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Subject: Poll: Wargames and kids - ethical? rss

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Mads Fløe
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Introduction (can be skipped if necessary)

EDIT: As a couple of people have misunderstood my intentions, I want to make it clear that I don't have anything against parents playing wargames with their children.

A few days ago I was reading the post My nine-year old daughter wants to play a wargame!! Ideas?

To which I gave the reply:

Quote:
Hmm.. If it was my daughter I'd tell her no, and find something less "adult" to play in stead.

Quote:
Quote:
"One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed"


This sparked a debate with a fellow geek who initially was unsure of what I meant by that. I gave my "answer" in form of my personal opinion on the subject of wargames and children.

As I was talking to my girlfriend about it, she told me to never (unless you want to discuss forever to eventually agree to disagree) engage in debate on:

1) Religion
2) Politics
3) How people raise their children

(I want to stress that I have no intention of telling anyone how to raise their kids, but to raise awareness on this subject to a point where people can make up their own minds. It's all out of love )

So in stead of discussing one on one eventually to agree to disagree, I turn to you in help of investigating and debating this gray area there seems to be on the subject.

Thank you for your interest.


The post

I would advise caution towards introducing wargames to kids. War is a very adult thing. It's the worst case scenario conflict humans are known to engage in.

Quote:
War is an organized, armed, and, often, a prolonged conflict that is carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality.[1][2] War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence


Quote:
"War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."


Quote:
Another argument suggests that since there are human societies in which warfare does not exist, humans may not be naturally disposed for warfare


Source: Wikipedia on War

Like all other games, wargames, for the gaming part, are good for children's development. This includes:

- number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting
- letter recognition and reading
- visual perception and color recognition
- eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
- communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others.
- life skills: your luck can change in an instant — for the better or for the worse
- not giving up

Source: scholastic.com

This is by all means not a problem.

This, however, might be:

Many (most?) wargames are based on true events.
War is about murder and killing (during World War II, an estimated 60–72 million people were murdered). It's about fighting and destruction. It's a last resort.

This arouse some ethical questions:

Is it okay to "toy" around with the murder of people? As in recreating non-fictional historical events of the murder of people for family fun-time with the kids?

Keeping in mind that "humans may not be naturally disposed for warfare", do we "dispose" war in our kids (make it natural, alright, good, necessary evil or however you want to define it) when we mix war and games with play? Or in a different format: Do we unintentionally make our kids trust in warfare as something natural, when we introduce them to wargames?

"Monkey see, monkey do". Like monkeys, kids copy everything in their environments. If daddy is a fireman, and daddy is the one they look up to, then fireman is likely what they want to be - regardless of what it means to be a fireman. This is probably why kids show interest in wargames in he first place. With so many fictional, creative, peaceful, fun, playful, healthy, educational, heartwarming etc. themed games, is wargames really the best (first) choice for your kids?


Vote & discuss!

Poll
It's okay for children to play non-fictional wargames
It's okay
It's not okay
Can't decide
      206 answers
Poll created by madster321


Appendix:

Am I opposed to wargames in general or just with children?

Neither. I'm opposed to war. And I think war, in what ever disguise or form, even educational, is not to be taught or mixed with kids. Well, I guess the exception would be a game with war and conflict, that showed how bad it was, and that there were better alternatives like getting along, maturely discuss problems and differences, tolerance etc. But that would probably not even classify as a wargame.
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Scott Hill
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Does it matter whether the 'war' is 'fictional' or 'non-fictional'?
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jumbit
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Sounds like you answered your own question before even writing your post.
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Does it matter whether the 'war' is 'fictional' or 'non-fictional'?


The difference:

Fictional 'War' can be based on conflict that doesn't necessarily involve killing. And even if it does, it's fictional.

Non-fictional War is based on real life killings.

Playing/gaming is obviously always fictional (nobody is getting killed), but weather they are based on true events or not makes a difference in what they teach.
 
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jumbit wrote:
Sounds like you answered your own question before even writing your post.


