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     Volume 5 Issue 114 | September 29, 2006 |

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The Anathema of Video Games

Imran H. Khan

Terrorism is perhaps the most complex word in the dictionary today. Each day, it sports a new meaning and new people are put under the dissecting table. The whole world has changed after 19 hijackers seized four commercial U.S. jets and crashed them into some American symbols of success and military might in 2001. It shook not just America but the core of the world. Today, as America goes on their rampage to obliterate this shadowy enemy, the oft-repeated statement 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' keeps coming into the limelight. The question is still being raised about what really constitutes 'terrorism' and where it can be used. I happened to find it in the most innocent of places.

Browsing through a list of online games, I happened to come upon a game called 'Kaboom! The suicide bombingr game'. Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the link at once. To my horror I saw that it was in actuality a suicide game, one that was truly in bad taste. There was a little man running about in a busy street and upon clicking him, he detonated dynamites strapped around him and exploded, taking with him men, women and children around him. The creator of the game took great care to highlight the details of the limbs and heads that flew off the victims. Is this entertainment? To add the cherry on top, one is awarded points on the basis of how many men, women and children he takes with him to his grave. It is by far the worst concept I have seen in a game. What next, a game on torturing people? A game on raping? At what point do we draw the line between entertainment and ethics? I almost wondered if this was a game targeting young children or a training tutorial for would-be suicide bombers. I mean, I know people will not be running on the streets looking for crowds of people to bomb, but what's the point of this sort of entertainment? What sort of a message will this game be sending to the children? Should it not be put in some context? If such a game is not a means of provocation, I don't know what is. But one cannot help but wonder if even an innocent thing as a video game can be termed as a tool of terrorism!

In the past there have been strong arguments about what could be deemed as terrorist movements. There was the Viet Cong in South Vietnam from the late 1950s, the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland from the late 60s and in the late 80s, there was the African National Congress of South Africa which certain superpowers term as 'terrorists'. After the events of September 11, the new face of terrorism takes the shape of the 'Al-Qaeda', Saddam Hussein and the Hezbollah.

I remember when I was young, my friends and I played with G. I. Joe action figures. Instead of having a real enemy, the creators of the figures chose to create a vague enemy, a bogeyman called "terrorism" and in the form of Cobra Commander and his elite group of bad guys. The Joes needed someone to fight, someone to save the world from. Today, that term is closely engrained with the modern terrorists. But even a cartoon such as G. I. Joe had a message: the bad guys never won. There was always some hint of honesty, a dash of teamwork, a simple evil plot of world domination and the finale of good winning over evil that kept this cartoon alive for decades. What about video games? Many of them say quite the opposite-that it is violence not heroism that wins.

The world is apparently at war. If people can bomb civilians and the casualties are acceptable, is that war justified? Killing innocent people, under any sort of banner, is a heinous act and should not be left unpunished. Without moral teachings, principles and intellectual justifications set aside for one moment, a game such as 'Kaboom' is simply a waste of time and energy. It goes on to show how immune and desensitised we are becoming to all that is happening around us. Entertainment or themes of entertainment reflect our culture, our moral values and intellectual growth. This violent game and such similar genre is not taking us ahead, but rather pulling us back, diminishing centuries of advancements and knowledge, leaving us bare with nothing but the feeling of fear.



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