• 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
Cashless Swedes sitting on old bills worth billions

Old Swedish bank notes worth 1.4 billion kronor are still circulating, according to the country’s central bank, despite them having been declared invalid a month ago.

Stockholm one of world's best places to live: magazine
Living the dream. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Stockholm is the tenth best city in the world to live in, reckons this British magazine.

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish 'Dream' cookies for fika
Now not only in your dreams. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/SCANPIX

Want to fika but think cinnamon buns are too complicated? Try this recipe for a simple but yummy Swedish cookie.

Fears new funding rules could hobble Swedish startups
Elin Olsson funded the development of her innovative smoke detector through crowdfunding. Photo: Anders Andersson/TT

Crowdfunding is a risky business, but could Swedish plans to regulate it make it too hard for small companies to get investment?

Ikea recalls chocolate over nut allergy fears
Ikea has recalled several chocolate bars. Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB Scanpix/TT

Don't eat these bars if you are allergic to nuts or almonds.

Did this Swedish cop just make the arrest of the year?
Mikaela Kellner in action. Photo: Private

Imagine wrestling a criminal to the ground – while wearing a bikini.

Sweden's champion prawn peeler hauls in a big catch
Prawn peelers in action. Photo: Bengt Johansson

The Olympics are getting closer, but Sweden already has a new champion in an hotly contested "sport": prawn peeling.

Baby dies after midwife denies woman's request for c-section
Uppsala University Hospital. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

The midwife insisted on six attempts at vaginal birth before an emergency caesarean section was carried out.

Don't let them bite! Bedbugs proliferate in Swedish hotels
Swedish bedbug fighter Jonny Ström does his thing in 2014. Library photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The number of bedbugs in Swedish hotels has doubled in recent years, according to figures from pest control firm Anticimex.

Swedish state agencies 'outsource jobs to spies'
The Stockholm headquarters of the Swedish Security Service, Säpo. File photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Foreign countries are trying to infiltrate the Swedish state by winning government contracts, it has been claimed.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
National
Anyone for a bite of 340-year-old shipwrecked stinky cheese?
Gallery
People-watching: July 27th
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,372
jobs available