TORONTO Software giant Microsoft Corp has matched a reward being offered in the search for a missing Canadian teenager who ran away from home after his parents took away his Xbox 360 video game console.
Microsoft, which makes the Xbox 360, said it would match the existing reward of C$25,000 ($19,400) for information leading to Brandon Crisp's return.
"Like everyone, we are deeply worried about the disappearance of Brandon Crisp," the company said in an email. "Law enforcement has contacted Microsoft about this matter and we are co-operating fully with them. We are unable to comment further on the nature of our co-operation because of the ongoing investigation."
The 15-year-old has been missing since October 13. He ran away from his home in Barrie, Ontario, north of Toronto, after his parents took away his gaming privileges because of his excessive playing of "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare".
The game is a wartime shooting simulator that gives players a first-person perspective. It also lets players connect over Microsoft's Xbox Live online service and compete against one another, either in teams or individually.
It is possible that police will ask or have already asked Microsoft to divulge the list of players with whom Brandon Crisp has played recently.
Police and volunteers have been scouring the area around Barrie, a small lakeside city about a one-hour drive from Toronto, but so far have been unable to find the boy.
As online gaming has exploded in popularity since the start of the decade, academics and parents have raised concerns over the possibility of addiction.
Last year, the American Medical Association said more research was necessary on the potential of addiction to video games. It urged parents to closely monitor their children's use of games and the Internet.
Web sites such as www.wowdetox.com, a sounding board for those addicted to or trying to quit the popular "World of Warcraft" online game, have sprung up as well.
(Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Rob Wilson)