The Old Man in Me

Earlier this week, while attending a party, I walked into the bedroom of a teenager.

He and his friends were playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, a game that—literally—involved murdering people in as realistic a manner as I’ve ever seen on a video game. There’s a lifelike gun, lifelike people and lots and lots of death. It is, according to, the second most-popular XBox 360 game on the market.

What’s the most popular game? Easy. That would be Far Cry 3, which—in its own description—says that players will, “slash, sneak, detonate and shoot their way across the island in a world that has lost all sense of right and wrong.”

I want to repeat that—in a world that has lost all sense of right and wrong.

Nearly three full days have passed since the Sandy Hook massacre, and I, too, feel as if I reside in a world that has lost all sense of right and wrong. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit—really, really, really thinking about this. And, to be blunt, I’ve concluded that we’re all really fucked up.

What other explanation is there? Right now we live in a country where a large number of citizens believe the best way to stop violence is to own a gun. They believe that we’re better off, and safer, if we’re packing; that the way to solve violence is to own our own piece of violence.

We also live in a country were many, many, many, many parents seen unconcerned by the role we play in introducing violence into the lives of our children. Again, I know … I know—I sound like a grandmother. But who in their right mind would let their young kids play Call of Duty, or Far Cry 3, or Halo, Assassin’s Creed, or Hitman: Absolution? Why would you want to place your youngster in a situation where—even fictitiously—he’s engaged in a situation that involves ending another’s life? Fuck, this isn’t Pac*Man, where a yellow blob eats a ghost. This isn’t Donkey Kong, tossing barrels. This isn’t even Mortal Kombat, which always felt more cheesy than threatening. This is a merging of lifelike graphics, demented plots and really, really, really large, sharp television screens.

I don’t know what caused the recent killing. I don’t blame video games, and I don’t blame the legalization of guns. I do, however, think times like these allow us to reflect, and think about what we’re doing, as a people.

So what, in God’s name, are we doing as a people?

3 thoughts on “The Old Man in Me”

  1. I too have questioned why. Why about the killings and why about the violent video games? I can’t claim to have an answer but I do know we simply cannot protect our children from the violence that seems to be not only increasing but increasingly senseless. I too do not want to be labeled a “namby pamby” but the violent video games have to be contributing to this. Sure 99% of the kids can play the game and walk away keeping their perspective on right and wrong, but it is the 1% that can be pushed over the edge. I don’t know what the answer is except somehow we need to recognize those individuals who fall into the category of person that is more likely to turn to uncontrollable violence and treat them (and by that I include possible institutionalizing them). But there is something else we have to recognize. I’m currently a grandfather having already raised my son to be a successful, productive member of society. I remember the worries, fears and anxiety my wife and I went through as parents over his safety. I can honestly say he never had any interest in video games of violence. Not bragging, we were fortunate that he was a well balanced and happy kid. But I remember asking him once why some of the guys he went to school with seemed to love those types of games. He said because their parents “overcontrolled them”and would not allow them to do anything that was “exciting”. To my son that meant racing his dirt bike – something other parents criticized us for. He said that he couldn’t believe how inflexible and controlling many of the parents were. As a result more than a few kids of over controlling parents found thier “excitement” and kicks in other ways, one of those being violent video games. In most cases it doesn’t turn out like the Sandy Hook tragedy, thank God! But remember it’s that 1% that cross the line. I don’t know all the details of the Sandy Hook tragedy but there have been comments that his mother was very “rigid”. I can’t comment because I do not know the details but I do know of too many cases where a parents “rigidity” and “over control” (often done in many cases with the best intentions of protecting thier child) has had the reverse affect. We simply cannot put our children in a bubble to protect them. We have to teach them how to survive in the world and how to be a productive member of society and part of that “parenting” is not to control them to the point where they have to find other ways to compensate for this by resorting to violent games. Is this the answer – no but I think that to fix this problem it can’t be one thing it will be a lot of things to get our arms around this. This is just one aspect. As we all know every kid is different and every kid need to be treated differently so what works for one isn’t likely to work for another. The only sure thing that helps is to make sure your kid knows that you love them, respect them and trust them.

  2. If you’re going to talk about violent video games then you have to talk about the maturity of kids. Today we want kids to grow up too soon whether it be to pressure them to find dates or to be the popular kid we were or might not have been. That involves playing games like this because all their friends are. I don’t have any problems with teenagers participating in adult activities as long as they’re emotionally mature. That is, do they know that they shouldn’t solve their problems by using violence? Do they know enough to use protection? What will their reaction be when they’re at a party with drugs and alcohol? Are they still emotionally sensitive enough to grasp the tragedy at Sandy Hook? So often the reaction is “well, kids will find ways of doing these things anyway.” Yet so little time is spent considering the long term emotional education of kids.

  3. Mother jones had a interesting article about the marketing of weapons. Mostly a bunch of real ads. There was was an old one from Mattel with a kid with a M-16 that made M-16 sounds. It was interesting to see, as I am not reading publications with gun ads.

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