Youth's Death Linked to Game

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Youth's Death Linked to Game

Youth's Death Linked to Game

Blizzard faces a lawsuit from Chinese parents, who say World of Warcraft caused the death of their son.
November 18, 2005

In the latest saga over online gaming addiction in China, the parents of a 13-year-old Tianjin boy are suing the makers of World of Warcraft, blaming the game for the death of their son, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

'There are huge potentials, but there are also a lot of pitfalls'.

-Alexis Madrigal,
DFC Intelligence

The parents filed a suit against Blizzard Entertainment on Wednesday, saying their son jumped to his death while reenacting a scene from the game, the report said. The parents are backed by the anti-Internet addiction advocate Zhang Chunliang.

Mr. Zhang has spoken to 63 parents whose children have allegedly suffered from online gaming addiction and plans to file a class-action suit, according to the report.

Blizzard executives weren't available to comment to about the lawsuit.

The high-profile backlash to China's booming online game market reflects the growing size of the industry. World of Warcraft alone has 1.5 million paying players.

China's online game market brought in $580 million this year, and is the fastest-growing market in the world, according to research firm DFC Intelligence. That market is set to nearly triple in size to an estimated $1.7 billion by 2010.

Blizzard Entertainment developed the game and works with The9 in China as the local distributor. The9 already posted second-quarter revenue of $6.7 million, up from first-quarter revenue of $1.5 million.

Some analysts estimate the game is raking in more than $30 million per month in basic subscription fees.

Vivendi Universal Games, the parent company of Blizzard, recently said that through the first half of 2005, World of Warcraft brought the company's revenue up 61 percent from the year before to 238 million ($290 million) (see World of Warcraft Storms Asia).

But the company, which now counts 4.5 million World of Warcraft players worldwide, must contend with the backlash of parents concerned with addictive behavior.

Many Chinese parents contend that their children spend hours gaming in Internet cafes at the risk of their health, work, and school (see Wang-ba Crusade).

China Clocks Gamers

The Chinese government is looking into how to respond to its own citizen's concerns.

The Chinese government has already said it plans to restrict gamers to three hours of consecutive play, using a "fatigue technique"? in games. After three hours of play, the online game would lose some player power, and after five hours, the player would lose most power. After that, there would be a delay of five hours before the game could be accessed to its full capacity.

Analysts and industry execs are concerned the restriction might dampen the growth of the Chinese online game industry.

Analysts like Elias Glenn with Shanghai-based Pacific Epoch think the regulation will have a major effect on the industry. "It has the potential to have a serious impact."

But beyond government restrictions, other factors like piracy and an increasingly competitive market could throw a wet blanket on the industry's growth.

"There are huge potentials, but there are also a lot of pitfalls" said Alexis Madrigal, a DFC Intelligence analyst who recently authored a study on the industry.

Liz Woolley

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Chinese Teen's Suicide

Chinese Teen's Suicide Prompts Parents to Sue Video Game Maker
Kyodo News
05/11/06 9:28 AM PT

"Many foreign countries have established strict game classification systems to indicate which games are certain for which age groups. China should also establish such a system," Zhang Chunliang, an attorney agent for the case, was quoted as saying.

The parents of a 13-year-old boy who jumped to his death from a building in 2004 in honor of his heroes from an online computer game are suing the U.S.-developed game's distributors in China for compensation, official media reported Thursday.

In a court paper posted by the Chaoyang District People's Court of Beijing, the parents of Zhang Xiaoyi are seeking 100,000 yuan (about US$12,500) from Aomeisoft, the distributor of "Warcraft: Orcs & Humans," Xinhua News Agency reported.

Worshipping Heroes The report said the lawsuit demands that the packaging for the real-time fantasy game and its instructions be clearly labeled to show its violent content and that a warning that "playing games excessively harms health" be printed on the packaging.

Zhang, described in the report as a brilliant junior high school student, committed suicide in Tianjin on the morning of Dec. 27, 2004, after playing the game for 36 hours consecutively in a game hall, the report said.

