So I'm watching Hellboy: Blood and Iron on the Cartoon Network (good movie, nice remix of some of the Hellboy comics although it was missing my favorite "son of a ---" moment heh. Plus the whole "you've got the body of a giant snake!" reason Hellboy pointed out.)
Anyway so a commercial caught my eye in spite of me speeding past 'em with the digital recorder. Nerf's come out with a sniper rife.
A toy designed to imitate a real-world weapon with the intended use of killing people from a very long distance away. Or at the very least, injure people from a distance.
So I got all indignant, but it was pointed out to me, "and what of all the other guns Nerf has put out?"
I said "Well those were fake, fantasy and unreal weapons. This is a realistic (it can be disassembled and assembled just like a real one!) weapon."
Still, I thought about it some more. We've kind of already passed the point of no return on "inappropriate play." Kids in the target range (no pun intended) of the Nerf guns and rifles already play with real-world guns in videogames ranging from historical recreations (World War II) to modern day (Rainbow 6) to the fantasy/futuristic (Halo, Gears of War)... maybe that's actually part of Nerf's thinking. "Kids these days play games with all sorts of weapons... we can get them outside by giving them real guns they can use just like in videogames!"
Not that I'm saying guns in videogames are wrong, or videogames lead to real-world violence or a form of indoctrination... I suppose what got my dander up was that in the videogames, kids had a clear removal from the real world. Pushing the X button brought up the scope and the Right Trigger button squeezed off a shot that went through the head of the human/humanoid/alien to varying degrees of realistic gore. But it was still a game. A controller with a tv monitor.
Now kids have a real-world item to manipulate, something to extend their videogaming experience from the living room TV to the backyard, with real people that are at the other end of the sniper scope. That kind of bothers me. (Ooh, that sounded really unequivocal heh.)
Another element may be the whole "sniping" element. As I began this post, I offered my personal definition of the intended use of a sniper rifle. When one thinks of a sniper, one (or at least just me) thinks of the JFK assassination, of the MLK Jr. assassination... of the RFK assassination... of the term "kill shot..." and so on.
Snipers hide and wait for the shot to come up. They're not usually looking to hit someone's hand, arm, ankle, or groin (GOLDENEYE reference heh). They're looking to hit the head or the center mass (where the heart is conveniently located). Snipers aren't usually armed with rubber bullets. They're armed with armor-piercing bullets. Lethal intention and weapons.
Sniping is a specialized tactic, a strategic act used in various situations (hostage situations, battlefield situations, etc.) with a specific mission goal "drop this person" or a little bit more general "if you see anyone wander through this zone, drop 'im." It's a far cry from "Cowboys and Native Americans" or "G-Men versus the Italian-American Social Organizations"... In those old games, "good versus bad" were more concrete (cultural intolerance notwithstanding)... you looked your opponent in the eye before you shot him deader than daid.
In sniping, only one person looks the other person in the eye. And the shot has to be taken regardless of whether it comes from the front or back. The whole "don't shoot a man in the back" credo becomes moot because the target wouldn't be able to see the sniper anyway. Bizarre as it sounds, killing someone else becomes less noble.
(I wonder if this is the kind of thing people thought about when long-range weaponry became more utilized in warfare. Did knights sniff, "Longbow archers... tsk. Killing a man from 50 yards away... give me single-man combat on the field. Bashing a man's face in with a heavy spiked mace, now there's a noble death.")
So back to the appropriateness of my dander-upness... have we (or just I) lost the right to complain? I didn't say much when Nerf put out all their previous gun toys... including "tommy-gun" style weapons (designed to put out as many bullets possible so that the odds of wounding/killing your enemy/ies was higher)... I didn't complain about virtual representations of sniping or other weapon use in videogames. I could go back further up that slippery slope, but the point remains, I didn't say "boo" at any point until now. So have I lost the philosophical ground upon which I can argue from?
What am I really complaining about? I think what I'm really complaining about is sniping. That doesn't really fit into gameplay beyond recreating videogame "kills." Regardless of the logic or illogic of my thinking, it's an icky, less-than-noble use of weapons. So why give kids the opportunity to create scenarios to use sniper rifles? Right now all I can think of is to weed out the problem kids first.
Most gun-play (pun not intended but allowed) usually consists of kids running around shouting "bang bang" trying to kill one another. I would imagine if a kid was given a Nerf Sniper Rifle (by a proud Marine mother or SWAT teammember dad or whatever...), that kid wouldn't run and choose a hiding spot to snipe from. The kid would be running around carrying the rifle and shooting in view of other kids. Or the kid could break it down and use it as a hand gun as one of the design features indicates on one of the above links. If the kid actually did use it in the manner of true snipers, that's the time to nudge another adult and say "we better keep an eye on that kid" and check if any neighborhood pets are missing or injured. John Lee Malvo anyone? *sigh*
It'd be interesting to see if this sniper toy provokes a belated outrage against Nerf Weaponry. Or if the toy fails to meet marketing goals and disappears quickly in lieu of other "face-to-face" weaponry.