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Everquest: Still Not As Dangerous As Love

21 year old kills himself over Everquest, mom wants to turn around and sue Sony Online. This is an old case, but thanks to CNN repeating the story, the mass market now can think that EverQuest is as deadly as shooting up.

I don’t want to denigrate the kid. He was a poor lonely kid with a lot of health and social problems before he ever set foot into Norrath. But his mom needs to be hit with the clue stick. Don’t stop at just one clue, please. Here are a couple freebies, no charge.

It is very likely this boy’s online life was healthy for him. Offline, he was lonely, had no girlfriend, was overweight, was chronically ill and had a domineering, overbearing mother. Online, he was a hero with a social life and a girlfriend. His mother made him sever all his social ties. Is it sad to contemplate someone whose entire social life is online? Having made these games for years and years, I no longer think so. The letters myself and other developers have gotten from the very infirm and terminally ill who depend on online gaming to have any semblance of normal friendships and romance are one of the more affirming parts of the job.

Even if the game was unhealthy for him, that’s not Sony’s problem. Sony has over 425K accounts currently, according to this article, and has probably sold that many copies again of the game. Ultima Online has between 200-300K users, and has probably sold as many boxes as EQ has. AC, DAoC and Anarchy have sold hundreds of thousands. So we’ve had at least a couple million people try these games out, and one publicized suicide that we know of (the other famous one, Sheyla, was as we all now know, a hoax). This suggests that this action was, in fact, an aberration. A blip. You are probably now officially more more likely to be killed by an airliner sliding into your place of employment.

Hobby addiction is a fact of life. Be it collecting stamps, playing bridge or surfing pr0n, people can get way into any hobby. If granny killed herself because she lost one too many tournaments to Uncle Larry, you wouldn’t sue Bicycle. You would realize that granny probably needed to stop sniffing so much glue. This ‘kid’ was 21 years old, was severely depressed, had health problems, was a social misfit and was incapable of holding a job. EverQuest was, at worst, a toothpick on a lumber pile.

The kid did not kill himself because of the game. People don’t get addicted to online games nearly as much as they get addicted to the other people in online games. Lonely people (such as our aforementioned tragic hero) are much more prone to this. My guess is that he was either dumped by his in-game lover, or discovered that sweet Selena was a 49-year-old trucker named “Bob”. Sony is not to blame for the consequences of such activities in such space (and probably, neither is Bob). It could happen in any community, online or no.

The sad thing for me is that Mommy Dearest can have dollar signs flash so brightly in her eyes that she is incapable of seeing the truth: her son’s problems were her son’s own, and likely caused by her own failures to raise her child. Instead of her taking responsibility, we get to hear her spit out choice soundbites like “Only drug dealers and software companies refer to their customers as users.” Let’s all hope that Sony sends out their especially high-priced lawyers out in order to shut this frivolity down.

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