The Fifth Estate, a Canadian investigative reporting program that's been on the air for over three decades, recently ran a piece looking into the untimely death of gaming enthusiast Brandon Crisp
, who ran away from his Ontario home last October after his parents took away his Xbox 360, and was found dead three weeks later due to injuries sustained from falling out of a tree
. Within the first few minutes of the short documentary, titled "Top Gun,"
The Fifth Estate's angle on the piece becomes clear: Some entity or cultural force is to blame for Crisp's death, and it's going to find out what it is.
It settles at first on Crisp's infatuation with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
, which is strengthened by his active participation on the MLG-owned clan-ranking site GameBattles.com. From there, it delves into the foul underworld
of competitive gaming, showing how attaching cash rewards to intense, lengthy sessions with mature video games is creating an irresistibly attractive lifestyle for those who fall beneath such titles' age restrictions. All the while, it depicts the unimaginable violence present in said games, and explain the detrimental effects it has on the lives of otherwise normal youths.
We lay this outline of the 40-minute documentary before you so that you don't actually have to watch it, as the sensationalism it contains and factual liberties it takes will likely raise the gaming community's collective hackles to unprecedented levels.
It contains all the mainstays we've come to expect when the mainstream media tackles the negative effects of video games on young people -- close-ups on the faces of hypnotized youths as they riddle their opponents with bullets, a clear lack of research into the decried mature titles, depictions of the most unsavory aspects of our cultural niche (one segment exposes the profane chatter that frequently floods online games), comparisons between video games and drugs, and a concerned, head-tilting reporter who asks the hard-hitting
questions, then instantly ignores the responses that threaten to weaken the piece's message.
On that note, they didn't leave the pro-gaming side of the argument completely unspoken for. The reporter interviews a number of professional gamers, MLG higher-ups and Danielle LaBossiere, the executive director for the ESA in Canada. However, these interviews are adversarial at best, and condescending at worst. The veracity of their anti-gaming interview subjects -- psychologists, an industry watchdog, and a "former gaming addict" -- is never questioned.
Mainstream media coverage of video games is almost always factually questionable and insulting -- the fact that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has decided to add to the noise isn't particularly newsworthy. However, there's something about a report that exploits the death of a 15-year-old kid in order to strengthen a flawed journalistic observation that especially sticks in our craw.
We found two things that we agreed with in "Top Gun." The first is that the accidental death of Brandon Crisp was a tragedy, one that should inspire parents to take a more active role in their kids' gaming consumption habits. However, the second came in a quote from LaBossiere, in response to the reporter's inquiry as to why the ESA didn't publish a statement in response to Crisp's death.
"It was a devastating, devastating situation for their family," LaBossiere explained, "but it was a family situation, and it had nothing to do with our industry."