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The moral cost of video games

Violence is bad enough. But here's the worst part.

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In the controversial new video game "Manhunt 2," you're required to sneak up behind innocent victims, hit them over the head with a garden spade and then use that same weapon to decapitate, them. The whole thing is pretty graphic, because the game has, well, pretty graphics. As blood gushes, you're supposed to feel satisfied that you're ready for the next challenge.

To some, this scenario captures everything wrong about video games. "They're too violent," detractors say. "And they glamorize violence. Children might be tempted to copy them." While this is an understandable concern, it misses more obvious problems with many video games today: primarily, an utter lack of moral consequence.

Countless studies have tested the alleged links between virtual violence and its real counterpart. Conclusions vary, but I certainly don't need a panel of academics to explain to me that the teen across the street isn't going to attack me with a garden spade.

Still, if you're a parent, the sheer intensity of violence in many games today ought to be a valid concern. You wouldn't let your children view online pornography, so why let them decapitate people in a video game?

Yet many parents buy their children games rated inappropriate for anyone under 17. Why? Perhaps it's a hangover attitude from the "Pac-Man" past, when all video games were presumed to be harmless fun. Or maybe they just want their kids to think they're cool. Whatever the reason, there's clearly a disconnect between the level of parental angst and parental tolerance.

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