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"More than Child’s Play? The Case for War Toys" Topic

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891 hits since 25 Jan 2017
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Tango0125 Jan 2017 3:48 p.m. PST

" Do war toys encourage violent behaviour and make conflict more acceptable? Or do they offer genuine insight into military history? Philip Kirby, Sean Carter and Tara Woodyer examine the evidence.
A writer all but forgotten today, E.J. Hawley, published a short story in 1902, The Toy Soldier: A Children's Peace Story. In the tale, an aunt comes across her nephew, Bertie, playing with a toy British soldier and an enemy Boer. Bertie delights in imagining the former killing the latter, reflecting a patriotism that had reached its zenith with the mass celebration following the Relief of Mafeking two years earlier. That victory in the Boer War, which challenged perceptions of Britain's status as the world's most powerful country, had made a hero of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement. In the story Bertie creates his own imperial hero, valiantly protecting the British Empire from its foes. To complete the scene, Bertie insists on burying the fallen Boer. His aunt agrees to play along, but only if she can appear as ‘pastor' at the funeral. Bertie agrees and his aunt eulogises, reminding her nephew of the Boer's humanity by providing the latter with a touching back story:

This man, whom we have just buried, lived in a farmhouse on the veldt. He was a very good husband and father. All his children loved him very much. When he went away to the war his little girl threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tight, and said she hated war because it took father away. Then her mother cried, and said she hoped father would come back again for, if not, who was to see to the farm, and get food for the children to eat? The eldest boy, who was named Bertie, after an English man who had been kind to the farmer, stood very quiet and still, and when his turn came to say ‘good-bye', he clenched his little hand and vowed that if ever he became a man he would not let people fight.
Later that evening, Bertie, profoundly affected by his aunt's words, asks whether the Boer can be brought back to life and returned to his loving family. And, because this is a game, he can…."
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GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Jan 2017 5:18 a.m. PST

Baden-Powell was a very complex character and would probably have approved of that attitude. As would HG Wells.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2017 7:06 a.m. PST

‘there are grave objections to presenting our boys with regiments of fighting men, batteries of guns, and squadrons of Dreadnoughts [battleships]'.

I fully agree, they just will not take loving care of them like we will.

Tango0126 Jan 2017 10:56 a.m. PST



Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2017 7:02 p.m. PST

Interesting article. I think they miss a few points, failing to consider that some military "toys", such as the Lego-scale military weapons mentioned in the article, are not actually intended for children but for adult enthusiasts, and are quite unlikely to wind up in children's hands. Also, as I said in another similar discussion here, children don't start wars, adults do. And while there's often been the criticism of "old man's war, young man's fight," in some ways it is up to the old men to bring the wisdom of experience to reject the war that young men may be too eager to fight. But that is a different issue, except to say that I don't think all that many "old men" are basing any decisions regarding military action on their recollections of childhood war play.

Tango0126 Jan 2017 10:06 p.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my friend.


Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2017 11:21 a.m. PST

I can assure kids aren't buying those "custom lego" bits :)

I looked up some for the kiddo and they are bastard expensive

As with any other discussion of "What is good for the kids" the answer must always be "It depends on your particular kid".
That goes for enterprising busybodies from both "sides" of the political spectrum, I might add.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 7:15 a.m. PST

But that is a different issue, except to say that I don't think all that many "old men" are basing any decisions regarding military action on their recollections of childhood war play.

The fact that a game has a war theme doesn't necessarily make it a bigger influence on behaviour in combat than any other learned pattern.

I agree that I don't think any military decision making is based on remembering playing a war themed game as a kid and trying to replicate (or not replicate) the behaviours. But game playing, like all other activities, are learning experiences. We build memories (which in turn, influence how other memories are built) and we build habits of mind such as recognizing a situation in which to proceed with caution or when and how to take a risk.

"What is good for the kids" the answer must always be "It depends on your particular kid".

Concur. I would add it also depends on how you are raising your kid


I can assure kids aren't buying those "custom lego" bits

Well, my kid is … but then again, she is an engineer for Lockheed Martin, so … ;)

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2017 9:48 a.m. PST

Hah, well played :-)

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 8:06 a.m. PST

Yes, I am both proud and envious of the spare change she has for luxuries (hobbies).

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 9:01 a.m. PST

Yeah, no doubt!

To return to the original topic, there's always that question right?

On one hand, I nuked half the world in Civilization and I didn't grow up to be a proponent of nuclear warfare.

On the other hand, we're influenced by the things we experience. If we weren't companies and governments wouldn't spend billions of dollars to do so.

tldr – Talk to your kids about nuclear war before they become OGRE players I guess?

Hafen von Schlockenberg Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 10:34 a.m. PST

FYI can't comment objectively,as I was warped many years ago by "Missile Command".

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jan 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

Well, one thing I have learned about nuclear warfare from War Games …

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 1:24 p.m. PST

I think the tendency of people to cover the board in little toxic clouds whenever game rules permit chemical weapons might be worthwhile social commentary :D

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2017 3:09 p.m. PST

Well, then, pull my finger … :)

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