Yesterday, my 12-year old son Ethan explained to me his theory about why so many teenage boys are obsessed with the combat video game Halo. Ethan isn’t allowed to play Halo (or, if I have any say in the matter, even be in the same room while someone else is playing Halo; I think the popularity of the game is a sign of all that is wrong with our society and I’m sickened by the fact that in the first ten weeks after the release of Halo 2, players spent 91 million combined hours playing the game online, but don’t get me started on that rant…).
Anyway, Ethan, the properly brainwashed child that he is, tells me he doesn’t really want to play Halo because it is too violent. The problem is that many of his friends in Junior High think or talk of little else and Ethan sometimes feels a bit “out of it.” Frankly I wish I could shake some sense into those kids and get them to pick up some less dangerous hobbies (playing with matches anyone?) but I’m afraid it’s a lost cause.
So, here’s Ethan’s theory (much paraphrased and simplified; his analysis was far more complex than mine, I promise):
The reason why young boys are attracted to violent combat games is because we have evolved as a species for the hunt. If we still lived out in the wild, boys Ethan’s age would be learning to throw spears or shoot guns. They still have this natural instinct even though our meat now comes wrapped in plastic at the grocery store or rolled in a tortilla at Taco Bell. Halo and similar games give boys a chance to act out in a virtual world their historical roles as young hunters.
I admit he makes an intriguing argument but I still don’t want to believe that there’s anything “natural” about these games or the impact they are having on our culture. If this is a vestige of a human behavior once necessary for survival, I’d like to hope we’ve gotten past it by now. What do you think?
Velazquez, Prince Baltasar Carlos as a hunter vs. Halo Fighter