Saturday, October 9, 2010

Childhood War Games Are an Affront to the Cause of World Peace

There was a time when I played with toy guns, my bother and other kids in the neighborhood played with a toy gun of one sort or another, too. The guns didn’t look real and in every way were toys. We played war games. We tried to outwit each other while hiding behind trees, boulders, berms and pretending to shoot at each other … Bang, Bang, Bang -- or imitating the most realistic gunshot sound we could make -- you’re dead! We fantasized neither blood, gore nor carnage, it was simply play. I suppose every kid for eons has played games with some sort of toy weaponry fashioned out wood or other material.

Today, that childhood play of yesteryear has been replaced with vivid video displays of blood, gore, and carnage. These new forms of war games that have emerged are no longer detached from realism; computer technology has developed video game graphics to the point where they are lifelike and extraordinarily realistic. Also there are live play war games played in the woods and fields, as I once did, but instead of mock weapons, the play incorporates Laser Tag, Paintball, or Airsoft realistic weaponry.

Airsoft war game participants use soft-pellet replica firearms, which are similar in operation to BB guns, that shoot small plastic pellets in military simulations. These games are actually used in military training to teach soldiers to kill. Participants arm themselves with different types of Airsoft weaponry, costuming themselves in either real or replica military gear, uniforms, and protective eyewear. The games model combat situations involving military tactics to achieve objectives.

It was in a local newspaper in which I learned of a mom and dad, both members of the Army National Guard, who initiated an Airsoft club in my hometown. It’s for “kids ages 10 and up who will use strategy and teamwork to play a modern version of capture the flag using Airsoft guns. ‘ It’s basically a group of kids that go out into the woods and have Airsoft war,’” said their 12-year old son.

To promote material that is used by the military to train a soldier to kill should not be made available for children to play, especially if we desire at some time in the future a tranquil and peaceful world. Along with other depictions of violence in movies, television, and computer video games, Airsoft, Laser Tag, and Paintball war games are an affront to efforts by so many who work toward ending violence and advancing world peace. These presentations and games only perpetuate violent behavior.

As Lt. Col Dave Grossman at has pointed out, people who play violent war games are conditioned to acts of violence. They become increasingly capable of violence because conditioning reduces their natural barriers to it.

To the belief that violence is a result of nature and not nurture, it is both. Violence was at one time, and unfortunately apparent to a certain extent today, necessary to human survival and evolution. So there is a hereditary component, but there is also a greater environmental component that enhances human propensity toward violent acts.

As a child, who is continually conditioned through repeatedly killing lifelike images in video war games and real bodies in outdoor Laser Tag, Paintball, or Airsoft war games, grows into adulthood, he or she increasingly acquire as acceptable an ability to kill in real life. After all it is the same method the military uses effectively to teach soldiers how to kill.

From childhood play with toy guns to realistic play with actual non-lethal weapons is not the direction America or the world should be heading. Instead we should be taking every opportunity to eliminate war and marginalize violence. An adult who embraces violent viewing or a parent who condones this sort of play is acting immorally and their behavior is completely unacceptable.