Violence in video games and movies is as prevalent today as it has ever been and with the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown bringing a spotlight to violence in the media, local residents are taking action to make Southington a safer place.
SouthingtonSOS, a group that first formed following the recent storms along the east coast, announced earlier this week that they intend to host a video game collection drive on Jan. 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Southington Drive-In.
As part of the collection, the group has partnered with the Southington Chamber of Commerce, the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) and other organizations to provide a gift certificate to those who participate.
Violent games turned in will be destroyed and placed in the town dumpster for appropriate permanent disposal, said SouthingtonSOS member E. Richard Fortunato.
“SouthingtonSOS is saying is that there is ample evidence that violent video games, along with violent media of all kinds, including TV and Movies portraying story after story showing a continuous stream of violence and killing, has contributed to increasing aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of violence including bullying,” Fortunato, who works as the group’s publicist, said in an email this week.
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“Social and political commentators, as well as elected officials including the president are attributing violent crime to many factors including inadequate gun control laws, a culture of violence and a recreational culture of violence,” he said.
The effort comes just a few weeks after the Newtown shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed six adults and 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in cold blood.
Several reports indicated that Lanza was playing Call of Duty, a first person shooter game designed to mimic today’s warfare, for hours before the massacre, leading to discussions nationwide over violence in the media.
Members of SouthingtonSOS were clear in saying that wasn’t the primary reason for the program. It was something that’s been discussed before, but the incident at Sandy Hook magnified the issue.
The real goal isn’t to place blame solely on video games or even eliminate them from the community as a whole, said John Myers, director of the Southington YMCA and member of SouthingtonSOS.
Organizers instead are hoping that the program will open a community discussion between parents and children while providing a safeguard to help promote responsible decision making among Southington youth.
“The conversation now is deeper than Newtown. It’s about what we can do for our own kids,” Myers said. The reality is we are surrounded by violence, whether it’s in video games, in movies or on television.”
“We were looking at our own kids’ games and thought it was the right time to do this. We know there are some who won’t agree with this idea, but the real goal is to get the community to open up about the issue of violence and to get parents and children to enter into a dialogue together.”
SouthingtonSOS members said both Wednesday and Thursday that they have received considerable feedback already, but not everyone is onboard with the effort. Some have presented counter points and expressed anger at the effort, group members confirmed.
Some gamers have fought the idea, saying the problem isn’t the games themselves but rather the manner in which parents allow the games to be played, movies to be seen or television shows to be watched without any limits or oversight.
An employee of Gamestop, a video game franchise store in Walmart plaza on Queen Street, said the chain sees many parents interacting with their children to explain the games even when purchasing, while others simply buy them for their children when asked.
“There’s a certain responsibility that lies with the parents,” the employee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission from the company.
In an interview with the Record-Journal this week, James Fuller of Game X Change on Route 5 in Wallingford said he understands the rationale for a video game exchange program but doesn’t think it will ultimately be effective:
“I don’t know if getting rid of the games is the answer,” he said.
Myers and School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr., who wrote a letter to parents published on Southington Patch yesterday, each said this isn’t intended to be the answer but rather the start of a long series of efforts to promote positive dialogue in the community.
Each said the hope this is just a start and aren’t pushing anyone to do something they wouldn’t want to do, but to consider it out of respect for a healthier community.
“We know there are those who will disagree and they have those rights,” Myers said. “If it helps people to think about how their lives are influenced and promotes self reflection, then the effort is worth it.”
Editor's Note: For those who may want to take part in the give back program, but cannot make the Saturday event, simply drop off your game at the Board of Education offices at 200 N. Main St. in Southington.
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