By Coco Shen and Fan Huang
At 9pm on February 1st in the Taiwanese city of Xinbei, a 23-year-old gamer named Chen Rongyou was found dead in his seat at an internet cafe, after buying two-eight hour sessions of online time. When discovered by police, he was stiff with rigor mortis, and his arms remained outstretched in front of him, with one hand reaching for the keyboard and another hand reaching for the mouse.
Taiwanese media reports that Chen was playing League of Legends, while Hong Kong media reports he was playing World of Warcraft.
After an autopsy was performed, police concluded that the man died from a heart attack triggered by cold weather, and that the gamer’s body was weakened from staying up all night in front of the computer. The police found a medicine bag relating to his heart condition that was in his pocket at the time of death.
Chen, a former wiring technician for the Beitaoyuan TV cable wiring company, recently quit his job before the start of the lunar new year. He arrived at the Wangji Daren (网际达人) internet cafe at 10pm on Tuesday the 31st of January, and spent 100TWD (Taiwan New Dollars) for 8 hours of internet time. He sat at a computer next to a wall of the internet cafe, and smoked while playing online.
After his session concluded, Chen slept for 2-3 hours at a chair in the 24-hour internet cafe, before waking up around 6 am the next morning and buying another 8-hour session. He was seen speaking to a friend on his cellphone around 12pm on Wednesday the 1st.
According to the waitress at the internet cafe, Chen looked exhausted and coughed from time to time, and she noticed that he was sitting slumped to the left in his chair around 1pm. She eventually approached him at 9pm Wednesday night, felt that his body was cold and his lips were purple, and promptly called the police.
Gamers stayed at their computers even when the police arrived
A regular customer at the cafe who visited the cafe at least 3 times a week and spent 8 hours or more each visit, Chen usually rested between sessions by leaning back in a chair or putting his head on a table, a skill library-frequenting Asians are particularly known for the world over.
Even when his booked time was over, no one bothered to wake Chen up from his table napping. 30 some gamers were still obliviously sitting at their computers when the police arrived to claim Chen’s body.
Only a few gamers left when they became aware of what occurred, with most thinking the police were there for a regular inspection.
A local mortician said the rigor mortis which set Chen’s body in a sitting position wouldn’t be an issue for burial, since the body could be stretched out with ropes.
Chen’s parents informed the police that when their son came back home on the 24th and 25th of January, he mentioned suffering from chest pain. Chen had previously visited a hospital for a checkup in September.
If there is any aspiring playwright looking to write a contemporary Asian tragedy, they might be wise to consider using a story like Chen’s for their script. We’ve often thought the internet cafe was little more than a modern opium den for young men and women looking to lose themselves for hours at a time.
And though we’ve often heard of urban legends where gamers die after spending days online without eating or drinking much, to see images of a man sitting in his chair, arms outstretched towards a computer, still has the power to unsettle.
Stories like Chen’s, or the Korean parents who let their newborn die of malnourishment while they spent their days raising a virtual baby online, serve as a stark reminder that the menace of internet addiction is real, and at times, fatal.