• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Swedish dad takes gamer kids to warzone
Carl-Magnus Helgegren took his two video-gaming sons to Israel. Photo: CM Helgegren

Swedish dad takes gamer kids to warzone

Solveig Rundquist · 8 Aug 2014, 17:25

Published: 08 Aug 2014 17:25 GMT+02:00

Meet Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a journalist, university teacher, and proactive dad.

And like so many other dads, Helgegren had to have the violent video-game conversation with his two sons, Frank and Leo, aged ten and 11 respectively.

"We were sitting at the dinner table last autumn, and my kids started telling me about this game they wanted to play, the latest Call of Duty game, and told me about the guns and missions," Helgegren told The Local on Friday. 
 
Helgegren, who spent some time in the Middle East as a freelance journalist when he was younger, was reminded of his own experiences with guns and missions - where he faced violent demonstrations and grenades to get a story.
 
"It was quite late in my life when I finally started to scratch the surface of what war really was," Helgegren said.
 
"I thought I had a pretty good idea from television, but when I was 29 I realized I had absolutely no idea what war was. And my kids couldn't explain it, either."
 
So Helgegren struck a deal. The family would take a trip to a city impacted by real war. The boys would meet people affected, do interviews, and visit a refugee camp. And when they came back home, they would be free to play whatever games they chose.
 

Frank and Leo Helgegren with soldiers in Israel. Photo: CM Helgegren, used with permission.
 
"They didn't believe me," Helgegren said.

But he held out. First he considered Iraq or Afghanistan, but concluded that current war zones were too dangerous. So this past spring during Easter break, the family booked tickets to Israel and the Palestinian territories - "the closest you can get to war on a tourist ticket," Helgegren remarked. 

"It wasn't until the second day when we were there, eating at an Israeli street food stand, when they asked, 'Dad, are we really here because of the games?' And I said yes. Yes, we are here because of the games. You need to see this."

They stayed with an Israeli family and went to all the tourist sights, like the old city in Jerusalem. But it was no pleasure trip.

"We went to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. They saw the conditions there, where people burned trash in the streets, and there was an illegal drug market right next to the school. We went to a clinic where kids were being stitched up every single day because they had been hit in the head with the butt of a rifle," Helgegren recalled.

The family stayed in the Middle East for ten days, and Helgegren said at times the journey was tough.
 
"I had to explain quite a bit. I was especially thorough when explaining the politics, and pointing out that the Israeli politics do not necessarily reflect all parts of Israeli society," Helgegren explained.
 
When the family returned to Sweden, Frank and Leo decided not to play Call of Duty after all. They also said they would like to go back one day.
 
But the journey didn't end there for Helgeren. Since writing of his experience he has been hit by an onslaught of incensed parents and aggravated tweets.
 
He noted that most of his own connections were very positive - others were not.
 
"I have received messages calling me the worst parent in the world, saying that I am traumatizing my children, that I am a pompous bastard, and that I should be doused in napalm," Helgeren told The Local. "I didn't really expect such a reaction."
 
As Helgegren's article about the trip was only published recently, he suspected that much of the criticism stemmed from people's misconceptions about the situation in Israel at the time of the family's trip.
 

A Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem, with the Shuafat refugee camp behind the barrier. Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/TT
 
"I think people didn't read thoroughly, so they thought we were just there recently, when there is a massive war going on," he said. "I also think that many people who posted these dreadful comments just believe that the Middle East is a total war zone at all times."
 
Interestingly, though, Helgegren said that the harshest criticism came from people without children.
 
Johanna Nylander at the Swedish Games Industry (Dataspelsbranschen) said she thought Helgegren was setting a good example as a parent when it came to taking responsibility.
 
"But I don't think it's necessary, perhaps, to take your kids to warzone. Just playing together with them and showing an interest should suffice," she told Sveriges Radio.
 
She added that there was a big difference between war in video games and children pretending to play war "out in the woods".
 
"There have been kids 'playing war' for generations. It used to be just out in the forest with sticks. But the thing that separates video-game war from playing in the woods is that there's a much lower risk of getting hit in the head with a stone or falling over when you're playing video games," she explained.
 

Helgegren's sons on a tank in Israel. Photo: CM Helgegren, used with permission.
 
Story continues below…
Helgregren called Nylander's latter statement "absolutely ridiculous", and "a paid opinion from an organization representing a multi-billion dollar company". 
 
"Video games in themselves are not bad," Helgegren clarified for The Local.
 
"But in Sweden and Europe we are very privileged. We have all this wealth and rights and social services. And with that comes the responsibility to educate ourselves and not just become zombies playing video games and consuming hamburgers."
 
The father also added that the Swedish style of parenting was too passive, and conflict-fearing parents may not dare take their children away from video games.
 
"Sometimes they are afraid that their kids will be alienated socially and not have anything to talk about. Some say that video games are a good babysitter. But what it comes down to is that Swedish parents are too lenient."
 
Helgegren said that he is "proud" of the family's trip and that he didn't understand the psychology of parents who wanted to "protect" their children from seeing real war but let them play war-like video games.
 
"Sweden is a nation which hasn't been at war for centuries. Our notion of war is naive. While our Swedish children play war and shoot digital missiles, Palestinian children are being blown up by soldiers in Gaza."
 
Want to know more? Follow Carl-Magnus Helgegren and Solveig Rundquist on Twitter.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Solveig Rundquist (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Foreigners in Sweden still more likely to be unemployed
A grim outlook is predicted for foreigners in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Unemployment is falling among native Swedes, but foreign-born citizens are struggling to keep pace.

'Help! My name is Jihad'
Jihad Eshmawi. Photo: Private

My name doesn’t make life easy for me, Jihad Eshmawi tells us.

Why fewer Swedes are using condoms in 2016
Photo: Robert Henriksson / SvD / TT

Younger Swedes are better at protecting themselves than their older compatriots.

Swedish economic growth 'best in Nordics'
A new report says Sweden has the best growth prospects of the Nordics. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden's economy is out-pacing its Nordic rivals, but high levels of household debt are still a problem.

IN PICTURES: 8 of Sweden’s wondrous national parks
Vadvetjåkka is Sweden's northernmost national park. Photo: Peter Rosén/Rosénmedia

It’s National Parks Day in Sweden. Who knew? A perfect opportunity surely to take a closer look at some of the country’s most amazing natural wonders…

Why Swedish football is introducing a green card
Swedish referees could soon be reaching for a green card. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT

You’ve heard of the red and yellow cards, but how about the green card?

Sweden won't charge foreign minister over 'queue jump'
Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallström. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström will not be charged over claims she was given special treatment to secure an apartment in Stockholm.

Swedes don’t want to join the euro - now or ever
Euros? Nej tack! Photo: Jens Meyer/AP

We'll keep our krona, thank you very much.

Opinion
'Bigotry is not dead in Sweden – we still need to talk'
Stockholm Pride 2015. Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Sweden still needs to do more to confront intolerance, argues columnist Paul Connolly.

Spotify gains listeners but it's still bleeding cash
Spotify's offices in Stockholm. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

The Swedish streaming giant expanded rapidly last year but hasn't yet turned a profit.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Blog updates

20 May

Editor’s blog, May 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Do not mention Abba! Or cuckoo clocks! Our most read article this week was…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
National
Why this fearless woman is the talk of Sweden
National
Sweden set for sunny weekend
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vollsjö, Sjöbo
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
3,292
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se