"Dark Warrior epilepsy," a ridiculously rare medical condition named after an arcade game

Illustration for article titled Dark Warrior epilepsy, a ridiculously rare medical condition named after an arcade game

Back when Pokémon were just a seizure-inducing flicker in Nintendo's eye, there was "Dark Warrior epilepsy," a form of epilepsy that was only reported once in the history of medicine. Nonetheless, this malady is responsible for one of the strangest paragraphs ever to grace a medical journal.


In 1982, the British Medical Journal published a report from the Department of Neurology at Bristol's Frenchay Hospital. This article — simply and sinisterly titled "Dark Warrior epilepsy" — recounted how a 17-year-old girl with probable photosensitive epilepsy lost consciousness after playing the arcade game Dark Warrior (see gameplay below). As the researchers noted:

She had played Space Invader, Asteroids, and Lunar Rescue and not suffered any known adverse effects.


The patient subsequently avoided playing Dark Warrior, and her fits ceased. But that wasn't enough for our enterprising doctors.

No, after witnessing terms like "Space Invader wrist tendonitis" and "Space Invader epilepsy" (which was erroneously coined during a case study of the game Astro Fighter) gain cachet in medical circles, these doctors were gung-ho to leave on a mark on the neuroscientific lexicon. Behold this magical paragraph:

The term Space Invader epilepsy is, in fact, a misnomer, since no cases have been reported with the Space Invader video game itself. We suggest, therefore, that Astro Fighter and Dark Warrior epilepsy be classified under "electronic space war video game epilepsy" and this as a special category of photoconvulsive epilepsy. Video games other than space war games-for example, Super Bug and Munch Man-appear to be less epileptogenic. Electronic space war video game epilepsy has yet to be reported with Defender, Space Fury, Lunar Rescue, or Asteroids war games.

I hope Munch Man's PR team exploited the hell out of that pull quote. And the next time I end up in the emergency room, I will slip "electronic space war video game epilepsy" among my list of complaints. (This is how to determine who was awake during med school.) Also, is Dark Warrior epilepsy is any way linked to outbreaks of Pac-Man Fever? This requires further inquiry.

Semi-related: Another journal paragraph somehow penned with a straight face.


[Via Mind Hacks]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



I'm pretty sure I developed Phobophobia while playing Part 1 of the original "Doom: Knee-Deep In the Dead," which was set on Mars' moon Phobos.