World of Warcraft — WoW, to many — debuted in late 2004. Just under a decade later, the online, virtual universe announced that players had created over 100 million accounts over the game’s lifetime. As of May 2015, the game has about seven million active subscribers. Many of those players spend hours a day killing monsters, attempting quests, and even battling against other players in an effort to improve their avatar and demonstrate their digital supremacy. For some, the game can be an obsession bordering on addiction — there are even organizations which aim to help those who believe they can’t quit on their own — and there are certainly many parents who wish their children would spend less times in the fictitious planet of Azeroth and more time on planet Earth.
And at least one parent got so frustrated, he decided to hire a hitman to kill his son.
A team of hitmen, actually. Virtual ones, though — they were to find his son’s avatar and kill it.
The target of the online assassins was a then-23-year-old Chinese man Xiao Feng. As reported in early 2013, the younger Mr. Feng was a software engineer who had been employed for only three months when he decided to quit, for reasons unclear and unexplained. But one thing is clear: he didn’t have another job lined up — and he didn’t seem all that worried about that. Instead of looking for another job, Xiao Feng spent most of his time playing WoW, a decision which displeased his father. Kotaku went into more detail:
Unhappy with his son not finding a job, Feng decided to hire players in his son’s favorite online games to hunt down Xiao Feng. It is unknown where or how Feng found the in-game assassins—every one of the players he hired were stronger and higher leveled than Xiao Feng. Feng’s idea was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job.
Unfortunately for the older Mr. Feng, this wasn’t much of a deterrent. The BBC spoke to a gambling and addictions professor named Mark Griffiths who predicted that the efforts would fail: “I’ve never heard of that kind of intervention before, but I don’t think these top-down approaches work. Most excessive game playing is usually a symptom of an underlying problem,” Griffths said. Further, when a character dies in World of Warcraft, the death is only temporary — characters can, and do, come back to life easily and often. His son, therefore, was able to keep playing and, ultimately, figured out what was going on. RT.com reported that ,”puzzled by his constant failures in the game he thought he had mastered, [Xiao Feng] eventually asked the virtual ‘assassins’ why they had been hunting for him, only to find out they had been sent by his father.”
Professor Griffiths turned out to be right: Xiao Feng did not give into his father’s desires. Feng told the press that he was still looking for a job, albeit slowly, and was using the time to better figure out what kind of career he wanted. (And slay some demons and dragons, too.) He did, however, reconcile with his father — who, probably, fired the army of virtual killers.
Take the Quiz: Find the assassinated. Avoid those who weren’t.