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Suing Sony for Everquest Related Suicide? 967

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the everything-is-somebody-else's-fault dept.
daoine writes "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story about how Sony could be sued by the mother of an Everquest player who recently committed suicide. The lawsuit itself doesn't seem all that interesting (she's aiming for warning labels) -- but it is interesting that Sony won't release any of the game data citing privacy policy, even if it could help unlock what exactly drove the guy to end his life."
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Suing Sony for Everquest Related Suicide?

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  • The poor guy, three years to work his Rogue up to level 50 and then suddenly they nerf his Sneak skill! There outta be a law!
    • by TheDick (453572) <dick@askad i c k.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:26PM (#3270569) Homepage
      Has anyone looted his corpse yet? And, are we sure it was a suicide? Maybe he was on a PK server...

      Its possible.
  • by TheDick (453572)
    It will strongly discourage companies from making such highly engrossing games. I hope the Judge has the brains to throw this out immediately.
    • by jmccay (70985)
      I doubt they will win. The idea that this type of game is addictive is not new. Look at text based MUDs which have been around for a long time (even before Everquest). How many of us spent a few hours on a MUD during College (or even High School)? How many of us didn't know at least one person who was addicted to them? Did you just let your friend feed his addiction alone? I didn't,a nd my fiends didn't let me get that addicted. They incouraged me to do other things outside of the computer (of course the vast majority of my friend weren't computer geeks).
      If it wasn't Everquest, then something else would have bothered this person to the extent that he would kill himself. I am sorry, but this is not Everquest's fault! Even though the guy was 21, where was the mother during all this time he was playing? If she really cared, she would have been calling him, visiting him, and encouraging him to go outside, and at the bare minimum to get a life otuside of Everquest!!!
      Even worse, "he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures", and she didn't make moves to get him to stop? Granted he was 21, but shouldn't she had done something other than trying to instutionalize him? How much did she talk to him? Whatever happened to talking to people?

      Let's say she does get the information she is seeking about what drove the guy over the edge in the game (but I hope she doesn't), what will she do next? Will she sue the people involved for some type of criminal intent? I am sick and tried of stupid lawsuits.
  • Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wikki (13091) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:11PM (#3270427)
    If a video game caused you to end your life you have more serious problems that just being addicted to video games. This mother should be sued for not knowing enough about her kid. This is a great example of people trying to pass off blame on someone else. Give me a break, will this ever end?
    • Re:Give me a break (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kintanon (65528) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:27PM (#3270582) Homepage Journal
      No kidding. Not to mention, what kinda of warning label do you put on a game that has cartoonish violence with no blood, a language filter, so no bad language, no nudity, no anything. I can see it now:
      "This game may simulate social contact with other human beings, if you are in any way mentally unstable please do not engage in such social contacts as it my be hazardous to your mental health."
      Of course... then they would have to put one of those on LIFE...

      Kintanon
    • Re:Give me a break (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr_Perl (142164) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:31PM (#3270609) Homepage
      Yea, that was my initial reaction too.

      But as a guy who plays Everquest, and seen folks like this guy who play for 36 hours straight I think a warning label is not too much to ask for.

      Some people really do wreck their lives by playing too much everquest, same as they wreck their lives with drugs. Most play responsibly, but those who don't bring out stories like this.

      A warning on the box is a good idea IMO.
      • Re:Give me a break (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rde (17364)
        Supposing there was a warning label. What would it say? "Warning: this game is seriously addictive. We're not responsible if you die from playing too much"?
        I've seen plenty of warnings like that. I've also seen warnings on video boxes "This film contains hard-core pumping action. Don't watch if easily offended."

        Neither was a warning; both were marketing strategies. Both were seen as such by, oh, everyone. Any warning that didn't contain text like "seriously. someone died. Don't let it happen to you" is never going to be taken seriously.

        Understand, please, that I'm not against labels for such reasons. They're a terrible idea in more ways than one. But even if they weren't, they'd be impractical.
    • Re:Give me a break (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FortKnox (169099) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:31PM (#3270610) Homepage Journal
      If a video game caused you to end your life you have more serious problems that just being addicted to video games

      You have a point, but keep in mind how these games work.
      How do you get addicted to these games? The creatures? The plot? The gameplay?
      No.
      Its the community. If you are a social outcast, this game is your out. It is a place YOU are accepted.
      Think about it. Its hard to say something "wrong" because you type it, and get to think about it a little longer than talking.

      Mom sees this as her son being happy. He doesn't interact well in social situations, but at least the game helped him out in being happy.

      He kills himself.

      OK, now if your son died in a social event, you'd want to know why, correct?

      Well, to this kid, this was a social event. They should know why.

      And IMHO, this isn't "passing the blame." It isn't about "Video Game Addiction." Its about a social outcast that found someplace were he belonged, and something happened.
      This coulda happened to any kid, just normally its in a "real" social event, not a "virtual" social event.
  • sigh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:13PM (#3270437)
    i wonder how long it took to prepare that brief...

    Lawyer: Hey - does anyone have the old AD&D suicide brief? cool, thanks.

    s/AD&D/Everquest/
    s/TSR/Sony/

    there, done.
    • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @03:24PM (#3272042) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, the D & D suicide attacks are specious, and we know it. Lawyers fight for their clients, not for the truth.

      http://www.religioustolerance.org/d_a_d.htm [religioustolerance.org]

      • The claims by conservative Christian groups that gamers commit suicide or engage in criminal acts do not appear to hold water:
      • Michael Stackpole calculated expected suicide rates by gamers during the early years of Dungeons and Dragons. He used B.A.D.D.'s estimate of 4 million gamers worldwide. Assuming that fantasy role game playing had no effect on youth suicide rate, one would have expected about 500 gamers would have committed suicide each year. As of 1987, B.A.D.D. had documented an average of 7 per year. It would appear that playing D & D could be promoted as a public health measure, because it would seem to drastically lower the suicide rate among youth.

      Emphasis mine.

      A social game means you're dealing with people. Sometimes that means you despair over a bad relationship, but despairing over loneliness is a far greater risk.

  • Warning Label (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cosmol (143886) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:13PM (#3270440)
    I think the circlemud warning [circlemud.org] would be a good fit.
    If you're already an old hand at playing MUDs and you've decided you want to start one of your own, here's my advice: take a vailum, lie down, and hide in a dark closet until the desire goes away. Just playing MUDs is masochistic enough, isn't it? Or are you trying to shave that extra point off your GPA, jump down that one last notch on your next job evaluation, or get rid of that pesky Significant Other for good? If you think silly distractions like having friends and seeing daylight are preventing you from realizing your full potential in the MUD world, MUD Administrator is the job for you.

    Don't get me wrong: running a production MUD can be great fun. It can also be overburdened by politics and plagued by spiteful players devoted to making your life difficult, and otherwise be a highly frustrating endeavour. That's why I don't do it any more.

    • by archen (447353) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:27PM (#3270581)
      Warning Label Proposal A:

      "Don't play this game if you're crazy"

      Warning Proposal after the marketing guys see it:

      "This game is so cool, it just might kill you! You have been warned!"
  • by DohDamit (549317) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#3270446) Homepage Journal
    Shawn Woolley - who was overweight, worked in a pizza restaurant and lived alone in an apartment the last months of his life - may have depended on EverQuest to provide the life he really wanted to live.