Please elaborate. I'm not looking to win a discussion here, I want to understand what you think - I'm not going to learn anything by simply stating my thoughts and defending them. I want to know what you think (about what I think).
 
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Josh Bodah
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If you can learn about it in school, you can learn about it in a game. That's my take on it at least. While I wish it weren't, war is a very real thing. I don't play many wargames (I prefer political abstractions like Twilight Struggle), but I do find the historical context interesting because they are based on real struggles where people had to make real decisions. That said, it would probably be more educational to learn more about what caused the war. Just my two cents, I think your reasoning and opinions are just as valid though.
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hiimjosh wrote:
If you can learn about it in school, you can learn about it in a game. That's my take on it at least.

Thanks for sharing This raises a whole new bunch of questions though..

At least where I'm from, kids are not taught history until they are about 14 years old. And still, when teaching about war I don't think recreation of war is something that is practiced in schools (I can't say for sure as I'm not a teacher).

When teaching that war is bad, it's just a little odd to say afterwards "now move your battalion to the right flank and wipe out that squad with machine guns" - or whatever conversation might take place in a wargame.

I hope you can see the difference.

Edit: You ninja edited while I was replying

Quote:
That said, it would probably be more educational to learn more about what caused the war
Well said. - i think this is step one on any kind of conflict solving; Understanding how and where things got wrong, so that you can learn to do something different to resolve it.
 
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Smart parenting means knowing your children. It also means not hiding the ugly truths of humanity from them. Of course every child handles different levels of detail at different ages.

War can be summed up as 'People got very mad at each other, and they did hateful things to each other' to 'Lets watch The World At War and talk about what we've watched after each episode'.

War is horrible, but sometimes necessary.

And aside from all that, what is the daughter's motivation? Does she actually give two figs about a *war* game? Or does she want to try a *conflict* game? Pushing cubes and cylinders around pretending to be some middle-manager in a faraway pseudo-European land is a fantastic way to spend an evening, sure! But what if she prefers making her bugs eat up daddy's dinosaurs in Dominant Species instead? She won't know until she tries. What if she just wants daddy time, and it seems like daddy is always so excited and happy when he's talking about those 'war games' with his friends and they squirrel away in the den for hours a time. She may end up being positively mortified at a the idea of her stack of cardboard blowing up daddy's stack of cardboard. Again, she won't know until she tries.

Given she had the curiosity and felt the security required to ask, and her parents have the sense to go ask around for advice from others, it sounds like no matter WHAT she ends up playing she is a pretty sharp and inquisitive kid with parents who are engaged in her life. With that taken into consideration, if she ends up enjoying having her cardboard SS shoot up daddy's cardboard GIs, I for one think she will still turn out OK.
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Karan R
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Replace 'war' with 'pillowfight', nothing changed in the game other than not having to use the word
"My Panzer fires 3 pillows at your Sherman and buries it"

On topic: Kids have probably watched more violence on TV than you think
Games can be used as a teaching medium to teach about cause an effect of war over letting them watch it mindlessly from media outlets
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Jason Doyle
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My six year old daughter has recently been learning about remembrance day at school, and has been telling me all about why we remember soldiers that died in wars. She also has no problem with the concept of characters/people dying in games, she understands it is just a game, I don't think I'd have a problem with wargames, beyond them being to complex for her.

It's an interesting topic for discussion, though I tend to think children being quite adept at differentiating "game space" from reality.
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madster321 wrote:
Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Does it matter whether the 'war' is 'fictional' or 'non-fictional'?


The difference:

Fictional 'War' can be based on conflict that doesn't necessarily involve killing. And even if it does, it's fictional.

Non-fictional War is based on real life killings.

Playing/gaming is obviously always fictional (nobody is getting killed), but weather they are based on true events or not makes a difference in what they teach.


I think the core fallacy in your OP is this:

Quote:
Keeping in mind that "humans may not be naturally disposed for warfare", do we "dispose" war in our kids (make it natural, alright, good, necessary evil or however you want to define it) when we mix war and games with play? Or in a different format: Do we unintentionally make our kids trust in warfare as something natural, when we introduce them to wargames?


