Some of my parent friends were concerned with pictures of guys like this waiting for the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
I guess they don't concern me as much as the fact that it's all my son wants for Christmas. I can't even tell you - well no, if you're a mom you probably do understand - how much it repels me.
My sister loves to tease me for how against "war toys" I was as a new mom, and how I swore we'd never have them in my house, and now my house, yard, garage and basement are literally teeming with swords and Nerf guns.
I gave in, but I gave in because I realized they would make swords and guns out of anything. They're boys, this is what they play, just embrace it because otherwise you'll spend all your time fighting it. And sometimes I even join in the fights and guess what - it's fun.
But this feels different. This feels like putting simulated death in their hands. Oh and guess what? You get extra points for shooting someone in the head!
So I did what I always do - asked my friends, and started researching. (God I'm a geek. And not in a good gamer-geek way.)
My best friend's son has the first Black Ops and she sees no problem with it. She absolutely laughed at me when I said I'd rather buy him an Airsoft BB gun than Black Ops. She and my husband both said, "You want to buy him a REAL gun?" My answer was that at least he'd go outside to play.
And she said to me, "Do you think my son is more violent now that he plays that game?"
Of course not, that's the farthest thing from the truth. He's wonderful and I love him like my own. But I still worry that this kind of play just kills a little part of your soul. And it's all some government conspiracy to train our young for war. (She laughed at me again but at the same time tried to show genuine concern about my ridiculous anxieties.)
But I got the best information from one of my old standbys, a book that I turn to often when I can't understand what the hell my male children are thinking.
It only took me one page to remember why I love this book. It told the story of a 5th-grade boy who'd heard about Columbine and become obsessed with violent movies, much to his parents' dismay:
"Andrew had been oversensitized to violence and danger. Exposing himself to video violence until he 'got used to it' helped him to ease his sensitivity down to a more realistic level. When he 'made it real,' he was taking away some of the power it held over his imagination."
Sort of exactly like my 5th-grade boy who just learned how close his Auntie was to falling buildings on 9/11, and subsequently has been afraid to let any family member out of his sight. And is obsessed with Black Ops.
All these thoughts were churning through my head as I watched "Skyfall" last night. I loved the explosions, the fistfights, the danger, and the best part of all - watching Bond kill the bad guy and hearing his witty one-liner as he hit the ground.
I had to admit that there's a part of me that enjoys this kind of stuff. I saw "The Bourne Ultimatum" five times in the theater. My kids are no different, and they view violent games without the filter of an adult who knows the true meaning of war. It's cowboys and indians to them. Meaningless games.
I've come to terms with it. There are acceptable ways to indulge this need for destruction and still be a peacenik. I care for small children for God's sake - I have to be a zen master.
So. It's still not decided. But I won't be totally shocked to see that damn XBOX under my Christmas tree.