Having a blast at the kiddie party Video blood and gore

Howard Kleinberg

April 13, 1993|By Howard Kleinberg

WHEN we were raising children of our own a quarter-century ago, a national guilt grabbed hold of many of us. It was a time when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John and Bobby Kennedy were being gunned down. It became the symbolically correct thing to do, then: stop buying toy guns for the kids.

Society asked that we raise our children for a more nonviolent environment; cut out even the water pistols. And we did. And guess what? Those kids have grown up, have had kids of their own and have introduced them to every sort of killer machine available, from make-believe rat-a-tat-tat automatic weapons to video games that wipe out entire civilizations.

The grand experiment of the '60s was a waste of time.

On a grandson's birthday last week, I had the opportunity to attend a birthday party in one of those national-chain kiddie fun centers. Most of the atmosphere was fun and wholesome -- until I got to the video games section.

A great part of the children's center's income is derived from the quarters upon quarters -- or equal-value tokens -- tossed into the slots of the video games. What doesn't earn bucks in the no-charge toddler section is more than made up for in the coin-operated killing machines.

Several of the machines were particularly grim, but busy as could be. The violence of the video games so astonished me that I spent the greater part of my grandson's party camped on a nearby bench watching children not yet in their teens blasting away.

One video game, called Mad Dog, was especially stunning. There were several manners of killing in this Western-oriented mayhem game. What first caught my eye was the old cowhand, shot full of arrows and bleeding like a stuck pig, reading or pleading something; I could not tell from my perch. I think he was asking for the player to shoot him to end his misery. This was not an animation but actual video footage with the blood added.

The old-timer eventually croaked from the myriad arrows in his body, particularly the one that went through his neck. Either that, or a youngster's shot found the target.

From there we moved on to a maniac with a Gatling gun, then a hanging and -- get this, kiddies -- a fetching lady-of-the-night type in her skivvies, soaking in a pond and asking: "You wanna play?"

Who, the 11-year-old?

My attention then shifted to a game called Lethal Enforcer. This one, when I caught up with it, was showing a scene in front of a Chinese restaurant somewhere. Oriental-looking men in black suits and black hats were in the street firing round after round into the restaurant. Perhaps this had something to do with the quality of the won ton soup, perhaps it was a gang war of sorts. Whatever it was, it was noisy.

The person putting in the quarter, of course, has his or her own pistol to join in with the others in the assault on the Chinese restaurant or, moments later, on a pack of terrorists who have taken over a jetliner. Bang, bang -- kill the terrorists, and take half the passengers with them.

At this point, I was almost bowled over when a message flashed across the screen warning the game player: "Don't shoot innocent bystanders. Shoot the enemy." This was too late for the kid who had put in the quarter, as he already had wiped out the entire first-class section.

What made these shootouts even more prominent for the kiddies is that for every bulls-eye hit they made, there was a splattering of bright red blood on the screen. Such fun!

It all left me wondering what I thought I was accomplishing when I denied my sons their Roy Rogers cap pistols all those years ago.

Howard Kleinberg wrotes this column for Cox News Service.

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