The tragic death of Canadian teen Brandon Crisp was easily gaming's saddest story of 2008.
In a sense, it was also one of the most frustrating stories for gamers as they watched their hobby maligned publicly, yet again. For several weeks in October and November, mainstream media reports fueled speculation that Brandon, a dedicated - perhaps even compulsive - Call of Duty 4 gamer, had been abducted by someone he met on Xbox Live.
Early on in the case there was even the highly improbable suggestion that Brandon had left home to join a professional gaming league. This was, perhaps, the modern equivalent of a 19th century child running away to join the circus.
Throughout the investigation and its aftermath, the notion that Brandon was addicted to Call of Duty 4 remained a constant theme. Not written about much, but just as likely, was the fact that Brandon was experiencing the same issues that plague many adolescents: difficulty in finding one's place and conflicts with parents.
In the end, Brandon was found dead not far from home. A coroner ruled that he likely fell from a tree soon after running away.
Now that a bit of time has passed since Brandon's death, Canadian journalist Jesse Brown takes a retrospective look at the case for his CBC Radio podcast. Unfortunately, what Brown ultimately serves up is a blanket condemnation of Call of Duty 4 multiplayer.
Brown, a non-gamer, spent time playing CoD4 and recording his impressions. In the end he was seemingly put off by the trash talk on Xbox Live. Hey, who isn't, from time to time? But there are ways to deal with XBL jerks that don't involve condemning the entire CoD4 experience, as Brown unfortunately does in his wrap-up:
Brandon Crisp played video games compulsively and Brandon Crisp died in the woods after falling from a tree. And those two things might not have anything at all to do with each other.
But as I played Call of Duty 4 late at night, crouching in a digital simulation of a snowy field and then collapsing in the leaves as a stranger somewhere in the world pushed a button and cursed in my ear, it was eerie to think that Brandon Crisp was here too, virtually killing and virtually dying thousands of times.
This world is a sad place and it's awful that Brandon Crisp spent so much of his time here when he had so little to spend.
What Brown doesn't get is that CoD4 may have become for Brandon a place where he could fit in, have fun and enjoy a sense of community and accomplishment.
GP: Thanks to GP reader Joseph M for the heads-up...