I’ve been taking the opportunity over the break to look through the over-1500 proposals for ISEA2012 online. Although it is exciting to see all the great ideas, I’ve been feeling that perhaps I’ve been spending a dangerous amount of time on the Internet. You say: ‘Internet dangerous? Nah!’, but actually there have been several reports of death from the Internet.
Most reports are coming from China and other places in Asia and involve men in their 20′s and 30′s playing MMO games continuously to exhaustion. Most recent is this BBC report from February, but also this one of two reports from 2007 and this from 2004. Since many of these games can provide financial payoffs, murder and kidnapping in relation to Internet gaming has also been reported, see this article for stories from China and Brazil.
Gamasutra has a great article from 2006 about the science behind Internet addiction including a link to this quiz to determine your level of addiction (but what if you are addicted to online quizzes…?)
In all seriousness, how have governments responded to this scourge of Internet-caused deaths? Not well, unfortunately. In China in 2007 troubled teens whose “souls are gone to the online world” were apparently being given shock treatment and a variety of actions to limit Internet use and rid the Internet of “unhealthy” content has been a platform for Communist Party doctrine in China for several years. A somewhat interesting technological approach has been designing games so that after a certain number of time points simply decrease, see this article for more information.
On a healthier note, some more recent initiatives have involved camps and retreats to treat Internet addiction like this one in South Korea that gets kids out into the world hiking and biking. Sounds like a good idea, I think I’m going to head out for a bike ride right now!