    Couldn't have been that he was a schizoid depressive maniac who didn't have any friends. Must be the game.

    (Leaves comparisons to Black Sabbath and D&D to other posters....)
    • A warning label saying: "If you're suicidal now, you'll still be suicidal while you're playing this game." would've solved the problem, don't you see?

      You're just mad because you don't have any mentally ill relatives who are likely make you rich off of a rediculous^Wwell-justified lawsuit!

    • "We're trying to whack them with a verdict significantly large so that they, out of fiscal self-interest, will put warning labels on," he said. "We're trying to get them to act responsibly. They know this is an addictive game."

      For the love of Pete, people. Cigarettes are addictive because of nicotene, which is a chemical agent that acts on the brain. Warning labels go on cigarettes because the smoke causes long-term damage to one's lungs, and more. Lawsuits are being levied against the tobacco industry because they've been knowingly increasing the levels of nicotine in their products to increase addiction, marketing to children who may not be aware of the dangers of the product, and have for years denied any knowledge of the dangers their products cause.

      None of these arguments apply to video games.

      It's a virtual world, people. The problems here are as old as IRC, BBSes and even Ms. Pac-Man arcade machines. Heck, gamblers have for centuries had the same problems. If it's fun, people can and do get addicted. But that's not Sony's fault, nor is it (to be bluntly honest) their problem.

      Sony is NOT deliberately manipulating their games or online worlds to make people play longer. They are NOT adding subliminal messages saying "Play more EverQuest" or installing Trojan horses that log you on when you're trying to do productive work. They don't offer any incentive to play, other than virtual money and level powers. The fact that people sell high-powered characters on eBay for real money is something Sony has even tried to prevent in court themselves.

      They know the game is popular, but there is no way a sane person can argue they are KNOWINGLY addicting people to this thing.

      Elizabeth Woolley of Osceola: I hate to say it, but the game had nothing to do with your son's suicide. The suicide and his addiction to the game doubtless had the same cause -- "A psychologist diagnosed him with depression and schizoid personality disorder," according to the article -- but you cannot hold Sony responsible for keeping him from playing as often as he liked.

      The game is popular, it is fun, but it's not designed to be addictive any more than any other video, board, or card game. With all due respect to your tragedy, you're looking for blame in exactly the wrong place.
      • by RevAaron (125240) <revaaron@hot m a i l.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:05PM (#3270901) Homepage
        No incentive to play? The brains own chemicals, including a beautiful array of endorphins (home-grown morphine) and adrenaline, are a much stronger incentive and return than nicotine or virtual money.

        Many non-chemical things can be addictive. EQ is one of them. It gave this kid pleasures he couldn't get elsewhere, that he knew of at least. If not, why would he play it? Why would anyone?

        People are addicted to EQ. And TV. And food. And sex. And cannabis. The mechanism is pretty much the same, you don't need a chemical that is physically addictive like nicotine to have a psychological addiction to it. With physically addictive substances like nicotine, there is more interplay between the psychological and physical components, but it's very easy to become psychologically addicted to something that produces pleasure. Have a look at some B.F. Skinner papers, or talk to someone who actually studies science- any sane person could tell you that being addicted to a game is very possible, and this kid probably was addicted to it.

        However, unless Sony did something to trick him into playing it for that initial month (which I find almost impossible), they're not to blame. He is. It's his body, his mind, his life, and if he choose to try to live in the EQ world, that's his own deal. Wasn't harming anyone. If anything, the psychiatrist and mother would be partially to blame, for recognizing that this kid had a problem with the game, and many other psychological problems, and should've intervened. But it's too late for that.

        Sony isn't to blame, but cigarette companies aren't to blame when kids on their own decide to start smoking, provided a kid would do that in an environment without all the cig adverts. They'd still do it, some of them. And they'd still die of lung cancer. And they'd still uphold the American Way (tm) and try to blame someone else for their problems.

        This mother's action to sue Sony isn't about retribution, or even money so much. It's about her shifting the blame from herself to Sony. Internally, she knows she is partially to blame for her son's suicide. She doesn't admit it to others, but she feels it. She feels that if she "prove" that Sony is really to blame, that those feelings will stop plaguing her, and the blame will rest on Sony's shoulders, not her own.
  • by moominpapa (193163) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#3270449)
    From the article:

    A psychologist diagnosed him with depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings.

    Sounds like most Slashdot readers are in danger,
  • Oh Goodie! (Score:5, Funny)

    by thedbp (443047) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:15PM (#3270453)
    Now maybe video games will take the heat for teen suicide and Ozzy can get some rest.
  • you might as well kill yourself. Like my friend's roomate last year. He played Asheron's Call day and night. What kind of life is that? It's a waste of life if you ask me. Suicide isn't a good thing, and I'm really opposed to it, but at the same time who needs these people that play MMORPGs 24/7? No offense to the people who play them casually and not all the time, however few of you there are.
    • by HanzoSan (251665) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @03:07PM (#3271915) Homepage Journal


      I could easily say, going to work everyday and posting on slashdot is a waste of life, I could say the only way to enjoy life is to go to raves and parties every night.

      Who am I tell other people how to spend their lives?

      Its people like you, constantly telling this weak minded person that their lifes a waste, that most likely caused this guy to commit suicide in the first place.

      Imagine everyone telling you how you are wasting your life because you refuse to live like they do,
      lets see, doctors, teachers, people like you, your own mother, a weak minded person can easily be influenced by other people and might commit suicide.

      My advice to you, never tell anyone their life is a waste.
  • Two things... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cutriss (262920) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:15PM (#3270458) Homepage
    She is angry that Sony Online Entertainment, which owns EverQuest, won't give her the answers she desires.

    In other words, she'll appeal and appeal until Sony caves in and settles.

    "The manufacturer of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way that it is more intriguing to the addict,"

    Well, *duh*. Entertainment is supposed to be enjoyable...And *newsflash!* Enjoyable things are addictive! Like sports...taking walks...shopping...sex! If it wasn't, then we as humans wouldn't seek it out so often, and it wouldn't enrich our lives - We'd turn into very dull people.

    Not only that, but it's in Verant/Sony's financial interests to make the game enjoyable and addictive. Since it's on a subscription-based model, they need people to *want* to continue to play, so that THEY can to continue to make money.

    *FWAP* - The sound of 1,000,000 Slashdot readers simultaneously slapping their foreheads in disgust...
    • Re:Two things... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION (553878) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:47PM (#3270742)
      The real story IMHO isn't how sensible or ridiculous this lawsuit is.

      The real story is only partly that some kid loved an online virtual world so much that he no longer wanted to experience the real world.

      The REAL STORY that I see here is that the particular online virtual world this kid got lost in was EVERQUEST! I mean, I'm not trying to say it's a bad game--it sounds like a lot of fun. But all it's just chatting with your friends while you kill monsters repetitively for hours on end with crappy graphics. Granted, there isn't too much better competition right now...that's why I don't knock anyone who plays it.

