School creates video game blacklist

West Bay’s John Cumber Primary school last week released a top 10 list of violent video games parents should not purchase for their children during the holiday season.

The list was e-mailed to parents as part of an advisory about a school event scheduled for Thursday, which sought to destroy toy weapons and violent video games in a symbolic act against violent behaviour.

The games included on the list were: Resident Evil 4, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, God of War, NARC, Killer 7, The Warriors, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Crime Life: Gang Wars, Condemned: Criminal Origins, and True Crime: New York City.

John Cumber Principal Joseph Wallace said he believes extremely violent video games can encourage children to become violent in their adult lives.

‘Research has showed…that over time, when these kids play the video games constantly…it desensitises them to the act of violence,’ Mr. Wallace said. ‘But there’s no off button in real life; there’s no restart.’

‘Besides, what the kids are doing when they’re playing video games, they’re not playing outside,’ he said.

That view has been endorsed recently by Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, who has publicly encouraged parents to get children away from ‘the video boxes.’

West Bay Police Station Chief Inspector Angelique Howell, who also participated in Thursday’s event, said she believes groups like CODAC and the school are trying to send an important message when it comes to violent video games.

Mrs. Howell said games like Grand Theft Auto depict police chases and murders, which negatively affect kids.

‘Parents have to be responsible and screen what they are buying for children and what they allow their children to play with,’ Chief Inspector Howell said.

But Blockbuster Video store co-owner Deborah McTaggart said blaming the games for violence committed by children and young adults amounts to a sort of displacement.

‘If you have no relationship with your kids and they’re locked up in a room with violent video games, I guess you’re probably going to have some problems,’ Mrs. McTaggart said.

The video store owner has a unique perspective on the issue. A former store employee, Sabrina Schirn – a close friend of Mrs. McTaggart’s daughter – was killed in March after vanishing one morning. Cayman’s recent spate of violent crimes has affected her more closely than many others.

‘Do I think we can attribute this to video games? I mean, I don’t think the really violent games are good, and there are titles that I don’t sell (at Blockbuster),’ she said. ‘I personally don’t like horror movies…but if I don’t bring them in, will it stop the violence?’

Mrs. McTaggart said these video games are available everywhere, not only on Grand Cayman, but in the US – just a short weekend shopping trip away. She said her store does not sell ‘M – for mature’ rated video games to kids younger than 17. But there’s nothing they can do about parents who buy them for their children.

‘If someone’s looking for it they’re going to find it,’ she said.

Mrs. McTaggart calls the event on Thursday at John Cumber Primary an ‘interesting gesture,’ but she said she’d be surprised if the school got too many video games turned in.

‘I think you’d have to pry them out of the kids’ hands,’ she said.