Mass. Town to Exchange Violent Games for Coupons

In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., another town is offering to help families get rid of their violent video games.

The town of Melrose, Mass., is offering residents the opportunity to trade in violent games, toys and movies for coupons for local businesses, which they can then use to purchase less violent stuff. Also potentially available for kids: a “get out of homework free” card for their trade-ins.

Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan said the focus of the program, dubbed “New Year — New Direction,” is to help educate parents and to encourage them to make decisions that are good for their children. Dolan said he has two young children of his own — 7 and 4 — and that since the Newtown massacre, he has been rethinking what toys, movies and games to which they should be exposed. The New Year — New Direction program reflects that thinking, allowing parents to opt for less violent entertainment for their kids.

“I’m 41 and I’ve got more of a taste for it (video games and other technology) than others, but there are a lot of parents who have no idea about new technology,” Dolan said in an interview with Game Front. “They need to be educated about this stuff.

“It’s not for everyone, it’s for people like my mother, who will walk into a store and ask, ‘What’s a popular video game?’ And the clerk will hand her Call of Duty.”

The Melrose trade-in comes after the now-cancelled Violent Video Game Trade-in Program in Southington, Conn., a town near Newtown. That program was billed with the intention of burning the media after it was collected, but the actual burning part was cancelled after town officials said “awareness” had been raised significantly through media coverage. Both trade-in programs covered multiple kinds of media, although Southington’s was billed specifically as a video game trade-in program.

Dolan said specifically that Melrose’s program is not meant to be a sort of “book-burning” of violent media, and that he didn’t want the town to become a sort of book-burning capital. Instead, the idea is that parents have an opportunity to get rid of violent media for their kids — specifically geared toward those with young children, it seems — and to learn something about things like the Electronic Software Rating Board’s package ratings or the ways that kids might be affected by violent movies.

Parents who do choose to bring in violent toys and media will be throwing them away, Dolan said. Dropping off those items at the city yard for the New Year – New Direction program will have those items going into a Dumpster, but Dolan said the prerequisite to receive a coupon book or free homework pass isn’t that you’re throwing something away — it just that parents come and have a conversation with him and others in the program, and maybe learn something.

Part of the reason the program was created, he said, is that Melrose shares a lot of similarities with Newtown, even down to the way the two towns look. Dolan also said that he sees examples of young children have trouble separating the fantasy of things like video games from reality, especially around his own kids at school. In one example he cited, a program that brought veterans to speak to elementary school children, Dolan said the question kids ask most often is whether Afghanistan and Iraq were like Call of Duty: Black Ops.

“We’re trying to get people to learn about these things, and to learn about what their kids are doing,” he said. “We’re not trying to judge parents – they may let their kids watch Ted and play Black Ops.”

But letting kids have exposure to violent media without any kind of knowledge or input from their parents, Dolan said, doesn’t make sense to him. He’s changed the kinds of things his own kids can play, limiting the video games they can have and even the toys they can have.

“I think it’s as ridiculous to allow a first grader this type of exposure as it is to use a machine gun to hunt deer.”


Read more about the New Year – New Direction program on Mayor Dolan’s blog.


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

13 Comments on Mass. Town to Exchange Violent Games for Coupons

pooleboy87

On January 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I’m not a fan of this action. I agree with what Mayor Dolan is SAYING about parents needing to know what their kids are watching/player…but that’s clearly not what this program is, to me. This is making violent video games a scape goat for a deranged individual getting a weapon and committing unspeakable acts. It sends the entirely wrong message, to me, to parents and children.

Instead of “know what your kids are doing, and make responsible choices about their understanding of what they’re doing” the message that this sends, to me, is simply that “violent video games make people killers”. It’s not as ridiculous as the campaign to BURN the games, but still.

Though, I suppose that this is STILL significantly better than simply doing nothing. It also encourages families to put down the electronic entertainment, and spend time together (or I’m at least assuming that would be the kind of things that the coupons are for), which is always a plus.

Matt

On January 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

There were lots of murders before there were guns and video games, not sure why this is so hard for people to understand.

Bruce

On January 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Last I checked, Hollywood has been killing bad guys for over a century.

Fart

On January 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

The NRA continues to play the public like a fiddle. If you honestly think they oppose gun laws because of freedom, you’re deluded. They oppose them because of their vested financial interests, nothing more.

Derek

On January 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Amazing that this stuff happens when studies have shown that violent video games relieve stress and aggression, not induce it.

Kevin

On January 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm

The mayor sounds like a responsible parent. He is thinking about ways to get his kids away from stuff he finds objectionable. Bravo. and I mean that.

But then he has to go and try and take his personal preferences and impose them on everyone else. And a mayor handing out free gifts is certainly a great way to shore up his chances at being re-elected at little cost, no?