      What frightens me is that these online worlds are only going to become vastly more compelling, interesting, and addictive in the future. The Sims Online and A Tale in the Desert come to mind in the short term. Decades from now, the Real World is going to be a really sad, boring, complicated in all the wrong ways place compared to the virtual world.

      Which means that more and more people are going to cut themselves off from the real world. At least until they run out paychecks or something. Then they'll kill themselves for being trapped in horrible, horrible reality.

      Then again, maybe in the future you can just get a software development job in virtual reality ... maybe if interactive worlds aren't as simple and repetitive as everquest and it's kind are, people like this Shawn kid will actually become MORE healthy and mature, rather than more socially fearful and inept and depressed.

  • Jebus, if he had that big a problem, and it was ruining his life, couldn't his mother have intervened and uninstalled the damned thing? Or maybe take the computer away? So the guy was 21 and living in his own apartment... he wasn't exactly making the big money, so it's likely he wouldn't be able to afford a new computer... And by the looks of it, he wasn't too much brighter than his mother...
  • Seizures? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Corby911 (250281)

    "Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn't supposed to because he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures," she said. "Probably the last eight times he had seizures were because of stints on the computer."

    OK, her son got seizures from the game and she's suing to have warning labels on the game because her son killed himself? His suicide was probably seizure related. (IANAD, so that may not be possible)

    Oh, and good for Sony for standing behind their privacy policy.
  • Big choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sketerpot (454020)
    This presents a big choice: should the company release information, violating their privacy policy and losing their customers's trust and setting a bad precedent, or should they refuse, thereby making it harder to figure out why this guy died? I choose the latter option.

    Obviously this guy wasn't a normal Everquest player, and there should be a lot of evidence for why he suicided sitting around in the ordinary world. I don't see any need to violate a privacy policy, which IMO should be inviolate.

  • Wouldn't Everquest qualify as a symptom of the illness, and not the underlying cause?

    I mean, geez, have you seen an Everquest player around your local dorm/apartment lately? Some of those mofos are pretty scary.
  • by jeffy124 (453342) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:17PM (#3270475) Homepage Journal
    the kid was 21 years old, an eppileptic, and clinically depressed, along with a few other psyhological disorders. IANA[insert profession here], but to me it's clear that the game was part of the problem as he was playing 12 hours/day, and once thought the characters were chasing him, but mom and the psychologist continued to let him play it. Sony's lawyers will also be quick to point out the Columbine case.
    • by Fizzlewhiff (256410) <jeffshannon@hotmail. c o m> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:13PM (#3270976) Homepage
      the kid was 21 years old, an eppileptic, and clinically depressed, along with a few other psyhological disorders. IANA[insert profession here], but to me it's clear that the game was part of the problem as he was playing 12 hours/day, and once thought the characters were chasing him, but mom and the psychologist continued to let him play it. Sony's lawyers will also be quick to point out the Columbine case.

      Well you must have read at least part of the article to get some of these facts. Unfortunatly you got it pretty mixed up and are talking about cases involving several different players instead of the one in question.

      The mother wants some information regarding her sons suicide. Had the guy gone to a night club and come home and killed himself then the mother could go to the night club and try to find people he was with to try to find out why he did it. In this case she can't talk to anyone because Sony is being very uncooperative. Her only recourse is to sue Sony which will do several things. Directly it might get them to put some warning labels on the box and it will get some publicity. Indirectly, the news of the lawsuit may reach guildmates or acquaintences of the deceased in game who may choose for themselves to contact the mother and offer her some condolences so she can get the closure she needs.

      Sony is more than capable of putting out a message of the day, MOTD, to notify friends of this player to visit a site where they can choose for themselves if they want to talk to this guys mother. Instead Sony always blurts out this boilerplate response about privacy of its players and that is the end of the matter to them. They clearly have a responsibility here, in this case a moral one, to offer some form of condolence to this guys mother. They can at least let people in game know about the death and let the players choose if they want to do the write thing.

      When I played I had a guildmate get severly injured in a car accident. He was in a coma and almost died. It was months before we all found out about it and when we did we all sent messages to our fallen friend. Someone in the guild went as far as hand delivering screenshots and get well postings to him in the hospital which he appreciated very much. The point is, there are some people who play the game who do care. If this guy had friends in the game they might know of some of the problems he was having and that could help his mother recover from her loss.

      I think in the end the mother will hear what she needs to but not with Sony's help. The publicity and will prompt a few players will come through to help her.
      • Sony would have to be completely out of their minds to give her the information she's requesting.

        If they do, she'll find some online slight that TECHNICALLY could have been prevented (if Sony had assigned an administrator to watch over this kid 24/7 and intervene), and use that as the basis of another lawsuit against Sony for "not preventing my son's death".

        Hopefully she'll advance in her grief to the point where she can give her lawyer an embarrassed phone call and put a stop to this lashing out.

        For now, though, she's in denial over the fact that if her kid was screwed up psychologically enough to off himself, the odds are it had less to do with the game company with which he spent 1/2 his time for the last couple of years, and more to do with the parents with whom he spent 2/3 of his time for his entire life...
      • And what, REALLY, can Sony do to provide this? Are they going to be able to tell her who told him what when? Prolly not. If she wants his friends list, then its stored on the local hard drive, *NOT ON THE SERVER*. And no, if he did as you said, and went to a nightclub, she would have NO legal right to go question these people. The police could.

        In reality, she simply wants to desperatly blame something else, ANYTHING else, on why his life played out the way it did.

        Besides, think about it really hard. She hasnt filed any sort of legal documents requesting this information. Would you be very comfortable if I could call Sony, tell them you died, and have them fork over all sorts of personal information?

        If she is doing what she claims, then she's going about it the wrong way..
  • Obviously this guy had some issues, which probably just compounded by him taking EQ to seriously (You mean you are a man instead of a hot female elf!?)

    Seriously, his mother really has no merit on trying to blame a game on someones own mental problems and suicide. If she cared that much, the she should have seen that he had problems already and tried to get him help.

    This is like people sueing McDonalds because the coffee is hot...
  • it amazes me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fabiolrs (536338)
    It amazes me how people are stupid enough to believe these games would drive someone crazy enough in order to make him suicide! Thats bullshit! Ive played GTA, Carmaggedon, Duke Nuken 3D and many other games even worse and I never killed anyone, never drive into anything, never killed myself (duh, obviously)...

    Tell this idiot mother to look for other problems her son might had instead of trying to get some money from Sony!
  • That was a local story, and I didn't even know it.

    Maybe it's a sign that I should get out more..

    Nah, I'm not overweight, I have 3 kids, so the sex drive is ok.. I have a nice house at the base of a mountain, 4 horses, a miner who's up to level 50 now..

  • If the person ignores family/friends/all responsibilites and quits his job... the person is supposed to take a warning label to heart?

    Besides.. the dude probably got Britished [oldmanmurray.com]

  • by Silver222 (452093)
    Your kid was 21 fucking years old! If that's not old enough for him to be responsible for his actions, you should have had him in a home. I'm sorry for your loss, but you are making yourself look like an ass by suing Sony.
  • I think that it's easily shown that addiction is not necessarily limited to a certain type of thing to which one can be addicted. It's more about one's personality.

    Sure, there are things like narcotics that form physical dependancies, but by FAR the majority of addictions are psychological. ANYTHING can become addictive if the right person is exposed to it. Are we going to put warning labels on carrots? on AOL CDs? (I know there's some nutjob out there that collects them) Where does it end?

    Labels on products aren't going to help if the public isn't educated on the issues of addition in general.
  • by Lendrick (314723) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:22PM (#3270522) Homepage Journal
    but it is interesting that Sony won't release any of the game data citing privacy policy, even if it could help unlock what exactly drove the guy to end his life

    Sony (rightly) believes that giving this case the time of day is in a way admitting possibility of fault. The simple fact is that people commit suicide over a lot of things. If someone reads a book and it depresses them to the point that they kill themselves, it's not the fault of the author. Likewise, while it's very sad that this person killed himself, it's in absolutely no way Sony's fault.

    Sony (again, rightly) believes that their game data is irrelevant to the case. What would be a lot more telling is an analysis of any possible psychological problems the boy had that led to his suicide.

    Lendrick
  • by Ami Ganguli (921) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:23PM (#3270535) Homepage

    ... it's compulsive behavior. Almost anything can be compulsive. Picking your nose, eating your hair, sucking your thumb, washing your hands fifty times a day, sex - they can all be compulsive, but they're not addictive.

    To compare video games to things that are really addictive like smoking or crack is silly. Worse than that, it gives you an excuse not to deal with your compulsion properly. It's way to easy to say "oh, I can't quit - I'm addicted". Nonsense. Go on vacation somewhere where you have better things to do than EverQuest and you'll find your "addiction" wasn't nearly as strong as you'd thought.

    As for this poor guy who committed suicide, that's sad. But he obviously had deeper problems. If EverQuest hadn't existed he would have latched on to some other way of escaping from his real life.

  • People sued bands for making songs that their kids listen to and commit suicide.

    People sued authors for making stores that their kids read and commited suicide.

    The key I believe is that there is no link between listening to the band and the mental state of a suicidal person. Same thing with books and people. Same thing with EQ and this player. I believe it is as simple as that. If it wasn't EQ it would have been something else. But I guess the short sighted solution would be to sue them instead.

    Instead of looking for why EQ set this person on the path of self destruction the parents may want to look at why they didn't see it coming. I am under the impression suicidal behavior has many indicators that shouldn't be ignored. So why didn't they recognize something is wrong? Sure they may have not been licensed or studied anything about sucide but ignoring abnormal and extremely weird behavior is irresponsible.

    And, here is the kicker folks, not the band, the author's, or EQ's fault.
  • by tomdarch (225937) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:28PM (#3270588)

    even if it could help unlock what exactly drove the guy to end his life.

    I Am Not A Psychiatrist, but....

    Overwhelmingly suicide is the result of mental illness and/or substance use. (More than half of all suicides in the US are alchohol related). Think about it, if a guy has a heart attack while shovling snow off the driveway, learning more about the snow crystals doesn't tell you about his heart attack. He had heart disease, and the exertion of shoveling caused one of several bad things to happen inside is heart. Mental illness is a disease state - suicidiality is a symptom of the disease.

    One might want engage in a bunch of Freudian analysis of this guy's game play, but, odds are, the levels of seritonin activity in his brain were out of whack. Did Everquest create stress in this guy's life that incresed the intensity of his suicidiality? (this would be the 'shoveling' int the heart attack metaphor) - maybe. But real life is generally a hell of a lot more stressful.

  • by Myriad (89793) <myriad@@@thebsod...com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:29PM (#3270597) Homepage
    I don't mean to cast any bad light on the individual who committed suicide - that is an incredibly tragic thing for anyone to do.

    However, I do have a problem with this blaming of Everquest! It's not a games fault someone does this... if a game can push someone over the edge, then that person was already severely unbalanced and the trigger could have been anything. In this case it appears to have been the game...

    I have more issues with the parent who waited until after he died to get involved:

    He sacrificed everything so he could play for hours, ignoring his family, quitting his job and losing himself in a 3-D virtual world where more than 400,000 people worldwide adventure in a never-ending fantasy.

    Should this kind of behavior not be setting off all sorts of alarm bells here? Why did it take his suicide to provoke a reaction?

    "Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn't supposed to because he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures," she said. "Probably the last eight times he had seizures were because of stints on the computer."

    Woolley knows her son had problems beyond EverQuest, and she tried to get him help by contacting a mental health program and trying to get him to live in a group home. A psychologist diagnosed him with depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings.

    I hate to say it, but this sounds like it's largely the parents fault. It doesn't sound like they did enough to prevent him playing and get him better integrated.* Why was that computer even available? If he's having seizures from playing that machine should not even be available to play on!

    * - I say sounds like it. I could be wrong... a parent cannot always prevent such actions of their children. The best they can do is try.

  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:29PM (#3270600) Homepage
    "The manufacturer of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way that it is more intriguing to the addict," Parker said. "It could be created in a less addictive way, but (that) would be the difference between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine."

    In a related story, area cocaine and crack dealers are now affixing their product with warning labels to avoid similar lawsuits.

    But seriously, has it gotten so bad that companies have to warn consumers that their product is of too high quality?

  • by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:30PM (#3270605)
    Books make people do bad things too.

    I once read that book "The Diceman" and then did something bad, which resulted in one of my friends not speaking to me anymore. That was definately the books fault.

    And didn't the guy who shot JFK read "Catcher in the Rye?". So that was the fault of a book too. And those insane terrorists were influenced by the Koran, weren't they? So books cause terrorism.

    So, definately a warning label is required on books. "Warning: Reading books might make you do bad things". Something like that.
  • by reimero (194707) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:31PM (#3270607)

    Years ago, it was Rock 'n' Roll. Then it was Dungeons and Dragons (anyone remember the Tom Hanks movie Mazes and Monsters?) Now it's computer games. The simple fact of the matter is that certain forms of entertainment tend to appeal to certain types of people, and that for some people, it goes from entertainment to escapism to all-out addiction. Does that make gaming inherently evil? No. Does it make game manufacturers responsible for creating an environment in which people can immerse themselves?


    That seems to be the point here. I would argue that Sony is no more at fault than NASCAR is for unsafe teenage driving. The vast majority of people out there can distinguish between fantasy and reality. Those who cannot have serious mental problems and require serious care and support. Unfortunately, in the United States the infrastructure for dealing with mental health issues varies greatly from state to state, and a lot of places are not equipped to handle people with social and behavioral disorders. Sony is no more at fault for creating an online multiplayer universe than Ford is for building a car that can go fast. Unfortunately, Sony is an easy target here. The real solution, however, is not to go after symptom, but rather the actual disease. I feel confident in saying that if not Everquest, something else would have taken its place. The only real solution is proper identification and treatment of social disorders, an area still vastly underdeveloped and carrying too much of a stigma to be effective.

