Missing Marine’s Family Fears that Call of Duty May Have Triggered Bad Memories

Eric Hall, a former Marine who was badly injured in Iraq, is missing from his home in Florida.

As reported by Tampa Bay Online, Hall’s family fears that the 24-year-old’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may have been aggravated by playing the intensely realistic Call of Duty series:

[Hall’s cousin] said that before Hall went missing he also played the video game “Call of Duty.” The family said the game may have triggered some unpleasant war memories. Hall’s best friend was killed in the same battle in which Hall’s leg was injured. He was nearby when the friend was decapitated.

Friends and family have organized a search effort. They believe that Hall may be living off the land. Since being wounded, Hall has been involved in a dispute with the Veterans Administration over his benefits.

GP: While the article refers to Call of Duty, the original game is more than four years old. We’re assuming that Hall’s family is referring to the more recent, highly popular and very intense modern-day shooter, COD4.

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  1. 0
    L K Tucker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is the same old story. There is a correlation between video game play and psychiatric symptoms. But it’s not the game content. It’s a little known problem discovered because it caused mental breaks for office workers. The cubicle was designed to deal with the vision startle reflex to solve that problem by 1968.

    The problem appears several significant places. Qi Gong, Kundalini Yoga, ICU Psychosis in hospitals, and in Landmark Education’s seminar The Forum.

  2. 0
    JohnMidnight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It doesn’t look like their bashing the game really, their just commenting that their sons PTSD had been effected by playing COD. Which is kinda no suprise really.
    I’ve seen some incidents where just hearing the sound of the M1 Garand used in WW2 being fired in MOH, or COD, and a WW2 veteran went Alert, and started asking questions about who was shooting him, etc.
    Wars, battles, even minor skirmishes for the newly initiated recruits can always be the most tramatic.
    Yes, the VA is quite screwed up, problem is it sometimes is related to how it works…

  3. 0
    GameDevMich ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ack, very sorry to double post but I used some “no, no” symbols to express action….Let me clean that up so it reads better.

    I’m no reporter…blah blah…consumer of news…

    “Birge said that before Hall went missing he also played the video game “Call of Duty.” The family said the game may have triggered some unpleasant war memories.”

    Reporter: “Do you think he is dead?”

    Courtney Birge: “He’s a Marine,” said Birge, who is married to Hall’s cousin, Adam Birge. “He knows how to survive off the land and find food. We don’t feel he is dead. We want him back with us.”

    Reporter: “Was he playing any violent video games?”

    Courtney Birge: *no direct quote provided* Writer of article mentions a specific game, probably picks wrong iteration.

    Reporter: “Do you think the game had an affect on him?”

    Courtney Birge: *no direct quote provided* Writer of article provides family’s opinion of game play triggering PSD episode….

    Emphasis on PROVIDES

  4. 0
    GameDevMich ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I read through the article before having a knee-jerk reaction. Two paragraphs stood out like sore thumbs to me:

    “Relatives believe he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They say that before he disappeared, Hall was using his hand like a gun to shoot at imaginary people.”

    Alright, that right there is a very good indication that he is unfortunately experiencing mental issues, perhaps even showing preemptive signs of a full blown breakdown.

    Birge said that before Hall went missing he also played the video game “Call of Duty.” The family said the game may have triggered some unpleasant war memories. Hall’s best friend was killed in the same battle in which Hall’s leg was injured. He was nearby when the friend was decapitated.

    I’m no journalist, but I am a frequent consumer of news and have been in the presence of several “on location” interviews and reports. Did anyone else get the feeling that these were leading questions brought up by the reporter and not the family?

    In a time of crisis, I just don’t see a concerned family member just bringing this up out of the blue.

    Hypothetical situation:

    Reporter: “Do you think he is dead?”

    Courtney Birge: “He’s a Marine,” said Birge, who is married to Hall’s cousin, Adam Birge. “He knows how to survive off the land and find food. We don’t feel he is dead. We want him back with us.”

    Reporter: “Was he playing any violent video games?”

    Courtney Birge:

  5. 0
    NovaBlack ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    hmm reading it again i do see they arent really blaming it i suppose… perhaps i am being too defensive!

