Video gaming should not be the scapegoat for death of British gamer

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It’s no secret that the mainstream media circles like sharks around any news regarding the video gaming industry.  Ignoring easily found industry stats that show the average age of a video gamer is 37 years old, most video gaming stories seem to focus on children, the smallest demographic of the industry today.   Ignoring the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system and it’s proven track record, most video gaming stories seem to insist that the latest hit Rated M video game is being purchased by droves of children, all of whom will grow up to be criminals and violent souls.

This was evident shortly after the Supreme Court shot down California’s law which would have criminalized sales of Rated M games to children.  Many headlines and stories were worded to make it sound as if 8 year olds could now rush out and purchase Mortal Kombat without anything to stop them.  It’s been evident at other times this year as well, with some stories claiming that games like Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever could bring down the moral standard of society or something.

The newest mainstream media event regarding video gaming is the story of 20-year-old British gamer Chris Staniforth.  A fan of the XBox 360 console, Staniforth died from deep vein thrombosis, a condition that can be caused by sitting or laying down in a cramped position for long periods of time.

Right away, news stories from a variety of sources came to be, with headlines reading “XBox Gamer Dies of Blood Clot After Marathon Session” (Fox News), “XBox Addict Killed By Blood Clot” (Yahoo!), and “Playing Video Games Without A Break Could Kill You” (MSNBC).

Sure enough, the mainstream press is latching onto this one, focusing not on the fact that Staniforth didn’t take breaks or stretch periodically, but instead focusing on the fact that he was a video gamer who played long sessions at a time.

Video gaming didn’t kill young Staniforth, folks.  His own lack of activity did.  He could have been an employee in a computer cubical for 40 hours a week that ate lunch at his desk.  He could have been a person that travelled a lot, sitting for those long hours in planes and cars.  He could have been sitting around watching a Harry Potter movie marathon, collecting stamps or watching paint dry.

DVT hits hundreds of thousands of people a year from all walks of life and all ages.  Yes, there are fatal cases there as well.  I really have to wonder if this young man was a movie critic or a bus driver if there would be near as many headlines.

Yes, Staniforth’s death is tragic.  It’s serious and sad news.  But how about a little journalistic integrity every once in a while, something that puts the focus on his lack of activity instead of his entertainment choices?   This is not a video game story, mainstream media, it’s an exercise, activity and health story.   Reporting it as anything other than that is irresponsible and ignorant.

Extra special thanks to Fox News, who put the words “gamer” and “gaming” in quotation marks in their version of the story, as if those were some kind of oddball terms.  As a result, this writer and “gamer” for 30 years will refer to them as Fox “News” going forward each and every time I note something written by one of their “journalists” or “reporters”.

Some good might come of the story if it makes others aware of how important activity of any kind is during their work or entertainment time.  Sadly, thus far, most reports (excuse me, “reports”) wish to focus on the whole “video games could kill you” angle instead.

Remember to get up and take some breaks, “gamers”… and computer techs… and taxi drivers… and airline passengers… and everyone else.  The activity is important during ANY and ALL tasks.

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Patrick Scott Patterson

Patrick Scott Patterson (Scott or his gaming handle "OriginalPSP") has been gaming since 1981. A multiple-time video game world record holder as recognized by three organizations, Scott aims to help promote the fun and positive side of both past and present video game culture through this articles here and his official website at PatrickScottPatterson.com.