Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

Make My Day

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Indiana

SYRACU.S.E, Ind. -- When people file lawsuits blaming large corporations for their own stupidity, they're telling us they're notresponsible for anything they've done. In a sense they're telling the world they should not be trusted, because it's the not their fault they climbed over an eight-foot fence and onto an electrical transformer,nearly killing themselves in the process.

And yet somehow, we're supposed to believe these people should be allowed to have driver's licenses or the right to appear unsupervised in public. My complaint about frivolous lawsuits has always been that people are shirking their personal responsibility in their desire for a huge settlement. Even Miami, Fla., attorney Jack Thompson says he believes people are responsible for their own actions. At least that's what he said in an angry letter posted in the letters section of Overlawyered.com (http://www.overlawyered.com).

Thompson is representing Elizabeth Woolley, the mother of ShawnWoolley, a 21 year old Hudson, Wisconsin man who committed suicide lastNovember. Elizabeth Woolley blames EverQuest, a popular online game, forher son's death.

"I believe in free enterprise," he said. "I believe that peopleare responsible for their actions."

So why do he and Mrs. Woolley want to sue Sony OnlineEntertainment, the owner of EverQuest, claiming the game should have awarning label saying it's "addictive?"

Woolley feels her son's suicide was a direct result of playingEverQuest for hours at a time, despite being diagnosed with depressionand schizoid personality disorder.

According to a March 30 article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Woolley played the game despite neurological problems itcaused him. He quit his job and ignored his family because he wasobsessed with the game. In fact, he loved it so much that he playedright until a few minutes before he shot himself Thanksgiving Day, 2001.

"Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn't supposed tobecause he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures," ElizabethWoolley said. "Probably the last eight times he had seizures werebecause of stints on the computer."

Woolley also told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Shawn had problemsbeyond his "addiction" to the game. After he was diagnosed with hismental problems, Elizabeth contacted a mental health group and eventried to get her son to live in a group home.

Despite his mental problems and seizures, she is still convincedthat it was SOE's lack of a warning label that caused Shawn's suicide.And despite Thompson's belief that people are responsible for theiractions, he also blames SOE. In his letter, he says:

"The actions for which these corporate ghouls should be heldresponsible are marketing a game that they know is addictive and isdesigned to be addictive and prey on addictive personalities, withabsolutely no warnings whatsoever.

"Do you think drug pushers are responsible for their behavior?If not, then go to Afghanistan where your anarchist, pro-drug views willbe greatly rewarded."

Never mind that Thompson's murky logic equates reporting on alawsuit with being a pro-drug anarchist -- I guess that makes me TimothyLeary. Never mind that Thompson is blaming SOE for the same thingtobacco companies do to cigarettes.

Let's overlook the fact that computer game addiction isemotional, not a result of mind-altering chemicals. And let's alsooverlook the fact that people said the same thing about Dungeons &Dragons back in the '80s, but no one took it seriously.

And finally, let's forget that Thompson seems to think thatSOE's marketing efforts are being spearheaded by the evil undead (okay,he doesn't really think that).

How can Thompson hold SOE responsible for their actions, butcompletely ignore Shawn Woolley's responsibility for his own life? Is heimplying that drug pushers are responsible for their actions, but drugusers aren't?

Look back at Mrs. Woolley's statement. She said Shawn wasn'tsupposed to play the game, because he'd had eight seizures as a directresult, quit his job and ignored his family. One can onlyassume that he made these choices by himself, and that Sony neverprompted him to do it.

If this is the case, then why isn't Thompson practicing what hepreaches and holding the Woolleys to his same standard? Could it be thatencouraging people to accept responsibility for their actions doesn'tearn the same legal fees as suing large corporations?

But Thompson and Woolley aren't alone. According to Jay Parker,co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction, SOE is a predator who preyson people with problems like Shawn's -- people who are isolated, proneto boredom, lonely or "sexually anorexic," have low self-esteem, or poorbody image are at risk for game addiction.

"(SOE) purposely made it in such a way that it is moreintriguing to the addict," Parker told the Journal Sentinel. "It couldbe created in a less addictive way, but (that) would be the differencebetween powdered cocaine and crack cocaine."

So if a game is fun, interesting, and appeals to the averagegame player, then it's also targeted at addictive personalities? How cana game appeal to regular gamers but avoid hooking Parker's addicts?Maybe game manufacturers could sponsor public service announcements ontv. Announcer: Friends don't let friends freak out and becomesocially isolated. Arrive sane. Be a designated connection to reality.

To people like Parker, I'm sure everything has the potential tobe addictive. Sure there's the regular addictions, like alcohol, drugs,and tobacco, but they have chemicals that cause psychological addiction.So how can the Internet, television, or food be addictive? There'snothing in those things that creates a psychological dependence the sameway drugs, tobacco, or alcohol do. The dependence is created in the userand their emotions. What about people who constantly wash their hands or clean theirhouse every day? We used to say they had an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which could be treated with drugs and therapy.

But will people sue soap companies and vacuum cleaner manufacturers now? After all, people use cleaning products to support their addiction. Will we find more of Thompson's "corporate ghouls" marketing these products to people with obsessive-compulsive disorderswith no product warnings? Should Dial monitor the sales of their hand soap, making sure that only mentally stable people are allowed to purchase it? How about a five-day waiting period and background check on anyone trying to buy aliquid soap dispenser? We could demand that Eureka put warning labels on all their vacuum cleaners, warning obsessive cleaners that using theirproduct might lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain.

Or we could just have them come to my house once a week to vacuum and dust.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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