    Its just one of those things that seems to be said in a context very easy to distort. kind of like placing live ammo out there for JT n the other nutters.

    Just as long as it isnt used like that i guess its okay.

  6. 0
    NovaBlack ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    oh the irony… dont blame the fact he was off fightin in some war we probably didnt need to be in, and his friend died there, instead.. thats completely ok.. but a piece of entertainment software wow… i mean thats just so irresponsible.

    … i mean how is it ok to experience real war(something personally i would never wish upon anybody).. but then blame simulated (and really NOT ultra-realistic.. is that even a real word.. thats as bad as hyper-violent) war in a safe environment.. what?

    I mean lets face it it wasnt called ‘The happy bunny rainbow wish game’ was it.. its ‘call of duty’ . It isnt so complex a rocket scientist thought it up. The guy made the descision to play it. the box and information about it doesnt hide its content. it has an age rating and descriptions. Did these parents ever think that perhaps they are pointing their fingers at the wrong person? I mean if person A (hasnt been to war) can play it fine , but person B (who has been to war) cant… isnt the cause obvious?

    In all serious though, i do hope they find this guy, he sounds like he has been through hell, and i wouldnt wish that upon anyone.

  7. 0
    William says:

    Pominator, read above what I said about my father. He was in a freaking club here in the US! It doesn’t matter if it links to Iraq or not, its the imagery/sounds of war that triggers it, not exactly the imagery of a specific place.

  8. 0
    Strªngعr_Dªngعr says:

    This is very sad, I’ve heard a lot of stories about guys that come back from war. I really hope they find him soon. I have heard of a couple people that would realize that PTSD was coming on and would get away from people so that they wouldn’t hurt anyone. and for the most part they would just wander around in the woods for days at a time and would usually turn up OK.

  9. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Say, if it was this game and it triggered the flashback, then the game is to blame, “

    Wouldn’t that be the PTSD to blame and not the game?

  10. 0
    PyroHazard ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is why I am never going to join the frontlines in the military. All the trauma would make me stop playing my favorite war games.

  11. 0
    William says:

    They showed this on my local news today, only they made no mention of the game.


    My father fought in Vietnam, and he tells stories of when he got home, how he was in a club one time, a car back fired and he hit the floor screaming for everyone to get down, memories of the war. It really messes with their brains, and sadly, we don’t pay them nearly enough for what they do for us.

    Hoorah. :-\

  12. 0
    Falcon4196 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Some of you need to read the article. They don’t blame the game for what happening they just say that it is possible that it might have aggrivated his condition which isn’t completely out of the realm of possibilty.

  13. 0
    stromlancer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I hope they find him and that he is ok. It is actually a bit plausible that the game could have triggered his PTSD. This isn’t the evils of gaming and whatnot, it is something causing him to suffer from bad memories.

  14. 0
    TBoneTony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    War games are not bad

    But real war can have a devastating effect on the mind.

    We should have less real war and more understanding that Videogames are just games…no matter how realistic they appear.

  15. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And I hate to bring it up, but I also hope that no matter what the outcome, that no one else gets hurt as well. He may still hurt someone, even though he doesn’t mean to, as part of the flashbacks he may be suffering from.

    NW2K Software

  16. 0
    Chalts ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s sad to see something like this happen. I hope they find him soon, because it would be beyond tragic to have him back from the war only to lose him again.

    And I hope people realize that this is really just a tragedy of war, not the evils of video games.. Such accusations would be insulting to the suffering and seriousness of those really have PTSD.

  17. 0
    Buckeye531 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Let’s not jump on anyone blaming any games for this. This is a very sad, very serious story and I do not think the family is blaming Call of Duty for Eric’s PTSD.

    What does Fox News have to do with this? Do you have a link to their story?

  18. 0
    Cidas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Stop blaming the soldier for him playing the game. Understand that it might have or might not have triggered flashbacks or not, but don’t blame the soldier for playing it. “Well, he should have realized the risks” isn’t sensible. Say, if it was this game and it triggered the flashback, then the game is to blame, but given that it is an isolated incident I don’t think that it would cause damage to the industry. Stop protecting the industry on issues such as this where we cannot rule out the possibility that the actual game might be accountable to a degree. There are other things involved of course, but I cannot and will not guess what they are.
    I think the family’s account has more credence than anything.

