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When gaming is accused of causing baby's death

A Korean child dies, allegedly of neglect, because her parents spent 12 hours a day playing a Second Life-type game in which they raised a virtual child. Should gaming be blamed?

Does technology make people behave in sick and demented ways? Or is the mere existence of certain technologies an excuse for sick and demented people to practice their sick dementia?

I wonder because of a story reported by the Sun, in which a Korean couple, the man in his forties and woman in her twenties, allegedly neglected their own child because they would spend 12 hours a day in Internet cafes. Their favored game was called Prius. (I have embedded an excerpt below.)

Within Prius, they were able to raise a virtual child. Their own child, 3 months old, was reportedly left at home alone. The baby girl died. She was allegedly given only one bottle of milk a day.

It seems that the parents disappeared after their daughter's funeral last September and police only managed to catch up with them this week. The parents are reported to have told the police: "Due to our sense of guilt, we have not been to a PC gaming room over these five months."

There is something about the telling of this story that suggests gaming is so very insidious and powerful that it can make you neglect your child, as if once you are in the belly of the warcrafting beasts, you will never be the same again. The implication is that if these parents hadn't been gamers, their daughter would not have died.

Gamers can, to an outside human, be a strange lot. So can stamp collectors. So can hockey fans, opera buffs, and politicians. And please don't let me get started on the subject of cyclists.

But I've never seen any evidence that proves gamers are any more maladjusted parents than, say, members of a national curling team. We all deal with our own little obsessions. And, in some very rare cases, we don't.

I have a feeling that, over time, technologies such as social networking will prove to have changed human behavior far more fundamentally than any number of online versions of things you used to enjoy at the county fair.

This was the story of parents who couldn't be bothered to raise their child because they had something better to do. For them, gaming held greater significance than raising their daughter. Gaming didn't make them behave foolishly. They were just foolish people who happened to be gamers.

The story might suggest that they should never have become parents. But please let's save the idea that gaming makes you neglect your children.