a South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session. Death by gaming, however, doesn’t end at death due to excessive gaming. The addictions video games induce reveal the nasty ‘psychoactive’ side of this virtual drug. A thirteen-year-old Chinese boy throws himself from the top of a twenty-four-story tower block in his hometown leaving notes that speak of his addiction and his hope of being reunited with fellow cyber-players in heaven.

However, video game inspired suicide only scratches the surface compared to the horrific accounts of murders and deaths related to addicted gamers. Press reports in 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” and, “in the meantime, the two ten-months old kids drowned.” Tyrone Spellman, 27, of Philadelphia, was convicted of third-degree murder for killing his 17-month old daughter in a rage over a broken Xbox. 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 FarmVille. Last year, in Philadelphia, Kendall Anderson, 16, killed his mother for taking away his PlayStation by hitting her 20 times with a claw hammer while she slept, and the list goes on. In any of these stories, the gaming terminology could easily be swapped with words such as ‘cocaine’ or ‘heroin’ and still read as a believable story. Deaths aside, there have been several reports of addicted teens who spend hours in front of the computer screen ‘pwning n00bs’ only to lose out on proper nutrition, healthy outdoor activities and other ‘normal’ functions.

Fortunately, it’s not all downhill for the gaming world. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, more than 57,000 gamers were listed as co-authors for a research paper in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. The gamers—with no previous background in biochemistry—had worked in a 3D game environment called Foldit, folding virtual proteins in new ways that could help cure cancer or prevent Alzheimer’s. More recently, upwards of 19,000 players of EVOKE, an online game created for the World Bank Institute, undertook real-world missions to improve food security, increase access to clean energy and end poverty in more than 130 countries that has had amazing real life applications in many African countries.

On an even more personal level, gaming is just too damn fun. It does feel good when you snipe your enemy in a round of Call of Duty. It does feel good when you score an impossible goal from 50 meters away in FIFA ’11. It does feel good tea-bagging your idiot opponent’s dead body in Halo: Reach. The excitement of video games produce a high that is refreshing; a much needed break from the stress of academic life in college. Am I going to die from it? Probably not. I’d argue that a few hours of solid gaming every week keeps many college students sane. And with the online gaming community only growing day by day, video games can be seen as a much needed outlet for entertainment. Does my overwhelming support for video games simultaneously indicate a potential justification of its truly illegal correlates? That topic is for another day. So, while you reflect upon and consider this complex world of gaming, allow me to go switch on my Xbox, load my favorite game and do a few lines.

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  • S

    Sid (Author)Jun 10, 2011 at 3:02 am

    Whoa there,

    Im saying that gaming IS fun. its awesome. I was just highlighting a few examples where gaming has been a cause for the death of some individuals and that people need to take gaming seriously.

    I have to lighten up? I think my register is far from serious.
    I’m just trying to write an entertaining article with surprising facts.


  • R

    Really?Apr 14, 2011 at 8:54 am

    “Too much fun?” Seriously, you have to lighten up. Sniff the coke if you want and brown nose a bunch of teachers, showing them that you don’t play video games, but your article reads like an ignorant elitist who’s hellbent on punishing himself.

    It’s fine with me if you don’t want to take part in the most diverse form of art available. Just don’t highlight a few ridiculous examples of terrible people rage killing their relatives and say it’s gaming related. Those people obviously had terrible issues that spread across most aspects of their lives, and aren’t much different than the millions of other murderers in this country. Take your high horse to a senator like Jack Thompson and leave my liberal arts college alone.