A story about a woman who became addicted to a Facebook game and endangered her children is garnering public outrage, but the game doesn’t actually exist on Facebook.

A woman in the UK has apparently been banned from using the internet and keeping pets (as well as earning a suspended jail sentence), after an addiction to an online videogame caused her to leave her home in squalor and create a dangerous living environment for her kids. The details of the story are rather horrifying, but there are too many inconsistencies for it to be believed outright.

According to The Daily Mail, the woman (“who cannot be named for legal reasons”) became addicted to Small World, an online board game. She was so obsessed that she neglected her three children and let her dogs starve to death (the article claims they spent two months rotting in her dining room). While her children were never starved themselves, they were reduced to eating food like cold beans straight from a can. On the surface, this story is really unsettling, but it doesn’t exactly hold together on close examination.

The problem is that Small World doesn’t actually exist on Facebook. In fact, it doesn’t exist on the web at all. Small World is a board game – a really fun one, actually – that was released in 2009 and was recently put out on the iPad. Speaking as an owner of this edition, the iPad version does allow you to play against an AI opponent, but there’s no online mode. There’s also no PC version of the game, either, which is strange, since the article claims the woman was practically glued to her laptop during her addiction.

The funny thing is that the Daily Mail’s article has a sidebar that goes into a lot of detail about the game, giving a fairly accurate description about its fantasy elements and the fact that it’s actually a board game. In fact, the only incorrect assertion in the sidebar is that, Small World “can be played with friends online.”

The story becomes even harder to believe because, “aside from shots of the boardgame they included shots of Warhammer Online, even sticking a false URL on it.”

There are also a number of issues with this story that are raised by common sense: Did the kids not know how to cook or clean for themselves? The oldest is apparently 13; I was certainly capable of making my own meals, doing laundry, and going to the store on my own by that point. Also, leaving two dog corpses to rot for a couple of months seems a little too shocking to actually be real.

Thanks to all these inconsistencies, it’s hard to discern what’s real in this story and what isn’t. At best, it’s a poorly-researched piece of journalism that is in serious need of some investigation and fact-checking. At worst … well, that incident with The Daily Star wasn’t that long ago.

Source: The Daily Mail

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