Californians tired of the recent heat wave will have a whole new way of cooling themselves down this October. A new ingenious initiative has just been announced, allowing Marin County citizens to trade in their violent video games and toy guns for ice cream. The timing could not be more perfect, and the sweet initiative hopes to bring awareness and educate parents about what kind of games their children might be playing. It is not clear yet, however, what ice cream flavors will be available.
Gamers looking for a cold and sweet treat will be able to come to Novato police headquarters on Oct. 4 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to exchange their games or toy guns for a delicious cone of Ben & Jerry’s. Additional dates and locations are also open, including Ben & Jerry’s at Bon Air Shopping Center in Greenbrae on Oct. 11, Town Center Mall in Corte Madera on Oct. 18, and finally Sausalito police headquarters on Oct. 25.
The psychological effects of video games have only begun being studied. While many scientists agree that the mental exercises provided by the puzzle-solving and strategizing can have a lot of beneficial effects, many also questioned the violence and gore often portrayed in popular blockbusters. From Halo to Grand Theft Auto, the goal of many big triple-A titles often involves extreme violence and killing of others, sometimes innocent civilians. The increasing graphical prowess allows to depict these actions in an even more realistic and believable fashion, while engaging the player in the gruesome activity directly. Many parents and officials worry these images could leave a lasting negative impression on the young and still-developing minds of children.
While the ESRB ratings have been put into place precisely to limit access of violent games to minors, it is no secret many eager younger children find ways to play them regardless. Parent ignorance in the checkout aisles or online piracy that circumvents sale ratings are just two of many ways youngsters can get the games they should not be playing. So while it is hard to keep the violent games from the hands of kids, District Attorney Ed Berberian figured it might be easier to take them away. Hence, the idea for a Californian program to trade violent video games for ice cream was born.
Of course, the dates chosen for the program have more significance than just the recent unbearable heat wave. October is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month after all, and Berberian argues that children who are exposed to frequent images of gore, as present in many video games, keep those experiences with them for the rest of their lives and often repeat the patterns in their adult life. He has partnered with the Center for Domestic Peace and Ben & Jerry’s to bring the plan to fruition.
This is not the first such initiative presented by Berberian, however. Two years ago, he ran a firearm buy-back program which allowed the citizens to trade in their guns for actual cash. With 857 trade-ins, the program was so successful that the county actually ran out of money and had to give out free vouchers to be redeemed later. Hopefully, this year’s initiative will be better stocked with huge vats of icy and creamy goodness.
It is difficult to predict how many hardcore gamers in California would be interested in trading their favorite violent games for mere ice cream. However, given that toy guns are also accepted and ice cream is the reward, the program is clearly aimed at children and parents. High number of trade-ins are not the real goal here. Marla Hedlund from the Center for Domestic Peace explained the main purpose is raising awareness and engaging the community in a dialogue. Given it is ultimately the parents who allow their kids to play the violent games (or at least fail to prevent them from doing so), the initiative is a good way to bring some light to the issue.
By Jakub Kasztalski