Blowing up that violent video game myth

For the longest time I resisted Boof’s requests for “shoot ’em up” video games, concerned with the violence depicted in them. I attribute it in part to Boof being our firstborn—with your first, you’re always a little more cautious—but perhaps Ted and I are also a little overprotective. When Boof was five, I was shocked and a little horrified that his kindergarten friend, also a firstborn, was allowed to watch the movie “Spider-Man.”

“They’re a little trashy,” was Ted’s assessment of the parents, and I was good with that.

Image from blog.lib.umn.edu

Image from blog.lib.umn.edu

By the time Boof was in middle school, though, it was harder to ignore the repeated pleas to buy these games. His friends had “Call of Duty”: “Mom, I’ve played it at A.’s house!” Boof would insist, to which I would calmly respond, “I’m fine with you playing the game at his house, but I’m not fine with it being in my house.”

And no longer did Ted’s overprotectiveness extend to all media: “Most of his friends already have these games,” he would argue on Boof’s behalf. “He’s a good kid; he’s not going to become violent or aggressive because he’s playing some video game.”

“I know that,” I’d snap, though part of me feared just such a transformation. “I’m more concerned about the potential for him to become desensitized to violence and whatever other psychological ramifications it might have on him.”

But I wondered if I was being a little ridiculous in my steadfast refusal. So, two Christmases ago, I finally relented. We bought “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” (MW3) for our then-13-year-old. And I waited anxiously for the personality changes to start: Boof would become violent. He’d start talking incessantly about guns and gore. He’d become addicted to footage of blood spurting out of people.

I needn’t have worried.

Rather, I should say, I needn’t have worried about Boof. For, more than a year later, I’m belatedly realizing that the potential problems might actually be Ted… and Billup.

Boof got another “Call of Duty” game for Christmas this past year from one of his uncles. (How many variations of this game are there!?) No sooner had we arrived home from our holidays with the relatives than Ted, Boof and Billup were sitting in front of the TV, controllers in hand.

In the couple of weeks since, I’ve seen them repeatedly scramble down to the basement family room to play a round or two.

“We have a small window!” Ted exclaimed when I commented on it. “The Christmas noobs are out!”

Billup kindly explained, “Dad’s not good at MW3, so this way he can kill more people.”

Saturday afternoon, Ted emerged from the MW3 cave to grab a snack. A few minutes later, Billup called up: “Dad, I got 11 kills!”

Ted: “That’s great! Did you use the heavy machine gun?”

Billup: “No, I used the assault rifle. Because that’s my favorite.”

Oh good.

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