  19. 0
    scot ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    i have PTSD from a car accident and i sometimes get flashbacks when i see a white van drive down the road, in fact just writing this gave me a flashback. there is no blame when these things happen, anything can trigger unpleasant memories, it is what you do afterwards and how you cope that is the difference. did COD4 cause this kid a setback? possibly, but so could a picture of his friend that got decapitated. should we blame kodak? this is a non video game story and has everything to do with our failing VA healthcare system.

  20. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I don’t think the COD guys could’ve seen this coming. Hmm out of all the ‘games caused someone to do X’ stories this one seems the most likely to be true. However any sane minded person would not blame the game but instead blame PTSD. It looks like the family is just saying that the game acted as a trigger and not a cause.

    Oh well, once the guy is found I think this will be the last we hear about this.

  21. 0
    JC ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So, he said he had to go…

    It sounds more related to him thinking he’s on a mission, especially since he was reported as shooting imaginary people with his hand.

    The guy probably thinks he’s in a mission and may not be found with ease, and what would worry me the most is how he’d react to being discovered. Would he attack the person who finds him? Either way, that’s a scary thing, I hope they find him without him being hurt or another person being hurt.

  22. 0
    petey says:

    The breakdown that this guy experienced is very unfortunate, especially considering the trouble he could get into while in this state.

    Dramatic Experiences suffered during times of stress can resurface by as little as a familiar sound. (Lightning strike – artillery, News Chopper – Black Hawk)
    So its not surprising that a video game could set this off. Then again, so would Saving Private Ryan, Rambo and the 1812 Overture (by Tchaikovsky)

  23. 0
    Doug says:

    I’m not surprised that COD4 could hit hard on someone with PTSD. While not totally realistic, it is incredibly immersive. Sometimes all you need to trigger an episode is the slightest reminder of the trauma. A movie like Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down would probably achieve the same effect on a person like that.

  24. 0
    Thomas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I should verify that I’m not saying anyone is trying to exploit it or suggest the game caused it.


    It may not be realistic, and it may not have made him “crazy”, but it does not need to be a real situation to trigger something like this.. nobody is ultimately to blame, and pointing fingers will help nobody, this is a tragic situation for all involved and could have been triggered by any number of things, or nothing but memories.

  25. 0
    VenomandCarnage ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Blackice

    There is nothing in the article suggesting it is a combat simulator, what it meant was that by playing COD4, it may have possibly reminded him of the harsh time he had in his own time of battle. Let’s face it, COD4 is probably one of the most realistic war shooters out there, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it brought back unfortunate memories, especially some of the levels with the Iraqish invironment.

  26. 0
    Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Extremely unfortunate. However, maybe they should look at the most likely cause. They saw him pretending to shoot imaginary people weeks before. Perhaps family should have put the effort in before he went missing. And of course there is the real cause, the real war.

    Fake video violence doesn’t make people crazy. Real violence does. This man has been up close and personal with about the worst of it, and yet we’re gonna blame the video game? Nonsense.

    BTW, COD4 is not realistic. Please show me in real life where a highly trained soldier can unload an M60 from a distance of 5 feet and not manage to kill the guy standing right in front of him. While your at it, show me the soldiers who have their health recharge 15 seconds after being shot 4 times. And the ones that infinitely respawn on the battlefield after death.

  27. 0
    Thomas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can definitely see CoD sparking off a veteran’s problems.

    My Grandfather, after his time fighting in Burma during the second world war, used to fight Japanese paratroopers in his sleep for pretty much the rest of his life… my grandmother used to say she had to roll out of bed from time to time to avoid getting hit across the throat.

    My father, having served ten years in northern Ireland during the height of the war there, bursts into tears randomly when drunk, and anything about the peace process gets him angry if it shows up on the news.

