Whether or not gaming leads to violence or excessive behavior has been debated since teens got hooked on Pong in 1972. There are as many scientific studies showing the educational and therapeutic benefits of gaming as there are studies showing that gaming leads to violence, addiction, behavioral issues, and health problems. Pick a side and there’s medical and psychological literature to support the claim, which turns the gaming debate into a sort of “chicken or the egg” dilemma.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. “Internet Gaming Disorder” was listed as a psychological condition that merits further research. The DSM-5 listed nine criteria for IGM, from withdrawal symptoms when Internet gaming is taken away to continued use of Internet games despite knowledge of psychological problems.
Problems and potential dangers can occur from gaming overuse, but in most cases these problems are idiosyncratic. Most players don’t go on a five day gaming binge in which they forget to eat or sleep, nor do they have a difficult time differentiating reality from fantasy. Still, it happens –as does murder and suicide. Here are 10 of the strangest video game related deaths.
10. Diablo III
In 2012, Chuang, an 18-year old Taiwanese gamer, died in an Internet cafe after a 40-hour marathon of Diablo III. Chuang passed out at a terminal, was woken by an employee, stood up, took a few steps, and collapsed. According to the Mirror, authorities believe Chuang died from a blood clot due to sitting for a long period of time.
Taiwan has seen a rash of deaths following epic gaming sessions. In February 2013, 23-year old Chen Rong-yu was found dead at an Internet cafe after playing League of Legends for 23 hours. On January 21, 2015, a 38-year old man died at the Kaohsiung Internet cafe in Taipei after a five day gaming binge. Authorities blamed his death on cold temperatures and over-exhaustion.
9. “Hold Your Wee for a Wii”
In 2007, Jennifer Strange, a 28-year old wife and mother of three, participated in Sacramento radio station’s KDND “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest. The station promised to give the contestant who could drink the most water without urinating or vomiting a free Nintendo Wii. Jennifer Strange drank over two gallons of water and died of acute water intoxication. In 2009, the Sacramento radio station and its parent company paid $16.57 million in a wrongful death suit.
Marathon gaming deaths aren’t just a contemporary phenomenon. In the early ‘80s, an arcade was the equivalent of an Internet cafe, and gamers would go red-eyed pumping quarter after quarter into their favorite consoles, as their friends gathered around like a Flock of Seagulls.
Atari’s Berzerk is responsible for causing the earliest known gaming deaths. In 1981, Jeff Dailey, 19, died of a heart attack after racking up 16,660 points playing Berzerk. Less than a year later, Peter Burkowski collapsed at Friar Tuck’s arcade after entering his initials on the Berzerk scoreboard. Just like Jeff Dailey, he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.
7. Mortal Kombat
In 2007, two Colorado teens, Heather Trujillo and her boyfriend, Lamar Roberts, were charged with child abuse, resulting in the death of Trujillo’s seven-year old sister, Zoe. The little girl died from blunt force trauma to the brain and central nervous system. According to the Weld County Coroner, she also had a broken wrist, bleeding neck muscles, and more than 20 large bruises on her body.
While the two teens were babysitting Zoe and her twin sister, Roberts began acting out fight scenes from the ‘90s video game Mortal Kombat. According to reports, he performed a back kick on Zoe, and then kicked her again as she was running away from him. She fell to the ground and stopped breathing. Lamar Roberts later claimed that he was drunk at the time.
6. Video Game Controller as Murder Weapon
In 2008, 2-year old Darisabel Baez died after her mother’s boyfriend, Harve L. Johnson, beat her with a video game controller. Johnson brought the child to her mother, limp and wet after trying to revive her in a bathtub. The girl’s mother, Neida Baez, told police her boyfriend had been beating her daughter for months. Pennsylvania authorities charged Johnson with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and other accounts, and booked Neida Baez for endangering the welfare of a child.
5. Legend of Mir III
There’s a tenuous link between fantasy and reality, and sometimes gamers lose their footing –at least that’s the case with Qiu Chengwei. In 2004, Chengwei murdered fellow gamer Zhu Caoyuan over a cyber weapon –a powerful sword called a “dragon sabre.” Qiu Chengwei won the weapon in the online game Legend of Mir III. For some reason, Zhu Caoyuan sold the cyber weapon to another gamer for 7,200 yuan. Qiu confronted Zhu and then stabbed him in the chest with “great force,” according to The China Daily. Unlike South Korea, there are currently no laws in China that cover the theft of virtual in-game items.
4. World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft, otherwise known as “WoWcrack,” is more addicting than Walter White’s blue meth. The game has ruined relationships and driven people mad. In 2005, Xiao Yi, 13, jumped off the top of a 24-story building. “I am going away to be with the heroes of Azeroth,” Xiao Yi wrote in a suicide note. The note also said he wanted to meet three of his gaming friends in the afterlife.
Xiao Yi’s father and mother knew little about the Internet or role-playing games. “My kid was like someone taking drugs who could not control himself,” said Xiao’s father. “We did not know how to save him.”
3. WinBack: Covert Operation
The popular PS2 anti-terrorist video game turned deadly in 2001, when a 12-year old boy accidentally shot and killed his 8-year old brother. According to The San Francisco Gate, the two boys were acting out roles from the game when the 8-year old decided he wanted to make it more realistic. He retrieved his dad’s unlocked .25-caliber semiautomatic, which, according to the report, didn’t have a clip in it but did have a single round in the chamber. When the older brother attempted to take the gun away from him, it accidentally discharged.
2. Halo 3
In September 2007, Daniel Petric shot his parents because his father, a minister at the New Life Assembly of God, caught him with Halo 3. Petric was told he wasn’t allowed to have the game, but he snuck out of the house and bought it anyway. When his father, Mark, caught him returning with Halo 3, he put the game in a lockbox where he also kept a 9mm.
Later, Daniel Petric opened the lockbox with his father’s key and took the game and the 9mm. He went into his parent’s room and told them to close their eyes because he had a surprise for them. Daniel then shot his parents in the head, killing his mother instantly and wounding his father. He fled in the family van and was later apprehended by the police. Halo 3 was on the front seat.
1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
“Life’s like a video game. You’ve got to die sometime.”
That’s what Alabama teen Devin Moore said after being booked for suspicion of grand theft auto…before grabbing a police officer’s .40-caliber Glock, killing two cops and a dispatcher, and fleeing the police station in a stolen cruiser. Moore was obsessed with GTA, and his cop-killing spree and police station escape mirrors one of the missions in the controversial and ultra-violent video game series. In 2005, 60 Minutes aired an episode on Moore and video game violence, in which attorney Jack Thompson said the following:
“The video game industry gave him a cranial menu that popped up in the blink of an eye, in that police station. And that menu offered him the split second decision to kill the officers, shoot them in the head, flee in a police car, just as the game itself trained him to do.”
Devin Moore was charged with three acts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection.