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Subject: Kids and wargames - reality, morality and "Awesome" flamethrowers? rss

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Dan Edwards
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I don't post a lot of images. I recently posted this one.



I was surprised by the reaction it got. The pleasant surprise was that a lot of people (judging by the thumb count) liked it.

The second was that at least some people found it a disturbing image of a child being exposed to glorified violence. The comments for the image became sort of a mini RSP forum on the morality of wargaming.

Here, in the confines of Grogdom, I'm asking how you deal with this issue if you get to game with kids.

I recently sat the boy in the image down and showed him the basics of Up Front. While looking through the personality cards, he spotted the flamethrower. He immediately announced that he wanted his side to have one, because it was "awesome!"

What would you say to that?






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William Barnett-Lewis
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Let it be awesome for now (actually if you look up the real definition, it's appropriate, but I digress). At this point a game is just a game. I certainly had no real understanding of what was implied about the stand of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top when my cousin taught me to play Gettysburg. It was simply a fun game for us to play.

There is more than enough time for him to learn the grimmer aspects of life later on.

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I simply don't think that wargaming entails a glorification of war, at all.

What would I say to that? I'd say "okay" and give it to him. Look, I grew up playing wargames, was introduced to them by my dad and I remember playing them at a very young age. And I'm very, very anti-war.
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Keith Mageau
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I have no problem with teaching my 7 year old son to play wargames. Matter of fact he is very good at Memoir '44 and Commands & Colors: Ancients. The violence that some see is not there. There is no blood or gore. Just my unit eliminates you unit type play. Which is no different than a game like Sorry! or Sleeping Queens.

People will see whatever they want to see and always find a reason to dislike it.
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suPUR DUEper
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As much as possible, I try not to tell my kids anything. But I do ask them a lot of questions, like:

Why do you think it is awesome?
Why do you think they designed it that way?
What do you think it would feel like to get hit with a weapon like that?
How would you feel if someone you knew got burned?
Do you think people that use a weapon like that enjoy using it?
How do you think it feels to hurt someone like that?
War is pretty nasty business, eh?

Questions phrased neutrally are very effective thought transmission devices. Parenting is often about teaching. Teaching about good stuff and bad....
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Alex
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Flamethrowers are awesome. They inspire awe. Also they shoot fucking fire all over the place, which is awesome in the sense of totally sweet.

They're also a tool of war, and therefore one of the most reprehensible objects on Earth.

It's a complicated issue. I say let 'em be awesome, just as long as the kid understands that killing isn't.
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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I would say I was given a heavy dose of "glorify war" as a child but as I grew older and learned about how awful war really is I learned when things are "awesome" and when they are not. For example flamethrowers really are awesome in every sense of the word, while the thought of someone being burned with a flamethrower is enough to keep me up at night wondering how cruel humans can be.

I guess the way it worked for me is that initial excitement inspired me to learn more about these things, and more learning really put that initial excitement into perspective. I still think hoplite warfare is really cool and am absolutely fascinated by it (which is why I just borrowed three books from the library on it), but if I stop and actually think about the clash of arms and the barbarity of it all I can say to myself "no that's really not how people should behave." And the more one learns about it the easier that conclusion is.

edit: the previous poster summed it up perfectly in 1/3 the words
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Paul DeStefano
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My opinion has been expressed many times. I don't play reality based wargames at all because I find the thought disturbing.

Others may do as they will.
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Xander Fulton
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BagpipeDan wrote:
I still think hoplite warfare is really cool and am absolutely fascinated by it (which is why I just borrowed three books from the library on it), but if I stop and actually think about the clash of arms and the barbarity of it all I can say to myself "no that's really not how people should behave." And the more one learns about it the easier that conclusion is.


This is a good point. As an example of this contrast - I totally dug into military history growing up. Without my parent's knowledge, as they were die-hard hippie pacifists.

The net result is that I now find things offensive that they don't, because they don't understand the actual details. This is closely tied with your comment above (and why it came to mind). My parents preach about the barbarity of the 20th century, how 'war changed' at WW1, and became vastly more brutal and uncivilized.

Now, while it's true that there is nothing pleasant about mustard gas, tanks, and bombers...arguing with someone about the 'civility' of being hacked to death with a short sword or trampled by a horse at close range vs being evaporated by an artillery blast... The lack of real understanding clouds discussion completely. (Similarly, they approve to a shocking degree with modern 'energy weapons', since their familiarity with them is more closely related to what they saw in 'Star Trek'.)

So to the OP - sure, it's fine to find them "awesome" now. That's great, if it increases his interest in history. That, balanced with teaching an important respect for all life, and humanity in particular, can lead to an adult with a much more responsible (and informed!) opinion of the related topics.
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I say "They are an awesome way to displace a fortified position but they definitely have their limitations. They are heavy and prone to explosion if the tank is struck by a round. They also don't have a very long range and tend to run out of fuel fairly quickly. Setting someone one fire is a pretty painful way to kill them and you would probably want a buddy with a rifle to put them out of their misery if given the opportunity."

Then again, I think that wars should be ugly and violent. The more ugly and grotesque war is, the more pause it will give people before they commit troops to kill each other.


Ben
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Mark Buetow
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The fact that someone thinks a father spending quality time with his kid is wrong in some way is one of the reasons so many boys are growing up to be something other than men.
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Stephen Stewart
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Geosphere wrote:
My opinion has been expressed many times. I don't play reality based wargames at all because I find the thought disturbing.

Others may do as they will.


Looking at your Game Collection, I can only see this quote as extreme sarcasm.

The Reality of WAR IS disturbing and very well should be if you are a human who values any form of life.

However, conflict is REAL and ignoring the many manifestations fosters an ill-prepared mind.

I happen to LOVE the picture, the child looks like he is having a blast. I usually don't go into the philosophy of war with my kids. I simply state that war is hell and is real. The GAME we are playing is meant to be a mental exercise on how to achieve victory at minimal losses (most of the time) and that sacrifices are necessary.

AND most importantly, I urge my children if they want to involve themselves in the armed forces, become the leaders and not the grunts. Of course, doing your homework and getting good grades start to come out here...something they can really relate to.... Good grades mean becoming the Commander! (In reality, not really, but it helps them to focus on achievement)
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J.L. Robert
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People who believe wargames glorify war simply haven't played wargames.

I grew up with Star Wars, Midway with Charlton Heston, Excalibur, "Combat" and "Missile Command" on the Atari VCS, "Tank Battle" and "Sub Hunt" on the Mattel Intellivision, re-runs of "Combat!" and "The Rat Patrol", and first run episodes of "Ba Ba Black Sheep" on television. I got to play games like Tank Battle, Chopper Strike, Carrier Strike!, Stratego, and Battlestar Galactica, as well as Chess, all before the age of 10.

I loved all of them...and still came out well-grounded, sensible and understanding of the true cost of warfare in reality, and that real lives are risked when real bullets are flying.

Replace bullets another expendible resource type, like food. Change a map of Europe into a 13th Century farm, or a castle. Convert enemy units into your opponent's workers, vying for the same resources you want. Wargames are simply a different medium of strategy game.
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Jason Sadler
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Playing with flamethrowers in a game will not teach your kid that it is ok to burn and suffocate people to death in the real world.

Combat is awesome. Boxing and wrestling and Jiu Jitsu are awesome. There is a drive in man to dominate others and to attain a capability to harm others.

Ethical development and understanding the nature of the human animal are not mutually exclusive.

Learning the value of the opposite of desires is what stops us from giving in to them. Peace is better than war. Prosperity and freedom are better than war. Human lives are better than war, no matter how awesome it may be.

He will learn that from his father, even while they are playing games with awesome flamethrowers. Learning the value of love and how much you need the people around you is what diminishes the lust for war. When he realizes how much it meant to have a dad to play with he won't want anybody's dad to get burned with a flamethrower no matter how awesome. By extension, he will learn that nobody wants those things and does not deserve them. My own father taught me about war and games and awesome FT counters in ASL. He also taught me the value of companionship and reading history. He taught me how to be decent, kind, and forgiving wherever it is possible. I'm pretty sure that awesome flamethrowers won't be the main lesson a boy takes away from time spent with his father.

edit: Went from one sentence to a big long rambler in .6 seconds.


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Mick Weitz
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That it burns people alive. That it is a horrific weapon which causes terrible wounds. That you can barely scrape the fire off your body as it burns you to the bone. That it was often used as an effective bunker-clearing device. That it was invented by the German army during World War I. That I hope he never lives to see one used in action. That it is his turn.

