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article imageOne Dad's answer to violent video games — visit a war zone

By Martin Laine     Aug 9, 2014 in Entertainment
It started with a dinner-table conversation between a father and his two young sons. They wanted the latest edition of Call of Duty. But he had seen real war, and knew it was no video game, so he came up with an idea — bring them to a war zone.
As a young man, Carl-Magnus Helgegren had spent some time covering conflicts in the Middle East as a freelance journalist.
“It was quite late in my life when I started to scratch the surface of what war really was,” Helgegren said in an article in The Local. “I thought I had a pretty good idea from television but when I was 29 I realized I had absolutely no idea of what war was.”
Listening to his sons, Frank and Leo, 10 and 11, casually talking about weapons and missions, he realized they didn't either. So he offered a deal.
They would take a trip to a city that had been caught up in a war. They would talk to people who had been affected, and visit a refugee camp. If they still wanted to play video war games after they came back, he wouldn't object.
But where to go?
Helgegren said he first considered Iraq or Afghanistan, but decided they were too dangerous, so he chose Israel and the Palestinian States. They traveled there during the Easter break, before the current fighting broke out. They visited all the usual tourist stops, but then things turned serious.
“We went to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. They saw the conditions there, where people burned trash in the streets, and there was an illegal drug market right next to the school. We went to a clinic where kids were being stitched up every single day because they had been hit in the head with the butt of a rifle.”
After 10 days in Israel, the family returned home, and the trip had the desired effect. The boys were no longer interested in the Call of Duty game. Helgegren wrote an article about the experience.
There was an immediate and unexpected backlash.
“I have received messages calling me the worst parent in the world,” he said.”Saying I am traumatizing my children, that I am a pompous bastard. I didn’t really expect such a reaction.”
A representative from the Swedish Games Industry checked in with her opinion, first praising him for being a concerned and involved parent, then suggesting he may have gone too far.
“I don’t think it’s necessary, perhaps, to take your kids to a war zone,” said Johanna Nylander. “Just playing together with them and showing an interest should suffice.”
She also noted that children had been playing at war for generations – out in the woods with sticks. Video games are far less dangerous, because there’s no risk of injury.
Helgegren shrugged off the criticism, calling Nylander’s statement “ridiculous, a paid opinion from an organization representing a multi-billion dollar industry.”
More about Video games, CarlMagnus Helgegren, Swedish Games Industry
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