Politically-influenced Clover Launches on XBL

May 11, 2009 -

Clover, an Xbox Live Community Game being developed by Binary Tweed has now launched. As GamePolitics reported recently, the story which unfolds in Clover was heavily influenced by the run-up to the Iraq War.

In fact, Binary Tweed calls the game a "watercolour political platform puzzler," and those are four words you don't hear strung together very often.

From the Clover press release:

Already in the hands of some early-bird gamers, the true nature of Clover's political plot is becoming clear. “It's been great to read emails from gamers who have picked up on the historical and political references - if Clover has one objective, it's to make people think.” commented Binary Tweed's Deejay. Heavily inspired by the events preceding the 2003 Iraq war, the game invites players to draw their own conclusions from unfurling events.

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XBL Community Game Mixes Platform Action, Puzzles and Politics

April 30, 2009 -

We're intrigued by Clover, a nearly-done Xbox Live Community game which its creator says was heavily influenced by the prelude to the war in Iraq.

While we don't want to give too much away, Deejay, who heads Binary Tweed, added:

The game is loaded with references to speeches by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, as well as references to World War II and September 11th...

Clover is set in a pseudo-Tudor monarchy with a welfare state, experiencing increased security measures after an act of foreign aggression, in which the lead character's mother has died.

To make things just a bit more interesting, the Clover web site has apparently been viewed by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Army Information Systems Command.

That's a bit spooky...

While no official launch date has been set, Clover should be available in early May for 400 XBL points.

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Xbox Live in Discussions with Gay Rights Activists

April 14, 2009 -

Xbox Live has had a rocky relationship with its gay and lesbian users in recent times, but there are signs that things may be improving.

Gay Gamer reports that Stephen Toulouse, who polices the XBL community, recently met with members of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation:

I can't talk about what we discussed specifically except to say that we provided them with a lot of information about what we do today, why we do what we do and how we do it. And then we asked them the question, 'How can we do this better?' And we have some ideas. Here are some ideas. That dialog was super, super helpful. I think it was a great engagement. Justin and Jeffrey who came out from GLAAD really appreciated the effort that we're putting into it - and had great ideas, like they brought up some stuff we hadn't thought of.

We'll plan to say something about [GLAAD and Xbox LIVE policy] in the future.

Via: Kotaku

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Nasty Prank: Woman's Child Offered for Sale on Xbox Live

March 11, 2009 -

A Florida woman is understandably upset after someone posted a message on Xbox Live advertising that her two-year-old daughter was for sale - and included her home phone number. The offer included free shipping.

As reported by the Charlotte Sun, Christa Manos of Punta Gorda began receiving angry phone calls from Xbox Live users on Saturday night.:

The [first caller] was furious Manos would consider putting a price tag on her child.

At first, it sounded like a prank. But the phone kept ringing, with more and more angry voices from across the United States. Some just cursed at Manos. Others called her a bad mother. She didn't know what they were talking about.

"By the 18th or 19th call, I knew something wasn't right," Manos said.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

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Report: Lesbian Finds Herself Banned From Xbox Live

February 26, 2009 -

A woman who identified herself as a lesbian in her Xbox Live profile has reportedly been banned from Microsoft's online gaming venue.

The woman, known only as "Teresa," told The Consumerist:

My [Xbox Live] account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.

As if xbox live is really appropriate for kids anyways! My account was suspended and xbox live did nothing to solve this, but instead said others found it offensive...

Microsoft does nothing to stop this or prevent it, but instead sides with the homophobes...

Microsoft, which in September received a perfect score from gay equality group Human Rights Campaign, has struggled with the gay identity issue on Xbox Live.

Most notably, in 2008 XBL banned the gamertag "Richard Gaywood," even though it was the user's actual name.

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Feds Say Xbox Live Predator Targeted California Teen

February 3, 2009 -

For the second time in less than a week, authorities have nabbed an alleged pedophile who met his victim on Xbox Live.

In the latest case, federal investigators allege that 27-year-old Edward Stout traveled from Missouri to California, where he engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. The two met on Xbox Live more than a year ago.

Last week GamePolitics reported on the arrest of a 19-year-old Ohio man who is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Ohio boy he met on XBL.

Fresno's CBS-47 has a video report.

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19-Year-Old Xbox Live Gamer is Alleged Traveling Pedophile

January 27, 2009 -

Police in Ohio have charged a 19-year-old Michigan man with traveling to Parma and raping a 12-year-old boy.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Codey Hawks (left) met his victim on Xbox Live where he played an unspecified online game with the boy and his father.

From the newspaper report:

Hawks... called the victim's family when he arrived [in Ohio] and asked if he could stay with them. Hawks said he'd joined the National Guard and was to ship out in February.

At some point, the parents became suspicious and confronted their son about his relationship with Hawks. They called police after learning its nature.

Compton said Parma detectives questioned Hawks and he admitted that he assaulted the boy while staying at the family's home when the parents weren't there. Hawks now is in the county jail.

Police are looking for other victims...

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Obama Inauguration Featured on Xbox Live

January 21, 2009 -

President Barack Obama's status as pop culture icon extends to Xbox Live as well as, seemingly, everywhere else.

Joystiq notes that the Obama inauguration was featured on XBL last evening:

Log into Xbox Live tonight and the first thing you'll see is ... a photo of President Obama from today's inauguration. Indeed, the spotlight of the Spotlight channel is today's ceremony, including video of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden being sworn into office, the 44th President's inaugural speech and more.

Even the Movies and TV Shows categories have taken on the theme, featuring the likes of The West Wing and -- wait a second -- Mars Attacks? Yes, the Tim Burton camp-fest is inexplicably among the inaugural offerings...

Indeed, the Obama features are still up this morning.

Obama, as GamePolitics readers will recall, was the runaway choice among Xbox Live users in political polling conducted by the online gaming venue during the run-up to November's election (see: Xbox Live is a Blue State).

The Obama campaign also created a stir with its groundbreaking in-game ads, which were seen only on Xbox Live. The XBL ad story was broken on GamePolitics, BTW.

Included in the current inaugural theme is a segment introduced by Major Nelson which features XBL users offering their opinions as to what the new chief executive should prioritize. Aside from the woman who wanted Bruce Springsteen named "secretary of rock" and the guy who demanded a college football playoff system, the answers showed that the XBL crowd is both thoughtful and well-versed in current affairs.

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Collectible Games Plunge in Value Following Digital Re-release

January 2, 2009 -

For most gamers, it's great to see an old classic turn up on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network or the Wii Shop Channel.

But, as Ars Technica reports, such re-releases are often bad news for collectors of hard-to-find video games.

Video games are a digital medium, and re-monetizing rare games via digital distribution services has been a long time coming... How much do rare games drop in value when they're re-released via a service like Xbox Live? A good example is Rez HD, the Xbox 360 version of a rare Dreamcast and PS2 shooter...

"Rez used to sell for about $50 for the Dreamcast version and $45 for the PS2 version through the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008," Nick [of Racketboy.com] explained... "Ikaruga sold for about $75 for the Dreamcast version and $45 for the Gamecube port. Once it was announced that both games would be coming to XBLA in the middle of the year, the games dropped $5 to $15 in value... It seems that the Dreamcast games hold their value a bit more as it is more of a cult classic system, and they are also Japanese imports."

Nick also told us that the domestic copies of the relatively common PS2 and GameCube ports of the game have halved in value.
 

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Journalist Reflects on Brandon Crisp Case, Terms CoD 4 Multiplayer "a Sad Place"

December 18, 2008 -

The tragic death of Canadian teen Brandon Crisp was easily gaming's saddest story of 2008.

In a sense, it was also one of the most frustrating stories for gamers as they watched their hobby maligned publicly, yet again. For several weeks in October and November, mainstream media reports fueled speculation that Brandon, a dedicated - perhaps even compulsive - Call of Duty 4 gamer, had been abducted by someone he met on Xbox Live.

Early on in the case there was even the highly improbable suggestion that Brandon had left home to join a professional gaming league. This was, perhaps, the modern equivalent of a 19th century child running away to join the circus.

Throughout the investigation and its aftermath, the notion that Brandon was addicted to Call of Duty 4 remained a constant theme. Not written about much, but just as likely, was the fact that Brandon was experiencing the same issues that plague many adolescents: difficulty in finding one's place and conflicts with parents.

In the end, Brandon was found dead not far from home. A coroner ruled that he likely fell from a tree soon after running away.

Now that a bit of time has passed since Brandon's death, Canadian journalist Jesse Brown takes a retrospective look at the case for his CBC Radio podcast. Unfortunately, what Brown ultimately serves up is a blanket condemnation of Call of Duty 4 multiplayer.

Brown, a non-gamer, spent time playing CoD4 and recording his impressions. In the end he was seemingly put off by the trash talk on Xbox Live. Hey, who isn't, from time to time? But there are ways to deal with XBL jerks that don't involve condemning the entire CoD4 experience, as Brown unfortunately does in his wrap-up:

Brandon Crisp played video games compulsively and Brandon Crisp died in the woods after falling from a tree. And those two things might not have anything at all to do with each other.

But as I played Call of Duty 4 late at night, crouching in a digital simulation of a snowy field and then collapsing in the leaves as a stranger somewhere in the world pushed a button and cursed in my ear, it was eerie to think that Brandon Crisp was here too, virtually killing and virtually dying thousands of times.

 

This world is a sad place and it's awful that Brandon Crisp spent so much of his time here when he had so little to spend.

What Brown doesn't get is that CoD4 may have become for Brandon a place where he could fit in, have fun and enjoy a sense of community and accomplishment.

GP: Thanks to GP reader Joseph M for the heads-up...

In Wake of Election, ESA Boss Sees Historic Time for Game Community

November 21, 2008 -

In an op-ed published at 1up, Michael Gallagher, CEO of game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association, frames the recent presidential election as "a historic time for America and the computer and video game community."

Recapping many of the campaign-related game developments (Obama's XBL ads, McCain's Pork Invaders game), Gallagher writes:

The campaign produced a milestone of its own in the use of our technologies to engage and communicate with voters.

 

 For the first time, American gamers and the entertainment software industry played an active role in the political process...

With the U.S. recession deepening, Gallagher also cites the benefits that the game industry provides to the U.S. economy and lays out the ESAS's agenda going forward:

  • working closely with all levels of government
  • preserving the First Amendment rights of gamers
  • supporting parental education efforts around video game ratings
  • protecting our industry's intellectual property
  • leveraging broadband to increase the connected experience
  • working to improve our industry's contributions to the economy
  • supporting state-level tax incentive legislation
     

Gallagher concludes with:

We look forward to working with the Obama administration, the new Congress and state leaders around the country and ensuring that America's governments recognize the positive effects of the computer and video game industry.

UPDATE: For more of Gallagher's thoughts, see GameStop's interview.

Blizzard, Microsoft Wield Banhammer

November 13, 2008 -

Microsoft has banned a number of Xbox Live users whose 360s were modded, according to XBL front man Major Nelson:

In our our continued effort to keep gameplay safe and secure for our community of more than 14 million members, Microsoft has taken action against a small percentage of Xbox 360 consoles that have been illegally modified in order to play pirated games.

 

You should know that modifying your Xbox 360 console is also a violation of the Xbox LIVE terms of use, will void your warranty and result in a ban... The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive, both from manufacturers and the local companies that support them.

Via: Amazon Game Room

In more banning news, Destructoid reports that Blizzard has said goodbye to some 350,000 Battle.net accounts for Starcraft and Diablo II.

At issue? 

Players using third-party hacks. The good news is that the cheaters were banned. The bad news is that Blizz might let them back in after 30 days.

 

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Parents To Start a Foundation in Brandon Crisp's Memory

November 12, 2008 -

In a just-released statement the parents of Brandon Crisp say that they plan to create a foundation to help unpriveleged children have the opportunity to play sports.

Although it was known that the Crisps would release a statement today, the focus of the proposed foundation is a bit of a surprise. Some believed that the family would target video game addiction, which was initially blamed for Brandon's disappearance by his parents. The oft-repeated game addiction theme gathered much traction in the Canadian media as well.

The 15-year-old gamer will be buried on Friday.

The full text of the Crisp family's statement follows:

The story of our son's disappearance and tragic outcome has touched the hearts of families throughout our community and across our Country.

 

We are so very proud to have parented such a wonderful, caring and beautiful son who has touched so many hearts.


We take great comfort in our time of grief, knowing that his story has and will continue to have a profound impact on parents and children alike, that more time will be made by families to share precious time together. Life and love should never be taken for granted.

 

To honor Brandon's name we will be creating a foundation to support under privileged children throughout our community and across Canada to play minor sports they may not otherwise be able to afford. An interim donation account has been set up with the CIBC as the Brandon Crisp Trust Account, Donations can be made at any CIBC branch across Canada.

 

The support we have had from so many has been completely overwhelming and has made an everlasting impression on our family. 

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Time Names Xbox a Most Significant Microsoft Moment

November 12, 2008 -

Time is running a feature on the Top 10 Microsoft Moments, and the Xbox made the list.

No, not the (fairly) sleek 360, but the extra-beefy original. From the article:

By the [2001] holiday shopping season, gamers all over America wanted them, launching a three-way battle for video-game dominance between the Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube... Microsoft had a $500 million marketing budget for the game platform, which also contained a hard drive and Internet connectivity. The Xbox was more powerful and more expensive — not to mention heavier — than the PlayStation 2, but lacked Sony’s stable of popular games — it didn’t take off as a platform until the stunning success of Halo, a mankind-vs-aliens space opera that helped redefine the first-person shooter genre.

Other high (or low) points include the release of MS-DOS, Windows, BOB and those quirky commercials featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.

GP: The pic shows a working prototype that was on display at E3 in 2001.

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BREAKING: Missing Gamer Brandon Crisp Died from Fall

November 8, 2008 -

Brandon Crisp, the gamer whose disappearance touched so many in Canada and in the video game community, died of injuries consistent with a fall from a tree, according to a coroner's report.

More details from Canada.com:

An autopsy performed Friday in Toronto confirmed that missing 15-year-old Brandon Crisp died from a fall from a tree. Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer said Saturday that the autopsy confirmed the boy's identity and cause of death, putting to end the faint hope the missing teen might still be alive.

Results from the autopsy indicated that Crisp died from chest wounds "consistent with a fall from a tree," a statement released by Barrie police said. Many media reports speculated that Crisp, whose body was found Wednesday near a popular hiking trail outside of the central Ontario city, had likely died from hypothermia.

Police said foul play isn't suspected.

Police are still attempting to piece together the last moments of Brandon's life. His funeral is planned for Friday, November 14th.

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Missing Gamer Found Dead

November 5, 2008 -

Toronto TV station CP-24 is reporting that missing gamer Brandon Crisp has been found dead.

From the report: 

Police have found the body of missing Barrie-area boy Brandon Crisp... He was found on Fifth Line in the Barrie area...

 

A massive search was underway for the teen in Shanty Bay on the Oro Medonte Rail Trail, just outside of Barrie, since his disappearance on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Last week, a second witness confirmed seeing Crisp on the trail the night he disappeared.

CTV spoke with Sgt. Dave Goodbrand of the Barrie Police: 

At this point we believe it to be Brandon, and we're still obviously in the early stages of our investigation, It's not confirmed because nothing's confirmed until we have pathology, but we believe it to be Brandon... [Brandon's parents are] obviously distraught by the information.

On the Facebook group Where is Brandon Crisp? some posters are saying that Brandon's body was discovered by hunters, but that is unconfirmed by police at this point. The London Free Press also reports that Brandon was found by hunters.

UPDATE: The Facebook group has been removed by its moderator, apparently over hurtful remarks being posted.

UPDATE 2: Police are now saying that they don't suspect foul play. CTV quotes Ontario Provincial Police Const. George Silvestri:

Our indication is, at this time, no foul play suspected, but of course we have to examine every possibility... There's absolutely no fear for any residents of Oro-Medonte. This is a safe community.

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Xbox Live is a Blue State

November 4, 2008 -

The official Xbox color may be green, but when it comes to politics, online gaming venue Xbox Live is clearly a blue state.

According to a Microsoft rep, a final pre-election poll taken over the weekend shows Democrat Barack Obama with a commanding lead over Republican John McCain among XBL gamers. Here are those numbers:

  • Obama 53%
  • McCain 33%
  • Undecided 14%

In a late September XBL poll, Obama led 43-31%. The new data seems to suggest that some XBL users who were undecided or who supported other candidates in the earlier poll have largely shifted to Obama.

As Xbox Live project manager Ben Vaught recently pointed out to GamePolitics, with 14 million subscribers, if Xbox Live was a state, it would be the seventh largest in the U.S. with 20 electoral votes.

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Report: Missing Gamer Case Raises Questions About Mysterious 2007 Death

November 2, 2008 -

Video games have absorbed an enormous amount of bad press since Brandon Crisp (left) went missing on October 13th.

Nearly every day for the last three weeks, Canadian media accounts have named Call of Duty 4, Xbox Live and video game addiction as key factors in the 15-year-old's disappearance.

While it's generally agreed that Brandon left home following an argument with his parents over his Xbox 360, what happened after that remains unknown.

Today's edition of the Toronto Sun, however, draws comparisons between Brandon's disappearance and that of Alexandra Flannigan (right), a 33-year-old woman who was last seen in July, 2007:

Another mysterious disappearance was on the minds of many residents.Still fresh in many memories is the death of Alexandra Flannigan, 33, a petite, 100 pound, 5-foot-2 woman... Months later, police found her remains in two different areas of the city... Police suspect foul play but have been silent in the past months about the investigation. They have refused to comment when asked about a possible connection with Brandon's disappearance.

Meanwhile, the Sun quotes a local woman who found Brandon's abandoned bicycle:

I hate to think the worst. But you can't help but wonder.

GP: One thing that is fascinating about the earlier case is that the victim, Alexandra Flannigan, was almost exactly the same size and weight as Brandon Crisp. It's also very odd that the woman's remains were found in two separate locations and the police suspect foul play? The autopsy apparently indicated that one of Flannigan's bones had been sawed through. Foul play seems like a no-brainer.

Barrie police, the lead agency is the Brandon Crisp case, have been severly criticized by some who believe that they bungled the Flannigan investigation.

GamePolitics recently reviewed the possible scenarios in Brandon's disappearance.

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Police Issue Video Alert in Hunt for Missing Call of Duty 4 Gamer

November 2, 2008 -

As of tomorrow, Brandon Crisp will be missing for three weeks.

Police in his hometown of Barrie, Ontario have issued a video alert for the 15-year-old gamer after a search and a roadblock over the weekend apparently failed to locate Brandon.

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America's Most Wanted Monitoring Missing CoD4 Gamer Case

October 30, 2008 -

CTV reports that the popular America's Most Wanted program may air a feature detailing the case of missing gamer Brandon Crisp. The popular show currently has a small report about Brandon on its website, but a reader would need to search to find the listing.

According to CTV, America's Most Wanted is more likely to cover the case if police believe that Brandon has entered the United States. Along that line, UPI reports the following comment by police spokesman Sgt. Dave Goodbrand:

We don't know where he is, so there is that potential that he could have gone south of the border. That's a scenario we have to consider, whether he went across on his own will or against his will.

Interestingly, Goodbrand said that foul play is not suspected.

GP: Thanks to reader Ian Campbell for the tip!

UPDATE: Even though police called off their ground search on Monday, according to CityNews they now say that they will search one more time on Friday and conduct a day-long canvass on Saturday.

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Obama Campaign Paid $44K for In-game Ads

October 29, 2008 -

GameSpot has learned that Barack Obama's in-game ads on Xbox Live set the Democratic nominee's campaign back $44,465.78.

That amounts to pretty good bang for the buck, especially when factoring in the widespread mainstream publicity generated by the ads after GamePolitics broke the news of their existence on October 9th.

The Obama XBL ads were covered by, among others, the New York Times and Associated Press as well as most of the major news networks.


 

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Where is Missing Gamer Brandon Crisp? GP Examines the Possibilities

October 27, 2008 -

When Brandon Crisp stormed out of his house on October 13th following a family argument, he must have seemed like so many other teenagers. It's a simple fact of life: 15-year-olds occasionally have stormy relationships with their parents. But, upon leaving, Brandon's life took a uniquely disturbing turn.

Two weeks later the young man remains missing. No one has seen or heard from him - at least, no one who's talking about it. Intensive search efforts by police and local volunteers have failed to locate the slightly built gamer.

At this point the best hope of tracing Brandon may lie with a forensic analysis of his Xbox 360 hard drive as well as server logs for Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming service.

Brandon's distraught parents have largely focused on the role of online gaming in his life, a role which they say had become pervasive. His father, Steve Crisp, has at various points blamed game addiction, Call of Duty 4, and online game tournaments.

But let's put all of that aside for a moment and analyze the possibilities:

Missing Gamer Search Now Focusing on Xbox Live

October 26, 2008 -

After failing to locate Brandon Crisp despite more than a week of intensive searching, police are reportedly focusing their investigation on the missing gamer's Xbox Live account.

This morning's Toronto Star reports that the cyber crimes unit of the Ontario Provincial Police will attempt to identify members of Brandon's Xbox Live Call of Duty 4 clan. Barrie P.D. spokesman Sgt. Dave Goodbrand told the Sun that Microsoft has agreed to breach its normal privacy protocols in the hunt for the missing 15-year-old:

Brandon's dad made a plea to Microsoft. This is an exigent circumstance, where it's a kid you're searching for. This isn't the same as other criminal investigations, where you're looking for evidence... [Brandon] was getting good enough that there's a possibility he was expanding into other clans.

In related news, GamePolitics spoke with Sgt. Goodbrand last night and learned that police are not releasing Brandon's Xbox Live gamertag. While the gamertag would give concerned gamers a starting point from which they could explore online resources in the search for Brandon, law enforcement officials fear that the information may be misused. There could also be important investigative reasons. It is not unusual for certain pieces of information to be withheld from the public in major cases.

How might gamers help? Although the circumstances are much different - and infinitely more serious - in Brandon's case, here's one example: Crime File: Global Gamer Community Tracks Down Xbox Live Thieves.
 

Reality TV's Mantracker Joins Hunt for Missing Gamer

October 26, 2008 -

The star of a Canadian reality TV show has joined in the search for missing Xbox Live gamer Brandon Crisp.

As reported by the Vancouver Sun, Terry Grant, who stars in Mantracker, arrived at the seach location on Friday evening. Barrie Police Dept. spokesman Sgt. Dave Goodbrand commented:

He has followed the story for a number of days and he has come to assist with the volunteer party.

Meanwhile, Simcoe.com has these remarks from Grant:

Search and rescue is what I’ve done for 12 years. I thought it’s a worthwhile cause to come out here and see if I can help organize some of the volunteers and give a little bit of guidance where necessary... This [search operation] is huge. The volunteers who are organizing this are doing an awesome job. They are going above and beyond here.

A Wikipedia entry for the Mantracker program summarizes its format:

Two people take off into the bush with a map, a compass and a head start. The tracker is on horseback, armed with a local guide and an arsenal of forensic skills. The prey have 36 hours to reach a finish line some 40 kilometers away without getting caught. How they escape is up to them.

Brandon is reportedly a fan of the show.

Microsoft Adds $25K to Missing Gamer Reward Fund

October 25, 2008 -

Despite yesterday's massive search effort, Brandon Crisp remains missing. The 15-year-old gamer disappeared after a family dispute on October 13th.

The Vancouver Sun reports that Microsoft Canada has chipped in $25,000, raising the reward fund total to $50,000. Brandon's parents told police that the young man left home after an argument over what they described as his obsessive play of Call of Duty 4 on Xbox Live.

A Barrie P.D. spokesman said that Microsoft was cooperating fully with the investigation: 

Microsoft said they would do anything they can to expedite the process to find Brandon," said Sgt. Dave Goodbrand, spokesman for the Barrie police.

Brandon's parents say he was obsessed with playing an online game called Call of Duty 4 on his Xbox and police have been working with Microsoft to track down the Internet addresses of everyone who interacted with the 15-year-old before he disappeared. There are concerns he may have gone to meet someone he met online.

Barrie P.D. says that it has received more than a thousand tips that need follow-up. Psychics and even the newly-disbarred Jack Thompson have offered advice. From the Sun:

Miami lawyer Jack Thompson called Barrie police offering his help. Thompson, whose cases have included a youth who committed murder by re-enacting scenes from video games, said a young person addicted to video games can be traumatized if forced to go cold turkey.


"It's a psychological and physiological condition," said Thompson. "These are tough things to have the kid go cold turkey."

Barrie P.D. has established a tip line for information concerning Brandon's whereabouts: 705-725-7025 ext. 2160

For all GP coverage on the Brandon Crisp case click here.

UPDATE: Steve Crisp, Brandon's father, is urging Microsoft to expedite the process of extracting contact information from the hard drive of the missing boy's Xbox 360, reports CTV. Mr. Crisp made this plea:

The key to finding my son lies in this XBox hard drive. Please, if you can speed up the process of handing this information over to our police, it could mean a big difference in our son's safe return. There are a lot of red tape and legal issues I know that Microsoft probably has, and the police probably have.

CTV has posted video interviews with Steve Crisp as well as with Sgt. Dave Goodbrand of the Barrie P.D.

Cops Organize Big Search for Missing Gamer; Mom Clings to CoD4 Theory

October 24, 2008 -

After 11 days, 15-year-old Canadian gamer Brandon Crisp remains missing.

Rewards in the case have increased to $20,000, while a message on the Facebook group Where is Brandon Crisp? outlines a major volunteer search effort that will begin today and last through the weekend:

The public search for Brandon will take place Friday - Sunday October 24 - 26. The command centre for the search each day will be located at Burl's Creek in Oro, and teams will be organised there to search throughout Oro and Orillia.

In addition to ground-searching, volunteers may be asked to perform support-related duties for the search, canvass neighbourhoods and post flyers in high-traffic locations.

The Command centre will operate Friday Saturday and Sunday from 10 am through 5 pm. As we expect many volunteers, we ask for patience while we organise each volunteer into proper roles; we need to make sure we execute the search to the best of our ability.

Canada's cnews reports that Brandon's distraught mother, Angelika Crisp, clings to the idea that he was taken by a fellow gamer:

She insists her son was taken by some misfit teammate who may be participating in a bizarre video game that has somehow crossed over into reality.

Crisp said her son was "addicted" to the terrorist war game, Call of Duty, and might have met up with team players online.

"I think someone has him," Crisp said.

In addition to the Facebook group (which now has over 9,200 members), a website has been established at FindBrandonCrisp.com

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Reward Posted for Missing Canadian Gamer; Police Endorse CoD4 Addiction Theory

October 23, 2008 -

Canada's National Post reports that a $10,000 reward has been offered in the Brandon Crisp case. The teen went missing 10 days ago following a family dispute.

As GamePolitics has reported, Brandon's parents maintain that he was addicted to Call of Duty 4 and they have linked his game play to his disappearance. The local police department seems to be adopting that theory as well. The Ottowa Citizen today quotes Barrie P.D. Sgt. Dave Goodbrand:

Every day gets more and more concerning for his safety, especially with no contact. We're not getting any contact from his (computer) user accounts and his video-game accounts. And that's concerning because he was so addicted and he left home because of that.

Probably correctly, the police doubt that Brandon would log in under a new account:

From my understanding, he has worked so hard to build his [in-game] credibility, and if you start a new profile, you have to start at the bottom.

GP: Anyone with information concerning Brandon Crisp's whereabouts is requested to contact the Barrie P.D.

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Tech Deprivation: Did Removal of Xbox Spark Teen's Disappearance?

October 23, 2008 -

All week, GamePolitics has been tracking the search for Brandon Crisp. The 15-year-old Canadian gamer disappeared on October 13th after a dispute with his family which led to the confiscation of his Xbox 360 by his father, Steve.

Mr. Crisp has expressed fears that Brandon's "addiction" to Call of Duty 4 may be somehow connected to the boy's disappearance.

GamePolitics put that question to Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of Internet porn and online gaming addicts. While Dr. Block would not comment directly about the case, he offered his view on how the removal of a game system or PC might affect a hardcore gamer:

I caution against abruptly "cutting off" people from their compulsive computer use without much thought and preparation.  I often see extreme anger results, directed at oneself or the surrounding world.  When you think about it, it makes sense:  The computer (or gaming console) helps a person who is struggling with emotions (1) metabolize those emotions virtually without acting on them in the Real, (2) chew up time so they do not have the hours to act out in Real life, and (3) provides companionship...even if it is simulated or via Virtual relationships. 

 

When you cut the cord, you destroy the way someone is dealing with their emotions, you give them 30+ more hours [per week] to occupy, and you kill off their major source of relationships.  Is it any surprise anger often results?
 
Often the anger is directed at oneself with statements like, "What a waste I have made of my life" or "What do I have to show for the hours I spent in WoW, Civ, etc."  It can lead to suicide attempts or other pathology, like drug use.  Or, the anger can turn external:  "We all live in fantasy worlds, brutal places fabricated and controlled by others.  I'll be damned if I'll let them take away my world, where I am powerful, without first stripping away their fantasies and illusions."  This is what I believe happened at Columbine.

Gamers Worried About Jobs & Economy, Says New Xbox Live Poll

October 22, 2008 -

Last month GamePolitics tracked Xbox Live's inaugural use of political polling among its members. In that survey, XBL users overwhelmingly gave the nod to Barack Obama as their choice for president - and that was before anyone knew about those now famous in-game Obama ads.

In partnership with nonprofit Rock the Vote, XBL has just completed a new round of polling. This time users were asked to name which issues were most on their mind.

So what's the answer? In the words of Deomocratic campaign strategist James Carville, it's the economy, stupid. Here are the numbers:

  • 35%        Jobs and the Economy
  • 19%        Environment
  • 18%        Foreign Policy
  • 14%        Health Care
  • 14%        Education
     

At this point it's fair to say that XBL has jumped into the election season with both feet. In addition to user polling and a voter registration drive, the online service is offering election 2008 gamerpics and themes, as well as a music video from The Presidents of the United States of America's new album.

On Monday, GamePolitics spoke to project manager Ben Vaught about the injection of politics into the XBL user experience. Vaught hadn't seen the results of the new poll at that point:

The reason we do these polls is that Xbox Live is more and more becoming a bellwether of where youth voting trends are going… This [new] poll is really a chance for Xbox Live members to tell the presidential candidates... this is why were voting, this is why this election matters to us…

 

I thought [the Obama ads were] amazing. This is a community of over 14 million members. They’re active and engaged, they’re vocal. And it's not just about games and entertainment. They're also active and engaged and feel very stongly about the direction of their country… If Xbox Live was a state, it would be the seventh largest with 20 electoral votes.

[Rock the Vote] is very happy with how everthing is turning out. For Rock the Vote, they’re going to where younger voters are this election and this year they’re on Xbox Live. With Microdoft and Xbox, we know that the presidential election is important and we’re really trying to do our part to encourage turnout and for people to vote.

16 comments

Call of Duty 4 Teen Still Missing

October 22, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported on Monday, Brandon Crisp, a 15-year-old Canadian gamer, went missing more than a week ago and has not been located.

