Game addiction leads to baby’s death

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Game addiction leads to baby’s death

Two people arrested earlier this week for neglect after their baby girl starved to death, had indulged themselves in raising a “virtual girl” online instead, police said yesterday.

The couple, residents of a southern Seoul suburb, allegedly neglected their prematurely born three-month-old daughter, feeding her just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at a neighborhood Internet cafe.

Police said they had become obsessed with raising a virtual girl called “Anima” in the popular role-playing game “Prius Online.”

“The couple seemed to have lost their will to live normal lives because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby,” said Chung Jin-won, a police officer in Suwon. “They instead played an online game in which they raised a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.”

Experts said the couple appeared to have lost track of reality.

“Online game addiction can blur the line between reality and the virtual world. It seems that taking care of their online game character erased any sense of guilt they may have had for neglecting their daughter,” said Kwak Dae-kyung, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

This is not the first game addiction-related death in Korea. Multi-player gaming is treated almost like a sport here, due in part to the country having the world’s fastest and most widespread broadband network.

Last month, a 32-year-old man died after reportedly playing an on-line computer game for five days with few breaks for meals. A similar incident was reported involving a 28-year-old man in 2005. Part of the problem is that game addicts have nowhere to turn for help, Kwak said.

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