New WeChat 'Airplane War' game sending addicted players to hospital

Airplane War, a new game included in the Chinese version of WeChat, is giving players severe 'gamer's thumb'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 August, 2013, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 5:52pm

Chinese WeChat users addicted to a new airplane game included in the mobile social network’s newest iteration are now finding themselves in hospital with severe cases of “gamer’s thumb.”

Two Hangzhou women, surnamed Xu and Li, both recently visited hospitals after experiencing severe thumb pains, reported Qianjiang Evening News. According to reports citing doctors, the women said their fingers ached after endless bouts of playing the popular plane shooting game, Fei Ji Da Zhan, which can be translated into English as Airplane War.

Both women said they were big fans of the game, and Xu said she played it on the bus, at work and in the toilet. She said that sometimes, she did not sleep because she was playing it so feverishly to achieve the highest score. Li had a similar story, telling doctors her husband believed she was "ensnared" by the game.

Dr Zou Cheng, an orthopaedic doctor who diagnosed both women, said that their finger pains were a sign of De Qiervain syndrome, sometimes known as “gamer’s thumb". Nicknamed after its tendency to appear in the hands of video game players, De Qiervain syndrome is a painful swelling of tendons usually caused by thumb overuse or constant grasping.

Airplane War, which requires players to control a small aircraft with their thumbs, was the culprit, Zou said. The doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and recommended the women let their fingers rest, but not before warning them that De Qiervain syndrome could be potentially more serious.

“[In some cases], surgery may be necessary, such as making an incision in the thickened, inflamed tendon [of the thumb],” Zou said.

Zou also noted that aside from Xu and Li, he had already seen four other patients who were suffering from the same symptoms, all brought on by excessive Airplane War playing.

Airplane War has been exceedingly popular in China since it was introduced to 400 million mainland subscribers in WeChat Version 5.0. The game encourages players to compete with their friends for high scores. It is one of the first games that WeChat parent company Tencent released on its popular mobile social network. According to China Daily reports, there were more than 180 million Airplane War downloads within two hours of the title’s August 5 release.

The international version of WeChat currently lacks many features present in the Chinese release, including Airplane War.