Responses to Walking Away from Violence

It seems as if I may have struck a small nerve on the Internet that generated some good ideas about how violence—mainly in video games—and kids go together. For some it’s not necessarily peanut butter and jelly and for others it’s not avoidable.

I has thought about responding to the comments in the original post, but in following up on links, track backs, and even a podcast (awesome!), I figured it’d might be best if I culled them all together and responded to them. Many people seemed to share the same ideas so I’ve tried to pick the best comments on that idea to post.

First I have a comment from Corvus of Man Bytes Blog

What I’d be even more interested in hearing about is the conversation you had with your son after he did that. The conversation about context and consequence–about the role of violence in the expression of anger. He may only be 3, but if he’s already capable of correlating shooting daddy dead with being upset, chances are his messages are coming from outside the home. Play dates with the children of less-aware parents perhaps?

The first thing I did was share with him that it was wrong to shoot people. He’s only two years old, so I found this rather difficult at first to put it in terms that he would understand. He was not disciplined for it, but he was warned that he would be disciplined if it happened in the future. It’s been almost two weeks and he’s not responded this way. My wife and I think he did not pick it up outside the home but from his older brother, who’s five.

darrenl from Common Sense Gamer had this to say about the exposure to violence being inevitable:

I have the same issue with this and my 7 year old daughter…but I keep this in mind when she’s playing it: she’s going to be exposed to violence in one form or another whether I like it or not. I would rather be the one to coach her through those feelings than someone else. Having the ability to seperate fantasy from reality is key here and I think video games are a great medium for teaching that lesson…so are books, and movies.

I don’t disagree that being exposed to violence will happen. It’s just a matter if I’m there when it happens or if I have prepared my two boys to disassociate it from reality. Let me give this food for thought: I’ve read a large number of books recently that dealt with current events in the military (Black Hawk Down, Generation Kill, etc.). Every book has mentioned that soldiers in the heat of battle remarked at how much it was like being in a movie and/or video games. Some of them even had a hard time consciously realizing that they were physically vulnerable to the violence that was all around them—and this is my formulation—because they had grown up being passive observers.

Pete S from Dragonchasers had this interesting comment about violence and age:

I’ve actually noticed the same thing in myself. I really don’t need to spend 40 hours watching people being eviscerated anymore. I don’t know if its my age, or that the technology has improved making everything look more realistic, or what.

I think “tone” plays into it a lot for me, too. For instance, Uncharted… I played through it and loved it. I appreciated the lack of blood and dismemberment even though I was shooting humans, so it really didn’t bother me. It was just like its inspiration: saturday afternoon adventure films.

The flipside for me is Bioshock. I played part of the demo, and found it fairly horrific. One of the first things I had to do was bludgeon an insane person to death. Then start jamming needles into myself. No thanks. I understand that the story is amazing and all, but I just wasn’t going to be comfortable playing the game.

Of all the comments I read, this one got me to think about myself more than any other comment. I too have noticed that as I’ve gotten older I no longer want shock, I want something that will get me to think—something that has an excellent narrative. I found Uncharted to be dull (although I have not completed it—yet) and Bioshock (which is discussed in the posdact listed below) to have an excellent story coupled with atmosphere. When I played the demo, I was appalled at the violence it contained. Surprisingly, I found my self playing the game months later and overlooking the violence and language because of the presentation. I do intend to complete both games. They are the only two I chose to keep, but I’ll be getting rid of them as soon as they are completed. However, one look at my gamercard shows that most of the games I play (on the 360 at least) are casual or toned down games.

Jason O from Unfettered Blather went the opposite direction:

I do kind of wonder if this is really necessary?

Young boys have a tendency to act out. I kind of see my role as a parent in helping them understand what is and is not appropriate. I don’t worry about the games so much, but I think content is important to.

Sooner or later they’ll pick this behavior up.

Necessary? For a two year old, yes. Sure, he will pick this behavior up. This was a popular comment. It ranged from a “why bother” mentality to idealic thought. I played “guns” in the neighborhood when I was kid. I know he will too. However, at this time in my family’s life, it is utterly necessary. That may change as they get older, but they will be sheltered until I deem it necessary. They cannot make decisions for themselves. Eventually they will. My goal as a parent right now is to make sure that when the time comes they make wholly appropriate decisions. This doesn’t just apply to video games either. It covers movies, books, music, people (one I think parents forget…kids are influenced by their peers and other people), and many other things that don’t fall under the previously mentioned items.

