Snowly of The World of Warcraft (Xinhua) A young girl nicknamed "Snowly" died last month after playing the online game "World of Warcraft" for several continuous days during the national day holiday. Several days before Snowly's death, the girl was said to be preparing for a relatively difficult part of the game (namely, to kill the Black Dragon Prince) and had very little rest. She told her friends that she felt very tired. A big online funeral was held for Snowly one week after her death (see photo from The Mirror).With 4.5M users there are bound to be deaths in the World of Warcraft and gauging by the relationships I'm building with fellow gamers I can definitely see how an online funeral would be a very big deal. I often see players playing until they pass out, especially when they are questing in a group where their participation is required for the group to hold together as a team. (I've passed out a few times as well.) There is also a lot of pressure to catch up if you drop behind a group of friends in order to play your role in the quests.
However, I don't see this as a reason to bash these games. Clearly the addictive nature of these games are a risk from a productivity and health perspective, but I think that the sense of responsibility and teamwork that is built by the games exceeds this cost. I've seen a lot of coaching of young players by older players about behavior, responsibility, sharing and kindness that is crisp and makes a lot of sense in the game context, but might be lost in a conversation in the real world. Players typically stay up all night helping other players, not out of peer pressure, but out of a sense of teamwork and comradarie. The structure of the game and the rules make it very easy to measure the value of this teamwork and when a team isn't working. Most of the difficult quests require a very large group of people training and working together. It's hard to describe the sense of responsibility players gain to people who don't play, but I urge people not to discount it with playing.
I feel sorry for Snowly and everyone else whose lives are taken or ruined by games, but I think there is a social benefit. Like all new things, I think we will have to work on ways to support people who play to mitigate risks and manage addiction, but there is so much there that I hope news like this doesn't cause parents to prevent their kids from playing online games.