Chances are if you mention “Halo” and “Call of Duty” in the presence of a group boys they will know exactly what game you are talking about and, I’m sure, a large percentage of those boys will own it. If you have not heard of either game, in a nutshell, they both engage players in graphic combat while using realistic weapons. The games topped nearly every elementary and teenage boy’s Christmas list and, at the same time, were denied by parents across the country.
My best friend Julie had called me tonight telling me she asked her eldest son, who is 8 years old, and his friend why their no. 1 Santa wish was “Call of Duty.” She never did buy her son the game, but his endless requests made her wonder why he was so drawn to it. She just assumed he wanted shoot everything and everyone in sight. After all, guns and shooting can be very entertaining for a typical boy. Surprisingly, she learned she was wrong in her assumption (at least with her own son’s desire for the games). Here’s the conversation between Julie, her son Tommy and his friend Ken.
Julie: Both of you want “Halo” and “Call of Duty” for your gaming systems. Why?
Tommy: I really don’t know. I guess because all of my friends play and I don’t have either one of the games.
Ken: They’re fun, because I get to use a gun like I am in war.
Julie: Why do you prefer to play a shooting game over a sports game?
Tommy: It gets on my nerves that I can lose when I play a sports game, but I can’t lose in the war games.
Ken: I like playing sports games, too. The war games are more fun, though.
Mom: What do you mean you can’t lose in the war games?
Tommy: Well, I can die, but then I just respawn. So, it’s not as frustrating as when I lose in a different game.
Ken: Respawning means recreation after death.
Mom: Respawning doesn’t seem to mimic real life too well! What is the moral consequence of killing someone in the game?
Tommy: Nothing. You get points when you kill someone.
Ken: Yep. Just points.
Mom: Do you think playing a violent video game can cause someone to be more aggressive and violent?
Tommy: For me they do, but it probably depends on the kid, I guess.
Ken: I don’t think so. My friends play the games all of the time and they’re not violent.
Mom: So, for one of you, playing violent video games does make you feel more aggressive and for the other one it doesn’t. Why do you think that is?
Tommy: Personality, I guess. It’s hard not to feel aggressive when I play a fighting-type game.
Ken: I don’t feel aggressive or mean, because I never get to play them so when I do, I am really happy because they’re so much fun.
Mom: As a parent, then, would you allow your child to play “Halo” or “Call of Duty”?
Tommy: Probably not!
Ken: Sure, why not?
Mom: Is there anything you learn from playing either one of the games?
Tommy: Nothing! It’s not like I’m going off to war.
Ken: Bravery and courageousness.
Mom: Do you ever think about the real-life soldiers who fight for our country? Would you be brave enough to do that in real life?
Tommy: Sometimes I think about the soldiers, how they must have been in a really bloody war, and I think it is really brave they are fighting for our country. And, no, I would not be brave enough. In fact, I’d be really scared.
Ken: No, I don’t really think of them and, no, I wouldn’t be brave enough to fight for our country.
While my friend Julie was relieved to learn her son and his friend don’t play modern warfare games for the thrill of violence, she still believes it can have an affect on their behavior and emotions. And I wonder: If they were allowed to play without restrictions, would their answers be different in six months? Whatever the answer, she is not willing to take that risk.
What are your thoughts? Do your kids play violent video games?
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