A Dad Has the Perfect Response to His Sons Who Want to Play 'Call of Duty'

They wanted to play a Call of Duty game. So he took them to a real war zone.

Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a Swedish dad, took the unusual step when his two sons, Frank and Leo, told him last year they wanted to play Call of Duty: Ghosts. According to the Daily Dot, he took the then 9- and 10-year-olds on a trip to Jerusalem to learn more about war before deciding whether they wanted to play the game.

"As soon as they're in a first-person shooter game and they're firing a weapon — and really the game is for an audience that is 16 years old — I think that I owe it to them to explain reality, before they play it," he told the Daily Dot, adding that he was no stranger to shooter games, having played Doom, Wolfenstein and even the earlier, World War II-inspired Call of Duty games.


The plan: Helgegren had been to the Middle East in 2009, when his freelance photography job brought him to Palestine. He ended up under fire from Israeli troops.

In April, he took his kids to Jerusalem. They met with Israeli soldiers and even visited a refugee camp; he wrote about the experience for Filter, a Swedish magazine.

In the end, after learning about how war had touched the lives of those who took part, Helgegren's sons decided against buying Call of Duty: Ghosts.

"They just looked at each other and said, 'No, we don't want to play them anymore,'" Helgegren told the Daily Dot. "What Frank said to me, he said, 'Now that we've seen all of this, it would feel very strange to say 'Yes.'"

Twisted realism: One of the warning signs, Helgegren said, was when it became clear how much his sons knew about military-grade weaponry just by playing and anticipating video games.

Some games are totally devoted to getting the tools of war correct, with publishers even cooperating with real gun manufacturers to get their products in games. It's not enough to wage virtual war — apparently we also require replicas of real guns to do it.

Not only have gun companies been consulted, but military and former military personnel occasionally act as advisers to the games. If you've been a gamer, you know this kind of attention to detail doesn't often make its way to other facets of the gaming experience.



There is nothing inherently wrong with a violent video game, any more than there is with a violent movie or a violent book. The issue, as Helgegren understands, comes when that violence is routinely devoid of the weight it deserves. Call of Duty's guns may be hyperrealistic, but its treatment of violence is simple enough to appeal to 9- and 10-year-olds.

There are games that earn their violence — Spec Ops: The Line and The Last Of Us are brutal, but they never let you forget the actual toll of the carnage you're creating. Other games, especially independent ones, are kicking ass without needing to kick ass.

Call of Duty isn't the worst thing in the world, but a few more great games that focus on empathy above totally accurate rifle branding might just make it obsolete.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

MORE FROM

The fatal Hillsborough Stadium Disaster is back in the news 30 years later. Here's why.

What was the Hillsborough Stadium disaster?

When cops kill, paying their victims' families can be a cold, calculating process, attorneys say

Black lives are often seen as having less monetary value in the eyes of the law.

Ava Le'Ray Barrin, 17-year-old transgender girl, killed in Georgia

Barrin, 17, wanted to be a model.

Ten Commandments monument at Arkansas Capitol destroyed

The suspect appears to have broadcast the crash on Facebook Live.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care vote, Charges in Laquan McDonald shooting, U.S. image

The important stories to get you caught up for Wednesday.

Venezuela's Supreme Court targeted in helicopter attack amid ongoing crisis

The apparent helicopter attack is the latest escalation of an ongoing political crisis.

The fatal Hillsborough Stadium Disaster is back in the news 30 years later. Here's why.

What was the Hillsborough Stadium disaster?

When cops kill, paying their victims' families can be a cold, calculating process, attorneys say

Black lives are often seen as having less monetary value in the eyes of the law.

Ava Le'Ray Barrin, 17-year-old transgender girl, killed in Georgia

Barrin, 17, wanted to be a model.

Ten Commandments monument at Arkansas Capitol destroyed

The suspect appears to have broadcast the crash on Facebook Live.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care vote, Charges in Laquan McDonald shooting, U.S. image

The important stories to get you caught up for Wednesday.

Venezuela's Supreme Court targeted in helicopter attack amid ongoing crisis

The apparent helicopter attack is the latest escalation of an ongoing political crisis.