The Needles

The Needles
The Big Lie of Brandon Crisp

Andy Chalk | 10 Mar 2009 21:00
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The CBC News website has published a new "in-depth" examination of "the obsessive world of gaming and its young stars," a story that follows up on the death of Brandon Crisp, the Barrie, Ontario teenager who was killed when he fell out of a tree. What does that have to do with videogames? The link is easy to follow, if not exactly causative: He'd climbed the tree to blow off steam over an argument he'd had with his parents about the amount of time he spent playing Call of Duty 4 on his Xbox 360. And then he fell and was killed. Sad but simple stuff.

What isn't simple is the appalling hatchet job done by the CBC in portraying videogames as not only dangerously close to responsible for Crisp's death but also for turning the impressionable youth of today into an obsessive herd of stupid useless tits bedazzled by the prospect of living the easy high life of a professional gamer. Brandon's gaming habits are presented less like unsupervised button-mashing and more like some kind of underground bloodsport in which competitors wrap their controllers in tape and then rub them in crushed glass.

The article begins on a decidedly dramatic note: "Little did they know the Barrie, Ont., teen was making his way to the top tier of the gaming world, where all that time in front of the gaming console might start to pay off with big wins and recognition in an alternate online gaming universe." I don't know what the hell "alternate online gaming universe" even means but it sure sounds great as thick, pandering bullshit and reaction among the great unwashed was predictable. Some rational debate in the CBC message forums could be found but words and phrases like "scary," "eye-opener" and "psychological dangers" were far more common than they should be.

The story is actually one piece of a two-part report on Crisp, and on videogaming in general, published in conjunction with the most recent episode of the CBC television program the fifth estate. The episode is entitled "Top Gun: When a Videogaming Obsession Turns to Addiction and Tragedy," billed by a deep-voiced announcer as "the story that shocked the country."

It was clear how things were going to go from the very beginning of the show, a montage of violent videogame footage interspersed with closeups of a fixed, unblinking eye, presumably belonging to some mesmerized kid. After establishing that videogames are essentially modern-day gladiatorial contests for crazed teenagers, the show switched to an appropriately concerned-looking host who promptly informed her audience of the existence of "a professional videogaming circuit" that offers prize money "to rival just about any professional sport."

Is that a lie, or gross ignorance? Or does her definition of "just about any professional sport" mean organizations like the National Lacrosse League or the International Federation of Competitive Eating? Hard to tell, but there wasn't much time to think about it: She was just getting warmed up.

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