The sad story of a U.K. woman so addicted to an online game that she neglected her kids and let her dogs starve to death has been settled in court, but the details of the game she was involved with still continue to swirl.
Originally reported in the U.K. by the Sun, the game was Small World from Days of Wonder. Other U.K. papers picked up on the story, continuing to hammer on the game and offering detailed descriptions of it. Unfortunately, the information they gathered was on the wrong game.
The Sun reporter pulled the name from court proceedings, and while he got the name right, the other facts of the case did not fit. Small World has no online component and is not a Facebook game. It is a board game. The Daily Mail even reported as much, but failed to make the connection that the board game did not have an online component. The Mail even used a Warhammer Online photo as part of its story.
The real game in question appears to have been SmallWorlds by Outsmart, which indeed is online.
Both game companies have had their say. Mitch Olson, co-founder of Smallworlds.com, originally posted that the game in question was not his company's game, but was indeed the Days of Wonder title. He used news article pictures to back up his claim. Days of Wonder responded in their blog, citing "Google Journalism" for the erroneous reports in the British tabloids and challenged the reporters to fact check their stories in the future.
Olson has since responded with another post focusing on what should have been the real issue all along: A case of addiction and the problems it can cause:
Internet addiction is a very serious issue and just like any form of addiction, there are some individuals who are more at risk than others. It is these people who need information and support to help them break the cycle of addiction they become trapped in. Since hearing about this story we have revisited what we can do to increase our vigilance as a responsible online game and community, by deepening our player education program and putting in alerts to warn of excessive playing. You'll be see more of this in the next few days and weeks.
Rock Paper Shotgun weighed in, contacting Roger Pearson, who wrote the original story for Mercury Press Agency. The MPA story was apparently the source for the other stories, but not the embellishments of the individual papers. Pearson's response:
I’ve already been contacted by the Daily Mail on this – indeed I did a check with the reporter who supplied the story yesterday afternoon after a query from The Sun.
The best I can tell you is that the judge and lawyers all referred in court to a game called Small World – not Worlds. Whether they were wrong in the way they were referring to it we cant say. Going on your comments it sounds as if they may have been.
The reporter could only go on what was said in court though. That is of course privileged, and if he had changed it to another name he would have been laying himself open to trouble if he changed it wrongly.
He’s not a computer games player so he wouldn’t be up on the finer computer game points you’ve mentioned.
Afraid that’s the best I can tell you.
RPS also tweeted that Games Workshop's IP lawyers got the Mail to removed the errant Warhammer Online image as well.
It appears that this is a case of a sad story being made worse by shoddy reporting and the attempt to sensationalize the games angle instead of the true addiction angle.