Editorial: Drawing the line on blame.

by: Sean Cahill -
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Common sense escapes many people in the world nowadays.  This is not a surprise to anyone and is rarely, if ever, debatable.  However, when it comes to certain pieces of information that hits the media and garners attention, that is when we have to question just what is a tragedy that could have been prevented, one that needs blame, or if it just an anomaly.  This editorial piece will cover a story regarding such a situation that involves a family attempting to get the word out regarding a death and gaming taking some of the blame.

I'm thirty years old and I'm a gamer.  I've been a gamer ever since my mother brought me home a Colecovision when I was just four years old.  Since then, I have continued to enjoy being such a gamer and have evolved in the types of games that I play, whether it be platformers that require a little bit of an extended session, a few hours of playing a first-person shooter, or several hours of playing an MMO on the PC.  What do all of these have in common, though?  Generally, it means that we're going to be sitting for an extended period of time.

Why am I bringing up such a simple piece of information that any single one of us could point out?  Because there is a story circulating around the internet regarding this situation and a death resulting from it.  Below is the story in its entirety from Yahoo! News.

Xbox addict 'dies from blood clot'

by: AFP

AFP The family of a budding computer programmer have on Saturday launched a campaign to raise awareness about the health risks of playing online computer games after their son died following a marathon session on his Xbox.

A post-mortem revealed that 20-year-old Chris Staniforth -- who was offered a place to study Game Design at Leicester University -- was killed by a pulmonary embolism, which can occur if someone sits in the same position for several hours.

Xbox 360 controller Deep vein thrombosis normally affects passengers on long-haul flights, but medical experts fear youngsters who spend hours glued to their consoles might also be at risk and have urged them to take regular breaks.

Professor Brian Colvin -- an expert on blood-related conditions -- said it was "unhealthy" for youngsters to spend long periods in front of their consoles.

"There's anxiety about obesity and children not doing anything other than looking at computer screens," he told The Sun.

David Staniforth has now launched a campaign to warn other parents of the dangers.

"Games are fun and once you've started playing it's hard to stop.

"Kids all over the country are playing these games for long periods - they don't realise it could kill them," he told The Sun.

A coroner's court in Sheffield was told how the youngster -- who had no underlying medical conditions -- was complaining of a low heart rate before collapsing outside a Jobcentre.

Staniforth's distraught father said his son would spend up to 12 hours playing on his Xbox.

"He got sucked in playing Halo online against people from all over the world."

Online computer games are extremely popular as thousands interact in shared science fiction worlds.

Reports of gamers collapsing after spending 15 hours in front of video games are fairly common throughout Asia.

In 2005, a South Korean gamer died after playing online games for three days without taking a break.

Microsoft -- which manufactures the Xbox -- said it "recommend gamers take breaks to exercise as well as make time for other pursuits."

While the story is tragic, and believe me, I am not attempting to make light of the situation for the family involved or attempt to take any jabs at them or the young man who died, but the question comes to mind that I offered up earlier:  Is this something that could have been prevented, needs blame, or is it just a case of a random person who died doing something that may or may not have had something to do with it?

Below the story you can read through some user comments, and there are plenty to take a look at.  The last count was over 7,000 unique comments by readers.  Most of them have a differing opinion, whether it is that they are saddened by the family's loss or saying that the family could have done better parenting.

Honestly, my take is this:  It's a non-story, and yet, I'm writing about it because it was published for all the world to see.

The young man died from a pulmonary embolism, which, in short, is a clot that blocks an artery and can certainly kill you.  There are some key words in the story, though, that need to be pointed out.  For example, the suggestion that sitting in the same position for several hours CAN kill you.  We do not know if that is the ultimate cause of his death.  What the writer is suggesting is something called DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis.  Typically, this affects people that are older, usually above 70 according to WebMD, or those who are extremely obese/overweight.  People who are flying on a long flight and do not get up to move around who fall into these categories are at an extended risk.  It's certainly a worry, but for someone who is twenty years old?  It doesn't seem to come up in just about any article or description that I looked at.

Now, I work with, interact with, and have plenty of friends who enjoy these long gaming sessions that I referred to earlier.  Not a single one of them have suffered this.  The reference to the 2005 incident involving the gamer playing Starcraft did not involve a DVT or a pulmonary embolism.  This young man played Starcraft for over 50 hours and died of "heart failure stemming from exhaustion," police said.  Now, we do not know if this man was a professional gamer.  Starcraft is a sport in South Korea, which is where this man died, and he died in an internet cafe while playing it.  This means that he had to have at least gotten up from his home and gone to the cafe to play some more.  Looking more into it, it seems the cause of death was dehydration, which basically says he was doing nothing but playing the game.  In other words, comparing the two stories should not have even happened.

So what are the chances that DVT can affect a twenty year old?  If you are healthy, it seems that the chances are slim to none, unless you've undergone a recent surgery or are severely overweight.  The story does not tell us either of these things, so it's impossible to point the finger at that.  However, the fact that this seems to be already pointing the finger at gaming really upsets me.  While I'm trying to avoid making a bad comparison, I'm going to liken this to the Jack Thompson-led cases where he attempted to link young gamers literally snapping and killing people and violent video games.  The reason I'm doing this is for the fact that the comparison is one of two things:  A baseless argument or sheer coincidence.

Now, I'm not a doctor.  I don't pretend to be one.  I can look at a person, see them cough several times, and determine that they have a cold if it's in the winter.  Do we know if this young man's death was a result of a long period of time sitting in front of a television playing Halo?  We have absolutely no idea, and, honestly, I don't think we ever will.  All we know is this:  You probably should get up and move around more if you are playing long sessions.  I recall many nights and, honestly, just about every night that I was locked into a long session of Halo or playing the MMO Perfect World International, I needed to get up and stretch.  I would take a break, walk around, go outside, take a drink, anything to just get me up and moving.  Simply put, this is common sense.  I'm not trying to put the blame on anyone, but I believe that pointing the finger at gaming in general is not the answer considering that this seems to have fallen into the coincidental or anomaly category.  Is it terrible that someone died like this?  Absolutely.  So far, it seems that awareness is all that is being done, but if I read about a lawsuit that comes up regarding a wrongful death, the editorial that follows that will not be as pleasant or even-keeled.

*Information regarding this article was taken from Yahoo! News, WebMD, and The Sun.  The thoughts and opinions shared in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other members of Gaming Nexus.

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