CALL OF (Parental) DUTY: Part II “Freedom To Game Is Important”

This is the second in my series of CALL OF (Parental) DUTY posts about the discussion we are having in our house about violent video games. Today is my 13 year-old son Sevrin’s chance to share his point of view.  Below is a letter that he wrote to us (his parents) about his frustrations with not be able to get Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

I’m proud of you, Sev, for expressing your feelings so eloquently and – especially – for putting the time and effort into writing them down for us. When I read this, I remember precisely how frustrating it is to feel that you are no longer a child but yet are not allowed to make many choices for yourself. Thank you for writing this and allowing me to share it with others. 

Freedom To Game Is Important

I want you to imagine, for a minute, that you are in a library. Or maybe a book store. There are rows and rows of books. Each book holds a story, unique and special in its own way. In this library filled with books you have the Fantasy row, the Action row, the Poetry row and then you come across the Childrens section. The library lady (or man) says that you are only allowed  to check out books from the Childrens row because she (or he) doesn’t think that you are “ready” for the big boy books. Now I ask you, how would you feel? You have rows and rows of books and yet you are restricted to the small corner and you’ve just been told to deal with it. If you were me, you’d probably feel sad, maybe a little frustrated, and a little bit confused on why you have to read Elmo and Barbie when you could be reading Shakespeare and anything you could possibly dream of. Alas, this brings me to my point. Of course I am exaggerating when I say all I can do is read Elmo but I’m trying to make my point clear. Why is gaming any different from reading in terms of age restrictions?

If it’s because M games are too gorey then I wonder why I’m allowed to read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. The true horrors of war seep from that book. Kids get kidnapped, hopped up on drugs, and told to kill anybody who opposes their “Dad” (The General of the RUF). In the book, the character sees people get stabbed and shot all the time. He sees people with their fingers chopped off and the letters RUF scorched into their backs. He’s seen women running from the fight with babies on their backs, not knowing that their kin had just taken a bullet and saved their parent’s life. So now I’ve seen it too. And I know what war is like in real life. I know what war does to people and I understand how terrible it is. But I don’t see a problem with shooting a blob in the form of a human that is really just something on the screen. I’m not hurting anybody by playing an M game. That’s like saying that I can’t shoot a target at a shooting range because I might hurt the wooden carving of a person. Besides, do you really think that I’ll become some sort of stone cold killer if a kill something in a digital world?!

If you are concerned about exposing me to bad language then you’re going to have to do a lot more than not allowing me to play M games. Say we are to watch a movie like umm… let’s just go with Band of Brothers. Swearing in that series is important in the plot. It gives the viewer a really good sense of WWII and war in general. But it’s not just from movies and books, it’s also from people around me. Take you/Dad for example. If you/Dad get angry, really angry, you tend to have a fairly large potty mouth. But sometimes swearing is required to get it into my head that “Yeah, I do need to stop complaining about bedtime.”  Plus, there is no doubt that there is swearing in T games, too. On top of all of that, I don’t think that just because I hear people swearing in a video game means I’m going to repeat the words I hear to other people say or mouth off at you/Dad. Like I said, I hear swearing all around me.Now, if the problem is that I’m just not old enough to be able to have the freedom to choose any game I want well, I disagree. I’m turning 13. That means I’m a teenager. I am both physically mature and mentally mature.  I am shaving and my voice is dropping, no, plummeting like a giant rock. I am also taller than Mom (Mocky!) and catching you, Dad. As for mentally, I’ve been trying to keep all A’s in part because of this. I am smart and know I can handle M games but have not been given a chance for three years. I made the mistake of asking for Deus Ex. But once again, I was ten and had a squeaky voice. I need freedom and choice instead of getting advice (although, sometimes the advice is helpful). I’m asking for a chance to try it again.

The bottom line is, I think that I can take it. If I don’t get to play M games now, I will probably have to wait two or three more years! We have no solid date or age in which I can play M games and I think that 13 is the perfect time to start. I want the ability to choose what games I should and shouldn’t play. And believe me, I know what games I want to get and don’t want. I sit here and search and search and search. I research games all the time and the reason I chose Black Ops II is because I honestly think that it would be fun. I didn’t choose this game just to be with the Kewl Kids. I’m not, as you may well know, a “hop on the bandwagon” kind of guy. Maybe one of the reasons the Call of Duty franchise got so big is because people had a really good time playing them. One other thing about Call of Duty is that Treyarch is the company making BLOPS II and they are known for making a much better story than Infinity Ward and with the futuristic setting, they have opened the floodgates to creative ideas and lots of options. I hope you at least consider what I’m asking for and thank you for reading.

Read the introduction to the CALL OF (Parental) DUTY series here.
For more of the Weekly Writing Challenge: Just Do It!, click here.
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So … What Exactly Is It That You Do Again?

Interviewing refugees in Ghana
It all began, as so many things do, with a misunderstanding.  I was putting my son Simon to bed one night when he said, “Mommy … What’s it like to be a human rights warrior?”  “But I’m not a human rights warrior. I’m a human rights lawyer.”  He waited a couple of seconds – this kid has an uncanny sense of comedic timing – before wrinkling up his little nose and saying skeptically, “What’s a LAWYER?”     
I may never know what kind of weapons he thought I was secretly carrying in my briefcase because my description of my actual job put him right to sleep. But this bedtime exchange got me thinking.  For 15 years – more if you count my student experiences – I’ve worked with survivors of human rights abuses, documenting stories of unbearable loss from every corner of the world.  I have observed the absolute worst aspects of human nature, the dark side in each of us that we would rather not acknowledge.
You might think that this would make me pessimistic about the world in general and Homo sapiens in particular, but the impact has been quite the opposite.  It has been my privilege to bear witness to the very best characteristics of humanity – our capacity to overcome adversity, to hope, to forgive.  I’ve heard inspiring acts of courage; seen the precious gift of faith. 
At the UN in Geneva
While I have many stories from my experiences in human rights work, I realize as I write this that most of them have never been shared with anybody.  Stories of human rights abuses don’t exactly lend themselves to cocktail party conversation.  How do you convey the complex political and social conditions that lead to human rights abuses, honor the victims, and avoid grossing people out with the horrible details – all in a two-minute elevator speech? And how do you even stop talking about injustice once you start?
As a parent, however, I am challenged to distill these experiences into something that Simon – along with his brother Sevrin and his sister Eliza – can understand and profit from.  My goal in writing this is to think more intentionally about what I’ve learned from my work in human rights so that I may one day pass these lessons along to my kids.  Perhaps these reflections will be interesting or inspiring to others as well. 
While I am proud to be the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, this blog reflects my personal views rather than those of the organization.