The sound of children playing—an online first person shooter game—devastates an active duty soldier and father.
I vowed to never play first person shooters online again.
About three years ago I was left once again to live life as a geo-bachelor. My wife was in South Carolina with family, in preparation for deployment. Training had slowed down to a crawl. In an attempt to pass the time I purchased the newest first person shooter. I can’t even recall which one it was but I do remember playing the whole storyline in the span of two days. It was at this point that I made a huge mistake: I decided to play online. At first everything seemed normal: the level of competition was high but I managed to keep up. In an effort to get the full effect, I used my headphone and microphone setup. I was appalled by what I heard. Seven out of ten of the players were middle school age or younger. These children weren’t casual players: they were the most intense, skilled competitors. I was devastated because I felt that these kids had traded in their childhood for a fantasy world of war.
That was the moment I realized that violence in video games has an effect on society.
My experiences in the military have shown me that the generation that will succeed us have learned about life experiences from the entertainment industry. They come to the unit excited about the possibility of having to kill. At no point do they take the time to think about the danger that is associated with war. To the new brand of soldier, war seems fun, and I’ll be honest: in the beginning it is, until people start to get hurt. It’s crushing to watch the young boys who leave home with a fantasy of war given to them by a joystick and HD screen turn into men who are scarred both physically and emotionally by the combat that arises from global conflict.
Before watching the reactions of soldiers who I came in contact with, I thought that the violent video game culture had little effect on reality. Once I accepted the truth of how these games have changed the landscape of the social norm, I took a look at the big picture. The same excitement for killing that some soldiers have takes over the minds of young men and women all over the world. The increasingly graphic portrayals that these games provide have become a mainstay in popular culture. Parents repeatedly succumb to the pleading of their children begging for the next video game that oozes blood from the very seams of the wrapper.
This was my reaction as a parent, to discovering how serious violence in video games is.
I for one have vowed not to be the parent that turns a blind eye to the severity of violence that my children are interacting with. It’s just this simple to me: what is the rating. My eldest son knows his rating limit and doesn’t even ask for anything that doesn’t fall into the categories that he is allowed to play. He even has a list of games that he wants to try once he moves up to the next rating. Once my children have reached an age where they can enjoy violent games as entertainment and nothing else then we’ll sit down and play them together. Until then, we’ll stick to the LEGOS games.
Image credit: Luke Hayfield Photography/Flickr