    • by neo (4625) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:03PM (#3270870)
      Years ago, it was Rock 'n' Roll. Then it was Dungeons and Dragons (anyone remember the Tom Hanks movie Mazes and Monsters?) Now it's computer games. The simple fact of the matter is that certain forms of entertainment tend to appeal to certain types of people, and that for some people...

      Statistical analysis of this have always shown that people who play D&D are less likely to commit suicide than the average public.

      The only reason these types of games get associated is because the public image of the players has consistently been that of the outsider/geeky/skinny runt. The facts are actually quite different. You can find the results on Wizards of the Coast. I play D&D and I'm 33 years old with a wife. I enjoy playing for the same reason people like to play poker. I get a chance to be with my friends on a regular basis.

      My point is, don't believe the hype.
    • by tshak (173364) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:59PM (#3271375) Homepage
      I would argue that Sony is no more at fault than NASCAR is for unsafe teenage driving.

      These are completely different cases. NASCAR is most definitely liable because:

      A) They teach poor driving habit's by only turning the stearing wheel in one direction. All of the sudden, the teen has to make a right turn and he's very confused.
      B) They encourage "sleeping at the wheel" via bordem by driving around in circles for hours on end.
      C) They are encouraged by their sponsors to "crash" to make driving more exciting to watch, and to help offset the affects of B.
  • by TomatoMan (93630) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:32PM (#3270617) Homepage Journal
    at least as far as the witholding of information goes. My father committed suicide 11 years ago, and one of the last things he did was get sent to a detox center to "dry out". It didn't work, and we wanted to get his medical records and other information about him from the center so we could piece together, as best we could, what the path was that he was on.

    The center was having none of it, politely and compassionately but firmly refusing to release any of his information. This is primarily because they don't want to expose themselves to lawsuits, which can be tremendous, if there's any shred of a sign that something could have been done - which, with 20/20 hindsight, there always is.

    If our society was less litigous, things like this might be more likely, but despite the fact that we weren't looking for anyone to blame, just for understanding, and even offered to sign a promise not to sue under any circumstances, they still had to say no. My lawyer told me I can't sign away my right to sue in any legally binding fashion, even of my own free will.

    It's not their fault, and I don't blame them, but there's a hole in the picture we have of his last weeks that will never be filled in. The information is out there, but we're not allowed to get it under any circumstances or at any point. The fact that the family of the victim, whose interest in that kind of information is primal, primary and undeniable, is the ONE group of people who can't get it is just a testament to how whacked we all are.

    Of course, the system is that way because so many of us feel that there must be a REASON why someone commits suicide that could be traced to something blameable outside of them. There's a real risk that I could try to sue the detox center, the school where he taught, the whiskey manufacturers, the gun manufacturers, the gas station where he filled up the night before... it's just absurd. My father killed himself because he was depressed, and his alcoholism didn't help. He wasn't victimized by anybody in ways that could be reined in by legislation - and TEEN suicide is tragic and widespread, and happens for reasons we often can't begin to fathom.

    Suing a game company because a suicide victim played the game before killing himself is just as absurd as anything I might have tried to do. He didn't kill himself because he played a game. However, the game company SHOULD be able to release the information to the victim's family without fearing being blamed or sued into nothingness; plenty of people play that game without killing or harming themselves or others. Unfortunatly, the state of our hyper-litigous society means lots of good people are kept in the dark about things like this by simple financial necessity, because we all look for other people to blame/sue for our misfortunes. It's madness.
    • by Some guy named Chris (9720) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:07PM (#3270914) Journal

      First, let me say I feel for you, and your loss. I'm not trying to minimize it, I just don't understand something. Maybe you can help me.

      What good does knowing "the path was that he was on" do? The person is dead; it's tragic. I understand grasping for answers, for a reason why your loved one did this, but how can we make sense out of a senseless act?

      My father was mentally ill (paranoid schizophrenia), and when he died 4 months ago, I inherited his laptop computer. In an attempt to understand him, I started looking though his files, hoping to find something, anything, that would explain why he was the way he was.

      Sadly, there wasn't anything. What I found was the disturbed dillusions and imagined conspiracies of a sick man. He was mentally ill, and as seen from inside, his world was distorted and twisted. There was no peace to be found, no epiphany of understanding his essential nature. Just more sadness at how his disease robbed him of his life.

      I imagine it's similar for you, and for the parents of this Everquest player. You're grasping for a reason why, but there is no rational reason why someone kills themself due to depression or mental illness. Delving too deeply in that muck just brings more pain.

      • by TomatoMan (93630) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:44PM (#3271243) Homepage Journal
        What good does knowing "the path was that he was on" do? The person is dead; it's tragic. I understand grasping for answers, for a reason why your loved one did this, but how can we make sense out of a senseless act?

        I'm not sure it does a lot of good in the end; I think it's just a human reflex, to some degree, to look for answers in the face of something senseless. I'd say that even in the probably very rare case where there actually might be an "answer", a specific thing that can be pointed to as a "cause", it still doesn't do you much good; it certainly won't bring them back.

        The question I had specifically about my father was related to his medical condition in the months before he did it; if it turned out he had advanced liver disease and a bad prognosis, maybe that would be a small comfort of sorts - it might mean he did it partly because he thought he was going to die anyway, and maybe he wasn't suffering mentally quite as much as I imagined in the time leading up to it. But, of course, it doesn't change anything, and if that was part of his thinking, he at least could have left a note or something.

        It's all very yucky, certainly. Maybe my inability to get that information is just keeping me from pointlessly banging my head against the wall; maybe there are good reasons for keeping that information private. I suppose if you clear those barriers, you'll just run into different ones a little farther down the road as you try to understand something that ultimately can't be understood. The big lesson of suicide (for me anyway) seems to be that it's the ultimate selfish act, and the survivors just don't get to know the whats and whys most of the time because it's not about them.
  • Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:33PM (#3270633)
    There's a few things going on here.


    First is the usual "we can't understand the gamer" / "games kill" stance. This isn't anything new to the Slashdot crowd, I'm sure. Heck - I've been in the middle of a lot of these things through my entire life (D&D, Arcade games, FPS Shooters, MUDs, Paintball, etc). So yea. Shake your head at in awe. Collectively yawn. Nothing new here.


    Where it becomes interesting is that this is NOT a kid. This was a 21-year old adult. Living on his own. He had been diagnosed with several conditions (eplileptic, depression, schizoid personality disorder) but it doesn't appear that he was a ward of his parents or anyone else. He was his own person. His own responsibility.


    Sony is right in refusing to release information on his account. This information belonged to the player alone. Unless there is a legal reason to do otherwise (ie: police investigation with appropriate warrent), Sony would be breaching their customers privacy by releasing any details.

  • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:42PM (#3270705) Homepage
    Everquest boasts a user population of over 300,000.
    The national rate for suicide is 1 in 10,000.
    If only one person committed suicide after playing Everquest,
    then Everquest players are 97% less likely to commit suicide.
    I'd guess there are 30 suicides among Everquest players each year,
    but the families don't think of blaming Sony for them.

    -- this is not a .sig

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:45PM (#3270729) Homepage Journal

    ...for a while, anyway.

