Missing Teen Leads To Misplaced Video Game Bashing

from the it's-not-the-video-game's-fault dept

Teenagers have a long history of running away after getting into arguments with their family, but throw in the fact that the argument was over a video game and suddenly you’ve got a big press story in which the press can slam video games as being evil. As you may or may not be aware, there’s a story up in Canada concerning 15-year-old Brandon Crisp who ran away from home after an argument with his parents concerning how much time he was spending playing video games. Rather than suggesting that it may have been the argument that drove him from home, his parents are blaming the evils of video gaming, with his father saying:

“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.”

His mother apparently believes that he was taken by another video game player. So the press is having a field day, with the Toronto Globe & Mail running an editorial slamming pretty much everything to do with video games as being secretly addictive, and even claiming that video games are worse than drug or alcohol addiction, because parents and teachers encourage kids to play video games.

The problem is more insidious in some ways than drugs or alcohol because society approves of the basic activity. Parents don’t bring home a case of beer or a vial of cocaine for their children but they do buy the computers that their children use. Schools demand that students use computers for their homework assignments.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, though it is depressing, in this day and age that a newspaper opinion writer seems to simply lump all computer use together and automatically assumes that “video game addiction” must be the cause of the problem here, when that’s not at all confirmed in any way. To support the opinion piece, the Globe quotes the guy who’s been pushing to get video game addiction declared an official addiction, not noting that, as the guy who popularized it, he would stand to have his practice benefit greatly from getting to treat all those so-called “addicts.” And, more importantly, the Globe article, which mentions the guy’s crusade, ignores the fact that he was shot down by the American Medical Association which noted there is “nothing to suggest” that video game addiction “is a complex physiological disease state.”

But why let any of that get in the way of a good opinion piece?

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Comments on “Missing Teen Leads To Misplaced Video Game Bashing”

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Ben says:

Responsible Parenting

Warren Buffet ran away from home when he was 13 too. Last I checked, he turned out alright.

But this brings up the question: “Where were the parents in this kid’s life?”. Did they recently discover the (sic) transitive property of online gaming’s link to internet gambling and cocaine use? I hope they can prove that!

Point is, parents should take a more active role in um.. being a parent instead of trying to link beer consumption to computer use. What a set of pathetic excuses, which fly in the face of the definition of a “Responsible Parent”.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Responsible Parenting

Where were his parents, you ask?

Helping him pack his bags:

“I told him he wouldn’t be getting his Xbox back. He said, ‘Then I’m going to leave home.'”

Steve called his son’s bluff and even helped him pack his knapsack.

“I really thought he would be home later that day with his tail between his legs,” said Steve, who remembers running away from home once when he was a boy.

Sure, he wouldn’t be the first kid to say he was going to run away from home, leave for a night, and end up coming back. But the stories sure make it sound like the parents just assumed that’s what was going to happen, didn’t care to check up on him, and blamed the video game when things didn’t go according to plan.

If information in this discussion is correct, it does add quite a bit of information. The fact that he got directions from his mom (so they did have some idea where he was going), the fact that they had grounded him from the video game some 20 times before (so they were trying to do some parenting, even if the results don’t appear to be effective) seems like they aren’t just expecting to blame videogames and hope that solves everything.

But those are the quotes that make for good press, I guess. :/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hypocrites.

Maybe Techdirt should just be a hypocrite about everything, like you?

If you believe that anyone makes a “civil-liberties[sic] mountain out of a proposed-legislation molehill,” then I urge you to go live somewhere more suited to you: China, or Russia, or Syria, or Iran. You won’t have to worry about anyone else getting all up-in-arms about civil liberties in any of those places.

Michelle says:

Finally someone is talking some sense! These nonstop articles about this bratty teenage runaway are driving me bonkers! Clearly this kid ran away because of a fight with his parents. He wasn’t lured by a predator. My guess is he either got into an accident in the woods near his house during his clearly well-planned escape, or he’s camping out in a friend’s basement having a blast. The chances that he’s with an actual Internet predator are ridiculously slim.

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

Mass Media = FUD

This is just typical mass media. They used to blame rock and roll for the same things. It’s just bad parenting and the mass media doing what they always do, spreading FUD. They never check their facts, and the comments on the page are just as pathetically a joke. People should stop talking about crap they know nothing about.

Video games cannot be an addiction, it’s not possible. There are too many things that get classified as addictions that simply are not and can never be. It undermines real addictions and mocks them.

