Tech Deprivation: Did Removal of Xbox Spark Teen’s Disappearance?

All week, GamePolitics has been tracking the search for Brandon Crisp. The 15-year-old Canadian gamer disappeared on October 13th after a dispute with his family which led to the confiscation of his Xbox 360 by his father, Steve.

Mr. Crisp has expressed fears that Brandon’s "addiction" to Call of Duty 4 may be somehow connected to the boy’s disappearance.

GamePolitics put that question to Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of Internet porn and online gaming addicts. While Dr. Block would not comment directly about the case, he offered his view on how the removal of a game system or PC might affect a hardcore gamer:

I caution against abruptly "cutting off" people from their compulsive computer use without much thought and preparation.  I often see extreme anger results, directed at oneself or the surrounding world.  When you think about it, it makes sense:  The computer (or gaming console) helps a person who is struggling with emotions (1) metabolize those emotions virtually without acting on them in the Real, (2) chew up time so they do not have the hours to act out in Real life, and (3) provides companionship…even if it is simulated or via Virtual relationships. 


When you cut the cord, you destroy the way someone is dealing with their emotions, you give them 30+ more hours [per week] to occupy, and you kill off their major source of relationships.  Is it any surprise anger often results?
Often the anger is directed at oneself with statements like, "What a waste I have made of my life" or "What do I have to show for the hours I spent in WoW, Civ, etc."  It can lead to suicide attempts or other pathology, like drug use.  Or, the anger can turn external:  "We all live in fantasy worlds, brutal places fabricated and controlled by others.  I’ll be damned if I’ll let them take away my world, where I am powerful, without first stripping away their fantasies and illusions."  This is what I believe happened at Columbine.

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  1. Point of Heaven says:

    And of course, many people, including parents, assume that people online aren’t real people, but people that want to steal your children?

    Have the parents, I’m wondering, tried to ask for help on the CoD4 networks and/or community forum. Gamers are all real people, and I’m sure they’d willing to help if one of thir own disappeared for real in real life?

  2. Timbo2702 says:

    One thing that I thought of when I first read about this… The parents believe that he may have gone to meet someone from the game, yet they had taken the game away. Im guessing that there was a reasonable amount of time between the taking away, and his actual disappearance (Something like a week or two)… So if it was taken away that long ago, how could he have ‘met’ someone? Granted I don’t have the whole story. Nobody does.

    And I fully agree with Austin_Lewis… But, hell let’s face it… People in power don’t use logic anymore these days

    – Tim Kowalenko

  3. Austin_Lewis says:

    This whole point is moot; if he had actually been addicted, his account would’ve shown activity since he left home.  You kick a crack addict out of the house, first place they go is to a crackhouse.  Kick an alcoholic out, they’re hittin the nearest bar.  So if you kick a vidoegame ‘addict’ out, he’ll go right to the nearest friend with an Xbox.

    Which raises the point; since he’s obviously not fulfilling his addiction, where is he really?  I suggest we start asking the parents a lot of questions and search every inch of that house before its too late.

  4. Aliasalpha says:

    The thing that a lot of people seem not to understand (mostly innocently but then there’s JT) is that there’s 2 basic classes of addiction, physiological & psychological. The physiological is a neurochemical response to direct checmical addition which is the type that most narcotics (and possibly devices made by apple) use to fuck the brain up. The psychological is not a REAL addiction in the technical sense, it’s more of an obsessive interest in a particular object, activity or stimulus, the resulting neurochemical effects mimic addiction pretty closely.

    As an example, there’s this woman I have a thing for, Hanna. She’s a pretty strong focus in my mind at all times (obsession), I feel kind of crap or incomplete when I’m not talking to her (withdrawl) and feel excessively good when I am (high).

    That basically fulfils the requirements for an addiction but it’s certainly not a physiological thing as she’s never given me any chemical alteration to my brain (yet).

    Psychological addiction can apply to anything whatsoever that the user finds rewarding on some level. Examples could include gaming, jogging, reading, work or abject failure (mostly only enjoyed by JT).

  5. metroidprimegmr says:

    For any person cosplaying as Lil’ Slugger, all problems look like baseballs!

    /Paranoia Agent FTW!!!


    Jack Thompson: future Good Burger employee of the month

  6. nightwng2000 says:

    There is another analogy that fits with what he is saying.

    Decades ago, people calling themselves "deprogrammers" would take young folks who had been brainwashed by various cults. 

