Halloween, and trick or treat did not exist in my home country when I was a kid. It
was imported a generation later along with with the Mickey Mouse Club, McDonald's hamburgers,
Bart Simpson and so on, so my kids and their friends tried
I have a theory that trick or treat was invented by the
Mafia, to train its youngsters in the art of extortion. When my kids' friends knocked on the door,
the little bags of sweets I handed out had a slip of paper
in them, with the definition of « extortion » written on it:
EXTORTION (n): Obtaining property from another by wrongful use of actual or
threatened force, violence, or fear.
Of course, a seven year old kiddie, dressed as a witch by
her mum is just playing with symbols and having fun, not
practicing extortion. And her teenage brother who role plays
as a pimp, thief or gangster in a computer game is doing the
same thing, playing for fun. And adults who go to the cinema to watch movies
of people being shot, blown up and hacked to death are just
there for the entertainment.
I wonder how many people who went to the Century Movie
Theatre Aurora Colorado to watch The Dark Knight Rises when
James Holmes burst in and started shooting and killing
people for real, still have a taste for violent movies.
Maybe we should be asking what effect does entertainment and
amusement based on horror, violence and death have on our
collective psychological health. If we fantasize havoc, death and destruction, will we not accept it more easily, at least until the fantasy turns to reality?
A neighbour, noticing that an elderly resident of our block
of flats was taking in the wrong garbage bin, asked her
eleven year old to tell the elderly person. The kid jumped
in front, legs apart and two hands stretched out in front
holding an imaginary pistol and said « Drop it skuzbag or
I'll smoke ya »! We all laughed at the time, but the kid,
now an adult, was recently charged as an accessory to armed robbery.
Violence, horror and death are a part of life: there are
tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes and so on.
But there are heros like firemen, medical attendants and
technicians and engineers who struggle to save lives. Can we role play these heros, rather than the gangsters
and extortionists, who create violence?
What if the US$137 million and 250 enormously talented
people used in creating the latest car theft game were used to create a game that asked the role-players to find solutions that would
save lives in emergencies, calculate loads on broken bridges to stop them from falling, find ways of evacuating
threatened people, prevent electrocutions, get blood
supplies through traffic to disaster emergency posts...
Maybe such games already exist, I confess that I know very little about gaming, I just brushed by it recently because I needed a high-performing computer to run CUDA parallel processing programs on the GPU, and it's mainly gamers who use such powerful machines.