Humans are naturally disposed to war. We all compete, balancing risk against reward, and war is the ultimate competition with the ultimate risk and the ultimate reward. It is human nature and as much as I would like to see us move beyond it, that does not remove the truth of the matter.

Now, I asked my question about fictional and non-fictional war because I expected your response to be, roughly, what it was, however I think you having it the wrong way round.

Playing games about real war allows us to explore the reality of those acts in a safe manner and a safe environment. And it teaches us far more about the true nature of war than any film, book, lesson, lecture, or fictional game.

Of course, in playing such games one should be careful not to trivialise the matter, the decisions, or the consequences, which is all to easy to do when the situation is entirely fictional.
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Mads Fløe
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Quote:
Smart parenting means knowing your children. It also means not hiding the ugly truths of humanity from them. Of course every child handles different levels of detail at different ages.


You raise some very good and interesting points.

I feel that you might have misunderstood me a little though..

I don't think (even for a second) that no matter how many wargames a kid plays, that they will turn out to be evil warlords. Thats not my point at all.

My point is, that from all the games in the world, isn't war the least ethical theme for a children's game?

I agree on your point that kids are eventually going to learn about the bad things in life - I want my kids to eat worms and stuff like that. I don't want to over-protect them.

My questions are about how ethical it is to teach wargames to kids. The kids will probably, like you say, enjoy it, especially if they get to play with their parents. And the kid will of course not know what war _really_ is, and think of it as a game.

But is it ethical to turn war and murder into a child's game? Thats the question.

And like I said, I don't think the child will get "damaged" by playing wargames - the only concern would be that war, when turned into a game, can maybe have the child thinking that war is a natural human behavior - a necessary evil if you will.
 
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I think not telling children about war in the hopes that they won't become warlike is pretty analogous to not telling them about sex in hopes that they won't become sexually active - and there is no shortage of data that shows that abstinence education is very ineffective.
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madster321 wrote:
I'm opposed to war. And I think war, in what ever disguise or form, even educational, is not to be taught or mixed with kids.


You have formed an opinion about war, based on what you have learned about it. You now propose to censor information about war so that children will be less aware of what war is, and less likely to learn about war.

We live in a world where there are communities that raise children to believe that being a suicide bomb is the ultimate "good" you can accomplish with your life, and you choose to make your big moral stand about a guy who wants to play boardgames with his daughter. Get real.
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Quote:
And like I said, I don't think the child will get "damaged" by playing wargames - the only concern would be that war, when turned into a game, can maybe have the child thinking that war is a natural human behavior...


Wait. War is a natural human behavior. Any number of studies of morality in children have shown that children naturally separate other people into "my tribe" and "other" using the most superficial of standards (e.g. "this stuffed animal likes the same food I do" in one particularly surprising study) and they not only prefer their "own" people, but they also prefer people who do harm to the "other". Millions of years of selection for successful tribal society has created this.

As rational self-aware beings, we can fight against this, but only if we accept and realize that these instincts exist. Children "know" about war, in the abstract (me and my people need to take things from the "others") instinctually (just as kids will figure out sex if left to their own devices). Attempting to combat this by hiding the facts is folly in my opinion.

RSPed in 3..2..1...
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Well,
Quote:
where I'm from, kids are not taught history
- unfortunately.

A kid who plays historical conflict simulations (wargames) with their parents is probably going to learn a whole lot about history, politics, human nature, and other social subjects, as well as things like math and geography. They are probably going to learn about cause and effect relationships. With luck these games will spark an interest into learning more, and they will study history - including the history of war.

And this is good - because those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.
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When I saw the post my thought was that the daughter probably wants to play some of the games that Dad plays. He talks about war games and she has all kinds of good daughter reasons to want to play with them, too. I thought it was great that Dad was trying to find an appropriate game for his daughter rather than just telling her to wait until she was older. This, I think, is a good thing and qualifies as "good parenting."
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joedogboy wrote:


Quote:
where I'm from, kids are not taught history


A kid who plays historical conflict simulations (wargames) with their parents is probably going to learn a whole lot about history, politics, human nature, and other social subjects, as well as things like math and geography. They are probably going to learn about cause and effect relationships. With luck these games will spark an interest into learning more, and they will study history - including the history of war.

