The Hellish Wish List

My 14-year-old son's wish list reads like a training program for a mass murderer. I'll be honest: it concerns me.

I asked him to put together a few items that my brother and sister could pick from to do their Christmas shopping. He built a list of more than a dozen games mostly categorized as "shooters," killing how-to's that would send even the most cavalier parent looking for guidance.

Just reading the descriptions of these hellish role-playing games gives me the heebie jeebies. The fact that he not only wants them but will most likely be good at them makes me long for the days when he got scared by a Wishbone video.

Virtually all of the titles are rated T (Teen) or M (Mature). They contain "violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language" and "intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language," respectively.

How do you sell material rated M to a kid who's not all that M? The games are all dark and ominous, contain lots of ammunition and reasons to kill, enemies--and a $60 price point! What's to like? Let's just say there will be a few surprises under the tree: books and socks. Heck, even Season 10 of South Park looks good next to this lineup.

Here's a rundown of his wish list:

Soldier of Fortune: Payback Rated M
This one boasts that it features technical advances that allow for "accurate hit detection and detailed damage modeling." More than 15 enemies ("including terrorists, mobsters, insurgents, enemy soldiers and more") will react to the body part where they've been hit as well as the power of the weapon that hit them. They'll feel pain! And you want weapons? This game offers "one of the most lethal collections of weapons ever assembled...including sub-machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, projectile explosives, weapons attachments and futuristic prototype weapons."

Yes, you play a good guy, trying to rescue a diplomat or infiltrate a terrorist organization, but really, when the firepower is that strong is the good guy/bad guy message really coming through?

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Rated M
"This is the violent and chaotic journey of two men - a flawed mercenary and a medicated psychopath. Each hates the other but must work together to save themselves." You wouldn't want your kid hanging around with these guys in the real world, so why let them meet the virtual versions?

Medal of Honor Airborne Rated T
With this one you get "an arsenal of historically accurate weapons." Hey, maybe it will help him in History class. Of course, he's studying ancient Greece. Any slingshots in there? Yeah, right.

Blacksite: Area 51 Rated T
In this one you have troops that you can command to do such uplifting challenges as "planting C-4 to blow doors, sniping enemies in guard towers, or taking control of vehicles."

Haze Rated M
Not only does this one offer "deadly weaponry," it features "the performance-enhancing drug Nectar." Yeah, pseudo steroids! Good lesson! The game is set in 2048, "in a world where governments have outsourced military operations to private military corporations." Well, at least it's teaching him about the real world--but unfortunately of the present rather than the future.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Rated T
"Uncover the clue to Sir Francis Drake's last great adventure and seek out the fabled treasure of El Dorado..." Hey, I think I like this one!

Stranglehold Collector's Edition (Includes Hard Boiled Movie) Rated M
This game is "the authentic Woo experience"--OK, he's a decent director. So how does it work? "Prove you are the ultimate renegade cop...Using the Massive D physics engine, bring the world down on your enemies, carve your own realistic path of destruction through environments and maneuver through unique piles of debris which persist in the environment."

OK, they said "physics." I'll cling to that.

Need for Speed: Prostreet Rated wait, could it be? EVERYONE? That hasn't happened since the Pokemon era.
"The raw power of street racing with a brand new physics engine." More physics, but somehow I have the sense that the "physics" aspect is overshadowed by the message that illegal and dangerous street racing sure is a lot of fun! And what parent doesn't want her kid learning that?

Ghost Squad (hey, only $30! How did that sneak in there?) Rated T
25 different tactical weapons include "sniper and assault rifles, submachine guns, hand guns, and more." And that's for the Wii!

Time Crisis 4 Rated T
Oh, this one's $80! Makes up for the cheap one. Probably because it includes a "Guncon," which seems to be some form of gun.

Heavenly Sword Rated T
Weaponry includes "rapid fire crossbows and massively damaging bazookas." But even without the weapons players can throw debris at their opponents, "kick tables to halt an oncoming surge of fighters, smash the enemy into the scenery, or throw bodies into other enemies."

Assassin's Creed Rated M
What parent wouldn't rush out to buy a game that screams "Be an Assassin! Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape." Yes, folks, there's a new entry on the "what I want to be when I grow up" list.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground Rated T
Here the well-respected Tony Hawk encourages kids to "sneak into spots only you can find - use ladders, ledges and wires to skate secret spots, find rooftop ledges, secret pools and hidden sewer tunnels. Avoid security guards who will toss you out of the choice locations. Use skate checking on jerks that get in your way."

No skate parks for these users! Break rules or don't bother. Great lesson, Tony.

At the point my son put these on his list, many were only available for preorder, but when I raise this issue he points out that all will be released by Christmas. I think the fact that he knows every release date concerns me even more than the bloodlust. Why is he blanking out during Math if he's this good with numbers?

This is a kid who has his own game site where he reviews games and writes about systems with a passion missing from any writing for which he will receive a grade.

I miss the days of toys and plush.

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