It is becoming one of those sad but inevitable roles of the specialists games press to call out the - predominantly right-wing - media on their misuse of court-based stories regarding tragedies, teens and video games. Today The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have both used the suicide of 14-year old Callum Green and Call of Duty to further their agendas.
The Telegraph headline is: "14-year-old hangs himself after playing Call of Duty". The Daily Mail
headline is: "Coronerís warning as teenager, 14, is found hanged from a bunk bed after playing violent video game Call Of Duty with his stepfather"
Both media outlets use the same agency story that begins: "Callum Green, 14, regularly played the 18-certificate game with his stepfather despite it featuring graphically realistic scenes of soldiers carrying out gruesome killings.
"The teenager then began telling his 13-year old girlfriend how he wanted to run away from home and have a baby with her, his inquest was told."
Quite how playing a game that - given the teen's age - his father should not have allowed him to play leads to him wanting to run away and impregnate his girlfriend relates either to the game or to "realistic scenes of soldiers carrying out gruesome killings" is totally unclear. It does, however, highlight how both the Mail
and the Telegraph
are prepared to line up the game as the blame.
While both papers report the story slightly differently, they both agree on the sentence:
"After being grounded by his mother following a row he was found hanging by his school tie from his metal framed bunk bed," the Mail then follows up with, "At an inquest in Stockport, Greater Manchester coroner John Pollard said he could not understand why anyone would want to play the video game series which has sold 100 million copies around the world," before going totally overboard with, "Earlier this year Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik had claimed he had 'trained to kill' his 77 victims by playing the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare
game. He said it helped him 'develop target acquisition' using 'holographic' technology."
Both papers then quote Corner John Pollard as stating:
"The age limitations on these various computer games are there for a very valid reason and I do see the evidence of inappropriate computer games.
"It's very important that young children don't play them or have access to them."
However, the coroner then stated in much the way as many people with no experience of video games would, "Why quite frankly anybody would want to be playing them, I don't know."
The verdict at the Stockport inquest was an Open one - meaning that no direct cause was ascertained. In fact, the coroner actually stated:
"For whatever reason, and it is I'm afraid somewhat mysterious, Callum just decided that he was going to put the tie around his neck and suspend himself from the bunk beds. Was that with the intention of killing himself or just to give you a shock, we don't know."
Yes, we don't know. We do know that a young lad is dead. We also know that an agency has managed to sell a story blaming video games for this death to two mainstream newspapers. We also know that the verdict from a coroner who doesn't understand why anybody (not simply teens) would play video games.
We also know that the coroner states: "Itís very important that young children donít play them or have access to them.
'I make a plea with parents to keep a very close eye on their children in that way."
We are also - at no point - told how playing the game played any part in the death of the child.