And this is good - because those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.


OK, that's a pretty unfair quote since he said until age 14. I think your point still stands, but selective quoting isn't really helping your argument.
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Quote:
I think not telling children about war in the hopes that they won't become warlike is pretty analogous to not telling them about sex in hopes that they won't become sexually active - and there is no shortage of data that shows that abstinence education is very ineffective.

I completely agree with you. I'm not against education, of course not, but I do think war is a bit too heavy a subject for kids, and I don't think (so far at least - but I'm open to be convinced otherwise) that wargames are educational in an ethical manner - especially considering the alternatives.

joedogboy wrote:
madster321 wrote:
I'm opposed to war. And I think war, in what ever disguise or form, even educational, is not to be taught or mixed with kids.


You have formed an opinion about war, based on what you have learned about it. You now propose to censor information about war so that children will be less aware of what war is, and less likely to learn about war.

We live in a world where there are communities that raise children to believe that being a suicide bomb is the ultimate "good" you can accomplish with your life, and you choose to make your big moral stand about a guy who wants to play boardgames with his daughter. Get real.


I don't propose to censorship - come on man. Why do you put words in my mouth like that? Keep it real.

I'm not making any stand here. You completely misunderstand. I'm not judging anyone. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm sorry if you understood it in that way.

I'm openly interested in your opinions. And I respect yours

I'm asking if it is ethical to teach about war in games for children. All kids/people will learn about war in due time, but considering the inhumanity of war, is it maybe better to consider something else to play with the kids, and save the education on war for when they are older?

This:
Quote:
Is it okay to "toy" around with the murder of people? As in recreating non-fictional historical events of the murder of people for family fun-time with the kids?
Is especially what I find distasteful.

Again - not pointing fingers, not trying to make anyone look bad on my behalf. It's all out of love.
 
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You don't do kids any favours by wrapping them up in cotton wool and protecting them from the nastiness of the world in which they live.

Whether playing war games with your child is ethical or not comes down entirely to how you approach the matter - trivialise it and it is unethical, use it to teach the child about the very real horrors of war and it is not.
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joedogboy wrote:


Quote:
where I'm from, kids are not taught history


A kid who plays historical conflict simulations (wargames) with their parents is probably going to learn a whole lot about history, politics, human nature, and other social subjects, as well as things like math and geography. They are probably going to learn about cause and effect relationships. With luck these games will spark an interest into learning more, and they will study history - including the history of war.

And this is good - because those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.


You missed the part of my quote that said "kids are not taught history until they are about 14 years old"

Besides that, I think you have an excellent point in your last sentence.


Quote:
When I saw the post my thought was that the daughter probably wants to play some of the games that Dad plays. He talks about war games and she has all kinds of good daughter reasons to want to play with them, too. I thought it was great that Dad was trying to find an appropriate game for his daughter rather than just telling her to wait until she was older. This, I think, is a good thing and qualifies as "good parenting."

Agreed. I'm surprised to find that people think I'm trying to point fingers at the guy. Where are your trust in humanity people? Of course the guy was being a good parent by first of all listening to his kid, secondly to ask advice, and thirdly for taking the time to sit down and play a game with his daughter. The choice of game is however what I felt was discusable - hence the discussion.
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cferejohn wrote:
Quote:
And like I said, I don't think the child will get "damaged" by playing wargames - the only concern would be that war, when turned into a game, can maybe have the child thinking that war is a natural human behavior...


Wait. War is a natural human behavior. Any number of studies of morality in children have shown that children naturally separate other people into "my tribe" and "other" using the most superficial of standards (e.g. "this stuffed animal likes the same food I do" in one particularly surprising study) and they not only prefer their "own" people, but they also prefer people who do harm to the "other". Millions of years of selection for successful tribal society has created this.

