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Parents Sue Online Game Seller for Son's Suicide
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The parents of Zhang Xiaoyi, the 13-year-old boy who jumped to his death from a tall building in 2004 in honor of his heroes from an online computer game, are suing the game's distributors for 100,000 yuan (about US$12,500) in compensation. 

In the indictment submitted to Chaoyang District People's Court of Beijing, the parents have also demanded that Aomeisoft clearly marks the violence content on the packaging and in the instructions for "Warcraft: Orcs and Humans" for its sale in China.

The court has accepted the file and put it on record, according to an official with the court.

Zhang Chunliang, one of attorney agents for the case, said they had brought the case to court for public good.

Zhang Xiaoyi, a brilliant junior high school student from Tianjin, committed suicide on the morning of December 27, 2004 after playing the game for 36 hours consecutively in a game hall.

He plunged from the top of the 24-story building in which he lived with his family, leaving behind a letter with the reason for his suicide: to join the heroes of the game he worshipped.

After examining his school records, his 80,000-character diary about online games and the suicide note, a hospital in Beijing concluded that "Zhang had excessively indulged in unhealthy games and contracted serious Internet addiction before his death."

The incident caused public outcry over the harmful effect of addictive games on minors and triggered calls to limit the sale of such games. The parents brought an action against the developer of the game in the United States, but a court in Tianjin refused to put the case on record.

"The game is classified T-level in the United States which means it is suitable for only people above 13 years old. But we had no idea of that," the indictment says. Zhang Xiaoyi had played Warcraft: Orcs and Humans for two years before his suicide.

The indictment demanded Aomeisoft inform the Chinese public that Warcraft: Orcs and Humans is classified T-level in the United States, meaning it is not suitable for people under 13 years old.

It also called for a warning to be printed on its packaging noting that "playing games excessively harms health".

"Many foreign countries have established strict game classification systems to indicate which games are certain for which age groups. China should also establish such a system," said Zhang Chunliang, who is also a noted researcher of Internet addiction treatment.

According to a report on Internet addiction among Chinese youngsters, issued by the China Youth Association for Internet Development in November last year, 13.2 percent of China's 16.5 million young netizens have contracted Internet addiction. Of juvenile crimes, more than 70 percent are induced by Internet addiction.

In one of the cases, a 16-year-old high school student in Shanxi province murdered his uncle to get money for playing online games in July 2003.

"Just as power plants must take responsibility for discharging pollutants, game companies should take responsibility for the consequences of spiritual pollution caused by their products," said Zhang Chunliang.

He said parents of 64 children addicted to online games had entrusted him to sue relevant parties over the harm inflicted on their children.

"Young people are the future pillars of society. If they indulge in the Internet and neglect their school work today, what can they do tomorrow?" said Zhang.

(Xinhua News Agency May 12, 2006)

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