Addiction is an affliction so compelling that it can bring people to take the most drastic of measures, but when is enough, really enough?
From stories of unruly children throwing tantrums when their games are confiscated to grown men and women who--so engulfed in the virtual world--become disconnected from reality, video games have proven to have quite an effect on the people who play them.
While it is hardly news to hear of the addictive characteristics that video games have on people, what might come as a surprise, however, are the lengths that some people go to in order to fund their addiction to video games.
Li Jin and Li Juan--a young Chinese couple who, in 2007, met in an Internet cafe--have made headlines recently for selling their three children in exchange for money to fund their online video game addiction.
According to an article by ABCNews.com, Jin and Juan “bonded over their obsession with online video games.” In 2008, the couple had their first son together and then--in 2009--their first daughter.
Shortly after her birth, the young couple decided to sell their daughter in return for RMB 3,000, the equivalent of about $465. Soon realizing the value of their first-born son, (boys, who serve as heirs in Chinese culture, are more desirable), they sold him for the equivalent of $,4,650, 10 times the amount of their daughter.
The couple managed to sell their third and final child--a boy--for another $4,650 before being brought to authorities by Lin's mother.
According to Sanxiang City News, the newspaper which originally reported on the couple's actions, neither Jin nor Juan knew that selling their children was illegal. In China, where a one-child policy is heavily enforced, it is likely that the couple--both allegedly under 21 years of age--sincerely did not know that their actions were against the law, but ignorance does not serve as a valid defense in Chinese law.
A similar story of addiction in China was reported recently about a Chinese teenager who sold one of his kidneys in order to purchase an iPad 2.
With people taking such extreme measures to purchase electronics or online video games, one cannot help but wonder what it is that is so addicting about them.
Ash Anderson--a resident of Marietta, Georgia, believes that the emotional draw of video games is what gamers find most appealing.
"To me, they're like movies where you are the main character," said Anderson. "Because you're controlling the center of the game, you become attached on a more emotional level. It's simply an interactive story, and many of them contain compelling characters and very interesting themes, like politics and familial issues."
Anderson, a self-proclaimed "avid player of video games," does not consider himself addicted to them and cannot imagine taking drastic measures to play them.
"I do not consider myself addicted to video games, however, they are definitely a main hobby of mine" he said. "As for those that take drastic measures, I've never been in a position to where I've had to do anything of the sort. To me, addiction is all the same; it involves the filling of a void."
Anderson, who works as an Electronic Sales Associate at Walmart, has often witnessed the frenzy caused by the release of new video games and other electronic devices in his store. When asked about his thoughts on the young Chinese couple selling their children to fund their addiction, he was appalled by the act.
"Having grown up in a home with loving parents, I have an extremely hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of selling one's lifeblood for virtual goods. That, to me, is just abhorrent."
"Video games have the potential to be addictive, certainly, but it's the person that's the catalyst," he added.
While Anderson might not have ever been vulnerable to the addictive characteristics of online video games, others certainly have.
Jose Gonzalez, a resident of North, Babylon, NY, admits to going to extremes in order to make more time for online video games.
"I guess the most drastic thing I've ever done to play games was quit my job," he said. "I play them as often as I can; sometimes that means, at least, a few hours a day--it all depends on if I have to see my girlfriend."
When asked if he considered himself addicted to online video games, he reflected on past gaming habits.
"I would say I was addicted to video games when I used to play them every day for more than eight hours a day, sometimes skipping sleep to fit in more time. Games are plenty addictive and there are many people who cannot get enough, just like a drug."
Anne, also a New York resident--who wished to have her last name withheld--was not surprised by the details of Jin and Juan's story upon hearing them. Her fiance, who has traveled to China before, had told her of his first-hand experience seeing children auctioned off by their families.
"China is a dismal place," Anne said. "People would sell their daughters for prostitution because women are so few in some small villages that they're a rare sight. When my fiance went to China on business, he was assaulted on the street with men peddling women for sale; children, too," Anne revealed.
Anne, however, does not necessarily blame the families who take to selling their children as much as she does the Chinese government.
"That is more the fault of their [expletive] government than a video game addiction.
When asked to comment on her history with video games, Anne was very open about her experience.
"I used to be [addicted], but not any longer; that was years ago," she said. "I would skip school and steal my mom's money to buy items in game for this one game I was addicted to," Anne confessed. She then added, "I was also a stupid teenager back then."
"I became addicted to [video games] for one of two reasons," she said. "It was an escape from cruel reality," and "there was social interaction that I got, which I never had in person at school or work."
Anne explained that she had experienced many trying times at a very young age, and that she relied on video games to serve as her safe haven.
"I had no friends in high school," she said and "I craved having others to talk to and interact with who weren't my sister, so, the Internet was the place to go. I started skipping school just to play the game, and would even play at school. I would be sitting at the computer sometimes for six hours straight; eventually, I knew I had to break the cycle."
"Now, I still play these games, but I can walk away from them. Why? Because I found myself as a person," she said. "I have new hobbies now...and am much happier with my life than I've ever been. All because I said 'I can't do this anymore,' and came to grips with the world."
Online video games manage to prove both beneficial and detrimental to those who play them. Whether playing online video games is a fun hobby for some or an addictive habit for others, it appears that the escape from reality is always just a click away.