U.K. mom is given a suspended jail sentence and banned from computer use after her obsession with playing an online game leads to haunting levels of domestic neglect.
Gaming, some say, allows players to disappear. It allows them to forget. It allows them to become someone else.
Who can say what a 33-year-old woman wanted to become when she played an online game to the exclusion of what seemed everything else in her life?
According to the Daily Mail, this mother of three children became so immersed in this game that she allegedly failed to feed her children any hot food and reportedly allowed her two dogs to die of starvation.
She was taken to court after a neighbor looked through the window of her house and saw appalling conditions, according to the Daily Mail.
In court, she reportedly admitted to charges of child cruelty and animal neglect. During the case, the prosecution said that when police finally gained entry into her house, the unnamed woman said of her dead dogs, which had been left rotting for two months: "I probably starved them, probably because I have been playing the computer game all the time."
The prosecutor reportedly added: "She started playing initially for an hour a day in late 2009, but since August of that year it had become an obsession to the point where she was only getting two hours sleep a night," the Daily Mail reported.
Because the woman didn't want to waste her time cooking, she reportedly made her three children eat only food that didn't require heating, including making them swallow baked beans straight from the can, due to the lack of spoons.
While her defense lawyer explained that she had been devastated by the sudden death of her husband some years earlier and that she had become addicted to a game reported by the Mail to be Small World-- although the company behind this game says it has nothing to do with this case-- perhaps many will wonder just how a gaming addiction could possibly reach this level.
It is reminiscent of the story from South Korea earlier this year, where a couple was accused of spending 12 hours a dayin Internet cafes, neglecting their own baby and causing its death through neglect.
The U.K. mother was given a suspended sentence of six months. She also has to do 75 hours of unpaid work, was banned from ever having pets, and has had access to a computer forbidden. Her children, aged 9, 10, and 13 are currently in care.
How she will be kept away from computers is not clear, but one can only hope that somehow she rights her life sufficiently to survive without online games.
Updated 7.53pm PDT: The Daily Mail and other newspapers reported that the game involved was called Small World. This game's maker, Days of Wonder, says that it has nothing to do with this case and suggests that it was smallworlds.com which was the game in question. Days of Wonder CEO, Eric Hautemont said: "Our philosophy has always been to create family friendly games that are fun to play with others, not alone. It's the total opposite of an online game that would isolate the player in a virtual world."