    And those are mild reactions, I’ve met or heard of several people with far more violent or destructive reactions even decades after the events they witnessed during wartime. I can’t say that its a shocking suprise that today’s war games, with so much emphasis put on realism in graphics, tactics and special effects, would trigger someone’s problems.

    I feel sorry for the guy, and his family.. anyone for either side, who attempts to exploit this situation in any way needs to get their priorities straight.

  28. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As sorry as I feel for the guy, and I hope he is found and helped, it needs to be borne in mind that ‘Shellshock’ and ‘Post-Combat Trauma’ is far from a new discovery, several things have triggered off episodes in vets similar to this, including Fireworks, Trains and many other situations.

    The fact he was in a debate over his benefits suggests that he was already under a lot of pressure, like the Vets from vietnam, their biggest problem wasn’t the horrors of the war, it was feeling like their efforts were being totally ignored when they got back home, that led to quite a few withdrawing from society and living a hermits life, because they could no longer function properly in society and were not getting the support or understanding they needed from their own army.

    Without knowing the details, I can’t say for certain, but I’d certainly say it was a good bet that he wasn’t debating that he was getting too much money from the Army.

    I can see Call of Duty setting this off indirectly, after all, we can already assume he felt his sacrifice wasn’t appreciated, maybe, on some level, he felt that his life was much like the game, you fight, you see terrible things, and then you get turned off and forgotten about until you’re next needed.

  29. 0
    Ashton ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’ve heard of war veterans duck for cover due to car misfires and refuse to watch war movies because of their PTSD … decades after the fact. It’s something that stays with them.

    And nobody’s blaming the game. If the report was about someone with an allergy and they said “drinking a peanut butter milkshake might have cause his allergy to flare up” nobody would be whining. It’s annoying how gamers just jump on the ‘IT’S NOT THE GAME’S FAULT GRRRR’ bandwagon when something like this happens. There are more important things at stake here.

  30. 0
    Meleedragon27 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, at least they only THINK Call of Duty did it, nothing about actually blaming the game. Although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the game triggered his PSD.

    May his family find him before something happens; as a soldier, he is one of the nation’s finest… it’s a real pity most vets who come back alive don’t usually get treated as well as they should…

  31. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Of course, FOX News is playing the “game is to blame” angle much higher than his history and possible PTSD. Both the Tampa Bay and Herald Tribune report about his experiences. But FOX News, seems to imply more that it was the game’s fault solely.

    Personally, this sounds more like retaliation for the response by gamers to FOX regarding the Mass Effect story.

    Basically, FOX News is thumbing their noses at the industry AND consumers “we’ll report HOWEVER we want, and lie and deceive as much as we want and you can’t do squat about it!”

    NW2K Software

  32. 0
    deuxhero ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow!? someone who makes it clear that they only THINK video games might have had effect?(on something they could plausibly have an effect on?)

    Never thought I’d see the day

  33. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @BlackIce, Dragunov Marksman

    Call of Duty 2 did the same thing. Every battle would start with a loading screen that had a soldiers diary on it.

  34. 0
    SlyFox says:

    @BlackIce, Dragunov Marksman

    Hey, another Marksman! Put ‘er there, pal (no pun intended)!

    While I do hope that they find him very soon and I do understand that war-related material may be able to push someone who has been in war over the edge, I think it’s a bit early to make any assumptions that the may haev caused anything. At least they said “may” rather than jump the gun and say “did”.

  35. 0
    NoFish ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just to clear things up, the actual article doesn’t blame the game in the least and only, in fact, mentions it int he one paragraph quoted. No need to get defensive here, guys.

  36. 0
    Simon Roberts ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My thoughts are with this family. I think the CoD4 connection is more a sign of the times than anything else; the more sophisticated games get, the more likely it is that the realism aspect could trigger an episode like this. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone breaking down after playing Bionic Commando, for example. Stories like these are, in a way, society’s attempt to come to grips with the fact that videogames aren’t just toys any more. We shouldn’t be raising our hackles every time they’re mentioned in a less-than-glowing context; we should be looking for the salient facts to help the rest of the world understand why we’re so passionate.

  37. 0
    LightWarrior ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m more pissed off how the AV seems to be screwing over our troops…

    “Support the troops”….BS….

