Sunday, 14 November 2010

Black Ops Dilemma - a Call of Duty?

I am sure that I am not alone on this one. The release of the latest version of Call of Duty "Black Ops" on 9th November was much trailed in the press and in the advanced advertising campaign, with the consequence that it is likely to be the fastest selling video game of all time [News - Sunday Telegraph 14/11/2010]. A triumph for the manufacturers and distributors, I am sure, but a real dilemma for many parents.

Inevitably my twelve year old, like most of his friends, wants one - and so we parents are faced once again with having to make what is potentially a very unpopular decision. "But all my friends have got it ....", "Dad, you just don't understand ....." and so on.

I have huge reservations about interactive computer games in general, and combat games in particular. The active, participatory nature of these games makes them all the more powerful than watching a video. I would rather my children played real sport than Wii Sport; I am worried that they spend too much time looking at a screen. And I really don't like the distorted reality that adult games promote: from Grand Theft Auto to Black Ops et al. - these games are 18 Certificates for a reason. Furthermore, given that, as a family, we go clay pigeon shooting regularly, I am concerned that my children all use and handle guns safely, and I am not convinced that the way in which young people point and shoot whilst playing Wii games promotes this.

My experience as a Housemaster and as a parent has taught me that boys will push the boundaries all the time, if only to know where they are. Setting clearly understood boundaries shows that we care for them. I realise that many will take a different view to me on this particular issue of combat games - in many ways that is not the important issue here. Wherever you draw the line, consistency is the key. Children need to know that we are consistent in the decisions that we make; and it is really important that one parent isn't played off against the other. Sometimes we have to say "no" to show that we love them; and in their heart of hearts boys want us to do this.

I must say that I was little surprised, but pleased with my son's reaction - perhaps he knows me well enough. He took the news with a resigned shrug, regrouped and asked whether he could have the Harry Potter 5 video game instead! I do love him!


  1. This is a very timely article. The game has polarised the parents that I have spoken to and has been the subject of many emails that I have read.
    After some thought I decided to let my son proceed with the purchase but set strict limits on its usage so I am glad of your comment on boundaries However I am sure that when the 3D gaming experience gets to the next generation I will set those boundaries in a very different way.

  2. Thank you for this very useful insight - I am facing the same dilemma with a 14-year-old, and I will show him your blog as he's interested in the debate.

    He would add, though, that quotes by Socrates which he has come across while playing Call of Duty 3 have recently earned him Academic Points when judiciously applied to classroom debates about war!

  3. I have a 10 year old who wants this game. He has played it at a friend's house. I'm just researching it as I don't know much about it. However, I just learned that parents of 12-year olds are concerned, so I definitely need to give this some thought!