Good Gaming~! Mick
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Archilochus wrote:
That it burns people alive. That it is a horrific weapon which causes terrible wounds. That you can barely scrape the fire off your body as it burns you to the bone. That it was often used as an effective bunker-clearing device. That it was invented by the German army during World War I. That I hope he never lives to see one used in action. That it is his turn.


See that, to me, seems extreme. There is an age when people are ready to hear that and an age where they're not. At 21 reading that made me ill, as it should, but I cannot imagine even having the capacity or experience to handle that at 6. Even if they heard you and got "it's bad" there is simply no framework to put "bad" into. That is a bad that is simply outside their realm of experience, and all you've done is met excitement with a reaction that could be misinterpreted as anger against them.*

Judging from the age of the child in the picture, but of course knowing actually nothing so this is only conjecture at best, maybe a comment encouraging his excitement but warning him about how this really is a bad thing and has been used to hurt people may be in order, but I guess all I can say is "it depends on the child."

*ie they feel bad for even showing that excitement, which can be bad if they don't understand exactly why it's bad. Again, very dependent on the child and the relationship
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J.L. Robert
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Archilochus wrote:
That it burns people alive. That it is a horrific weapon which causes terrible wounds. That you can barely scrape the fire off your body as it burns you to the bone. That it was often used as an effective bunker-clearing device. That it was invented by the German army during World War I. That I hope he never lives to see one used in action. That it is his turn.

Good Gaming~! Mick


And Guillotine is currently ranked 562. Much better. shake
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Hunga Dunga
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Bloodybucket wrote:

What would you say to that?

Tell him that if he decides to join the Army, he shouldn't accidently fire a flame thrower at a munitions dump.

Then sit down with him and watch A Bridge Too Far.


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しんぶん赤旗
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All I see in that picture is a kid have a good time with his father/family member. He is learning turn taking, developing thinking skills, and having fun. Nothing to worry about here.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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You bring up something that disturbs me and ties into my recent fascination with The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is the duality of man and other such things. War is cruel yet it will never go away. It is a necessary evil and in terms of history nothing shakes the world like war. I think there are just wars, and ways to reduce the cruelty. War is hell, but it truly becomes criminal when it is laced with racism and runaway expansionism. I admit I have a hard time playing the Nazis in any wargame; I hate them and everything they stood for and did.

Honestly there seems to be not just a human fascination with war but there is also a joy of battle just as there is real cowardice and terror in combat. It is like our fascination with horror films and gangster pictures. Death, destruction, it all seems natural and yet repulsive; it seems to be in our DNA. As a Taoist it seems only right, the forces of nurturing and destruction being within every person and society. Sorry to get poetic and psuedo-philosophical, but that is how it makes me feel. Or maybe that is just an excuse, a way of detaching myself from it?

I see war games as more academic, a way of understanding the situation and the commanders. With simpler games it is more about fun. If you play aganist someone then it is a test of will and skill. I've found several wargames that have greatly enhanced my understanding of particular wars and battles and I love trying out realistic alternate strategies. Wargames help me see how things could have gone differently. War is fascinating, and I think deeply on it, but I save the moralizing for fiction and the deeper questions for historical reading.
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Andy M
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Bloodybucket wrote:
The second was that at least some people found it a disturbing image of a child being exposed to glorified violence.


these people probably think that their child is an angel. that they don't ever swear when out of their parents earshot. that they are not playing grand theft auto on their friends consoles. that they will never have sex until they are married. these parents are deluded nuts.
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Nick Bah Doo
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Games are an abstraction or reality. Adults confusing pieces of plastic and carboard with the real thing should spend more time with their kids.
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Jooky
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He is your kid. Raise him how you want to. If you want to tell him that flamethrowers are bad, do so. If you don't want to burst his bubble about what is and isn't cool at this age, don't. He only has one chance at being an innocent child. Keep him a child as long as possible. You are far more capable of deciding what real truths he is able to handle at this point in his life than anyone of us out here in the peanut gallery.
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James Hamilton
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When I was a kid my parents would not let me have any war toys. This didn't stop me reading militaty history books or in any way stop me being interested in military history.

When I was 10 years old they finally relented and bought me the book "Battle" by Charles Grant for Christmas. 35 years later I am still an avid wargamer. I don't think it did me any harm.
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J
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ASLChampion wrote:


AND most importantly, I urge my children if they want to involve themselves in the armed forces, become the leaders and not the grunts. )


Officers get taken out first!
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