Enough already.

Enough with the knee-jerk reactions already. I wasn’t going to comment on this, which I read a few days ago, but after discussing this with a friend of mine, I’m frustrated how quickly this was blamed on video games. If you haven’t read the story, basically, a couple left their four-month old at home (alone) while they went down the street to play some World of Warcraft at a local PC Bang. When they returned (five hours later) their daughter had suffocated. While the news that a small child had died is a horrible thing, blaming this on video games is so far out in left field that it borders on the ridiculous. First of all, you could replace “went to play video games” with “watched TV” or “took a nap” and all of a sudden this just becomes a sad story, possibly a case of SIDS. Instead, the media (and the police) jerk their knees in the direction of video games. What a joke.

Discussing this with other gamers, it becomes evident that they think this is a simply a case of bad parenting, of parental neglect, not video games. But it’s not even that. How do the police know this small child didn’t suffocate five minutes after the couple left the house? They don’t. Even if the couple was at home, how could they have avoided this tragedy? Short of checking on the child every two minutes, this probably could not have been avoided. Instead, we get a quote like this from the police:

Police said, “It’s unfortunate, because the tragedy could have been averted if the couple had just left their daughter with Yu’s mother-in-law, who lived upstairs from them… We booked the pair on criminal charges, judging that when you consider the situation, they were responsible for their daughter’s death.”

No, I don’t think the tragedy could be avoided. But since we need someone to blame, we’ll blame the parents and their evil video games. If I was the manager of the place this couple was playing at, I’d be getting nervous. “If only he hadn’t provided a place to play their game this would have never happened.” And if “Blizzard hadn’t created such a darn addictive game, this little girl might still be alive!” (Excuse me while my head explodes).

So in summary – this is a tragic story. As a father, everytime I hear of an infant passing away, my stomach turns. But I find it too much of a stretch to blame this on parental neglect or video games. This is a just a sad case of misfortune. Unfortunately, in the blame-obsessed society we live in, video games are the easiest target, so they get the lion’s share of blame. Which is just sad.

(On a side note: I always thought prevailing wisdom was to lay a child on its back to sleep until it was old enough to roll over on its stomach. Most four-month olds can’t roll over. So maybe this was just a case of the parents putting their child to sleep on her stomach and that was simply not the best decision.)


  1. It does sound like a case of SIDS, but who leaves their infant alone for any amount of time, let alone 5 hours? Geez, when my daughter was four months old if she slept more than a few hours, night or day, my wife and I couldn’t resist checking on her to make sure she was OK.

    There’s something seriously wrong with those people, and it ain’t World of Warcraft.

  2. I agree with the above poster. This is something that transcends video games and has more to do with what may be a case of reckless/careless parenting. I don’t think any criminal charges should be pressed on them, though.

  3. Both of you are right, it is bad parenting to leave your child (a four month old child!) at home, by herself, for five hours. If they had returned to find the child dead of dehydration or starvation (not likely, but work with me), then yes, that would have been parental neglect and they should be charged with a crime. But that’s not the case. All they know is when they left the baby was alive and when they returned she had suffocated. I’m sure an autoposy could reveal a guesstimate of the time of death but I still don’t think the parents could have done anything about it.

    Tragic? Yes. Are these parents stupid? Mind-bogglingly stupid. Is the child’s death the parent’s fault? Possibly, but not likely.

  4. My sister died when she was 3 months old. My mom checked on her while she was napping and she seemed fine. 60 minutes later when she checked again she was dead. Just like that. Maybe mom could have checked 15 minutes earlier and saved her but maybe not. She was watching t.v. when it happened. Fortunately this happened in the 1970’s so my mom (mother of 6) was not prosecuted. She felt guilty enough already. Today, who knows what would happen?
    There is no way I personally would leave a baby alone in the house for four hours, as there could be a fire or other emergency. But I did regularly leave my daughter alone for 8 or 9 hours at a time in her room. (She was a very good sleeper.) There was a monitor in there in case she woke up and cried but I doubt it would have helped me monitor her breathing. Heck how is a person supposed to do chores, homework, watch t.v., or sleep if he is constantly checking on his kid? I bet a parent that won’t let a child out of his sight for more than 10 minutes has more issues than a parent that fails to ‘look in on the kid’ once in 5+ hours.

    You parents out there, think about it. Had your kid (when under 6 months) ever been out of an adults site for 5+ hours? 10 bucks says they have. Come on be honest! If a kid simply dies quietly in the crib I don’t know how anyone can blame the parent regardless of where the parent was at the time.

    It is simply a tragic event.

  5. RogueFace says

    What the hell is wrong with you people? A child being out of the sight of an adult for five+ hours is not what happened here. If the child suffocated, which seems to be what this looks like, she would have been crying. Baby monitors pick up things like crying. You know, the little two-way radios that every parent in the last forty years has had sitting around so they can hear their child? Yeah, those. Leaving your child in the other room, where you can hear them if they need you is one thing. Leaving them at home while you go to play video games is an amazing feat of neglect. I’m a gamer, I love my video games. I agree with all of you when you say that this is going to make us look bad. I would never say that this is the fault of WoW, or of Blizzard, or of the place they went to play. That would be stupid. But saying that the blame doesn’t lay on the shoulders of the parents… You guys are making yourselves look like assholes, and your making it worse for rational, non-crazy gamers like me.

  6. If the child suffocated, which seems to be what this looks like, she would have been crying.

    I’m not sure that would be the case. Suffocation means the baby can’t breathe. It seems like it would be awfully hard to cry or scream when you can’t breathe. Especially when the baby was lying on its stomach. She could have been choking and the parents, in the next room, could have been oblivious to it. That’s why SIDS is so insidious.

    Leaving them at home while you go to play video games is an amazing feat of neglect.

    I agree. My choice of words at Joystiq of “No neglect” were a poor choice. This is neglect. No bones about it. I have two kids under the age of three and I can’t fathom the thought of leaving them alone to their own defenses. If I did and anything happened to them, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

    But saying that the blame doesn’t lay on the shoulders of the parents

    If the child died because of some form of neglect, they absolutely must bear the burden of the blame. But if it was simply a case of SIDS, I’m sure the guilt they will feel will be punishment enough. I’m sure they’ve suffered immensely already.

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