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.