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Violent Video Games & a Boy's Dollar

Can this generation of video gamers change the marketplace by not purchasing violence?

The discussion about violent video games with my 13 year old son reignited when two incidents collided. I don’t have to tell you that the first was the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook; the second was a line item on my son’s Christmas list requesting a season pass to new and improved killing fields on the latest Call of Duty game.  I expected the same old debate, but we have seen the Sandy Hill tragedy wield unique power, and it showed that power in my house as well.

I objected to the purchase of COD in the first place because I have studied child development and I believe that what happens on a screen has the potential to influence and desensitize a child. Does that mean that every child will be negatively affected? Of course not, but why take a risk when there are other options for filling a young boy’s free time.  I lost the argument to my son and husband, but did put a practice in place that if my son wanted these games, he had to use his own money. I wasn't happy about it, but because my son has never placed on hand on anybody (not even his sister) and prefers to be outside playing or playing organized sports, I wasn't losing any sleep over it either.

When I saw the COD item on the Christmas list after Sandy Hill I reminded my son that I didn't think this was a great gift and I was pretty sure Santa was with me. It presented an opening to review my thoughts and to add some new ones I had formed in the wake of Sandy Hook.

The debate starts with my son, pointing out, probably and hopefully rightly, that he and his friends are not interested in going around killing anyone. I let him have this point because at this stage in his life it is quite likely true. He currently exists in a narrow, controlled world and with the exception of a few kids who turn up on Xbox Live as friends of friends, we have an intimate knowledge of everyone in his gaming circle. I do mention that high school is looming and his circle is going to widen rapidly to include people he does not know as well. He will no longer be certain that his games do not include someone who may be mentally responding to the game differently. I get half a point.

Then we discussed the concept of a dollar, through an idea introduced to me by a psychologist on CNN: As long as we, as a nation, spend on violence, we will get violence. I believe that. We buy violent games, more are produced, and more children are reached with violence. The more children reached the greater the statistical likelihood that a larger percentage will be affected negatively. I get a point.

Then the real issues for a 13 year old boy come up: He likes getting together with friends on Xbox live and this is what the kids are playing. I get that; he gets a point. We agree that the non-violent games are not as realistic and well-crafted. These are the real issues for him. He does concede that he doesn't like the gun games as much as likes the sports games and a game called Minecraft, but that’s not where his friends are. And now the value of a dollar conversation hits its real power. We discuss the fact that maybe his friends are thinking the same thing about the violent games and as long as they, as a generation, continue to put their dollars toward these games, they will be the hot items. The violence industry is loaded. They have the money to make high-quality, realistic games and enough left over to do a bang up job advertising them (pun intended). We ultimately decide to stop giving our money to violent games. We figure if other households are having this conversation, maybe the violence industry will have less money and the talented people who make the violent games will move on to create impressive, non-violent games.  We can only hope. We both get points.

We leave the dollar discussion to reflect for a moment on Christmas trees in Connecticut with presents under them addressed to children and teachers who will never open them. With tears in our eyes we discuss the real issue: can one boy make a difference? Who knows? Thinking about those heartbroken families, he decides to try.

Over the next few weeks, when the call from the group is to COD, my son says he is not in the mood and he suggests basketball or Minecraft. No great lecture and no one asks, they just go on to play something else (13 year old boys are not big on dwelling). After the first week he is amazed: “Mom, we haven’t played COD in a week. Everyone is OK with playing other games.”

It has been well over a month now. He has even mentioned selling COD, because he hasn't played it. I am sure some of his friends have gone back to playing COD, but most of them haven’t and that’s a good start.

Is this going to put an end to violence in the world? Nope. But here is a group of consumers who may change an industry in time and a group of future adults who see that they can create their own path, have some convictions, and make changes in the world, however small. Points for us all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

wait what? January 23, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Hate to be the one that breaks the hard core news to you here madam, but your son has no business playing any of the call of duty line until he is over the age of 17. your child development studies should have shown you that these games have ratings for a reason, and its the PARENTS fault for allowing kids to play games that aren't rated for their age bracket...choosing to punish and condemn the gaming industry boggles my mind for trying to turn a profit on the basics of human nature is beyond me. The gaming industry has certain checks and balances in place to help regulate what games are available to what age groups, and in the end, its up to us as parents to do the right thing and help guide our children's lives in the right direction.You will never change the industry, you'll only create a small sect of resentful, blaming parents who don't pay attention to the rules. My god who let this woman post this meaningless dribble. I award you no points.. and may god have mercy on your soul.
MQ Dwyer January 23, 2013 at 02:48 PM
You either failed to read or failed to understand the article. I place no blame on the industry and take full responsibility for allowing my child to participate in a group that formerly played this game. I also fully embrace the gaming industry's desire to turn a profit, that's the whole point of the article: can a generation change the profit center of video games by choosing to spend their money on non-violent games? It's a question, not an answer. Please read before you comment as your comments have no relevance to my piece. Have a nice day! :-)
You'reinsane January 23, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Lol its entirely relevant madam, as the game is Strictly rated M for mature and has a 17+ age rating on it. The fact that you chose to allow your son to even think about getting the game shows a complete lack of parenting, regardless of how you so kindly like to phrase it. Giving him the option to purchase an NC17+ rated game with his own money, at the ripe old age of 13, shows me and, im sure a hole host of other people what lack of parenting there is. Sure you did a good job showing him the value of a dollar etc etc... the point being he has no business being near or around such games, and are rated to reflect that..Why punish the rest of us whom enjoy the break from our day by playing an unrealistic game, by trying to change an industry that a majority of us enjoy..it all comes back to the way that we treat and raise our children. The most prevalent point I can show is the Generation that is currently behind the shooting spree's and the Bullying in schools. They Clearly illustrate a complete lack of parenting and control of their child..Its not the gun companies faults, or the video game industry's fault,..these games and guns have been around for years... you know what stopped people for acting on their aggression back in the day, their parents...
MQ Dwyer January 23, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Please feel free to write your own blog on parenting as, again, that is not the subject of this blog. Again, there is no blame placed on any industry in my blog, nor did I comment on anyone else's choice of leisure activity. I am describing one discussion in my home that I think posed an interesting question. If you don't agree, or didn't understand the question that's OK with me. The points you are making, whether valid or not, have nothing to do with my blog: Please spare me from saying this all again by refraining from commenting. :-)
LOLcomeonlady January 24, 2013 at 02:04 AM
The wonderful thing about an open source blog madam, is I can and will state whatever I should feel in regards to your article... Should you feel the need to start your own real blog where as you have moderator privilages and can govern what you want to say and to whom, Feel free, I stand my ground on your comments and commentary. Everything I said was entirely pertinent to the grounds in which it was stated....your entire story should be moot, because they should not have happened at all.

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