In the end, the only thing that is going to fix this is better parenting. And chances are the people who would take advantage of such a program are the people we really don’t have to worry about. (Think Cash for Clunkers. The people who made use of the program most were rich people already planning to buy a car, the people who really didn’t need government money to do so.)

And @fart, what does the NRA’s position have to do with any of this? Keep your ignorant drivel confined to somewhere else.

Lee

On January 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm

If we are going to blame videogames and other forms of entertanment for the violence in humans then let’s go all out. Let’s blame King Kong for Hitler’s plans for genocide after all it was his favorite movie. Let’s blame the beatles for Charles Manson’s madness. Mind you at one point the U.S. Congress tried to ban Superman comic books stating it is sending a wrong message to children. The message was that only through all problems was fixed through violence.

Phil Hornshaw

On January 14, 2013 at 6:18 pm

@Kevin

Worth noting that Dolan and those working with him are NOT imposing a policy. They’re making the service of taking violent stuff off parents’ hands available, and they’re giving coupons away to incentivize teaching people about these things, but they’re not forcing anyone to actually DO anything. Dolan told me that he’s not even requiring that people actually get rid of anything in order to get the incentives, so long as people are willing to come have a conversation and maybe learn something about things like ESRB ratings.

Dave

On January 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I’m glad this guy appears to be making sure that his town learn about regulations already in place rather than saying “GAMES ARE WRONG”.

Goner

On January 15, 2013 at 3:33 am

That ‘s remember me, 1920 to 33 and the prohibition era,sure we are not gonna have some Al capone here, but burning game is a bit extrem.
The violence had always be here in the medias , but it was always the good guy against the bad guy(since Scarface), and it is maybe this way most of us legitimate our virtual blood lust, ” If you touch my family i’ m gonna make you paid”.And frankly i have no problem with that, because i’ have be conditioned like that.
U.s.a is not the only place where mass killing had been done ,in France in 2001 a aged men kill.
The 1st question is what had change with the decades, back to the past ours grand parents , parents had to think about what : get a job, get a wife,get kids, and “every things gonna be all right” (thank Bob ) .
But nowadays what we got? for some of us loose fate in everything, every where the news is bad ,you are a 14 or 16 aged ,no girfriend ,the looser one, maybe a geek, every body laught at you…….and so you wanna raising hell, just one time, and drag the more you can with you in hell cause they deserve it and maybe let a good one live cause he has always been cool with you ( that remember you something ).
Many have knew this situation around the world.
Frankly the difference between France /U.s.a : the size of the country, the amount of guns and them price ,and the pills many drugs still not here. So instead off killling the youth here suicide.
One last things, we are all made of blood and flesh, and went you spendind hours on your game you generate stress but you didn’t release it, so had some sport can help, believe me.
Ok i know had probably mispelled many things, but i just want to share ,and no harm anyone, so if i screwed up something or if it’s the wrong place to this words let me know .( some’s surely got my email )
The game
is not to blame
(or just a little bit)

Hellblazer

On January 15, 2013 at 5:15 am

Let’s hope they distroy all games except Mass Effect because they are all dump and your all ass dumb kids cos i a real Bioware fann, also Gamefront sux which is why i’m spent all my time on it.

Kfaf

On January 15, 2013 at 8:29 am

Uh, guys, a lot of you kinda got it wrong. This isn’t forced, this isn’t mandatory… and nothing is getting burned. It’s just a guy who’s giving parents a way out if they unknowingly bought their child a game like Black Ops, not knowing the violence the little box contained.

I feel like games have nothing to do with the Newtown, CN; People have crazy in them naturally.

If they were to hold a burning for things that make people want to murder, I’d say start with bad drivers…

SevenCell

On January 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Overreaction.
Of course, the Newtown shootings were an atrocity, and of course, playing violent games so soon could be considered very bad taste, but taking them away and holding them up as something wrong with society is not the right way to go.
The shootings were committed by a madman, and as far as I’m aware, there’s been no hint of a link between the crimes and games. Speaking as a “kid” myself, I can verify that seeing digital representations of people be murdered in various gruesome (and often very creative) ways does not blur the bounds between the game and the real world.
All the parents that go and chuck their games away will be learning is “GUN GAME BAD. NO HOMEWORK GOOD.” They won’t be learning how games like Dishonoured force you to plan out a section of stealth, or the way Borderlands 2 rewards players that develop cohesive tactics.
And I’ll bet they won’t tell them all the POSITIVE effects a digital simulation of warfare can have, like promoting teamwork, relieving stress, and improving spacial awareness, short-term memory and reflexes.
A one-sided education isn’t an education, it’s a lynching.