As the workshop at Timothy Christian in Barrie, Ontario was breaking up, word came that Brandon’s body had been found. Brandon Crisp, a slight fifteen-year-old who had been missing since October 13, had left his home near Barrie, Ontario after his parents removed his Xbox privileges. Brandon’s favorite program was “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” In this simulation, players act out missions as U.S. Marines or British SAS members.
Ironically, in our workshop that day, we had been considering the pressures of culture and the faith development of youth ages 9-18. We had focused some time in particular on trends of concern that are emerging around boys and factors related to school achievement and faith development. In the area of video games, the negative evidence around the use of violent video games is starting to mount – Sax (Boys Adrift) points to research indicating that playing violent video games are more destructive than watching violent media. The pattern is familiar: boys begin spending more and more time with the game, and less and less time doing the typical boy things – playing with friends, engaging in physical activities/sports, and playing online games for hours at a time. Social circles shrink as the addiction increases and the connections shift to online game players. A recent McLean’s article reported: “While he had few friends in Barrie, his Xbox had a list of 200 people whom he played “Call of Duty” with online. Judged too small to keep up in hockey, the shy but competitive teenager found respect and success in the video game world, where he played on “clans” or “online teams.”
A predominant theme in recent years among those who write about youth faith nurture is that of our youth experiencing abandonment by adults. Our kids seek to belong, to matter somewhere. Note that the online video world refers to kids belonging to “clans.” Brandon’s father commented in the police station: “When I took his Xbox away, I took away his identity.” Are we rooting our kids in the identity expressed in the Heidelburg Catechism Q & A 1 – “I am not my own but belong, in body and soul, in life and death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ?” Where are our kids forming deep ties and finding their sense of belonging?