The recurring topic at our house recently is "Super Mario Brothers Super Smash Brawl." It is a Nintendo Wii game that involves the characters "brawling" with each other in cartoonish violence. Chris desperately wants this game--it's one of the most popular Wii games on the market.
We went reluctantly into the world of video gaming when we got Chris his GameBoy Advance a few years ago for his birthday. Last Christmas our family purchased a Wii as our sole family Christmas present for each other. (Kieran is not impressed or interested in the least bit...yet. Nicholas loves the remotes and also gets very excited when people are playing it!) Using Christmas gift cards and trading in his GameBoy, in January Chris acquired a Nintendo DS. The extent of violent video games in our household up until now is the boxing game on the Wii sports game that comes with the Wii, and the mild violence in Chris' Harry Potter games. One time Chris called me downstairs to watch the boxing match he had set up between my "Mii" and Mike's "Mii" (little avatars designed to look like us). Ugh! I told him that I could not stomach that and walked out.
Mike had Chris write a persuasive essay on why he should be allowed to get Super Smash Brawl, including the fact that he knew it was only a video game and it would not turn him into a violent person, and he included his "security plan" to keep his younger brothers away while he played it with his friends. Creative, yes; however, I finally put my foot down, on the principle that we are a nonviolent family. As long as I have some semblance of control over my children, I do not want them playing violent video games, however tame they are purported to be. Mike and I avoid overly violent movies, and we tightly control which movies Chris is able to watch. I don't think we're over the top--he's seen all the Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars films. But there's something different about participating in the violence itself. The primary purpose of this game is to fight. Period.
Chris has been teased at school for being a "noob" video gamer (which I guess means that all his games are tame and PG-rated?). About a month ago, he claimed that he was the ONLY KID IN HIS CLASS who didn't have violent video games. Oh please. Well, now it turns out that the kids he's referring to are not the ones we like anyway. And now his friends are nagging him to get the game...in fact, one of them came over the other day and even bugged Mike about it!
I know that he thinks this game will help him fit in, and he doesn't want to be teased about having tame games. His 5th grade pubescent persona seems to be drawn to the violence. I really do feel for him. My mom reminded me that when I was a kid, I was not so concerned about the "in" things or fitting in myself, so it's probably hard for me to understand this need completely. And I'm so not a boy.
Maybe I'm being overly protective. Most of what's out on the internet about this game argues that it's not more violent than what most kids see on TV or in the movies nowadays (or on the playground!). Perhaps. But our family's values are centered on peace, respect, and compassion for others. Not on brawling. While I still have some ability to control their choices and what they spend their money on, I'll stand by my overprotectiveness. I'd rather have him blame this decision on his mean mom than have regrets later on--and once we let that game into our house, it would be a slippery slope down to "Halo 3."