    I mean, this guy was an epileptic, schizoid, overweight, sex-deprived (what the hell is 'sexual anorexia' anyway?) manic-depressive who worked at a pizza place. His life really sucked. Who can blame him for wanting to escape into a world where he's fit, good-looking, powerful and respected? And who knows, maybe playing EQ was the only thing that kept this guy interested in living as long as he did?

    He obviously needed help, and it's very sad that it ended this way. Apparently there weren't any people around who were willing to take enough of an interest to get him the help he needed, but why blame the game?

    The obvious answer is that his mom knows that she should have helped him, and didn't, but doesn't want to accept it so she'd rather blame the faceless corporation that may, arguably, have brought this guy what little joy he had.

    • by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:14PM (#3270988)
      what the hell is 'sexual anorexia' anyway?

      A really, really thin penis, perhaps?
    • IANAP (I am not a psychologist), but I have two points based on what I've learned in psych classes in college:

      First, I don't see mention of this guy being manic depressive. Depression is diagnosed in people who have Major Depressive Episodes, while Manic Depression is diagnosed in people who have MDEs in addition to Manic Episodes. The combination of depressive and manic episodes is usually worse than just depressive episodes.

      Second, 'schizoid' is a vague term. It suggests schizophrenia, which is absolutely debilitating. A person with schizophrenia doesn't just get addicted to Everquest, he has hallucinations that make him think he IS in Everquest.

      What he did have was Schizoid Personality Disorder (or rather, that's what he was diagnosed with; personality disorders are notorious for their poor accuracy in diagnosis). It's important to note how serious this disorder is, since most people have never heard of it. Diagnosis requires four of the following:
      • Wishes not to have or to enjoy close relationships, family included.
      • Almost always chooses solitary activities.
      • Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person.
      • Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities.
      • Has few if any close friends, other than first-degree relatives.
      • Is indifferent to criticism or praise.
      • Displays flattened affect, emotional coldness, or detachment.

      AFAIK, personality disorders are thought to be born-in. After reading this, it should be pretty obvious that Everquest was certainly NOT the CAUSE of death here. He had plenty of other problems to worry about. The mother might argue that Everquest made his problems WORSE, but I don't know why Everquest would be any more likely to cause a person to commit suicide than, say, reading or chatting on the internet. You can 'addict' yourself to just about anything, from watching TV to playing golf to reading. Almost any commercial activity that you could get addicted to tries to draw people back for more -- I don't see why, for example, American Airlines should have a sticker next to its frequent flyer program warning about possible addiction simply because the program tempts people to keep flying with American.
  • by Ellen Ripley (221395) <ellen@britomartis.net> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:46PM (#3270730) Journal
    She is angry that Sony Online Entertainment, which owns EverQuest, won't give her the answers she desires. She has hired an attorney who plans to sue the company in an effort to get warning labels put on the games.
    Oh, look, she *does* care! A lawsuit will give her the "answers she desires" so much more quickly than creating an account, logging in and asking around. She certainly wouldn't want to ask for help in rec.games.computer.everquest, or do a google search for player registries.
    Someone who lacks social skills, they could find it much easier just to play the game instead of going out to a bar."
    I don't know whether to find this scary or just ironic. Bars stink of tobacco and booze breath, and their purpose is to serve people an intensely addictive substance. This is better than EverQuest just exactly how?

    I'd say that I miss objective journalism, but I've become cynical: I no longer believe there ever was any.

    Ellen
  • by Fizzlewhiff (256410) <jeffshannon@hotmail. c o m> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @12:46PM (#3270737) Homepage
    A Shaman named Rathgar once told me, "There's three kinds of people who play this game, elves, non elves, and me." Looking back I think there are only two kinds of people who play. Normal people and abnormal people.

    I personally witnessed the self destruction of more than one person while playing the game and I saw many people put trust in people who they didn't know only to lose all of their in game posessions. For those people who would spend 12 hours a day for more than a year in game only to lose it all because they thought they had a friend it is very devistating. No more different than giving someone you meet in real life the key to your apartment only to come home one day and find all your stuff gone, save a few pennies scattered on the rug.

    Everquest is addicting and there is a point where you realize, at least there was for me, that you've spent nnn hours in game and have yyyy treasure. You can quit now and lose it which makes you realize that the nnn hours were all pretty much a waste or you can keep playing until you find something better to do with your time that will make you forget about the waste of nnn hours and the loss of yyyy treasure. Some people quit and come back to the game several times before quitting for good. Others will do something to get banned from the game to ensure that they will be quitting for good. I think this is where you see people getting ripped off by so called friends because the people who do this are caught and they do get banned.

    I think Everquest can be a very dangerous game for some people. It is only a game but it has people interacting and bad people do play it. I definatly wouldn't let a child play it and would advise against a mentally ill person playing it as there seem to be enough of those playing already. On the other hand, I have heard great things about how some people with physical handicaps have used the game to give them a life they couldn't normally have.
  • I knew Shawn... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ixel (570646) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:00PM (#3270842)
    I graduated high school with Shawn from Osceola in 1998. He seemed like any other geek/nerd, myself included. I don't think anyone I went to school with, especially in such a small town, knew that Shawn had any of his diagnosed problems. From what I understand, most teenagers suffer depression, and many have internet addictions. I feel that if Shawn's mother knew of his many problems, and is atiment enough to sue over his game-related suicide, she should face herself for not having done more to prevent it. Quoted from the article, "Woolley knows her son had problems beyond EverQuest, and she tried to get him help by contacting a mental health program and trying to get him to live in a group home." There are things called interventions. I think that most people understand that a game is a game, including Shawn. If his mother knew it caused seizers in him, maybe she should've removed him from the situation, being it's such a huge issue to her now. I guess the big thing here is prevention. Shawn was diagnosed with unstable clinical problems, not due to a computer game. The internet is a place for geeks alike to feel welcome and accepted. I've expericed the same. Perhaps Everquest was the only escape and joy Shawn had from his problemed life.
  • Someone should tip off the police and tell them to investigate his song collection. There is a song called "Suicide Solution" by a devil worshiper known to his followers as "Ozzy." Here are the lyrics, do not sing them out loud! It has been proven that singing these lyrics aloud will induce a trancelike state which causes the singer to kill himself immediately upon finishing the last verse.

    Wine is fine, but whiskey's quicker Suicide is slow with liquer Take a bottle, drown your sorrows Then it floods away tommorows Away tommorows

    Evil thoughts and evil doings Cold, alone you hang in ruins Thought that you'd escape the reaper You can't escape the master keeper

    'Cos you feel life's unreal, and you're living a lie Such a shame, who's to blame, and you're wondering why Then you ask from your cask, is there life after birth What you saw can mean hell on this earth Hell on this earth

    Now you live inside a bottle The reaper's travelling at full throttle It's catching you, but you don't see The reaper's you, and the reaper is me

    Breaking laws, knocking doors But there's no one at home Made your bed, rest your head But you lie there and moan Where to hide, suicide is the only way out Don't you know what it's really about

    Wine is fine, but whiskey's quicker Suicide is slow with liquer Take a bottle, drown your sorrows Then it floods away tomorrows

  • I sympathise, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dswan69 (317119) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:09PM (#3270933)
    Mothers overreact; we all want someone to blame when somebody dies; when a friend or worse a child kills themselves we're prone to blame ourselves.

