He’s going to want a few videogames to go with it.* You’ll provide some educational and/or fun games revolving around sports, Mario or music . But eventually, your kid will tire of those games and want some new ones. He will ask to go to GameStop to trade in the old games. You’ll go to GameStop and browse the shelves, steering your kid away from the machine-guns-and-death section.
While you’re there, the helpful young person behind the counter will offer you the GameStop rewards card, which entitles you to discounts! You’ll gladly join the rewards program to save a few bucks.
A month or so later, the Game Informer magazine will show up at your house. It will look like this:
You’ll flip through the pages, more than half of which contain images of weapons, gore, death or violence. (Really, I counted. In the latest issue, approximately 59% of the pages have such images. Which means every time you turn the page, you can enjoy some pretty scary stuff that apparently passes for mainstream entertainment.) Then, you’ll pitch it into the recycling bin. Or, you’ll call GameStop and ask them to stop sending the print magazine, which they will cheerfully do, although the digital edition will still show up in your email.
Then, your child will come home from school and tell you that “everyone” but him is getting the latest Call of Duty game. Some of your child’s friends’ parents will actually stand in line at Wal-mart to buy the M-rated game for their 9-year-old the day it comes out.
You, on the other hand, will explain that you don’t think violence should be used as entertainment. You’ll ask the opinion of your young, hip, twenty-something relatives who served in the real-life war in Iraq. They will agree with you. You’ll research the effects of videogame violence on young brains and teenage behavior. You’ll read other parents’ reviews of the game. You’ll invoke the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” And then, you will make a very unpopular decision.
Your child’s social life will take a hit as his friends spend more and more hours playing the game. After seeing and hearing the game in their own homes, other parents will complain about the violence, but they will not take the game away.
After a while, the novelty will wear off, the kids will come out of their basements and play baseball again, and life will go on. You’ll wonder if it really mattered after all, that you took a stand. You’ll wonder if you’re wrong about videogame violence, or if the culture at large is wrong. You’ll wonder if your child will respect your decision, or resent it, when he’s older.
You’ll find out soon enough. Call of Duty Black Ops II comes out November 13. And when you give a child a videogame system, eventually, he’s going to want a first-person-shooter game to go with it.
*apologies to Laura Numeroff