CBC To Demonize Gaming This Friday
By Eli Green
March 5, 2009 - 15:15

This Friday at 9 p.m., the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's investigative news program, “CBC News: The Fifth Estate” will be airing an episode entitled “Top Gun”, on what the episode's promos are calling “the dark side of video gaming”.

Brandon Crisp tragically died after running away from home at the age of 15.
The episode will focus, in large part, on the story of Brandon Crisp, a 15-year old Barrie, Ontario boy who went missing after running away from his home on October 13, 2008, following a heated argument with his parents over their confiscation of his Xbox 360 and games. According to CBC's website, on this week's episode, “When Brandon Crisp's parents took away his Xbox, they had no idea that their attempt to restrict their son's video gaming would lead to tragedy. In retaliation, Brandon ran away. His body was found three weeks later. His disappearance, and death, became a national news story as it revealed a dark side to what many thought was a harmless entertainment. Gillian Findlay investigates how a video gaming obsession can turn to addiction and a pro gaming circuit with thousands of dollars in potential winnings, experts say, can fuel the need to play”.

It is likely that the dark side the promos refer to is one of the addiction, violence and the loss of moral compass or grasp on reality that come from playing video games. What? You mean you didn't know? We've heard it all before, about all forms of media. Books lead us away from reality, twisting our minds about what's real or not. Movies and television do the same, but worse, making us violent, hyper-sexualized and warping our concepts of what's right and wrong. And, of course, video games do all of that and even worse, because we interact with them, and with other people, in our homes and over the Internet. And don't even get me started on how much damage the Internet has done to us!

In fact, it's not just video games that were originally blamed for Crisp's disappearance back in October, but the online community of gamers as well, most specifically the members of his Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare “ clan” . In an interview with the media a week after his disappearance, Crisps father said, “I'm worried he has met someone online through this game. It could be organized crime or someone involved in Internet

gambling. Pedophiles can stalk kids through these games," fearing his son had been “lured into meeting someone from that clan and is now being held against his will”, that according to the Toronto Star report in which the quote from the interview appears. In the end, and quite tragically, Crisp's body was found on November 5 th , in a field just outside of the police search area. An autopsy showed that he had died from chest wounds “consistent with a fall from a tree”, and police said foul play was not suspected. In other words, he wasn't kidnapped by evil gamers, he just ran away and fell victim to an unfortunate accident.

Unfortunately, the damage to the reputation of the gaming community has been done, and the airing of this episode of “The Fifth Estate” will probably make things worse. We'll have to wait and watch before we come to our own conclusions on the episode and what it says about gaming and addiction. Most importantly though, we'll be keeping a particularly close eye on what is said about the role parents are or are not playing in the lives of child gamers. In the case of Brandon Crisp, not much is known about his parent's involvement in his gaming, aside from word of them being worried about him often playing games into the late hours of the night, and his father's multiple attempts to confiscate his games. The culmination of this was the night Brandon left home. His father called his bluff and even helped him pack his knapsack, expecting the boy to retur n home “ later that day with his tail between his legs” . Steve Crisp's assumption that his son would simply return home, apologize and life would go on, an assumption based on his own recollection of a time he ran away from home as a child, was one that, sadly, did not come to pass. Was that the best way to handle things? We don't know, and we can't say. The case of Brandon Crisp was a tragic one, and one that we can only hope will never happen again, but are video games really to blame?

In most cases, parents go straight to blaming whatever form of media their child was attached to at the time, should the child do anything improper or “out of the norm”. And it appears that this will be the case with this week's episode, if past media coverage of

Barack Obama may not be a fan of hard core gaming, but he understands that kids need real parenting.
incidents where video games were, or were possibly, involved is any indication. At least the new President of the United States of America understands that parents actually have to be parents when it comes to situations like these, and making sure they never happen. In his first Congressional address President Barack Obama spoke about video games saying, “In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a president, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.”

We'll have more on this after we've watched the episode and analyzed it for ourselves.

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