• Sweden edition
 
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

Published: 08 Aug 2014 17:25 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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.
 
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 stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Solveig Rundquist (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Sweden is set to buck the European trend of rising air prices with fares expected to drop next year according to a new report. READ  

National
Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune
Eric Westerberg's homemade submarine Isabelle. Photo: PS.nu

Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune

A Swedish submarine enthusiast who spent over 3,500 hours making his own vessel has sold his prized possession for 705,000 kronor ($98,500) in an online auction. READ  

National
Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Police in northern Sweden have been reported to the Equality Ombudsman for describing a wanted suspect as having a "Roma appearance." READ  

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes
A political career for Zlatan? Some fans seem to want to see that. Photo: Peter Dejong/TT

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes

The Bilderberg Group, the Satanic Initiative and Adolf Hitler all received votes in Sweden’s general election, according to a list released by the country’s electoral authority. READ  

Sport
Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games
The Swedish team in action. Photo: TT

Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games

Sweden's capital has missed out on a chance to host any Euro 2020 games, with Copenhagen the only Scandinavian city among the thirteen winning locations. READ  

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests
Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala, is the first woman to head the Swedish church. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests

A Swedish priest has been fired after telling his congregation that people who support female priests would be rejected by God - despite the fact that his own church is led by a woman. READ  

Analysis
Women set to dominate top post-election jobs
Margot Wallström (right) could become Stefan Löfven's new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Photo: TT

Women set to dominate top post-election jobs

Sweden could soon get a female Foreign Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt's ousted Moderate Party is preparing for its first woman leader and the grandmother of actor Hugh Grant's son is being tipped as Parliament's next Speaker. READ  

National
Sweden protests over Russian plane incursions
A Gripen plane was scrambled to see off the Russian planes. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Sweden protests over Russian plane incursions

UPDATED: Sweden has summoned the Russian Ambassador for a dressing down after two Russian planes violated Swedish airspace last week. READ  

Elections 2014
'Good prospects' for Alliance co-operation

'Good prospects' for Alliance co-operation

UPDATED: Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven says he is positive that his party can co-operate with the former governing Alliance on some issues. READ  

Lifestyle
Introducing...Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking comes to live at the Astrid Lindgren theme park. Photo: TT

Introducing...Astrid Lindgren

The creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, is the most translated author from Sweden, and has filled children's imaginations since the 1940s. The Local finds out why her work has become a timeless classic. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
The 'black gold' of Sweden's west coast.
National
West Sweden prepares for the 2014 lobster premiere
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Blog updates

20 September

How a Frog Can Save the Environment (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"What we do we imagine when we think of children enjoying nature? Perhaps it’s fishing, marveling at lightning bugs on a muggy July day or blowing on the wispy petals of a dandelion to make a special wish. But perhaps most iconic of the playful innocence in childhood is hopping after and trying to catch..." READ »

 

19 September

Editor’s blog (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday readers! It sure has been a exciting week in Sweden, where we’re set to get a new Prime Minister after Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down following Sunday’s elections. The Local blogged live from the key political gatherings across Stockholm. Why not re-visit the action by taking a look at our photos, tweets, videos and analysis? Since the..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

857
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN