Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Headline News: Video Games Blamed Again. In Other News: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead

h/t Twenty Sided

I'd say I'm shocked... but, well, this kind of story is pretty common, now. Not the disappearance- although, that, too, isn't really shocking to me, either- but the fact that video games are being blamed.

The story: A former marine who was seriously wounded in a bomb explosion, and who witnessed his best friend be decapitated, disappeared last week, after he rode off on his motorcycle following a gaming session of Call of Duty. Apparently, the man had been hallucinating and having flashbacks, following his return to the States.

Honestly, I'm surprised by how softly games are blamed in the article. I'd have expected the headline to read "Video Game Traumatizes Soldier, Tears Family Apart" or something like that. As it stands, the headline and the story aren't completely inaccurate- it's true that the game may have sparked the disappearance, in that the game triggered what sounds pretty clearly like post traumatic stress disorder.

But it also seems pretty clear that the guy was having some serious problems way before he played Call of Duty. If you're hallucinating and having flashbacks, you're probably not in a good place to begin with, and while Call of Duty may have prompted an episode, it could have just as easily been a Rambo commercial that did it. Or a car backfiring. Or, hell, the smell of dinner cooking.

That's the thing about war stress- the things that can trigger flashbacks are limitless. Call of Duty didn't screw this guy up- being nearly killed in a bomb explosion that literally took his friend's head off did. Spending 13 weeks in the hospital recovering did. Being forced to spend extended periods of time in life-or-death situations, shooting at people and being shot at did. And all of this when he was 21 years old.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine (via this article.), about 20% of U.S. troops who face combat situations will return with serious symptoms of depression, anxiety, or PTSD. If 20% are coming back with serious symptoms, imagine how many are coming back with moderate or light symptoms, too.

But, hey, Fox News, way to miss an opportunity to talk about the serious issue of how little we're doing to help the men and women we're sending over to bleed and die for "freedom and country". I mean, it's not like we've got soldiers being stuck over there 2 or even 3 times as long as they were ever supposed to be, right? Of course not. It must be because he played a video game that he took off.

I see articles about how hard it is to be away from your family, and the pressures on the men and women who are serving over seas, being asked to do far above and beyond what they were originally told, or what was ever expected when they enlisted, but I see very little attention given to the serious problems that these men and women face when they return to the private sector. And, really, that's been the elephant in the room since, like, WWII. We've known for decades that war takes a serious mental toll on the men and women who fight, but very little is really done to help.

I hope that he's found alive, and that he can finally get the help he needs- he was released almost 3 years ago, and he's still having hallucinations and flashbacks. As someone who has friends and relatives who've served, and who lived with the ghosts of their time in combat, my heart goes out to this man's family. It's tough on both the soldier and the soldier's loved ones. But that's not as good a story as "Video Game Makes Man Dissappear", I suppose.


smurasaki said...

Somehow, I don't see Fox news tackling any subject in a way that might question how the military deals (or fails to deal) with returning soldiers. Blaming video games is far safer, indeed. No risk of challenging anyone's preconceptions there. *sigh*

I also hope they find him alive, and that he gets the help he needs.

EG said...

What are you suggesting? That actual violence, emotional trauma, and fear of death might somehow be worse for a person than pretend violence that is entirely under the player's control.

That's crazy talk, man.

I suspect that there's also a real lack of desire to talk realistically about mental/emotional illness in the media--that it can be induced by severely stressful situations that cause genuine biochemical changes in the brain, that it can be treated, that it is a serious and real problem. The msm is happy to call put "CRAZY" in superlarge letters in headlines and suchlike, but when it comes to specific disorders with specific causes and specific treatments...well...that's taboo. Must be the video games these kids are playing these days.

Amy said...

This story made me terribly sad! Incidentally, I read it not too long after playing COD4 for the first time... I agree, actually, the coverage of the situation was remarkable in that it didn't blame the game! Why wasn't Jack Thompson salivating at this story?