    On the matter of not divulging his private data I fully agree with Sony - I wouldn't want my mother poking around in my private stuff, even if I am dead - frankly it would be for her own good.

    Online interactive games are very addictive, but there is no special design involved really, they're compelling in themselves. Single player games are too. How about this, when I get into a good book I let everything else slide.

    Addiction - you die, quit or go insane. Really? Not true, certainly not when it comes to a physical addiction. Even psychological addiction, there are degrees, it is never all or nothing. And unfortunately the small minority go off the deep end one way or another; we can never save them, although it is always worth trying.

    I have a problem with considering interacting over a network to be non-social. Funny how hardly anyone makes that claim about the telephone, but I recall such gripes arose when it was the new thing. You know many people suffer a great deal in direct face to face socialising, many even when using the telephone, and before the internet they would not interact with other people at all - if you haven't been there you cannot comment on what it is like. Socialising via a safer medium is far better than no socialising at all, but typically psychologists and social workers have a narrow view of the world, what is right, what is not, what is normal and what is abnormal. Most often they have no concept of their patient's world because they have never been there.

    And frankly I've yet to meet a drug counsellor who was qualified to comment on anything. I'm still waiting for the day when I meet one who actually has the remotest clue about addiction.
  • Why I do not play... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Capt_Troy (60831) <tfandangoNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:11PM (#3270960) Homepage Journal
    I'd love to play this game, but I have never done so for two reasons...

    1. I realize that the real world is more importiant than a make believe virtual world. Placing more importiance in the latter will lead to destructive results in the previous, like ignoring your family, playing instead of working, not to mention poor personal hygiene. Eventually, you will have to deal with it.

    2. Having a good character means having to compete with the other players in game, so that means you have to be a fanatic to have a comparable character with 80% of the other players. Then we're back at the problems induced by #1.

    However, I do not attribute this to the makers of the game at all, they made the best game they could and it worked! If the player cannot control himself and play the game in moderation, then he is at fault. This lady seems to think they could have made the game less addictive, well, doesn't that imply that the game would not be as fun? Like I said, it's hard to play the game in moderation though, sort of a paradox.

    Of course, I could be worng, since I've never played. But I know people who do and they spend way more time than I ever could. So I assume I could never have as good of a character.

    T
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:33PM (#3271135) Homepage
    • Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services [says] "The manufacturer of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way that it is more intriguing to the addict," Parker said. "It could be created in a less addictive way, but (that) would be the difference between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine." One client - a 21-year-old college student - stopped going to class within eight weeks after he started playing EverQuest his senior year. After playing the game for 36 hours straight, he had a psychotic break because of sleep deprivation, Parker said. "He thought the characters had come out of the game and were chasing him," Parker said. "He was running through his neighborhood having hallucinations. I can't think of a drug he could have taken where he would have disintegrated in 15 weeks."

    Then Jay is a pretty ignorant chemical dependency councellor, because you can fuck yourself up in a lot fewer than 15 weeks by binge abuse of anything. The Government [ussc.gov] actually says that cocaine isn't actually that big a deal. The problem - as with any addiction - is binge abuse and the associated screwing up of your life and that of those around you. Yes kids, doing anything for 36 hours straight can fuck you up. Cocaine, alcohol, EverQuest, hacking, screwing, car mechanics, drinking water, praying.

    At some point we have got to stop making arbitrary decisions to slap "good" and "bad" labels on various substances and activities. Because - with a few noticable exceptions - the problem is generally the abusive behaviour and not the substance or activity being abused.

    OK, let's look at the cocaine analogy, because it keeps getting raked up. Cocaine (a non physiologically addicting substance, as used by the President of the United States) was used widely and legally for fifty years by perfectly ordinary average people, until a series of frenzied newspaper stories in the 1910's stirred up an irrational campaign to have it banned because of all the "Negro Cocaine Fiends" [neoteric.nu] running around raping white women (the police also increased the standard caliber of their guns from .32 to .38 because "The cocaine nigger sure is hard to kill," if you want to know where that scene in Alien Nation [imdb.com] came from). This, of course, does not form part of standard drug education in schools, because drugs are bad, and we can't give any context that might dilute that message, like "Drugs are bad (when abused by people with abusive personalities)".

    Similarly, there is a very real danger of games going the same way. It only takes a few genuine and tragic reports of binge abuse to trigger a frenzy of supposition and speculation that leads to knee jerk legislation that will never, ever be taken off the books, because black markets and Wars on Whatever are great for incumbent governments looking for a long term unwinnable but popular crusade. Remember, circa 1900, the vast majority of the population enjoyed cocaine, in small, dilute quantities, just as now, the vast majority of the population enjoys playing games, computer or otherwise, with no ill effects. If we don't learn the lessons of the past, then in eighty years, we might be in a world where Disney games are the only legal ones and people gather in dirty back rooms to share virus ridden copies of Quake 13 in huge debilitating weekend binges. It's unthinkable? Ask anyone from 1900 about the possibility of cocaine being viewed as more dangerous than a rabid pit bull with a flick-knife, and they'd laugh in your face.

    Let's have some consistency. If EverQuest really is dangerous when abused in binges by sad, desperate people with no life or hope, then let's ban it outright, because god knows that's worked in the War on Drugs, right? If not, legalise cocaine and put a warning on it to only buy approved, over the counter non-cut (virussed) versions, and not to binge abuse it, especially if you have a medical condition that makes you very succeptible (like epilepsy or schizophrenia with games).

    And while we're at it, if I go on a 36 hour prayer binge and start having hallucinations, do we put a warning label on rosary beads? If not, why not? Because paranoid solipsistic visions are "good" when they feature commands from Baby Jesus, whereas the same messages coming from EverQuest Eric are "bad"? Hmmm.

  • by icey5000 (461582) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:39PM (#3271196) Homepage

    I've seen this elsewhere today, but it cannot be overstated...



    Everquest uses a randomized rewards system, meaning that you do not consistently get responses for repeating the same behaviour. If you kill a monster you may get experience, but not always. This is intermittant reinforcement which is a highly effective method of conditioning behavior. And, like advertising*, it works works very well whether you believe it is affecting you or not. Just repeat, over and over, stimulus-response, stimulus-response... there is a reason for the nickname Evercrack!



    * If you don't believe that you are affected by advertising, spend a few days working at a direct marketing company or ad agency... it is very scary how effective ad 'tricks' can be on any audience. The only advertising question what is the right stimulus for the audience.

  • by acoustix (123925) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @01:49PM (#3271290) Homepage
    Yes, that's right people - in the United States nobody is responsible for their own actions.

    If people can't take care of themselves then let the government do it. If someone dies (because he/she shouldn't have been doing it in the first place) then blame the manufacturer!

    Like the case where a moron used his lawn mower to trim his bushes and lost some fingers or arms. He sued the maker of the lawn mower (and won) because the company didn't put a warning label on the mower telling him not to do that.

