Parents blame death of son on World of Warcraft

  • Xinhua, a mainland China news agency, has reported that the parents of a young boy who committed suicide last year have filed suit against Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft. The boy jumped out of a 24-story window on December 27, 2004 and the parents blame the suicide on the boy's alleged addiction to the game. They also believe that he was trying to reenact a scene from the game.

    We translated the original Chinese language article and found out that just before committing suicide, the boy left four letters and one hand-written note to his parents. In addition, he also logged onto World of Warcraft and told fellow players goodbye. The boy, who played a Night Elf in the game, believed that he could meet his favorite Night Elf hero, if he committed suicide.

    While the parents allege that the boy was trying to reenact a game scene by jumping out of the building, World of Warcraft in fact does not include any part where the player is encouraged to commit suicide. There are two voluntary quests that do have the player jump off a mountain, but in both cases, you safely land with the help of a parachute or by being teleported away before the caharcter hits the ground.

    World of Warcraft has two major factions or sides. Night-elves, Drawves, Gnomes and Humans make up the Alliance or "good guys", while Orcs, Undead, Trolls and Tauren make the bad guys or "the Horde". Alliance players can jump off the "Twin Colossal" mountains in a zone called Feralas. Players are teleported to the top, where they are given a chance to purchase a parachute that will, if opened at the right time during the descent, save them.

    According to Travis Meacham, author of previous Tom's Hardware Guide World of Warcraft articles, the mountains have turned into a meta-game or game within a game. Some players purposely jump off without a parachute, while other players sit at the bottom and watch their teammates come down.

    Horde players have a quest called "Test of Faith" which makes them jump to their supposed death in the zone "Thousand Needles". Just before hitting the ground, the player is teleported away to safety.

    The state-controlled newspapers have been on an anti-online game blitz for the last several weeks. In another story, an online gamer cut off his finger because he thought he was addicted to games. No specific online game was mentioned in the article. China has set time limits on online game play and will punish people by taking away equipment and levels if they play longer than three hours at a time.

    To prevent addiction, World of Warcraft does have a "rest" feature which discourages constant game play. Logged off characters accumulate rest, which doubles the amount of experience earned from killing monsters. The longer the player is logged off, the more rest accumulates. Casual players, who only play a few times a week, can level up their characters in less time as people who play for several hours straight.