Finite Lives: Deaths During Gaming Continue to Occur

You don't tend to think that video gaming is a particularly hazardous hobby. After all, what's safer than sitting in a chair letting Batman do all the dangerous work for you? As it turns out, though, death can lurk as nearby for you as it does for your computer-generated counterpart.

Just last month, a man in Taipei, Taiwan, was found dead in an Internet cafe. Chen Rong-yu, 23, had apparently expired while playing League of Legends, and his body sat undisturbed, hands stretched towards the keyboard, for nine hours before any of his fellow patrons realized that he had died. The current belief is that cardiac arrest, exacerbated by blood clots formed from lack of movement and cold weather, was the ultimate cause of death. According to news reports, Chen had previously been treated for heart problems.


Clotting has been linked to at least one other death during gaming. British gamer Chris Staniforth, 20, was a marathon player, often spending 12 hours playing Xbox uninterrupted. At some point, a blood clot formed in Staniforth's left calf and progressed to his lungs, where it cause the blockage that killed him.

Staniforth's father has used the death of his son to try and bring more attention to the heightened risk of deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in deep veins that occurs from long-term immobilization. Microsoft addresses these dangers as well through its Play Smart, Play Safe program, and recommends frequent breaks for movement and stretching.

Extreme overuse of video gaming is typically called video game addiction, though there is as yet no formal diagnosis of the condition. Regardless, there are many cases of people who have cut off social ties, ignored their health, lost jobs and otherwise exhibit many other characteristic behaviors of addiction while focused entirely on a game world. And yes, some of these addictions are fatal.

In China, the government has gone on the offensive against video game addiction with state-sponsored clinics. Patients are usually brought in by parents and spouses, and the treatments consist of electroshock and physical beatings. One patient was a boy named Deng Senshan, who had begun playing World of Warcraft at the age of 13, and would disappear for hours to play the game at local cafes. He gained weight and his grades failed, matters that prompted his parents to enroll him at Qihang Salvation Training Camp in order to put a stop to his gaming, according to reports in and others.

Senshan spent his first night in a confinement cell on the top floor, and was struck when he refused to face a wall. Then, when the rest of the Camp went to bed, he was forced to run laps until he collapsed, at which point he was beaten with a chair leg. Bleeding from ears, eyes, mouth and nose, he was carried to his room, where he was pronounced dead at 3 a.m.

That video game addiction is a problem in China is hard to deny. Xu Yan, a local teacher from Jinzhou in Liaoning province, died after a 15-day gaming marathon, as did another unnamed man who dropped from exhaustion after three straight days in a cafe. However, many feel that the paranoia regarding it has been vastly overstated, and tragedies such as Senshan's are the result. Even the father of the boot camp, Tao Ran, has tried to curtail the hysteria that has resulted in so many parents sending their children for treatment at the camps.

Death from cardiac arrest also claimed a South Korean man named Lee Seung Seop, who died of heart failure brought on by exhaustion and dehydration after playing Starcraft for 50 straight hours, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner