You’ve heard of that 28-year old South Korean gamer in Taegu in 2005 who died after playing Starcraft online for 50 hours non-stop, right? Or this other 24-year-old South Korean three years before in a cybercafe in Kwangju after playing for 86 hours? Or his 27-year old countryman (what is it with South Koreans and games, anyway?) who died ten days previously, 32 hours until his final Game Over, foaming at the mouth in a cybercafe toilet? Or the Russian teenager two years ago from a stroke after playing for 12 hours straight? Or the young man from Milwaukee who committed suicide in 2002 because of an addition to Everquest? Or a couple of girls in Beijing who died two years ago from playing excessive World of Warcraft during an extended government holiday?

People do die from playing games. Ironic that our countrymen get killed fighting rebels down south, or hapless American GIs in Iraq get blown up to smithereens by suicide bombers while some folk deign to expire for much less.

We’re actually getting better at it. Now people can die even before they actually get to play the video game. They can die trying to get something to play with in the first place.

Take the strange case of 28-year-old Jennifer Strange from Sacramento, California. A mother of three kids, she wanted her children to have a Nintendo Wii, so she joined a different sort of game – an FM radio contest on KDND 107.9 to win one by drinking gallons of water but not peeing. The promo was called Hold Your Wee for a Wii.

Jennifer drank two gallons of water, but eventually gave up and went home. Later in the day she had a massive headache and was later found dead in her home. She died from water intoxication, wherein the sodium in her body was diluted by the held water to the point of being fatal. If she had peed, the chemical balance would have been corrected, but she had gone too long suffused with water, and died from swelling of the brain.

I used to be an FM radio station DJ and broadcasting executive, and in my day I thought of, and carried out, lots of silly and ridiculous radio contests that people joined, but thankfully never killed anyone. I’m reminded of WKRP’s free turkey Thanksgiving promo where they threw turkeys out of a helicopter over a mall parking lot, thinking they could fly down and people would catch them.

Jennifer’s kids, still Wii-less, are now also motherless. Ten radio station employees were fired and are now jobless. Who would’ve been able to predict that in the 21st century, people can end their lives over video games, or that, like the knights of the Crusades after the Holy Grail, game consoles like the Wii are worth dying for?

Another sign that these are the end times.

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