How serious is video game addiction? The American Psychiatric Association is considering officially recognizing the disorder, and the U.S. wouldn’t be the first country to do. Whether you consider it a legitimate illness or just a symptom of “kids being kids,” one thing is clear—when gaming messes with personal health and safety, it should be taken seriously. Nowhere is this more evident than in China, where an argument over gaming addiction recently preceded a double suicide.
China has a long history of clamping down on gaming and has even passed regulations aimed at limiting the amount of time young people play online games. But that didn’t stop a 16-year-old boy from Guangyuan in Sichuan province from heading straight to a local gaming cafe after school. The boy, who has not been named in Chinese news reports, was an avid League of Legends player.
But when he didn’t return home by the evening, his mother became worried. She began searching every gaming cafe she could find, until she eventually found him. A loud argument ensued, culminating in the mother announcing that she was going to kill herself. “You go online and I can’t control you, so I’ll just go die!” she allegedly said.
The mother dragged her son to the banks of the nearby Jialing river. After calling her husband, Sun Guangming, to tell him that she was going to kill herself, she walked out into the river and was quickly caught by the current and dragged under, despite her son’s attempts to save her.
When the father arrived on scene, he scolded his son and kicked him. Having watched his mother get taken away by the current and now facing the wrath of his father, the son then plunged into the river himself. The father, crying out “I also don’t want to live, I will go with you,” was stopped just short of following his son by policemen.
Neither the son nor his mother have been seen since, and are presumed to have drowned.
We’ll never know what exactly led to these deaths. But while it may convenient to blame video game “addiction,” the fact is that suicide usually stems from far more complex emotional and mental issues. Whatever happened on that day, it began long before the son spent all day in an Internet cafe.