Forget video game violence. These days, the kiddies are stocking up with real (albeit plastic) weapons and chasing each other down. And we're not talking about laser tag or even a little shoot-'em-up paintball sesh in the woods with protective gear, either. This is the real freakin' deal ... psychologically, at least.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, some really twisted younguns down in a Floridian summer camp put together a week-long "The Hunger Games"-inspired camp wherein a faux cornucopia holds the weapons that'll help the children "collect" one another's "lives" (represented by flag football-style ribbons) — that term is an upgrade from the previous call for them to "fight to the death" while wielding their little toy weapon scores, by the way.
Granted, they were only supposed to be snatching each other's waist flags (so, a glorified version of flag football essentially), but the terminology and theme involved got the tykes really into it. They were forming alliances and such, and even on days subbing violence for obstacle course-type exercises they were busy chatting it up about who'd "kill" who and how they'd prefer to die if they had to. And on the days where there was actual "fighting" involved, some took it way too far. For example, one group of meanie tributes stepped on and kicked a kid around for sport. How very District 1 of them, right?
A shrink named Susan Toler from the Univ. of South Florida St. Petersberg was appalled, naturally, calling the camp construction "unthinkable" and stating that this idea changes the whole dynamic of watching versus participating in violence. "When they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them. The violence becomes less egregious," Toler warned.
The camp director, however, justified using the "Hunger Games" idea because it involved flag removal rather than actual violence, so no actual injuries were meant to occur. But the damage of having one little girl tell her bestie, "I will probably kill you first. I might stab you," while holding her shoulders and staring her down is probably not quantifiable ... yet.
Annnnnd the phrase "life imitating art" takes on a very dark new meaning.