A young gamer recently died after months of late-night livestreaming sessions playing “Honour of Kings,” the wildly popular mobile game from tech giant Tencent. The death has sparked a broader discussion about the health risks of staying up at night, overtime work, and video game addiction.
Livestreaming platform Chushou TV announced on its Weibo microblog on Tuesday that a 20-year-old male livestreamer, identified only by his online moniker, “Guwang,” had died in the early hours of Nov. 2. No cause of death was given: He was simply said to have suffered “a sudden death.”
Chushou TV, a so-called bullet screen-style platform for livestreaming mobile games, has over 100,000 livestreamers and 10 million regular viewers. The company’s post described Guwang as a “positive, humorous, and enthusiastic” young man who was a familiar face at offline events and had extended his daily livestreaming hours at the request of his 170,000 fans. According to China National Radio, from July until his death, Guwang livestreamed games from midnight to 9:00 a.m. every day.
Along with a wave of condolences, Guwang’s death has triggered discussion on the health risks of poor sleep habits and overtime work. Though Japan is the country most often associated with death from overwork — a phenomenon known as karoshi in Japanese or guolaosi in Chinese — the issue is capturing growing attention in China. In 2014, overwork claimed an estimated 600,000 lives in China, amounting to around 1,600 deaths per day.
Under a Weibo post reporting the news, one representative comment read: “Rest in peace. Everyone, do remember to rest.” In the same thread, a woman’s post related her own experience of going to bed late for several months: “I suddenly felt my heart beating very fast for many days; it was going so fast I couldn’t sleep. During the day, I could feel it beating. Terrifying. After that, I didn’t dare stay up so late.”
News articles reporting the death unpacked the science behind fatigue and its effects on the body, with one reminding panicked Weibo users that unless they had pre-existing health conditions or a family history of heart problems, sudden death from fatigue was rare. The same article listed high-profile cases of individuals who had died of exhaustion since 2015, including top executives in media and tech companies such as NetEase and Tencent.
Some users took the opportunity to criticize those who made careers out of livestreaming and gaming. “They’re all a lazy group of people,” commented Weibo user Yan Zhongwen. Others, however, rushed to the industry’s defense: “Isn’t livestreaming relying on your own skills and your own professional accomplishments to make money? You’re talking nonsense while totally misunderstanding esports, games, and the livestreaming industry,” read one response to Yan. Another user commented, “As long as it’s not theft, every profession deserves respect.”
“Honour of Kings” has regularly made headlines over the past year. With its addictive gameplay and more than 200 million registered users, the game has been directly linked to a number of serious incidents, including an 11-year-old’s suicide, fatal strokes, and loss of eyesight. In August, new parents in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province controversially named their daughter after the game. The same month, the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army warned that the game’s popularity among soldiers was jeopardizing the country’s combat readiness.
Tuesday’s post from Chushou TV called on the platform’s users to prioritize their health and announced a string of changes to limit the length of livestreams: Gamers will be encouraged to take breaks and get regular health checks, and overly long sessions will be stopped — though what constitutes “overly long” was not defined.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: A man plays Tencent’s popular mobile game ‘Honour of Kings’ in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, July 26, 2017. VCG)