Violent Video Games Return Program Questionable, Flawed

In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, initiative has been taken against violent media (including music and video games) in Southington, Connecticut by a group called SouthingtonSOS.  Entitled the Violent Video Games Return Program, the drive is calling for parents and their children to bring in their violent media for destruction.  While I’m all for cutting down on the time kids are exposed to violence, is this really the way to do it?

Before we get into the pros and cons of an event such as this, let us first outline the details.  SouthingtonSOS promises a $25 gift card donated by community leaders to anyone who brings in violent media, such as CDs, DVDs, and of course, video games.  These cards aren’t being given just so the company can get their hands on your product, but rather for you to spend time with your children in a less violent environment, such as a water park or bowling alley.  So, the end result would be trading in a game to get a night out with the family – or so the aim is anyway.

Which brings me to the true goal behind the movement: conversation between parent and child.   SouthingtonSOS has taken the stance that if you’re ok with your child’s gaming habits, then they are too – with no intention of forcing the matter .  However, the group strongly suggests sitting down with your young ones, looking at their habits and interest, and discussing any issues you come across.  Joe Erardi, a Southington school superintendant and member of SouthingtonSOS gave this statement in an interview with Polygon: “We’re suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We’re asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child’s gaming habits), we’re comfortable. If parents aren’t comfortable, then they can head to the local drive-in movie theater on Jan. 12 to turn in those video games in exchange for a $25 gift voucher intended to be used for other forms of entertainment, like perhaps, a local water park.”  In essence, should you not like what you find, chat with your kids about why it’s wrong, and then bring the media you now disagree with to the trade-in event.

From one point of view, this is a very noble goal.  Events like these encourage parents to have a closer look at what their children are exposed to, and take the appropriate action necessary.  Not only that, but it allows just about everyone to benefit from it – without any insane actions like an attempted ban on aggressive games.  Parents bond with their kids and better understand their habits, the violent media gets removed from said child’s possession, SouthingtonSOS spreads their message, and the family in question gets some cash to spend on a family event (I’d vote for putt-putt, personally).  With so many threats and attempts to either censor or outright ban violence in video games, smaller compromises like this are welcomed by the adults who love a good frag fest and still help keep the content where it belongs: people over the age of 18 who already know right from wrong, not young little Billy who giggles when someone’s head explodes.

Unfortunately, I still have a few problems with this the SouthingtonSOS movement.  First off, it seems doomed to fail from the start due to a few key factors.  Chances are, if a child owns a violent video game, CD, or DVD, the parents are already ok with them playing it – as just about every retailer requires the buyer to either be 18 or have adult permission.  If the parents have already given permissions, then that game or CD probably isn’t going anywhere.  It may also come down to funds: an average brand new game costs $59.99 , which someone is now offering you a whole $25 worth of go-kart rides for the lot of, with the end goal of destroying it all.  Many budget-minded people will see this as a bit of an unfair trade, and will probably be dissuaded by it.

The main problem I have with this movement, though, is its focus on the destruction of the products in question.  My dislike is down to two main sides – first, you’re openly destroying art because you don’t agree with it; and secondly, it’s like the event hopes to end violence… with violence.  Let’s start there, shall we?   It’s a given that the destruction of the violent media—be it games or otherwise—isn’t going to be outright violent in itself (as I can’t imagine the group is going to line the media against a wall, count to three and fire), but one can’t deny the act of destroying it because it’s aggressive seems pretty hypocritical.  Is that really the way you want to show your children how to deal with things?  Of course, they shouldn’t have the media in the first place, but is an aggressive response to violence really the best option?  I don’t know about you, but the whole idea of essentially saying, “This is too violent, let’s snap it in half ” rings  an alarm bell for me.  This set up, while noble, gives off a bit of a wrong idea and may end up promoting aggression as much as it wishes to stomp it.

And of course, we can’t ignore the artistic side of things.  While many people may disagree with me, video games (violent or not) are works of art, combining elements from many artistic backgrounds, like music, storytelling, and… well, art (you know, the visual kind).  People have put a lot of creative time and effort into making these games for us to enjoy, and they’re more than the mind-rotting programs that certain people want us to think they are – their beauty should be in the eyes of the beholder.  What I mean by that is that games should be taken in by their target audiences, which in this case, are adults over 18.  You wouldn’t bring your 10-year old daughter to a nude painting class, so why hand them something rated M for Mature?  Finger painting would be better tailored to their age group, which is why we have games like Viva Piñata – art aimed towards the younger mind.  You wouldn’t burn the above-mentioned nude sketches because they’re “indecent,” since they’re still works of art, so why destroy what a talented group of people has worked so hard for?  Simply put it in the right gallery, not the trash bin.

What I’m really getting at here is that while this is one of the best compromises I’ve seen in anti-violent-video-game movements, it’s still flawed at its very core.  The time to look closely and talk with your children isn’t after tragedy hits, or when an event is called – it’s when you’re still in the store, looking at the little letter at the bottom right-hand corner of the back of the game case.  After all, we already know that adult themed media (it’s not just video games, people) will have a negative impact on our young kids—this should be obvious.  Therefore, it’s your job as a parent to both judge what’s appropriate to give to them, as well as teach them right or wrong based on what they see and hear.  Destroying art that you’ve already given to them is definitely not the way to do it, as the aggressive act is not only counter-productive to your cause, but also unfair to those of us that could have legitimately and responsibly enjoyed it.

So while I believe this event to be one of the best of its kind, promoting admirable, though flawed traits, I can’t rightly sit by it.  By all means, please sit down with your loved ones and have a talk about the violent media in question – it’s highly encouraged. I suggest that you work to prevent it from getting in your kids’ hands in the first place, instead of breaking their toys when you change your mind later.  Otherwise, everyone may suffer due to a few people’s mistakes.

About This Post

January 7, 2013 - 8:00 am

Gaming, Opinion