Before you continue, please take a gander at the worst possible knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy right here, by Southington, CT, a town about 30 miles away from Newtown.
I, like the rest of the world, looked on at the chaos of the Sandy Hook shooting with horror and disgust. Any taking of human life, regardless of the motivation behind it, is a foul tragedy. When it’s young children, it is even more gut-wrenching, and people end up questioning everything around them, trying to make sense of the nonsensical. Losing oneself in thought like this sometimes leads to impulse responses, the so-called knee-jerk reactions of calling for change, demanding justice and more often than not, pointing fingers and assigning blame where it should not be placed. If there was a gun involved though, you can bet that sooner or later, the finger-pointing stops at Call of Duty and the blame lies on Grand Theft Auto. I posted yesterday about the ESRB and children’s curiosity, and how at the end of the day, no amount of regulation can really substitute for watchful parents. Perhaps I should have expanded on what I meant by ‘watchful’ though. That failure lies with me, so apologies and let’s get going.
Watchful means not just shuttling your kids to and from school and having no extra part of their lives. It means being aware of who their friends are, what they’re watching/playing/listening to, and DOING. Nobody does that anymore for fear of being accused of controlling behaviour or invading their kids’ privacy. Their what? When US TV shows began showing up in the 90s with teenagers demanding privacy from their parents, my mother stared at me and said “Don’t get any ideas.” My parents knew all my friends personally, as well as their parents, and as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, they also checked out what I watched/played. You know what else? They accounted for the outside world. They knew it was impossible to keep me from discovering the violent video games and movies, because not everyone parented as they did. And they mitigated for that risk. Even if I didn’t yet own Mortal Kombat, they knew it existed and explained the difference between it and reality.
The article quotes the group, SouthingtonSOS, as saying that they’re trying to do just that: create a dialogue between parents and their children. But you don’t do that by collecting them in a wheelbarrow and lighting them up like a 4th of July bonfire. By doing that, you’re already telling the parents the following:
“There is NO OTHER SOLUTION than to destroy these games, because they are BAD. They are evil and they will consume your child’s mind and one day he/she too will go off the deep end and walk into a building and mow people down with assault weaponry. Just like Call of Duty.”
Why would I have a productive conversation with my son about the difference between a game and reality if you’ve already collected them all and destroyed them? Setting something on fire usually means it’s bad, impure and thus must be cleansed. It’s what kept people reading in the dark for fear the ignorant among them discovered them and reported them to the church. Witch hunts, anyone? Parents, particularly in the aftermath of something so horrifying, grasp onto the most accessible scapegoat that they’re told is the cause of the tragedy (whether it’s by the media, their politicians, or ‘experts). They think to themselves, “my son plays that Grand Theft Auto…will he steal a car one day and mow down 40 pedestrians?” Most of the time, they don’t even know what the game is about. I had a parent tell me once that they don’t let their son play Mass Effect because they don’t want him to become violent. I spent an hour introducing them to the awesomeness that is Commander Shepard and that in essence you are the good guy, fighting to save the galaxy. They had no idea that that was the entire premise of the game. See? Hillary Clinton goes on a tangent about GTA San Andreas’ Hot Coffee easter egg and suddenly EVERY game is GTA for parents (no disrespect Mrs. Clinton, feel better soon!).
Personal Accountability. Speak to your children. Highlight the differences between the games and the movies for them, and keep speaking to them. If you’re unsure what a game’s all about, get on over to IGN/G4TV/this blog right here/other blogs to read about their contents before they’re released and before your kids come to you asking for it as a stocking stuffer. Don’t assume that taking their games to a trade-in for a gift certificate and then never speaking of it again is going to solve the problem, because that’s not parenting, that’s policing and there is an actual difference. That’s when the actual change starts to come in, people.
I wish the parents of the Sandy Hook tragedy all the strength in the world, because there’s really no getting over this. There’s only living with it and tolerating the constant ache, and many of them may never find out how to do that.
There is no individual person alive to bring to justice for this crime, and that makes it all the more painful to bear. But to those in Southington and other places considering a movement like this:
Till next time.