Scandal! 10 true scare stories about videogames

Let’s pretend, for a second, that everything bad anyone ever said about videogames was true. Why, we’d all be suicidal pixel-junkies, protected from our desperate self-hatred only by our own slovenliness! The world would be safe from our sociopathic, car-jacking, handgun-happy death wishes merely because we were too busy installing an IV drip to provide us with the powdered-cheese sustenance necessary to gain another level in World of Warcraft! It would be a dire state indeed.

But while the vast majority of dire claims against videogames can quickly be dismissed as ridiculous (particularly those advanced by teenage hooligans trying to cop a plea), every once in a while a brouhaha flares up that actually might have roots in some of gaming’s less-savoury back-alleys. So join us as we explore ten stories of real life made a little more dangerous by gaming’s dark side. It’s off the record, on the QT, and plenty hush-hush…

10. Dragon Quest death threats

The Culprit: Pretty much every game in the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior canon.

The Crime: Inciting potential violence, undermining the Japanese work ethic.

Above: Always in a hurry… to kill 

The Case: While many of us in the West are still getting our heads around the finer points of the Dragon Quest series, the games have long been catnip to Japanese audiences. As far back as the series’ Famicom/NES days, Quest-crazed kids were mugging one another in the streets for the latest hit of 8-bit opiate. But even after Enix voluntarily stopped debuting the games on weekdays (schoolchildren and salarymen alike would pull a sickie to stand in three-mile queues for the game), the madness continued: in 2005, an unidentified university student was arrested for posting death threats against a friend who argued that Dragon Quest VI was perhaps not the best game in the series. Reread that: the would-be victim wasn’t even arguing against the superiority of the Quest titles, just carping as to the hierarchy of their brilliance. Dragon Quest players: Crazy! 

9. MMO widows

The Culprit: Any game that requires a subscription fee and a headset to play.

The Crime: Homewrecking.

Above: Homewrecking in progress, with a bonus helping of xenophobia 

The Case: You may think that just because you have a partner and a job and a life and all the other IRL status buffs, you’re not the type whose hobby runs their life. But as gamers come of age, more and more spouses are complaining that their partners are letting their devotion to gaming eclipse their commitments to their loved ones. An early warning was the blog EA Spouse, the journal of a woman whose husband’s position at the titular superpower became so demanding as to threaten his well-being and their marriage. This sentiment soon spread to groups and websites like Everquest Widows and Gamer Widow, which provide support to spouses shunned for the virtual world, and even “rehab rooms” for recovering partners. Gaming: The New Opium!

Above: The Old Opium. More peripherals than a freakin’ Wii 

8. Gaming seizures

The Culprit: The scant handful of games to feature flashy visual pyrotechnics.

The Crime: Dangerous neurological insults. Not the “hey, dumbass!” kind.

Above: THIS kind 

The Case: “Nintendo Killed My Son!” bawled a 1993 headline in London’s Sun newspaper. Was a UK boy’s lethal seizure caused by SNES games, the article asked? While the first videogame-triggered epileptic fit had been recorded in 1981, it was the 16-bit era – with its increasing reliance on snazzy visuals – that saw the issue become widespread. Once the hysteria had died down, the facts came out: a small percentage of the population were afflicted with a specific, pre-existing form of photosensitive epilepsy; and said condition could be triggered by specific visual cues (specifically, strobing lights and fast-moving stripe patterns) that were being increasingly employed by games. And that’s why the front of every Nintendo manual now features the standard medical warning; a warning that, notoriously, wasn’t issued to the kids who watched this episode of Pokemon.

Above: Do not watch if epileptic

So games are marginally less dangerous than television. Thank goodness we got that sorted out.

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  • Demonflare - October 31, 2009 1:50 a.m.

    Well yeah thats why the episode of Porygon was canceled, it caused about 60 (I think) Japanese kids to have seizures
  • FalseNegative - October 20, 2009 12:31 p.m.

    Oh, I remember the rage from watching that fox ''SEXBOX'' report. Good times.
  • TheWebSwinger - October 19, 2009 4:37 a.m.

    "Donkey Bong" is classic. If only I had the photoshop skill.
  • iluvmyDS - October 19, 2009 3:18 a.m.

