The parents of an Ontario youth who has been missing for nearly two weeks want police to look for more clues in their son's laptop and Xbox hard drive.
"He's out there now with someone he met online" through playing on the console, Steve Crisp said Sunday as he speculated about the whereabouts of his son Brandon, 15.
"They're harbouring him or he's being held against his will," with the second being more likely, Crisp said.
Brandon left his family home in Barrie, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, on Oct. 13 after his parents said they would take his Xbox away because he had become addicted to the video game Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He has not been seen since.
Steve Crisp didn't fault the Barrie police for their extensive air and ground search for the youth — which is expected to end Sunday — but is convinced the key to his son's disappearance lies in someone he met online while playing the game.
"I really need the help of the police now in really delving in and getting right to this Xbox hard drive," to find Brandon's contacts, he told CBC News on Sunday.
Asked if the police had done enough, he said yes to the physical search but "I don't think so" in terms of the online investigation.
His wife, Angelika, suggested it might take a larger force than the Barrie police, such as the Ontario Provincial Police. Steve Crisp agreed, saying the OPP or RCMP have the resources to do online investigations.
New identity acquired
Angelika Crisp said the parents knew the game "was taking over his life," but there was another level of involvement they only discovered after Brandon left.
Steve Crisp said there are online gaming teams that play in tournaments for money. "I wish I'd known before" because the team environment with its strict rules "gave him a whole new identity."
When Crisp said he would take Brandon's Xbox away for good, "basically, I took away his identity." That prompted the youth to leave, he said.
He did not blame Xbox maker Microsoft Corp. for Brandon's disappearance, conceding that computers and the internet are facts of life. Online tournaments are the real problem, he said.
Microsoft has boosted to $50,000 the reward for information leading to the boy's return and opened the door to getting data from the Xbox.
Jordan Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, said people do create identities in online worlds. "These are far more than games. They are unbelievably powerful technologies" and people can get deeply involved with them.
People from Barrie and distant points, including Vancouver, have joined the search, Crisp said. They are looking in different areas from the police.
"It's been a tremendous outpouring of support for Brandon," he said.
Hundreds of volunteers have been looking for the boy around Barrie.
Police have been searching around the Shanty Bay area several kilometres from his house, the last location where there was a confirmed sighting on the day he disappeared. His abandoned bike was found elsewhere earlier this week.