The media should be ashamed at themselves and report on real news, like how the government is always screwing over the people and pandering to large corporations.

Steve says:

Re: Mass Media = FUD

I have to disagree on your “Video games cannon be an addiction”.

Webster states: addiction: : the quality or state of being addicted
addicted: to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively

Video games will stimulate the brain. If a person receives pleasure from something (drug or non-drug), then the brain can become accustomed to the feeling and desire it, leading to habitual use. No different of a feeling than if the perceived pleasure comes from drugs or other media. Albeit the feeling is usually more pronounced with drugs/alcohol.

The major difference with video game (and other non-drug) addiction is that there’s not the physiological need that the body craves. With video games, the brain craves the stimulation, and the resultant pleasant feeling that comes with it.

I don’t think that a game addiction is anywhere near as harmful as say alcoholism (you’re not putting a poison in your body), but it can be nearly as devestating on a person’s social life.

I’ve fought with video game addiction myself. I know what I’ve gone through and experienced. It truly was a battle to control myself from logging on or plugging in. To defeat it I mainly had to develop outside activities that lent my brain similar stimulation, but not in such a destructive, anti-social manner (sports and excercise being my main savior).

Please don’t think I’m a liscensed therapist or anything; I’m just someone who has gone through this sort of time in his life.

As to the original post, I do agree that the media is completely wrong in laying the blame upon video games all the time. More responsibility must be taken by parents in the raising of their children.

Gracey says:

This is a story from my town.

Yes, he ran away because of a fight. The fight was caused because he was addicted to a video game – so addicted it affected almost everything in his daily life, including eating and sleeping.

An addiction to anything can happen at any age.

In this town, it is real news. He has been missing for some time; his bike has been found, but he has not. His parents are afraid for his life – sorry, the game thing is not news. A missing child is news, no matter what the cause.

News report should be focused on the Brandon, not on the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Game

I am following this story because I have relatives there. I have not seen mention of the police getting access to his account (game companies usually cooperate in this), logging into his characters, and chatting with his friends. He might well have told them where he was planning to go.

If, as it is reported, he has not been in the game since he ran away, it might be because he has no coin and can’t get online, or it might mean that he lives in the Great White North but was not given the knowledge that goes with a proper respect for cold, and is dead from hunger and exposure. I bet he didn’t even have a hat with him.

This outcome is a far more likely than some mysterious predator.
And the addiction is more likely a symptom of his defective relationship with his parents than a moral shortcoming or the fault of the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Game

I have to laugh at this….

“If, as it is reported, he has not been in the game since he ran away, it might be because he has no coin and can’t get online,”

Cause he could totally go to one of those public XBOX Cafe’s and play his games.

“or it might mean that he lives in the Great White North but was not given the knowledge that goes with a proper respect for cold, and is dead from hunger and exposure. I bet he didn’t even have a hat with him.”

If you grew up in the “Great White North” you know that its cold in the winter and you have to dress up, how stupid are we assuming this kid is?

Dumb ass parents let the kid do what he wants and then try to punish him and he leaves. 90% chance he went to his buddy’s house and is playing XBOX there and THAT kid’s parents are probably as vapid as the run aways and have no idea what there kid is doing let alone that he has a friend over.

Take the XBOX away and when he starts to whine spank his spoiled A$$.

Lolbert says:

Gaming is not that bad.

I have been playing all kinds of games since I was 6 years old or something, and im like 17 now, and I don’t see why parents is so worried about playing games, im a hardcore gamer, and im even one of the best students in the class. And all that stuff about phedofiles and stuff, some people can take care of themselves.

Just don’t meet your online friends in real life then, unless you know them quite good.

I think todays parents and adults worries too much about younger children, I don’t think gaming is that bad, cause some people think it is.

I got lots of in real life gamers, nobody’s life has gotten any worse than it was before. When I was younger I did nothing but playing games, I was more inside the house than outside, but things change, people change, and later on I started to be more outside with friends than inside, and then at the end I learned how to mix those things, to both be outside with people, and staying inside doing homework and also play games.

There might be a lot off topic stuff in this text, but I felt that I had to get this stuff out of me.

Blatant Coward says:

“He won’t be in trouble when he comes home. We’re going to work things out,” his father said.”

Sure show him the way to be responsible for his actio…

“It’s a very high-end area of Barrie where there are multi-million-dollar cottages owned by (people) who only use them two or three months a year. My best hope is that Brandon is having a great time, eating all their food,”


Well maybe show him that people should be proactive with dealing with issues…

“skipped school the day before and taken $20 off the kitchen table”

…like theft and truancy…

Look lets just hope the kid has some real parents now that are willing to bite the bullet, suffer the tantrums, and do something before a problem reaches involving helicopter searches.