As rational self-aware beings, we can fight against this, but only if we accept and realize that these instincts exist. Children "know" about war, in the abstract (me and my people need to take things from the "others") instinctually (just as kids will figure out sex if left to their own devices). Attempting to combat this by hiding the facts is folly in my opinion.

RSPed in 3..2..1...


Excellent points. Thank you for sharing them.

I don't agree that war and warfare is a natural human behavior - but I might be wrong. Maybe I just don't want it to be that way? I think I'm more likely to believe that we are what we want to be. I'll try and look into it and come back with a response.
 
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madster321 wrote:
Scorpion0x17 wrote:
Does it matter whether the 'war' is 'fictional' or 'non-fictional'?


The difference:

Fictional 'War' can be based on conflict that doesn't necessarily involve killing. And even if it does, it's fictional.

That makes no sense to me. It sounds like you're saying that (e.g.) you'd consider a wargame about a hypothetical battle which didn't happen (e.g. Operation Sea Lion, the proposed Nazi invasion of England, or a hypothetical game about the Cold War becoming a more direct war, e.g. nuclear confrontation between US & USSR) to be fine for kids, but not a wargame about a battle which did historically happen. Yet I can't imagine you really mean that, do you?

What about a wargame based on Lord of the Rings, or a spaceship combat game? They also represent killing, yet are fictional. From what you wrote in this comment, it sounds like you'd think they are ok for kids, but from what you wrote in the OP with your "Monkey see, monkey do" argument, it sounds like you'd think they are not ok for kids.

So can you clarify what you think about fictitious wargames which nonetheless representing killing?
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Scorpion0x17 wrote:
You don't do kids any favours by wrapping them up in cotton wool and protecting them from the nastiness of the world in which they live.

Whether playing war games with your child is ethical or not comes down entirely to how you approach the matter - trivialise it and it is unethical, use it to teach the child about the very real horrors of war and it is not.


I'm not in favor of wrapping kids up and over-protecting them. Like I said earlier, I want my kids to eat worms and do what kids do.

Let kids be kids. but if you want to play a wargame with your kid, you would ethically also have to explain to them the real horrors of war?

I don't think I would want my kids to spend time thinking about those things. When they get older, yes. But when and where is what I guess defines the good parenting. Again. I'm not pointing fingers.

I think it's hard to teach a serious thing such as war in a playful thing such as a game. I think what attracts us to me mix of games and war is the suspension, the drama, the good story.
 
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Reminds me of an episode of Family Guy

Quote:
German Tour Guide: Besides its beautiful, historic architecture, Munich was the home of many great writers, such as Thomas Mann. You will find more on Germany's contribution to art in the pamphlets we've provided.
Brian: Yeah, about your pamphlet... I'm not seeing anything about German history between 1939 and 1945. There's just a big gap.
Tour Guide: Everyone was on vacation! On your left is Munich's first city hall, erected in 15...
Brian: Wait, wait. What are you talking about? Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and...
Tour Guide: (screaming frantically) We were invited! Punch was served! Check with Poland!
Brian: You can't just ignore those years. Thomas Mann fled to America because of Nazism's stranglehold on Germany.
Tour Guide: No, no, he left to manage a Dairy Queen.
Brian: A Dairy Queen? That's preposterous.
Tour Guide: I WILL HEAR NO MORE INSINUATIONS ABOUT THE GERMAN PEOPLE!! NOTHING BAD HAPPENED!! (begins shouting in German)- SIE WERDEN SICH HINSETZEN, SIE WERDEN RUHIG SEIN, (raises his hand in Nazi salute) SIE WERDEN NICHT BELEIDIGEN DEUTSCHLAND!!!
(eveyone looks at him terrified)
Brian: (hesitantly) Uh, is that a beer hall?
Tour Guide: (cheerfully) Oh, yes! Munich is renowned for its historic beer halls.

http://www.tvfanatic.com/


So is war terrible? Yes. Should we pretend it doesn't exist because some of us are fortunate enough to not live in warzones? No.

As a disclaimer, I am a pacifist, I love wargames, my family has a long tradition of military service, and I am not a mass murderer or warmonger in spite of growing up playing on army bases and tanks.
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