"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Blame the Video Games

Photo by phr3qu3ncy
Chris Staniforth was 20 years old, loved playing Xbox, and had been accepted into a Game Design program at Leicester University. His recent death, determined to be from a pulmonary embolism, came after what was described as a "marathon session" of gaming.

To be clear, the unexpected loss of a 20 year old is a tragedy no matter what, and my heart goes out to his parents and loved ones. But I see headlines like this, and I can't help but think there's an injustice being served.  Doing a quick Google search of his name brings it up again and again.  "Xbox addict."  "Game addict." "Halo addict." Addict, addict, addict.  Article after article warns against the dangers of excessive game playing. 

Deep vein thrombosis, which caused the pulmonary embolism that killed Chris Staniforth, can occur during long periods of immobility, such as bed rest, long flights, or simply sitting in the same position for a long time.

When I was a kid on summer vacation, I used to spend entire days (days upon days) sprawled on a hammock or lawn chair, reading a book.  If I didn't have four kids and adult responsibilities, I still would.  Does that make me a reading addict?  Does that make reading dangerous?

My husband has had a desk job ever since he entered the work force nearly twenty years ago.  Sometimes when he's involved in a project, he doesn't move from his chair for several hours at a time.  Does that make him a workaholic?  Does that make working dangerous?

Yes, I could have gotten up occasionally and taken a break from reading.  Yes, my husband could walk down the hall occasionally and get a cup of coffee.  Yes, Chris Staniforth could have interspersed his video game playing with shooting basketball or walking around the block.  But what happened to him was a rare and tragic accidental death, one that could happen to anyone, doing any number of things.  It's not the fault of the video game.  It's also not the fault of his parents (something I saw over and over in the comments of these articles)  They should have stopped him from playing so long!  They should have made him do other things!  Besides the fact that this was a 20 year old who should have been able to make his own decisions, we know nothing about his parents other than the fact that they are grieving the loss of their son.

He was following a passion. This poor kid was not doing drugs, not doing anything illegal or immoral or wrong, yet his death is being used as a dire anti-video game cautionary tale.  He was an addict, these articles warn.  Don't let this happen to you! 

I have a child who is passionate about video games.  At ten, he already knows that he wants to study video game design, just as I already knew at ten that it was the written word that I loved.  I want to support him in that endeavor, just as I would in any other.   I know people who work in this field for a living... people who love what they are doing.  People I respect. 

But video games can kill you!  Absolutely they can. So can riding in an airplane, stepping off a curb, or slipping in the shower.  The video games are not at fault here.  Neither is the airplane, the curb, or the shower.    These are accidents.

I wouldn't want Chris Staniforth's death to be in vain.  I want to continue to have awareness, and knowledge, and common sense.  Of course.  But I never want to live in fear, and I never want my kids to do so either.

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