According to this morning's Toronto Star, Brandon's parents have expressed to police that they believe his disappearance may be related to what they term an "addiction" to the popular, online-playable FPS Call of Duty 4. Brandon's father, Steve Crisp is quoted as saying:

I'm worried he has met someone online through this game. It could be organized crime or someone involved in Internet gambling. Pedophiles can stalk kids through these games.

While it is certainly true that there are documented cases of sexual predators using online video games to locate young victims, Steve Crisp's speculation regarding organized crime or Internet gambling seems a bit far-fetched. Perhaps understandable, though, given the stress which he is under. Certainly, one would expect that the local police are working with Xbox Live to examine any messages between Brandon and other players. They are probably examining his PC as well.

Also unclear is the exact CoD game that Brandon was supposedly addicted to. The Star report includes these passages:

[Brandon] left home following a dispute with his parents over the Xbox online war game, Call of Duty 4, which he spent countless hours and days playing over the last 18 months...

 

"He has a good heart," Steve said of his son, who was a straight-A student until his obsession with gaming started in 2006. The boy purchased Call of Duty with Christmas money and Steve subscribed to Xbox online at his son's urging.

Call of Duty 4, however, was not released until November 5 of last year. Previous games in the series were released for Xbox 360, so, given the stressful circumstances, it's an understandable mistatement.

Anyone with information on Brandon's whereabouts is urged to contact the Barrie Police Department. A Facebook group, Where is Brandon Crisp? has over 5,600 members so far.

GP: A reporter from the Globe and Mail asked me yesterday whether the gaming community, using online resources, might be helping in the search for Brandon. It's very possible.

What do you think, GP readers? How would you look for Brandon?

 
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Who's responsible for crappy Netflix performance on Verizon?:

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Andrew EisenThe Steam controller may have changed again. http://www.vg247.com/2014/07/23/steam-controller-valve/07/23/2014 - 6:46pm
james_fudgePlease use the comments section for bitching about specific articles :) We do read them, after all.07/23/2014 - 10:52am
Andrew EisenThat's unfair but thank you for the tip on the Reddit thread containing the Kickstarter message to backers. The article has been updated.07/23/2014 - 10:50am
SleakerHere's the message Areal backers recieved from Kickstarter: http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/2beqlc/areal_kickstarter_suspended/07/23/2014 - 8:52am
Sleaker@MW - I still think Cogent/Level3 hookups were lacking prior to the comcast switch, but I do think verizon is being dumb here.07/23/2014 - 12:06am
Andrew EisenOf course it's a question. It's got a question mark and everything!07/22/2014 - 6:43pm
Matthew WilsonHate to say it, but that poll is not even a question. there is too much evidence that points to Verizon. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186576-verizon-caught-throttling-netflix-traffic-even-after-its-pays-for-more-bandwidth07/22/2014 - 6:23pm
Andrew EisenHuh. The new Battlefield has been delayed to early next year. Are you feeling okay, EA? http://blogs.battlefield.com/2014/07/bfh-will-launch-2015/07/22/2014 - 6:11pm
SleakerWest End Games - Areal developers just got their Kickstarter suspended. Might want to dump that 'fully funded' status.07/22/2014 - 12:08pm
MaskedPixelanteHas anyone who bought it gotten their Sims 2 Ultimate Edition upgrade yet? Still waiting on mine, especially since they're supposed to be out by today.07/22/2014 - 10:45am
IanCDynasty Warriors 8 for the PS4 finally has the option to turn off the OTT depth of field that made the game look like a blurry mess. Only a few months behind the JP version patch...07/22/2014 - 10:17am
NeenekoI see nothing in Section 111 that would exclude IP transmission. It even explicitly includes 'other transmission methods'07/22/2014 - 9:28am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/07/19/ruling_aereo_is_not_a_cable_company07/22/2014 - 8:13am
ZippyDSMleelul what?07/22/2014 - 7:53am
ZippyDSMleehttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/07/bungie-cross-generation-destiny-wouldnt-be-fair-to-low-res-players/07/22/2014 - 7:53am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/22/wii-u-update-adds-system-to-system-transfers/ The latest Wii U update allows you to do the system transfer between two Wii Us. Still not true accounts, but getting there.07/22/2014 - 7:39am
Papa MidnightSpeculation from PC Gamer. Don't hold your breath. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/07/21/microsoft-job-listing-says-nice-things-about-pc-gaming-isnt-clear-if-it-means-them/07/21/2014 - 5:58pm
MaskedPixelanteI dunno, it's probably Vevo powertripping.07/21/2014 - 5:52pm
Andrew EisenMP - Makes you wonder what the intention behind the removal was. Stop the RickRolls? Yeah, like removing that one video is going to make a difference.07/21/2014 - 3:27pm
 

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