    That was a fantastic article. Dugg!
  • TheHalfanese - October 17, 2009 10:16 p.m.

    I remember when the Poke mon seizure happened lol...
  • 435 - October 17, 2009 8:12 p.m.

    As one of the hundreds of people laid up at PAX by H1N1 (aka swine flu, aka H1Nerd1, aka bacon plague, aka POX, aka Porkinson's, aka hamthrax), the effects of which I am STILL recovering from, I do say that it's placement at #3 is exceptionally appropriate.
  • RandomIdoit - October 16, 2009 10:24 p.m.

    darn... I was going to say something, but I8luigi already said that and more.
  • zanthox - October 16, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    Great stuff but I have heard some suuuper crazy EVE stories. Especially involving real life violence and economy stuffs... I'd love to see some of that crap documented.
  • GamerTagsSuck - October 16, 2009 7:45 p.m.

    1. I8Luigi, this is poking fun at all of this. You need to get a life. 2. Runescape kicks ass. Great childhood memories there. 3. Haha, Pokemon seizure.
  • GameManiac - October 16, 2009 6:54 p.m.

    Why did I have this gut feeling that that Pokemon episode that gave a few hundred kids seizures was going to be mentioned?
  • CountZero - October 16, 2009 6:53 p.m.

    Aw man, I totally missed the custom sodomy in Mass Effect. Was that a side quest or something??
  • noobeater - October 16, 2009 5:07 p.m.

    hahhahahaha the head exploding made me laugh siezure warnings are another example of health and safety gone mad
  • i8luigi - October 16, 2009 3:35 p.m.

    By printing this article you promote the same sensationalism the media uses in these situations. You can not blame the developers for crimes perpetrated by people using their games. If a person who regularly watches Dexter kills somebody, you can't blame Dexter for influencing tht5a person to kill someone; they had the criminal motive and capability long before Dexter "influenced" them. In regards to the individual cases you discussed: 10. The game in no way caused these reactions, that was the result of the people's obsessive personalities 9. There are no obsessive games, only obsessive people. 8. This escaped everyone, not just the games industry. And we do now have warnings. Besides, that was a TV show, not a game. 7. How the Karmapa Lama saying something many rational people already know is a bad thi9ng is beyond me. There is nothing wrong with virtual violence, especially if it prevents violence IRL. 6. The fact that this incident was caused by PLAYER ACTIONS in the game and not the game itself proves these people have problems that extend beyond video games if they were willing to result to such drastic actions. 5. This is the kind of passive agression that happens outside of these situations, and to perfectly honest, the bitch kinda deserved it. 4. The capability to do something illegal in the game, when it was not intended to be done in-game, is not the fault of the developer but the fault of the perpetrator. 3. PAX isn't a game, and this easily could've happened at any convention. 2. If somebody uses a Prius to smuggle marijuana, is it Toyota's fault? 1. The deaths were caused by starvation and sleep deprivation, not the game. Their deaths were caused by their own irresponsible behavior. The point I'm trying to make here is that if you blame the game, you miss the actual reason why it happened, and prevent people from causing this to not happen again.
  • rxb - October 16, 2009 3:17 p.m.

    I remember 'Nintendo killed my son' it because he was playing UN Squadron.
  • Collymilad - October 16, 2009 11:19 a.m.

    Man that gamerwidow site is hilarious. 3 words: Get a grip
  • zhupeilan1230 - October 16, 2009 8:42 a.m.

    this kind of games is very interesting! Hp dv8000 battery
  • HeavyTank - October 16, 2009 8:34 a.m.

    Wow, people getting violent because you don't share their point of view can be called either "get a lifer's" or "nazis".
  • unclecharley - October 16, 2009 6:43 a.m.

    @DrFailgood and @Styrophoamicus - The exploding head on the first page is from a movie: David Cronenberg's "Scanners" (1981), starring Patrick McGoohan and Michael Ironside.
  • CH3BURASHKA - October 16, 2009 4:14 a.m.

    I feel instantly cool that I was tangentially part of a Gamesradar story, namely the PAX plague. Didn't get anything, but it WAS momentarily surreal that we were all going to die.
  • CH3BURASHKA - October 16, 2009 4:12 a.m.

    Alf Capone?