He plunged from the top of the 24-story building in which he lived with his family, leaving behind a letter with the reason for his suicide: to join the heroes of the game he worshipped, it said.

After examining his school records, his 80,000-character diary about online games and the suicide note, a hospital in Beijing concluded that Zhang "had excessively indulged in unhealthy games and contracted serious Internet addiction before his death," Xinhua reported.

It said the incident caused public outcry over the harmful effect of addictive games on minors and triggered calls to limit the sale of such games.

The lawsuit demands that Aomeisoft inform the Chinese public that "Warcraft: Orcs & Humans" is rated T for teen in the United States, meaning it may be suitable for children ages 13 and older.

Classification Systems
"Many foreign countries have established strict game classification systems to indicate which games are [appropriate] for which age groups. China should also establish such a system," Zhang Chunliang, an attorney agent for the case, was quoted as saying.

Xinhua cited a report on Internet addiction among Chinese youngsters, issued by the China Youth Association for Internet Development in November last year, that showed 13.2 percent of China's 16.5 million young netizens have contracted Internet addiction, and that more than 70 percent of juvenile crimes are induced by Internet addiction.

Zhang Chunliang, who is also a noted researcher of Internet addiction treatment, said parents of 64 children addicted to online games had entrusted him to sue relevant parties over the harm allegedly inflicted on their children.

"Just as power plants must take responsibility for discharging pollutants, game companies should take responsibility for the consequences of spiritual pollution caused by their products," he was quoted as saying.

The parents of Zhang Xiaoyi also brought an action against the developer of the game, Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Vivendi Games, but a Tianjin court refused to put the case on record.

Liz Woolley

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Re: Youth’s Death Linked to Game
Parents sue over WoW death
Posted 14:47 - 21 November 2005 - by Geoff Richards

Is World of Warcraft really as addictive as crack?
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.

Liz Woolley

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The Death of a Young Online

The Death of a Young Online Game Player
[in translation]

After playing 36 consecutive hours of online games, a 13-year-old boy jumped from the 24th floor of a building and committed suicide while assuming a standard sky-flying pose.

Almost a year later, the scholar Zhang Chunliang who researches Internet addiction was authorized by the dead boys' parents to file suit against the American manufacturer Blizzard Entertainment of the game 'Warcraft III.'

"This lawsuit is a hot potato, because I can't find a place to file the case," said Zhang Chunliang. From September 2005, the lawsuit request met multiple setbacks in Tianjin. After the Spring Festival, since the Chinese commercial representative for 'Warcraft III' was located in Beijing, Zhang Chunliang sent the complaint to the court in the Chaoyang district of Beijing city.

As of the deadline for this article, Zhang Chunliang is still waiting for a notice that the case has been accepted.

In June 2004, Zhang Chunliang began to research online games. "At the time, I was just collecting information and running data analyses." Then two personal experiences totally upset his plan.

In September that year, Zhang Chunliang witnessed a shocking scene at the Internet bar in his neighborhood: a boy was staring at the computer screen while screaming "Kill him!" Meanwhile, his mother had finally found him and she was kneeling on the ground, "Mom is begging you, please come to school, mom has been looking for you for one whole week ..."

The other scene was when the 13-year-old boy jumped from the 24th floor. On the morning of December 27, 2004, in the Yuehai Garden district of Tanggu District of the city of Tianjin, Zhang Xiaoyi played games non-stop for 36 hours and then he "flew" towards the ocean in the southeastern direction in search of his adored heroes: Lungdian, the Angel of Revenge and the Sentinel.

After visiting the home of Zhang Xiaoyi for thirteen times, Zhang Chunliang finally located the father Zhang Jianhua and his wife. "The mother seemed to be mentally confused. She keep saying to herself, 'The child is not dead. He has only gone to play games at the Internet bar. When he gets tired, he will return home.'"

The father Zhang Jianhua said that he tried to seek justice for his son at the Internet bar, the public security bureau, the school and the education department but everybody avoided him.