Besides, Drugs, Rock & Roll, theft, and truancy worked out for Jimmy Buffett too.

Lucretious (profile) says:

This simply infuriates me to no end.

As a person who was a hardcore addict for close to 20 years (alcohol, cocaine and pharmaceutical opiates) I find the misinformation in articles such as this stands out in stark contrast to the real dangers kids face and completely ignores any of the positive aspects of the hobby of which there are many.

I stopped using back in ’98 when my son had come to live with me due to his own mothers battle with addiction. At the time I was struggling with keeping myself occupied to stave off the temptation to use. My son (who was 7 at the time) had brought his Nintendo 64 with him and I would sit with him while he played Mario64 and help him out. It helped bond us and I also started playing on my own when he was away at school for the day. Long-story-short, I bought a PSOne and eventually a gaming PC. I got involved in online leagues and my son would join me (I bought him a PC as well) and not only did it bring us closer together, the new hobby gave me a passion to put my time into and helped wean me off drugs completely. I can’t overstate how much it helped.

Today I own my own contracting business and my son and I remain very close, all due to the “evils” of video-gaming. Unfortunately stories like this don’t stoke peoples anger which helps sell ad-copy so you’ll never hear it.

ralahinn1 (user link) says:

I agree, it was the argument that made Brian leave

As a mother, and former runaway myself, I know anytime you take something away from a child”for their own good” it will cause them to”run off”. It wasn’t the fact that he was”obsessed” with the game, but that something that he liked was taken from him. It could have been anything. I’m sure all parents have experienced this. In my case a kitten I couldn’t keep, and when I was older, a boy I was told not to see, sent me away from”home”. I don’t think anyone says that kittens are bad( I’ll leave it up to individual judgement lol, on the boys) but anything could have upset him if it was taken away. It’s time to stop blaiming games for everything

Joe (profile) says:

anyone else wonder...

Given how uneducated his parents are. Maybe this kid ran away because he was sick of how stupid his parents were. I mean if they think gaming corrupted there son maybe he is better off without them.

Granted I game a lot, but I never ran away from home, nor did I ever get abducted by a pedophile while playing online.

I do wonder which game he was playing.

Anonymous Parent and Gamer says:


Why is it always something else besides the parent or GOD forbid the darn kid that has problem. Sounds to me the kid has a problem listing to his parents. I recently read in a local news paper “The Birmingham News” here is the link…http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/1224749731222560.xml&coll=2, that a school has opened a game room in the school, cost of $90k, kids can earn 30 minutes game time by having good grades, and no behavior problems, I assume during recess or a study hall hour. They can play video games at school and it is working I didn’t read the entire article yet. They claim its a huge success. So how are video games bad? It’s how you use the video game as a form or reward or punishment. reward seems to work and as punishment they shouldn’t be playing a darn game if they are falling behind in school or behavior problems.

Default Pseudonym says:

Perhaps the kid had a problem with his gaming habits. I’ve had my face rubbed in the fact I was playing too many hours of Tribes 2 back in the day. Alot of it was competitive league play.

Some of this may not make sense to anyone who didn’t play competitively… but I generally played Defense, as a asset deployer. Basically the game had deployable turrets and other items that were useful when deployed. My then girlfriend wound up finding me sleepwalking looking for “a place to put this [imaginary] turret.” She ‘took’ the turret from me saying she’d place it and sent me back to bed.

Hopefully the kid makes it back home, and he takes this little adventure as a reason to cut back on the gaming.

Anonymous Coward says:


Ok everyone is this really the time to point fingers? There is a young boy missing!!! That is the issue here!! A young boy needs to be found. If it was your kid would you not want all avenues being checked and everyone helping to try and find your child. Why doesn’t everyone give it up with insensitive comments and pray the family has the safe return of their son.

gk_demian says:

What the hell?

This is nothing but terror mongering, even so I understand there is a real problem for addiction. Anything that gives you pleasure can be addictive, and there’s no telling what will trigger each individual.

