Why People Die Playing Video Games

“He played the game to pass the time: ten hours of uninterrupted questing. Then, mind hazed by the room’s thick cigarette smoke and eyes stinging from the monitor’s flicks and throbs, he decided to step outside for some fresh air. Feng stood, took three steps then stumbled and collapsed, his mouth foaming.”

If that doesn’t set a scene, we don’t know what will. The words belong to Simon Parkin, author of the new book Death by Video Game, and they describe just one example of a phenomenon that stretches back to the 1980s: People become absorbed in a video game, lose track of time and, sadly, die in real life. (Usually, their in-game avatar follows suit.)

Parkin’s study of such deaths — far from the morbid grave-ticking it might seem — helps describe why the relatively young art form of video games is so powerful. The Huffington Post spoke with him via Skype to learn more.

Tell me what inspired you to take this approach.

The deaths of people who’ve been playing video games for an extended amount of time, say two or three days, seemed like an interesting hook into the subject of “what is it about games that cause us to lose our sense of time within them?”

The entire book is not entirely focused on these deaths. That’s really almost completely dealt with in the first chapter. And from there, we go into more of a philosophical examination of what is it about the human brain that finds games so fascinating, what causes us to give ourselves to them so completely?

That was the thinking behind the slightly morbid angle.

I was shocked to learn about the man who died playing the arcade game in the bar in central Illinois, way back in the 1980s. To me, and I think —> Read More