Even more unexpected was that many media concluded that the death of Zhang Xiaoyi was due to improper upbringing by his parents. The loss of their son had hurt them deeply and they had no strength left to defend themselves. So they had to leave home.

So who was responsible for the death of the child? Inspired by the American tobacco company compensation lawsuit, Zhang Chunliang thought about suing the American company Blizzard Entertainment which produced the game for compensation.

After being turned down twice by the Tianjin courts, on November 17 last year, Zhang Chunliang went again to the Number Two Intermediate Court in the city of Tianjin to submit a lawsuit. In front of the CCTV camera, a judge named Zhu accepted the document and promised to respond in a week.

When Zhang Chunliang called one week later, the judge impatiently said, "Not enough impact. Impossible to accept the case."

Zhang Chunliang said that he did not want to oppose the entire game industry and that was why he chose to sue a foreign game company. "While I don't want to hurt the Chinese online game manufacturers, I want to remind them not to evade their responsibility."

According to lawyer Li Gang for this case, "Based upon the violence and adult content, foreign countries classify the online games. Zhang Xiaoyi's 'Warcraft III' game was labeled as category 'T' in the United States, which means children under 13 were not allowed to play. But when the game is sold in China, there is no such packaging. Zhang Xiaoyi began playing since he was eleven years old. He committed suicide two years later."

Therefore, a demand in the lawsuit about Zhang Xiaoyi was: "In the product package, manual and within the game itself, the level of violence and bloodiness should be indicated; there should be warnings to the effect that 'excessive gaming may lead to addiction and ill-health'; there should be technical steps take to prevent addiction; and a total of 100,000 RMB is requested as compensation for the death of the victim."


On November 14, 2005, one day before Zhang Chunliang submitted the document to the court, 16-year-old Hu Bin of Lujiang county, Anhui province, swallowed the pesticide that he brought to the Internet bar and died two days later. Before committing suicide, he had played games for 11 days at the Internet bar.

On November 26, Zhang Chunliang went to the home of Hu Bin in Anhui. On the door to the home, Zhang Chunliang saw these words: "Even the gods cannot save me." This was the experience of Hu Bin before he died.

"As he was about to die, he said, 'Dad, the pesticide that I drank was toxic.' I said, 'Why did you drink it if it was toxic?' He said, 'I drank it because I want to make sure that you can't save me. I have played enough.'" His father said.

"He said, 'Mom, I cannot control myself. I only want to play. I cannot control my legs.' He said, 'I don't want you to get angry.'" His mother said.

On November 16, Hu Bin's life signs were getting weaker and weaker. He was fading in and out of consciousness.

"He said, 'There are demons coming. I have to kill them all." His father said.

His mother looked at him and he seemed to be asleep, But "his hand was still moving; it was the motion of game playing."
On November 27, Zhang Chunliang accepted the formal request by the parents of Hu Bin to sue the online game manufacturer. ...

Starting with Zhang Xiaoyi, Zhang Chunliang has now received the authorization of 26 families and he is supported by a team of more than a dozen lawyers. They have continued the lawsuits against various game manufacturers.

Among the 26 families, two children committed suicide, four children were suspected of deliberate murder or assault, but most were suffering from Internet-related problems. ...

The online gaming industry is the intersection of the areas of networking, computers, software, consumer spending and electronics. Online gaming affects telecommunications, information technology, media, publishing and so on. According to data, the direct income from online gaming is 1.93 billion RMB, the direct income generated from online gaming is 9.54 billion RMB to the telecommunications industry, 4.08 billion RMB to the IT industry and 2.74 billion RMB to the publishing/media industries.

According to data, the amount will grow to 5 billion in 2006.

Someone said, this business "requires the least investment." And yet "I can make a lot of money even while I am sleeping!"

Zhang Chunliang believed that while online gaming has generated huge wealth, it has also created 14.3 million online game players, including 2.6 million Internet-addicted youth.

Liz Woolley

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