The disappearance of fifteen-year-old Canadian boy Brandon Crisp has garnered international attention when it was discovered that he was addicted to the Xbox 360 game Call of Duty 4. Now more than three weeks later, the search has finally ended with the discovery of his body in a field near his hometown of Barrie, Ontario. While the search for Brandon is over, the debate about game addiction has just begun.
On October 12, Brandon ran away from home after his parents revoked his Xbox 360 privileges due to his unacceptable behavior and worries about the amount of time he would spend playing his games. The young boy rode away on his mountain bike with nothing more than a backpack filled with crackers and a few pieces of extra clothing.
Mass media turned its attention towards this story when Steve Crisp, Brandonâ€™s father, indicated that the reason his son ran away was because of his addiction to the game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Steve added â€śThis [the game] had become his identity, and I didnâ€™t realize how in-depth this was until I took his Xbox away. Thatâ€™s like cutting his legs off. This is such an issue that hits every parent out there, with video games that are starting to control our kidsâ€™ lives. I just took away his identity, so I can understand why he got so mad and took off. Before, I couldnâ€™t understand why he was taking off for taking his game away.â€ť
Brandonâ€™s parents pleaded with Microsoft to disclose a list of players that Brandon may have communicated with or competed against recently over their Xbox Live service. The software giant, and maker of the Xbox 360 console, fully cooperated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in providing such a list. Microsoft also offered to match a local reward of $25,000 for any information that would lead to the whereabouts of Brandon Crisp. Microsoft later increased the reward to $50,000.
Brandon’s story started appearing on news outlets and websites across the world but these stories focused more on his gaming habits than the fact that he was missing. The story of Brandon Crisp was no longer about an angry teen running away from home, but that of a perfectly normal teen corrupted by the evils of gaming. Not a single story bothered to ask why a fifteen-year-old was allowed to play a game that is clearly identified as rated “M” for mature. If his parents were so concerned with the amount of time their son was spending on the Xbox 360, why did they not use the built in â€śparental controlsâ€ť to slowly wane their son off his addiction?
An article in the latest issue of Macleanâ€™s (Canadaâ€™s longest running weekly national magazine) interviewed Jerald Block, a psychiatrist and self proclaimed gamer, on the Brandon Crisp story. He placed the blame of this tragedy squarely in the hands of gaming addiction. He indicated that this case is similar to the one in which Klebold and Harris, having just been cut off from playing Doom, opened fire in their local high school killing 12 students and a teacher, before they committing suicide.
Did Brandonâ€™s gaming addiction lead to his death? Had he never played a game in his life, would his personality have exhibited a similar behavior over a squabble about his homework, or coming in late on a school night? These questions are for another day. For today we extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Crisp family.