Mental health expert: Losing touch with reality a dangerous risk in gaming world

Published: Jan. 17, 2018 at 9:04 PM CST
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People involved in the online gaming community say the Dec. 28 'swatting' call that led to the death of Andrew Finch came about because of a dispute during an online game.

Mental health expert, Dr. Molly Allen, says it's not uncommon for people in the gaming world to lash out in ways they normally would not.

"You may get angry at being disrespected in the game. That rage, that fury, that white hot anger just takes over everything," Allen says. "Then your sense of decency may fly right out the window."

The multi-billion-dollar gaming world is far-reaching and many spend hours online, playing and making virtual friends. For many, it's more than a casual hobby.

"The research shows that about a quarter of the players that play these multiplayer online games get, what technically could be called, addicted to the games," Allen says.

Investigators haven't given much information on online activity that led up to what they say was Tyler Barris swatting the Wichita Police Department, but gamers began reaching out to Eyewitness News right away after a police officer shot and killed Finch on the call that turned out to be a hoax.

All provided the same account of an online-gaming argument spilling onto Twitter before the swatting call was made.

"There's a certain anonymity that pops up with doing that kind of thing on social media, like tweeting," Allen says. "I can be rude to this other person and I don't have this immediate feedback of seeing that 'ouch' on their face or hearing it in their voice.'"

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