Call of Duty is pretty popular among kids well under its M15 age rating. One dad hit on a pretty amazing way to convince his sprogs they really didn’t want Activision’s latest.
When his two pre-teen sons started talking about getting a Call of Duty game, Swedish journalist Carl-Magnus Helgegren said he wouldn’t allow it unless they genuinely understood the realities of war.
But rather than sitting his kids down with an educational documentary or book, he took them to a war zone in Israel.
The family toured the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, and stood at Majdal Shams, in the Golan Heights – about 40 miles from where the chemical weapons attack in Damascus took place.
Helgegren said his sons were deeply affected by what they saw. Medical staff told them about daily attacks on children by armed adults, and they witnessed the squalor refugees were forced to live.
“They were very sad. My younger son wanted to bring his air gun and defend the children of Shuafat,” told The Guardian.
“I said: ‘You really have to think about that because the reason they are there in the first place is because someone brought a gun, so bringing another gun wouldn’t solve the situation.’”
Upon their return to Sweden the kids said they didn’t want to play war games any more, because “it didn’t feel right” – among other attitude changes, like greater sympathy towards immigrants and refugees.
“I hear a lot of parents saying: ‘My children are playing these games and I don’t know how to get them out of their room.’ The next time I hear someone say that I’m going to say: ‘Take responsibility for what your children are playing, and either stop it or buy a ticket and go somewhere and show them war.’ Or buy a book and educate them,” Helgegren said.
“I just think we owe this to our children. If we keep them ignorant, we cannot say that we really believe that the world is going to change. If they don’t know, how can they take a stand for change?”
Before you get up on your parenting advice high horse, it’s worth noting that the trip took place in April, before the current situation in Gaza took off. The sites visited were not in active conflict at the time, and the visits were part of a holiday which included more traditional tourist activities like spending a day at a zoo. Helgegren is an experienced traveller who had visited occupied territories in the past.
Sometimes I think about how we glorify unjustified violence in games – and books, and movies, and comics – and wonder if we could all be doing a better job of facing the realities of the world. I wonder if I could be better off spending my money on more socially responsible media. Well, in the meantime, I guess sticking to age ratings so our kids are at least old enough to understand what they’re looking at before they’re exposed to it is a good thing.