    As the mother says in the article: "Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn't supposed to because he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures," she said. "Probably the last eight times he had seizures were because of stints on the computer."

    If he wasn't supposed to be playing then why did you let him play you stupid bitch? (man that frustrates me!) Who was going to make him stop playing the game? The police? FBI? Sony? Guess what, lady. YOU were the only one that knew about his condition. YOU were the one that let him keep playing (even after you knew that he was playing 12 and 36 hours in a row). YOU were the one who neglected to do anything about his game playing. The fault is yours, not Sony's.

    Wake up and smell the fucking coffee!

  • Hmm...really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by screwballicus (313964) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @02:00PM (#3271390)
    ...and the game would cause seizures

    I'm an epileptic. Have been all my life. I've had my brain picked constantly from the age of two by neurosurgeons and neurologists from far and wide. I've had a segment of my left temporal lobe excised in a failed attempt to remove scarring causative of epilepsy. I think I've read everything there is to read on epilepsy, and I simply do not know how a game can cause it. Certainly, photo-sensitive epilepsy (i.e., the variety of epilepsy in which light can provoke seizures) can be provoked by viewing of a monitor, especially at a lower refresh rate. The same goes for flourescent lighting. But I've never known a photo-sensitive epileptic who could not come up with any solution to the monitor problem. And "the game" isn't provoking the seizure in that case anyway. If that were the case, the mother should be suing her monitor manufacturer, or perhaps just giving herself a whack in the head for letting her unprecedentedly and dubiously photo-sensitive son use a screen of any sort. Sleep deprivation can often increase the frequency of seizures - it was in fact subtly recommended to me by a neurologist when I was once under observation for two weeks, waiting for a seizure to occur so that the neurologists might observe it that sleep deprivation might speed up the process - and MMORPGs can deprive one of sleep, but that doesn't precisely constitute "the game" causing seizures, either, anymore than ill-health due to sleep deprivation constitutes Everquest causing the common cold. Frankly, I think the mother is just looking for pity, here. And she's making specious arguments about her son's serious medical condition in order to further her profit-seeking. You don't have to be any sort of medical professional to conclude that Everquest doesn't "cause", in any precise sense, seizures.
  • by telstar (236404) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @02:12PM (#3271495)
    "Woolley has tried tracing her son's EverQuest identity to discover what might have pushed him over the edge."

    • Now even the MOM has gotten into Everquest. Can't you just picture it ... the Woolley mammoth pulling her chair up to the desk in the wee hours of the night, spending 2 hours searching for the "Start" button. Stumbling upon her son's special magazine collection and greasy twinkie wrappers. Finally getting the game up and running with the help of her 6-year-old, she touch-types with her pudgy fingers hitting three keys at a time.


    • Get off it ... Blame yourself, blame the father ... wherever he is ... blame your son ... but don't blame a game. It really speaks to the intelligence of you and those of your son that was the unfortunate recipient of your genetic mess.
  • What is the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nologin (256407) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @02:37PM (#3271693) Homepage

    Read between the lines and you'll see that it's nothing more than a cash grab based upon the circumstances surrounding the person's suicide.

    It raises one interesting question. If the person in question was diagnosed as having severe psychological conditions, why wasn't his activity being monitored more carefully?

    Hypothetically speaking, if a person loves to play with butter knives, should the manufacturer [of said knives] be sued because there was no warning label stating "Sharp object. May kill." on it?

    While I can sympathize with the mother, I don't think that she has any just reason for pursuing this issue.

  • by kevin805 (84623) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @03:54PM (#3272235) Homepage
    First of all, the mother isn't suing Sony saying that EQ caused her son to kill himself. So you can stop the speculation on whether she'll win, because it isn't an issue.

    Second, Everquest is addictive. Not chemically addictive, but neither is marijuana, which is the perfect comparison.

    Smoking pot makes you not really care about the world. You smoke a bowl and just sit around doing anything. No sense of "I should be doing something productive" or "hmm...sitting around here playing video games isn't really that fun, maybe I should go see what my friends are up to".

    It's exactly the same thing with Everquest, except it works in a different way. You log on, you play the game, and you accomplish things in the game. You gain a level, or you get some new item, and that makes you feel like you've accomplished something. And you have. Getting to a high level in Everquest takes hard work and long hours. And because it takes the same sort of qualities that real accomplishments take to achieve, it seems like you're being productive.

    To summarize: pot makes you do nothing but smoke pot because you don't care about accomplishing anything. EQ makes you do nothing by play EQ because it seems like you're accomplishing stuff.

    Success in Everquest is a lot easier than in the real world. There's no random setbacks, your sword won't suddenly break, you can't get fired from your job, some dot com isn't going to collapse right after promoting you, and so on. It gives you a chance to socialize with people without the hassle of actually making friends.

    Everquest is a perfectly fine diversion, but it's very very easy to get caught up in it and it become more than a diversion. What'll I do tonight? Well, I could go out to a club, have a few drinks...but...maybe I won't have a good time. I'll just play Everquest. Anyway, I started playing Everquest a lot while I was unemployed. Why not, since I didn't have anything else I needed to do? But the thing is that that sense of accomplishment from the game keeps you from being motivated to go accomplish anything in real life, so I'm quitting at least until I have my real life more in order.
  • by lysurgon (126252) <joshk.outlandishjosh@com> on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:02PM (#3273790) Homepage Journal
    This is probably too late in the comment thread to get any attention, but...

    I am part of a theater company that travels to colleges in the US to do a non-judgemental artistic residency on the topic of addiction. In a series of workshops and a professional theatrical productions, we present the issue from all angles, using verbatum text of interviews with real people as the source for all our dialogue.

    The show is called "the Quick Fix" [thequickfix.com] (pardon the website: I'm remodeling), and it primaraly seeks to examine the underlying causes of compulsive/addictive behavior. As I said before, we don't make judgements or present ourselves as having an 'answer'. We just listen to people (via interviews) and re-tell the stories, albeit with a little theatricalization thrown on top (music, dance, lighting, a bit of humor) to make it all a bit more interesting.

    As an active participant in the online world, I've been trying to find an EQ or other online-activity addict to interview for some time. If anyone would like to talk to me (IM, email, irc, whatever) and maybe tell their story, contact me through my homepage (outlandishjosh.com) or at joshk(at)thequickfix.com. Your anonymitity will be respected.
  • Baldur's Gate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 1001 0000 (464062) on Tuesday April 02, 2002 @08:31PM (#3273956)
    Anyone who's played BG2 may have noticed one of the tips while a new level is loading: "while your character doesn't have to eat, remember that you do". I got a laugh from that (i was afterall well into a 10 hour clicking binge), but wow i wonder if it wasn't the layers who stuck that it ;)

    in Canada its illegal to shelf citrus beverages which contain caffeine (Mountain Dew up here is decaf). Our government has declared covertly addictive products to be illegal. I believe games such as EQ qualify as covertly addictive. I can imagine policy banning certain psychologically addictive elements in these games, or at least "stickers" labelling them as such.

    Personally, I think this would be stupid. It would, however, be consistent with the other policies of my government. (I have only been of voting age for one election, and I voted for some other clowns).

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