    What few understood was that "deprogramming" was not the appropriate term.  "Reprogramming" was more appropriate because those who used such techniques discovered that you couldn’t simply remove a great deal of information and leave a void.  As such, may of those individuals took advantage and "reprogrammed" their "clients" to believe another religion, usually the one followed by the "reprogrammer".

    When there is a diversity of strong interests, depriving someone of something as a punishment won’t leave a void.  It will be filled with one of the other interests.  My own son is the same way.  Use grounding him from the TV or some game and he’ll fill in the time with something else like reading.  He’s not happy when he’s deprived of the TV or a game, but there is something else to fill its place.

    Moderation and diversity should have been key words in their raising of their child.  In a sense, they sort of opened the door to this problem.  They aren’t any more to blame than the video/computer game, but they certainly were in better positions to control the situation.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  7. JohnMidnight says:

    Its all a possibility, the doc hit it on the nail, minus that last part which I believe is BS. But yea. If I were to go break my brothers 360 in half, he’d blow up so fast, it’d make the A bomb look like a childrens toy, and hes still 17… figuerd he’d learn. 

    Myself? Wreak my motorcycle, my computer, my phone, and I become one hell of a person to attempt to socialize with.
    Can’t live without those things. A Computer is neccessary for gaming, and socializing. The Phone enables me to talk, chat, and with the new BB Bold, IM, and Web Surf again. The Motorcycle gives me the freedom to go where-ever I damn near please. (And after spending more money on it than I have ever spent on my computer >.>)

    I can agree that this could very well be what happened. Or maybe not, we wont really know till the kid shows up safe and alive, rather than dead and frozen.

  8. Leet Gamer Jargon says:

    Wow. I think I like this doc; he hit the nail on the head. I read his three criteria/conditions/reasons/whatever, and they make absolute sense.

    To tell the truth, I immersed myself in more than one deep strategy game or MMO to fill those reasons. I played and still play Tibia (an MMORPG that’s kinda like WoW but with less popularity, only human race players, and not as complex) every few weeks, and I used to be really immersed into it. I’m also embarassed to say that Reasons 2 and 3 are why I used to play Animal Crossing (noone say a freaking word; that game was more like a commitment than a casual, pick-up-and-play deal).

    Anyways, I’m definitely favoriting this article. (And I doubt JT’s gonna be able to segue some b.s. into an article like this. This has way too much common sense for him to be able to twist and bend to his liking.)

    Game on, brothers and sisters.

  9. E. Zachary Knight says:

    I completely agree. I consider many people here and on other sites I frequent to be friends and I like hearing from those people. IF I were completely cut off from my internet connection I would certainly feel upset. I like coming here for the conversations believe it or not. I get more out of those than the articles. But I think that is the point of a blog.

    But yes, I could see the sudden isolation from his friends could have caused him to be upset and want to do something about it.

    E. Zachary Knight
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  10. GoodRobotUs says:

    My brother plays Eve a great deal, well, that’s not strictly true, he spends a lot of time on Eve, but doesn’t actually ‘play’ a vast amount, he spends much more time socialising on it. He’s met people on there who are now his friends, he’s even been to the US to meet one or two of them.

    The people you connect with in online games, be it your Clan, your Corp or your Squad, become friends to you, you can associate with them, and sometimes it is a lot easier to talk to people online than face to face.

    I wonder how much of Brandons’ online time was actually spent seriously playing the game, and how much was spent simply talking to his friends?

    It’s an entirely possible angle that, by denying Brandon the ability to communicate with his friends, it wasn’t anything to do with an addiction to the game itself, and simply a response to having a lot of people he was close to suddenly isolated from him, as far as he knew, for ever? That sort of treatment would, in my opinion, promote exactly the same reaction as seen here, not because he couldn’t feed his gaming addiction, but purely because he thought to himself ‘If you are going to take me away from my friends for the last few years, then I am going to take myself away from you’

    I don’t know what Brandon’s school life was like, whether he socialised much in real life, and, not being on the case, anything I say is just speculation, but I can’t help thinking, especially with the fact he was perfectly willing to give up on the game-playing aspect of CoD4 in order to run away, that there’s more involved than an addiction to a violent game itself, I hope that the Police are looking at the possibility that isolation from his friends were involved. It’s easy for non-computer savvy peope to overlook the concept that you would consider text on a screen as ‘friends’.

    Either way, I hope the poor lad is found safe and well.

