When members of SouthingtonSOS announced last week that they would be collecting violent video games in an effort to make the community safe, the goal wasn’t to have games banned or to try and force people to turn in their games. The ultimate goal, members said, was to enhance community awareness and promote discussions among parents and children.
Those goals, members said Wednesday, have been accomplished.
The organization has announced that because of the success the program has seen and the personal accountability shown by residents throughout the community – as well as for respect to those who disagree with the take back program – they will no longer be at the Southington Drive-In to collect games Saturday.
Instead, the group said they feel comfortable allowing parents and children to make the responsible decision for themselves.
“When we convened a week ago, we said if this program were to create a conversation between even one family, one parent and child, than it would be a success,” School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said Wednesday. “It has created dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of conversations. I wouldn’t say we are canceling it. I’d say our goal was achieved.”
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Although the direct video game collection on Saturday has been cancelled, that does not mean Southington SOS won’t follow through with promises, said Southington YMCA Executive Director John Myers and Charlie Cocuzza, member of the Southington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
The two men said families are encouraged to keep an open dialogue and, if they determine it would be best to turn in the more violent games, they will be rewarded by the chamber with incentives provided by chamber members.
Cocuzza said the incentive program will begin on Monday and will be available with details through a link on the Southington Chamber of Commerce website.
“It’s a program that will only be available to Southington families,” Cocuzza said. “We will ask what steps they have done and through email, determine the best way to send them a reward. Based on the number of people who have reached out already, we are asking that people refrain from going to the chamber directly.”
The concept for the video game take back was first developed just before the New Year and announced on Jan. 2, when members of SouthingtonSOS spoke publicly to say they hoped the program would lead to a community discussion regarding violence in video games.
They never anticipated just how effective the program’s announcement would be in creating that kind of conversation.
The program received national and even international attention from multiple media outlets, including opening a discussion on whether other communities should be doing the same thing. In a forum discussion on HuffPost Live this week, a combination of bloggers, video game designers and storeowners and a New Haven Board of Education member came together to debate the merits of such a program.
Most of those on the panel said while they appreciate the concept, they were concerned with the thought that it took incentive to get people talking. The group was largely opposed to “rewards” for participation in the program and said personal responsibility is more important.
“At the end of the day, they are your kids. Does someone have to pay you $25 to get you to do something positive for your kids?” asked Paolo Romanucci, Huffington Post blogger.
Sue Saucier, SouthingtonSOS member and director of Southington Youth Services, said although Newtown was not the reason behind the program, it was a motivating factor to go public regarding violence in video games. Studies have shown that overexposure to violence can cause children to show an increase in aggression and violent behavior and creates a desensitization to violence in general.
Saucier said Wednesday that the best way to address this issue is to have open discussions between parents and children regarding the games they play, limiting play time if the games are going to be allowed and considering a return for games that are to violent.
See a complete list of how to talk to your kids in the PDF included above or by clicking the link provided.
In many cases, as shown through an influx of emails that SouthingtonSOS has received, the message was heard and parents are having those conversations, she said.
“It’s been heartwarming to see this occurring on a local level and we are hopeful this is something that will spread beyond Southington and even nationwide. We believe it already has,” said SouthingtonSOS member Victoria Triano.
The challenges will still remain, however, as “gamers” have spoken out against the effort and called it an attack on the arts.
Part of the issue here remains that the gaming industry is still relatively new and game designers are challenged to create products people want while also adhering to social responsibilities, said Massimo Guarini, a video game manufacturer and designer located in Varese, Italy.
Guarini said unlike Hollywood, which is now about 100 years old, video games have only been in existence for several decades and changing technology has drastically changed the landscape. He said violence in games is not going away, however.
“Violence (in video games), per se, if not just a bad thing,” he said. “You cannot ignore violence. People are going to buy the games in any case. Banning a game, if anything, is going to make the games more popular. It will make violent games even more appealing to kids because it’s forbidden.”
Tell Us: What are your thoughts on this type of program? Would you have liked to see it move forward? Did SouthingtonSOS make the right decision to cancel? How should video game violence be addressed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.