Games to Die For

Remember the 1999 hit movie The Matrix? The story of an elaborate fantasy world meant to enslave humanity brought home the point that the virtual world may someday be enough to kill us all. That day may have finally arrived.

Reuters reports that we're becoming increasingly addicted to digital playtime and that the experience may be slowly slaughtering us. Consider the case of a 28-year-old South Korean man who died of heart failure after reportedly playing at an Internet cafe for 50 hours straight, taking breaks only to use the restroom and sleep briefly. Apparently, the man had quit his job to spend more time online. That would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Certainly no one is laughing in South Korea. Reuters quotes analysts who say that between 1% and 2% of online gamers in the country are addicts. Regulators have responded by -- get this -- opening clinics offering help. Picture Betty Ford for the chronically digital.

Is this really necessary? I've my doubts. I mean, really, one guy inducing a series of mini-heart attacks by channeling adrenaline whilst mainlining caffeine doesn't a trend make. Besides, isn't it more dangerous to go on a 48-hour bender with your frat buddies? (Well, they do have clinics for that, so maybe it's not that crazy.)

Once you get past the tragedy and absurdity of death by computer, you've almost got to celebrate what it means for you as an investor. No, I'm not suggesting you downplay the human tragedy. But I am suggesting if an online gaming addict has the hots for digital wares as badly as a smoker needs a death stick or an alcoholic needs his vodka martini, then the next Altria (NYSE: MO  ) -- the single best-performing stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 since 1970 -- is out there. And it's probably online right now.

Get the latest Rule-Breaking Foolishness with these gamey tidbits:

  • There are plenty of stocks with game, including Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES  ) and Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq: SNDA  ) .
  • Millions of gamers? How about 4 million? That's the tally for the wide world of Warcraft.
  • Even Stock Advisor pick Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL  ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) want in on the action.

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Fool contributorTim Beyers was huge at Super Punch Out in the '80s, but he's been a digital lightweight ever since. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profilehere. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.


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