  11. GoodRobotUs says:

    Glad someone noticed that, not only was Columbine completely different from some kid running away from home, but they planned and plotted for their actions, this was the actions of one child who was suddenly disconnected from people whom he considered friends (his team-mates), and probably believed he’d never be able to contact them again.

    He probably thought, as is implied in the article ‘If I can’t be with my friends, then my parents can’t be with me’. It’s entirely possible that telling him he could never see his ‘real life’ friends again would have had the same result.

    That doesn’t make it the games’ fault, not that Dr Block stated that, but the situation leading up to Columbine was wholly, completely and totally different from the events leading up to this boy leaving home.

  12. JustChris says:

    The most video games had to do with Columbine was that they were being used as tools by the students, to rehearse their actions. If video games didn’t exist they’d probably use a D&D dungeon map. The tools used were not that relevant to the motive.

  13. Zerodash says:

    Columbine was caused by game ADDICTION?  That’s a new one.  The anti-games folk used to say that those good kids simply played Doom and suddenly became raving killers…

  14. Benji says:

    I can’t disagree with anything much this guy says. People can become ‘addicted’ to anything they find pleasurable, hence the reasonable number of people with sex and gambling addictions.  They may not be chemical dependencies like a drug or alcohol addiction, but the mind can still demand something even if the body doesn’t become dependent on it.

    And people need to stop projecting here.  This guy hasn’t vindicated JT’s decade-long efforts against the video game industry.  I think he might be reaching a little bit in offering Columbine theories but he’s not condeming games as a hobby.

  15. Fugue says:

    So some shrink who’s specialty is "game addiction" conveniently thinks that’s what caused Columbine.


    What an asshole.

  16. Cecil475 says:

    "Or, the anger can turn external:  "We all live in fantasy worlds, brutal places fabricated and controlled by others.  I’ll be damned if I’ll let them take away my world, where I am powerful, without first stripping away their fantasies and illusions."  This is what I believe happened at Columbine."

    You are absloutly correct. Klebold and Harris shot up Columbine, becuase their parents took all their videogames away from them (including Doom)), and not the fact they were bullied by the very same people they killed. Maybe they did it becuase their parents stripped them of all their violent music, and movies too. After all, They played Doom, listened to Marilyn Manson, and watched the Basketball Diaries. All three were (I think)) blamed on what happened. And just videogames in more recent school shootings, all thanks (In most part, at least)) to Jack Thompson.

    Their videogames wern’t taken away from them.

     – Warren Lewis

    R.i.P GamePolitics 2005-2016

  17. GTCv Deimos says:

    I’m not sure I totally agree with you there…

    I mean… fundamentally, you’re right. Adults shoulder much more responsibility.

    However, don’t forget, most teens these days are pretty mal-adjusted. Between wild hormones, conflicting social issues at schools, self-esteem problems, family issues… I don’t know about you, but I remember my teen years as being a pretty turbulant time. It’s not so much that I had that much in the way of responsibilities, I was just so ill equipped to deal with various stresses, that… hey… look at that… videogames helped me alleviate stress. go fig…

  18. Thomas McKenna says:

    Yeah…you’re right.  Getting your electricity cut off is much worse.

    Seriously…trials and tribulations of being a kid?  That’s when you have the least amount to trials to go through and as such think things like fitting in or being "cool" actually matter in the long run.  No…being a kid is obviously more difficult than managine a job, mortgage, bills, debts, payments, a personal life as well as a private life all at the same time, which is the standard fare for an average adult. 

    Despite what media likes to say, kids have it easy, and I can’t help but find their complaining both entertaining on one end (because in a decade or so they’ll realize how stupid it was), and annoying on the other (seeing how they complain a lot).

    So yeah, I’m going to have to say that living without electricity is far more of a problem than the entirety of being a kid.

  19. kagirinai says:

    Agreed. It just seems very inappropriate to toss around the word ‘Addiction’ like it isn’t loaded with meaning.

  20. JustChris says:

    I think he called Brandon an addict because he did something drastic when the Xbox was taken away from him, usually a type of addiction withdrawal. As said before, you cannot simply remove their means of coping with their emotions and expect them to be a happy camper. I would agree with you that the addiction is a symptom of another emotional problem, and not the cause.

  21. kagirinai says:

    I don’t doubt that some people are addicted to their computers or to gaming, but I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘Game Addiction’ per se; Games themselves aren’t addictive in the same sense as some drugs, but some people with another problem may adopt games as an dependant activity, making the addiction a symptom, not the problem.