Lastly, I mentioned that a podcast covered my post. Shut Up, We’re Talking is a podcast “covering recent topics found within the MMORPG Blogging and Podcasting community.” I don’t play any MMOs anymore, but I found this hour to be highly entertaining. (If MMOs are your thing, give it a listen.) The discussion on the post starts at 16:20 in the audio.

I really don’t want to quote the audio, because I do think you should give it a listen. They didn’t quite agree on my total removal of the games because of separating fantasy from reality needs to be managed and learned. I will respond by saying that their own children referred to in general we’re older than my own. They felt it was more appropriate to share the experience and work through it with the child. It’s something I intend to do with the boys in the future. This is not all to different from what has been mentioned in previous posts (one of the podcast’s hosts was a commenter). Empathy was also mentioned as a perspective that needs to be put into the equation as well as accountability (especially under the guise of Internet anonymity—I’m looking at you Xbox Live kids).

I agree that there is no way in which I can protect my child from everything. I don’t want to put them in a box. It seems to me, the children that I knew who were the most protected or too protected were those most likely to “go crazy” when the inevitable freedom from parents materialized. Yes, they do need to differentiate fantasy and reality and right and wrong, but it’ll be on my terms.

I do play games with my boys. In fact, most of my game playing is with the boys. In some aspects, I look at this “Walking Away” as buffer for myself. (However, see my argument for an overly violent game such as Bioshock posted above. I’ve not played it since making the decision, and wonder if I ever will. Maybe I should have just traded it in as well?)

To followup, I do want to say thanks to everyone who made a comment. For the most part, they were all well thought out and added to the discussion. One person had mentioned on another blog that he pretty much allows anything to go into his son’s eyes. The child didn’t seem to be bothered by it and was alos highly intellectual. I think it shows that each child is different—even among the same family. Parents need to be specifically aware of each personality and temperment their children have. To each his own, but may to each his own be the best that the child needs.

Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about your post a lot, and read the follow-up comments with interest.

    One thing I wonder about, and I’d ask those folks who pointed out that all kids are going to be exposed to violence eventually. As many have pointed out, we all played some kind of gun games as kids.. cops and robbers or whatever, with plastic guns or just pointed fingers.

    But how many of us saw our fathers playing these games? I wonder if that’s significant? When your dad does something are you more prone to assuming its ok than when you just pick up something with your peers?

    Again I must emphasize that I don’t have any children, and my own father passed away when I was 10 or so. So I really am asking questions here, because I don’t know. My father was a pretty ‘hands off’ kind of dad; a figure of awe and ultimate power, but absolutely not someone I ever played with. So I really don’t know if this is significant… I’m just wondering.

  2. Great follow-up, Nat. I’ll definitely give the SUWT podcast a listen. It’s been a while since I’ve played any MMOs, but I’m always up for a good listen at work.

    I just wanted to throw in my agreement about young kids not being able to make their own decisions. Young kids absolutely need to have certain decisions made for them. This is another thing I think parents struggle to do.

  3. @Pete – Good question, kids are definitely more inclined to assume what daddy is doing as being okay.

    That’s the single most hardest thing about being a parent. They’re always watching! I can’t get away with anything!

  4. I’ve received quite a few email as to why I don’t let my kids see violence and then step them through it with the reasoning that it’s fantasy and not real. My kids are two and five.

    I know from the email that some people do this. That’s okay. It’s your child(ren).

    However, do you allow your children to watch porn and then step them trough why it’s not real or why it’s fantasy?

    Ambiguous rationalization. That’s what really wrong about the topic of violence and video games. Everybody has a personal example or a rationalization as to why their ideology is okay.

    I’m doing it for my kids for their betterment. Some don’t do it for their kids for their betterment. See what I mean?

  5. I have to say that your recent decision has flipped a bit of a switch in my brain. Not so much about getting rid of every violent game in my collection or anything, but more about just keeping the games I’ve finished and so forth.

    I’ve already started thinking about just taking Too Human in for credit as I’ve finished the core story and can’t see myself wasting time grinding in it (despite it being fun) when I have stacks of other unplayed/unfinished games to work on. Same goes for GTAIV. Sure, there’s DLC coming soon, but I’m not sure I care anymore. I enjoyed the core game and haven’t touched it since I beat the game… Will I ever really get back to it? Probably not.

    Sure, it’s not as hardcore as what you’re doing, but I will admit that your voice pops up in the back of my brain when I think about some of the games I’ve got gathering dust in my collection…

    And I COULD use that credit for LBP… 🙂

Leave a Reply