Victim is Offline

by

I spend a lot of time on the Internet and playing games. It’s kind of my job and, believe me, I’m not complaining; I have the best job in the world. But, on occasion, my job causes me to stumble upon something serious that I need to address, despite having no desire to do so. This is especially true when “that thing” in question seems so blatantly obvious that I feel no need to inform the educated masses about it. So, bear with me on this one. It’s probably not going to be my most informative or groundbreaking piece, but it’s one that needs to be written all the same.

On April 3rd of this year, a man in the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung was stabbed to death. He was murdered in plain sight at an Internet Café located within the city. Despite the loss of this man’s life, the people around him at the Internet Café played on. One patron was so close that, on the camera footage, we can see her clothes get splattered in the man’s blood. Yet, she continues to play on. Whether she was oblivious to her surroundings or not, the non-reaction from her and everyone else around her happens to be quite disturbing.

Crowd paralysis isn’t an unheard of phenomenon. In traumatic events such as a stabbing, the brain of a bystander will usually go into a fight or flight response. One of the ways we perceive flight, however (and I’m paraphrasing, so bear with me if my scientific analysis has little evidence in this context), is to remain as still and silent as possible as to not attract the attention of a would-be threat, such as a man with a knife. In this sense, flight doesn’t so much mean “run away”. Instead, it can be defined as “preserve yourself and avoid direct contact”.

The problem I have with this clip happens to be regarding its location. Any other Café and the clip would be just as tragic – but less relevant. The fact that it’s an Internet Café containing people that are engrossed in games and technology gives the clip a decisively nasty undercurrent, and one that could be exploited if handed to the wrong people. This fact means even more today, given that we are in a time where gaming is firmly located in the public eye.

You see, in a situation like this, all we have are theories and testimonials. We can theorize about the lack of response being crowd paralysis, and many of the people involved can testify to that, but we lack any substantial evidence. We cannot refute others who say that the people involved were just too engrossed or desensitized to respond to the case of a real-life stabbing. That may sound stupid to us, but I must admit that it is a worrying concept with a sharp hook.

Thankfully, the other side has about as much evidence as we do, and it falls upon them to prove that their accusations are correct. Unfortunately, we live in a world where proof can be used as a synonym for belief. The other side only needs enough people to believe that there is a causal link between gaming and the lack of response to the stabbing and, all of a sudden, gaming is lost in the mire of public opinion and regulation. It is a situation that could negatively affect the game industry to a serious degree.

So, what can be done? How do we combat the theories that are grounded in speculation? Well, firstly, if you’re not doing this already, keep gaming sensibly. I know this sounds obvious, but if you have bills to pay or a job to do, those things obviously come before gaming. Try not to get so engrossed in a game to the point that you can’t be reached. I often end up playing a game at full blast with headphones on but I always try to keep one headphone slightly to the side, just so I can be aware of my surroundings. Sure, we all like those sessions where we can turn everything else off and game for hours at a time, but they should be the exception rather than the rule.

Secondly, chances are that a militant anti-game board is going to get a hold of this, if they haven’t already. It’s pretty inevitable and I’d be surprised if we don’t end up hearing more about this as time rolls on. There will likely be comment sections and forum threads dedicated to discussing how to bring down the scourge of gaming which forces people to give no attention to society at large. When this happens, you need to articulate a response.

And by articulate, I mean articulate. I know that all of you out there have the basic writing skills necessary to formulate a sensible response. That’s what we need right now. An informed disagreement outlining every flaw in their argument, including the big one about them lacking any actual evidence. Gaming is finally starting to grow up in the public eye and we continue to develop that image by acting like adults. The sooner we start intellectually dissecting these ridiculous accusations with the righteous indignation they deserve, the less likely they are to come back. The last thing we want is to fan flames and give the opposition any more ammunition as to how childish gaming is as a medium.

Finally, and in my opinion, most importantly: we need to start the discussion. I know this will be the hardest thing to get through to most people; because gaming is given such a lashing from so many different sides, it feels cruel to go at it ourselves. But when someone gets stabbed in an Internet Café and the people around him don’t even budge, crowd paralysis or not, a discussion should be started. It stands to reason that we should at least ask the question. Is it possible that without all of those computers there, someone could have helped this poor guy? In my opinion: yes, it’s possible. It is also possible that I’ll grow springs from my feet by tomorrow morning. It doesn’t make it true; but the possibility of it is deserving of at least a discussion.

What’s to discuss? Well, I think first and foremost are the social aspects. Are we too engrossed in our technology? Would we be able to react to a stabbing if it was happening next to us or in the same room? And if not, what would be the more affecting factor – our paralysis from fear, or our attraction to our current gaming session? These are all questions that sound easy enough to answer, but they still need to be asked in order to develop gaming as a respected medium. The more we start to think about how gaming and technology gets used, the better. This allows us to start understanding more nuances and identifying more flaws. From that, we can start to build and improve. Avoiding this issue and every other criticism that gets leveled towards gaming (no matter how silly) avoids an opportunity to improve how games are used and seen in the future. That just strikes me as inherently detrimental to something we love as a community.

To conclude: for whatever reason, a man lost his life in a situation where anyone could have helped but no one did. It is an upsetting and unfortunate incident that deserves recognition beyond the involvement of computers. Sadly, since computers are involved, this is probably not going to be the case. Instead, more attention will be directed towards us. We need to direct it back towards the people who rightfully deserve it in, and we need to do so in a respectful manner. It will never bring that person back, but it’s the least we can do. After all, he was in an Internet Café; he was probably a gamer as well. That fact deserves to be celebrated. Game on.

You can watch a video of the incident discussed above by clicking on the link below. Despite the video being grainy and unfocused, I am going to put a graphic content warning here as well just in case, so you have been warned. So, this video (if you decide to click on it), may contain some images that viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Click HERE to view.