If preliminary reports are any indication, video games are in for a media beatdown on Canadian TV network CBC tonight.
News program the fifth estate will air an investigative piece on the tragic Brandon Crisp case at 9 P.M. Eastern. GamePolitics readers may recall that 15-year-old Brandon ran away from home following an October, 2008 dispute in which his parents confiscated his Xbox 360.
Brandon was an avid – his parents say addicted – Call of Duty 4 player and the early days of the investigation focused on the theories that he had either run away to join a professional gaming league or been abducted by someone he met on Xbox Live. In the end it turned out that Brandon had fallen from a tree not long after leaving home and died from injuries received in the fall.
The Globe and Mail previews the program:
Some kids get hooked on Guitar Hero, but the vast majority of gamers today spend more money — and time — on shockingly graphic search-and-destroy video games. Turning every violent teen male fantasy into reality, these games have a simple primal theme: kill, and kill again. And then keep killing…
"As a parent, I was shocked by how little I knew about this world," says [reporter Gillian Findlay]. "The violence of these games is so real and beauty of the graphics is almost overwhelming. You can see how seductive these games can be to teenage players…"
In an exclusive interview with Brandon’s parents, taped between the time of his disappearance and the discovery of his body, the extent of their son’s video-game obsession is revealed.
We’re dismayed at what sounds like a cheap media manipulation:
MLG also operates big-ticket tournaments… Findlay sits down with the members of a Canadian team of professional gamers…
"When we talked to them, we had large monitors playing video-game footage as background, and you could see it: They couldn’t take their eyes off the screens," says Findlay.
Did the reporter really conduct this interview in front of large monitors and then blame some kind of video game effect for the subjects’ eyes wandering? Would it have been any different if a hockey game or House was running on those monitors? Maybe that’s why most reporters don’t conduct interviews with their subjects facing TV screens. They’re, you know, distracting…
For those who don’t get CBC, the episode will be available on the web at 10 p.m.
Looking for background on the case? GamePolitics covered Brandon’s disappearance in great detail. Click here for all of our reports on the case.
GP: Thanks to numerous readers who alerted us to this story…
UPDATE: Steve Tilley, who covers video games for the Toronto Sun, has previewed the show and weighs in with his take:
There’s a journalistic responsibility to become as informed as possible on a subject before speaking on it with authority, and [reporter Gillian] Findlay clearly has not.
I’m not talking about forgivable oversimplifications, but rather a glib, faux-concerned approach that treats teenaged gamers like slack-jawed addicts obsessed with virtual mass murder. It’s demeaning not only to the majority of gamers for whom this is harmless recreation, but to the non-gaming viewing audience who might not know better…
It’s lazy, cheap and disappointingly one-sided.