    I’m not a psychologist, so I’m hypothosizing on my own experiences, but it just seems that the term ‘Game addict’ gets thrown around a lot for people who spend a lot of time gaming. I’ve been acused of being a game addict on several occasions, but I don’t exhibit any signs of addiction — there is no aggitation when I’m removed from games or computers, I don’t become despondent or upset, or what else have you. And I would bet that the majority of people who are called addicts in this sense are much like me, and frankly the term addict is offensive in a broad sense. It implies a lack of willpower, a lack of control, and a lack of self respect. I feel it’s used as a prejorative to discredit many behaviors by people who don’t understand or sympathize with those behaviors, and it’s something that really shouldn’t be acceptable in casual conversation.

    Routing back to the article: Mr. Crisp says Brandon was an ‘addict’. I don’t think that case is likely; and it seems like Dr. Block is hesitant to assume the child is as well (which marks him well, professionally, I would say). If I think back to my childhood, I imagine I would have had a spat with my parents as well if they took my consoles away and called me an addict, not because it was true, but because the act of punishment was arbitrary and the crime false. It seems sensationalist and low to even speculate that Brandon had a psychological addiction without presenting real evidence of it.

  22. Volomon says:

    No offense but I have a feeling your situation isn’t remotely compareable and is even kind of laughable.  Your comparing the tribulations and challenges of being a youth to your electricity being cut off.

  23. Zaruka says:

    i can see his point but at the same time people who have strong will get through it like when my electrect got shut off for 2 days i sleep and read a  book it possable to get though it will nervers of steel but somepeople do get angry when they feel that their property was taken away from them.


    Thanks Zaruka

  24. Volomon says:

    Sounds like the kid had a good thing that didn’t need to be cut off.  Its not cheap for therapy.  If you even manage to get to that level as a kid through doctors or parents.  Cutting him off was definately the wrong move in either case either get therapy or let him play.

  25. Inimical says:

    To further that: Cold turkey has to be something down out of your own volition. Forcing it on someone when they don’t realize they have a problem is going to make them even more angry.

    So, will I deny that he may have had a problem with gaming? No. Will I deny the existence of gaming addictions? Of course not.

    However, it’s important to note that simply blaming the game on this kid’s disappearance is ignorant and overlooking the fact that there are many situational factors at play here.

    Regardless of the reason for this kid taking off, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a 15-year-old kid missing in Canada when the weather is getting progressively colder.

  26. Eville1 says:

    The doc speaks the truth. Cold turkey only works with a strong will. Most kids aren’t going to have that amount of will power.

  27. nighstalker160 says:

    I do think its very good that this psychologist used the phrase "compulsion" instead of "addiction."  I can certainly see compulsive disorders manifesting in excessive videogame usage.  That’s not to say the games caused the compulsion, rather the compulsion is causing the gaming.  And a sudden, cold-turkey, cut-off is NOT the way to treat that kind of issue.

  28. kagirinai says:

    "Regardless of the reason for this kid taking off, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a 15-year-old kid missing in Canada when the weather is getting progressively colder."

    It is indeed a bad time to be away from a warm home up north. Nights are very brisk right now in Southern Ontario.

  29. Rabidkeebler says:

    I view it more as, does the person view games as only a small portion of their life, or do they view it as their main focus.  I now parenty who took away their childs console, and while it was an issue, due to the childs personality it wasn’t a reality crashing experience because they had other outlets.  But if this kids life revolved around gaming, when you take that away, that could cause a serious problem.


    Foaming at the mouth

  30. Erik says:

    The media seems to be convienently forgetting that his father helped pack his suitcase.  I hope he is tried for child endangerment.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  31. Icehawk says:

    I have seen people lose it when the log in server was backed up or the server crashed and they had to wait for 15-20 mins to play a game.   End of the world stuff.   There have been times when I honestly beleived some of them capable of taking a life during that wait. 

    Still to run away due to lose of an 360 seems to be reaching.   Curious if there were not other reasons or mayhaps mental or physical abuse (doing this for his sons own good kind of stuff). 

  32. ezbiker555 says:

    Why do I get the feeling that JT is somehow going to make a comment in this thread?


    Anways, I’m not sure what to say about this.

  33. hellfire7885 says:

    JT to demand apologies or saying he’s recieving apologies in 3… 2… 1…


    Seriously though, don’t try to put out a blazing inferno with gasoline

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