An exceptionally sad piece of news for not just gamers everywhere but the entire human race. And no, there ain't no cynicism or sarcasm here.

Online gaming addiction in South Korea has evolved as the problem gradually disintegrates into much more than just another social issues, with a body count to boot.

A couple have been arrested by the South Korean police for starving their three-month-old daughter to death as they devoted all their time on raising a virtual child.

The infant, who was left unnamed since born, was found dead in September 24 last year by her parents, who went home after a 12-hour gaming-session in a nearby internet cafe. The couple were reportedly obsessed with raising a virtual girl that they had named Anima in the popular MMORPG game Prius Online. Yes, their virtual daughter had a name while their real-life daughter does not even had one.

The couple, Kim Yoo-chul, 41, and his partner, Choi Mi-sun, 25, reportedly met through a chat website. The pair, who were unemployed, spent their days devoting in the virtual reality game, which is similar to Second Life as players create an online existence for themselves in the virtual world, by choosing a career, interacting with other users and earning an extra avatar to nurture as their offspring as a reward for reaching a certain level.

Leaving their real daughter at their home in a suburb of Seoul to fend for herself, the pair had admitted that they have been feeding their child rotten powdered milk and even then she was only fed once a day. The infant girl was born prematurely, weighing 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms), and had spent one month in an incubator. Concerned with the couple's obsession with online gaming, Kim's parents initially took care of the baby and had just returned her to their care two weeks before she died. As the baby's malnourished body begun to arouse police suspicions, which were confirmed later after an autopsy, the couple fled to the wife's parents' house in Yangju, Gyeonggi province, but were arrested on last Monday, March 1st.

While this piece of news might be deeply disturbing for us folks, the local police had some theories though.

"The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life, because they didn't have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby," Chung Jin-won, a police officer in Suwon, the Seoul suburb, told the Yonhap news agency.

"They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby."

Meanwhile, media reports indicated that this case might not be as isolated as one might thought.

A 22-year-old man was caught and indicted last month for murdering his mother as because she continuously nagged him for spending too much time and energy playing games. After his crime, the man headed to a nearby internet cafe and continued with his game, said officials.

Last July, a 21-year-old man was arrested for killing his mother, blaming her for her internet addiction and neglecting the family.

A worker in his 30s died of exhaustion in a Seoul internet cafe, after spending five consecutive days playing games.

Perhaps this society has reached the point where the melting question has to be asked: Can humanity handle gaming? The answer might just not be as obvious as you might thought.


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