Thursday, April 25, 2002

An other case of game causes death, in this case it's EverQuest which is blamed for the suicide of a young man.

On Thanksgiving morning last year, Shawn Woolley shot himself to death at his apartment in Hudson. His mother blames the game for her son's suicide. She is angry that Sony Online Entertainment, which owns EverQuest, won't give her the answers she desires. She has hired an attorney who plans to sue the company in an effort to get warning labels put on the games.

Shawn Woolley obviously had more problems than those he might have encountered in the game:

Woolley knows her son had problems beyond EverQuest, and she tried to get him help by contacting a mental health program and trying to get him to live in a group home. A psychologist diagnosed him with depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings.

This is a case of mistaking the cause and the effect. Yes, games are very attractive to people with these kinds of disorders:

Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Wash., said Woolley's mental health problems put him in a category of people more likely to be at risk of getting addicted to online games.

Parker said people who are isolated, prone to boredom, lonely or sexually anorexic are much more susceptible to becoming addicted to online games. Having low self-esteem or poor body image are also important factors, he said.

I would like to point out that computer games might be viewed in a very different light. While games can become a substitute for a flesh world social life, for people who play obsessively it's normally not a matter of substituting a functioning social life with a game social life. It's more a matter of finding an arena where it's possible to interact with other human beings. I agree that it would have been better for Shawn Woolley to go out and meet people. But his mental disorder killed him. He happened to play a game when it happened.

His mother though... she should have been protected against herself when facing the papers. Her reaction is classic: Psychotic with grief she has to blame somebody, and she chooses to blame Sony Online. I am very pleased with their reaction to her attempt at trying to learn the identity of the people he played with online:

Woolley has tried tracing her son's EverQuest identity to discover what might have pushed him over the edge. Sony Online cites its privacy policy in refusing to unlock the secrets held in her son's account.

She has a list of names her son scrawled while playing the game: "Phargun." "Occuler." "Cybernine." But Woolley is not sure if they are names of online friends, places he explored in the game or treasures his character may have captured in quests.

Knowing the patterns of grief, if she found his fellow players she would most likely take her pain out on them, placing the blame of her son's death everywhere but at his combination of epiletics, depression and schizophrenia... since these problems implie that she might have done more, made sure he got help, made sure he got treatment. But the article doesn't tell us anything about other factors that could have put Shawn on the spot which made him kill himself.

by way of

Other links concerning this:
Ms Wooley keeps telephoning his internet friends, who hang up on her
Suicide Mom Sue Sony

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