Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cozy Lining

My son likes to play violent video games. On the iPad, his games of choice usually have an avenging superhero who smashes up bad guys. Often, but not always, they are bad guy aliens; sometimes, they look human. But it doesn't really matter if they're made from flesh or bolts, they get destroyed by my boy's nimble fingers and you know I worry about these games, both because I'm supposed to and because I really do, but I also feel somewhat resigned to them. By the time I had a son I had read enough stories of moms who banned guns only to have her kids (some of them even girls) make weapons out sticks and fingers that I knew a gun ban wouldn't matter. Besides, I'm not good at bans. The day I decide to ban something -- say, alcohol -- is the day I can't get through the pre-dinner hour with a big Campari and soda. (Don't judge.)

Still, the fighting games are the iPad are problematic for all kinds of reasons. A Terminator game my boy has (and yes, I know I'm the person who bought it for him, judge if you like, that's not my business) is very realistic. Sure the good guys are human and the bad guys are robot aliens, but the dystopian city they're fighting in is distressingly vivid, as are the guns, which have the added bonus of being large.

And yet, and yet. A few weeks ago when Elliot was busy playing the Terminator game with me sitting next to him, he showeed me how all the humans, except for the one doing the shooting, had been locked in prison. He pointed to a man in a cell and the bunk bed behind him. The top bunk was made up neatly with what looked like a standard issue army blanket. "See," he said, "he's got a really comfy blanket for his bed. That's lucky, right?" Sure just beyond the prison walls there's a city crumbling after an invasion of violent, evil, robot aliens, but inside, the men have their comfy blankets, their cozy cells, and that's pretty lucky. That's the detail that matters.

(Note: We are iPad-free in this house for the month of September. So far, so good. The only down side, really, is I can't read anything on the Nook in front of the kids, because Doodle Jump is on there, too.)

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