Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Death by Xbox

You may have read this story last week about the tragic death of a 20 year old killed by deep vein thrombosis, supposedly from playing Halo online (ODST? Reach? The original?).

You can predict how the rest of the story goes. The parents say they thought it was safe, Microsoft point to that small print that comes with their console, in the instruction booklet for every single game and even flashes up as a message in many games "Time to take a break kids".

My initial response was that long stints of doing anything causes all kinds of medical problems but a friend pointed out that even if you were reading a book for twelve hours straight you'd move around more than if you were gaming. Nothing else exists like gaming to fix your attention so avidly. Dead arms, pins and needles and head rushes are par for the course for gamers and chillingly, this story reminded me of marathon sessions in my youth. Fortunately, necessity means I don't have time for hours and hours of playing games but I imagine many people do. Even more worrying today is that you can just play games forever and ever. Online gaming and panglobal networks now mean that you can find players for online gaming around the clock. Achievements, secrets and unlockables all serve to keep you playing longer and longer, especially those achievements that demand x hours of playing a certain game mode. It's also in the culture to play games beyond the reasonable limit. "Sleep is cancelled" is now a common order in MMOs and stupid stunts like this and this sort of put last week's tragedy into a better context.

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