by Amir Hafizi

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Recently, I got hooked with a game called Call of Gods by Koramgame and for the first time ever, I spent RM20 to buy virtual gold coins. What did I do with the gold? Sacrificed one of my heroes to level up another one.

It was thrilling, to have some ‘gold coins’ that only money can buy (no in-game mechanics allow you to get gold coins), and pretty soon, I spent another RM50 to sacrifice another hero and buy materials with which I can transmute into some great equipment.

I have officially joined the millions of people who spent anywhere between just under a billion US dollars to over US$10 billion on online games, depending on which expert you talk to. Thankfully, I am neither dead nor have an inclination to kill someone who plundered my in-game castle repeatedly several weeks back (I’m talking about YOU, InsaneZ! I know where you live(in-game)!).

This - death related to online games - happens quite a bit, really.

In May 20101, a couple in South Korea - Kim Yun-jeong (25-years old) and Kim Jae-beom (41) were sentenced to two years in prison because of negligent homicide. The couple was convicted of neglecting their three-month-old daughter in order to raise a virtual magical ‘daughter’ on Prius Online.

Well, when you weigh down the two, the child on Prius Online doesn’t crap stinking piles of Sith, doesn’t cry at frequencies unpleasant to human ears and if it does, you can always use the mute button and is magical.

That is as crazy as the FarmVille lady. Alexander V Tobias from Florida shook her baby twice, according to her own confession2, because the 12-year-old was interrupting her from playing Farmville. Wow. Those virtual cows and chickens must be really desirable.

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 While it is easy to say that people who neglect their children are wont to do so for any reason, there are deaths which are directly linked to games. For example, this 30-year-old man in the south China province of Guangzhou died in 2007 after apparently playing an online game continuously for three days. Earlier that year, another man died after playing for 15 straight days.

Police ruled exhaustion as cause of death. Really? And this is just internet games, right, not the other thing?

In 2005, another Chinese man was stabbed to death in a row over a sword in online game Legends of Mir 3. Shanghai gamer Qiu Chengwei killed player Zhu Caoyuan when he discovered he had sold a "dragon sabre" he had been loaned, reported a daily newspaper in China4. Qiu was sentenced to life.

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That sounds pretty normal NOW, but get this, before he attacked Zhu, Qiu actually reported the theft of the virtual sword to the police! Of course, the police in China thought it was not their thing since the item in question doesn’t really exist.

Imagine going up to a police officer and say, “Officer, someone stole my dragon sabre!” That takes balls, and now we know where the idea for that episode of The Big Bang Theory came from.

Going through the news, you can find many similar stories. Some crazy, maladjusted people going crazy over a few pixels and start killing people, or they get so addicted, they play those games till they die. Of ‘exhaustion’.

Then there are those who lose thousands to Online Games, spending real money to buy fake virtual money. Zynga and its cohorts are simply printing money. Hey, it’s like post-Nixon America - and one of the reasons the world economy is dying!

Anyway, it’s almost time to go home now, where I can again search for that elusive purple-level axe for my heroes, and procure the pretty pictures with virtual gold coins which I paid with real, hard-earned cash.