I really have no idea what the tone of the national mood is in Canada regarding the Brandon Crisp disappearance. It's a big enough story on the Canadian news sites, but then, it could be that way because they say so, not because Canadians are actually gripped by this story. In the States, if we didn't have a campaign, this has all the markers of an overcovered 24-hour news cycle bender that makes everyone nauseous.
That said, Toronto's National Post has a story up this weekend that does a good job at knocking this down from a sensational video game controversy story to what it really is — a disturbed kid gone missing and terrifying his parents. The lead to the story:
Blaming video games for the woes of teens such as Brandon Crisp, who disappeared after his parents confiscated his Xbox, might be missing a bigger point, child psychologists warn. Obsessive behaviour in any form, combined with sudden shifts in habits, could indicate deeper, emotional turmoil that often eludes many parents.
The reporters, Craig Offman and Natalie Alcoba, then seek out Harvard psychologist Dr. Lawrence Kutner, whose book Grand Theft Childhood had a provocative title but really gave an evenhanded, well researched look at child behaviour and video games.
Dr. Kutner said the overwhelming majority of children who play video games do not suffer any psychological damage. If anything, he added, the consoles provide an effective means to be burn off excess adolescent energy and anxiety.
"In essence, it's a way of self-medicating," he said. "Kids play for a variety of reasons: for the fun of it, for the challenge. Or they play for emotional regulation. They can get their anger out."
Of course, "self-medicating" is the watchword. One can self-medicate with alcohol, pot, or other behaviours. It doesn't completely exempt gaming; it remains associated. But it's interesting to see a newspaper of record and an authoritative source combining to back this story away from hysteria.
Teens' Video Game Habits Part of Larger Issue: Experts [National Post]