On the school side; I am a left handed writer, in school I suffered with all the ink smearing and hand craps, not finishing tests or essays on time and going through hellish pain all the way through Junior High. Schools demanding you use computers? I wish, when I was in school I was told I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to use computers despite the fact that when I was able to type I would finish my homework no problem. The teachers didn’t care much for my ‘bullshit’ reasons for wanting not to write by hand. So instead I went through junior high failing, hating school everyday and eventually learning that it was easier just to NOT finish my homework (the grades weren’t much worse). By the time I hit HS I had to relearn self discipline to get my homework done.

Sure, computers can be addictive, but they can also allow people with disabilities or even those left handed to be able to excell in the world, in the regular world. And lets not forget how many adults are addicted to MySpace or Facebook, wikipedia or googling who knows what.

Ultimately it’s about being realistic, yes we give our kids computers, but we also bombard them with anti-drug adds, commercials for high dose caffiene drinks that basically amount to speed, commercials for beer, going drinking, calling ‘singles’ lines. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll right? (oh yea, tell a kid NOT to do something that was basically a staple of their parents generation). Not to mention the fact that a lot of those things parents participate in or talk about themselves right in front of youths.

Sure videogames are addictive, but so is most of what we do in our society…and on the alcohol topic there is no comparison, it’s a neurotoxin plain and simple (and it’s legal! yes I do partake on occasion, this isn’t a bash on booze).

Demonizing anything doesn’t solve problems, it doesn’t find that missing teen, it doens’t save teens who are at risk. I was raised to know how to be safe, I was never patrolled while online, I never fell for a pedophile’s scam or gave out my home phone or address and I started online at 10 on BBSs. Granted the internet is more dangerous now that it’s popular but the rules are the same online as on the street, play safe, don’t take candy from strangers and look both ways before crossing the information superhighway.

You know what, even when you do everything right sometimes things go nasty. Instead of this being a ‘freak event’ now they’ve got the world freaked and riled up against what might be a phantom enemy.

I might go so far to say that maybe people should teach their kids some other hobbies, perhaps even teach them to enjoy the company of others, maybe to read or speak their first language properly. Don’t get me started on kids handing in homework with internet slang in it.

Lastly, there is never ONE person or ONE thing to blame in the creation of a person, you want to blame someone? Blame society for not caring about the individual, blame yourself for not caring about or knowing your neighbors. Stop looking for a scapegoat or someone to sue.

Man I could go on about this crap all day, open your eyes people and start treating eachother like human beings. Maybe the kid ran because he was being bullied or abused at home, there’s no way to tell from a news broadcast (but lets just jump the gun shall we? Guilty until proven innocent).

Afterall, this is the first time a teenager has ever run away right?

miss yoka says:

a bunch of dreamers

The difference between a kid running away from home and the fears Brandon’s family faces is that COMPLETE STRANGERS are communicating with eachother in online games. THAT’S the difference, and it’s a big one. You’re all dreamers if you think a young person playing a game with an adult (majority of online gamers are over 30, white males, most single — gee, the very group that causes most of the violent crime stats in Canada) is the same as playing with a classmate or close friends. I wish gamers were downhome, local guys, but too many are single losers who couldn’t form a healthy relationship if Dr. Phil held their hand.

in your face says:

game bashing ????

sorry, but most of us do blame these games.
some games are violent and shouldn’t be played
by either youngsters or adults.
and some games cause addictions as do casinos.
and guns kill people.
so……..games, casinos and guns
do destroy people’s lives and their loved ones.
as soon as we can all figure this out
what a better world we will be in.

A mom says:


Three scenerios:
1-The kid met some neighbours who are students residing on his street and they gave hima lift to where they were going for Thanksgiving dinner (within one hour or so of Barrie) the students don’t want to say as anything as they don’t know where he went.
2-The kid was very depressed not being allowed to play games and decided to end it.
3-One of the parents got out of control and snapped. A kid running away and upset would not pack a bag!!! Think about it a 15 year old how much money did he have on him??? So run away with no money??

A Mom (user link) says:

Looking at other sites…and reading information.
1-I ask have the police in Barrie done testing to see if there is any blood in the house???
2-what did the father pack in his son’s backpack??? I never voluntereed or packed my kids bags when I threw them out!!!
3-Have Barrie police done thier job..eg..contacting and going to the clooege and showing picture??? but the kid did not look like that in his picture..police need a picture with baseball hat etc…
4-the mother does not really look that distraught she has accepted the out come???

Charlene says:

I agree with you Kaira. Kids today are addicted to many video games, networking sites and many others. And parents should spend more time getting to know their teens and guide them. If your teens are out of control help for troubled teens should be decided either by going to a therapist or sending your teen to teen treatment centers appropriate for their condition.

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