    I’ve heard stories in the past where War Vets….exspeically injured ones who are entitled to benifits don’t get them or have a really hard time getting them…

  38. 0
    Mark Dage says:

    When WW2 and Vietnam-era FPS games started coming into vogue a few years ago, I passed by a common room where someone was playing one, though I do not know which particular game it was. I noted the game used a soldier’s diary as a means to frame the campaign and set up for the next mission, which I thought was a bit of a nice touch the way they did it. However, after noting this, I hung back and watched some of the action, and I was more than impressed. I was impressed to the point of near-fright. And I appreciated it.


    Whoever made that game did a DAMN GOOD JOB, I must say. Kudos and congratulations to whatever design team put it together. And whoever wants to play that kind of game (within reason,) let them.

    But could something like that game freak out someone who’s coming back from a real combat zone? Yeah, having seen what I did, I could very easily believe that. It’s not really such a stretch. I hope they find the poor guy that’s gone missing and he gets help and it all ends well.

    But as someone noted above, watching “Saving Private Ryan” could have had the same effect. Media is media. The fallacy is in thinking that ALL media everywhere HAS to be palatable to everyone equally and individually.

  39. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    After a suicide attempt over not getting my SSI 10ish years ago I know what stress can do to a person and after the loss of my parents been having issues with knocks on the door(some load sounds) and phone ringing it can just hit you bad o th wrong kind of day, what I am getting at mental trauma+stress= random breaking points if the stress is sufficient.

    I hope he is found soon and found well,hopefully hes gone into hobo mode and is merely shunning society because living in the wilderness means gators galore…

    PS:charcoal tastes like dirt >>

    PSS:the rich bastards in charge can always find money for war but none for vets, its one thing to be frugal and dispute the disability of a normal citizen but when i comes to vets don’t question it if the elites in washington can get inf money for health care and raises for themselfs why in the hell can they not do more for vets..

  40. 0
    Thabor says:

    I don’t think I would consider their statement to be blaming COD at all.

    It is really unfortunate that people’s first reaction is to get defensive about video games, instead of sympathizing with the family’s concern for their loved one.

    I hope they find him in good health, and are able to get him the help he needs.

  41. 0
    Daltin Wentsworth says:

    This is terrible, though I’ve heard of some PSD symptoms being lowered by being placed in simulators…though I haven’t heard of it being lowered by combat simulators.

  42. 0
    Wa_Hi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @blackice: well yea it is possible but its also possible and more likely the fact that the VA is trying to prevent him from getting his benefits that sent him over the edge.

  43. 0
    Nitherean ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I do hope they find Eric soon. Does not sound like his mental and emotional health is good. Its very disturbing the VA is in the sad shape it is, to help our veterans cope with so many problems. One would think our President would lead the charge, to make drastic changes and quickly.

    If Eric’s family wishs to blame his current events and hardships on a game like COD4, then they are very deeply, not understanding him. An that would be very unfortunate.

    So, again, I really do hope and pray, Eric is found, alive. An any help that can be directed his way, is sent. Not for COD4’s sake, but for his sake!

  44. 0
    Trevor McGee says:

    You can’t blame the game for that. He shouldn’t have been playing it then. That’s why a lot of war vets don’t even watch war movies or bother with anything war related, because they can’t handle it mentally anymore.

  45. 0
    BlueWolf72 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I agree playing something, music, movie, picutures, video game, or his family asking him daily

    Are you ok
    You feel better
    You sure you ok

    I get they are trying to grasp why he left but when people are depressed you tend to care more so for all we know he left cause no one would leave him alone?

    I could be wrong but coming back from a tour thats all I would get asked of me.

  46. 0
    Robert says:

    They aren’t condeming the game, they are just saying the game brought up bad memories guys. Some of you think they are attack COD, but they aren’t. Anything could have created confusion and depression in him, and COD is a real possibility considering it’s close ties to our current society.

  47. 0
    Pominator says:

    By the way unless he was REALLY stuck on the levels “Charlie don’t surf” “War Pig”, “Shock and Awe” and “Aftermath”… then I don’t think that the Iraq war link is too tangible

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