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Halloween, and trick or treat did not exist in my home country when I was a kid. It was imported a generation later along with with the Mickey Mouse Club, McDonald's hamburgers, Bart Simpson and so on, so my kids and their friends tried it out.

I have a theory that trick or treat was invented by the Mafia, to train its youngsters in the art of extortion. When my kids' friends knocked on the door, the little bags of sweets I handed out had a slip of paper in them, with the definition of « extortion » written on it:

EXTORTION (n): Obtaining property from another by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear.

Of course, a seven year old kiddie, dressed as a witch by her mum is just playing with symbols and having fun, not practicing extortion. And her teenage brother who role plays as a pimp, thief or gangster in a computer game is doing the same thing, playing for fun. And adults who go to the cinema to watch movies of people being shot, blown up and hacked to death are just there for the entertainment. I wonder how many people who went to the Century Movie Theatre Aurora Colorado to watch The Dark Knight Rises when James Holmes burst in and started shooting and killing people for real, still have a taste for violent movies. Maybe we should be asking what effect does entertainment and amusement based on horror, violence and death have on our collective psychological health. If we fantasize havoc, death and destruction, will we not accept it more easily, at least until the fantasy turns to reality?

A neighbour, noticing that an elderly resident of our block of flats was taking in the wrong garbage bin, asked her eleven year old to tell the elderly person. The kid jumped in front, legs apart and two hands stretched out in front holding an imaginary pistol and said « Drop it skuzbag or I'll smoke ya »! We all laughed at the time, but the kid, now an adult, was recently charged as an accessory to armed robbery.

Violence, horror and death are a part of life: there are tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes and so on. But there are heros like firemen, medical attendants and technicians and engineers who struggle to save lives. Can we role play these heros, rather than the gangsters and extortionists, who create violence? What if the US$137 million and 250 enormously talented people used in creating the latest car theft game were used to create a game that asked the role-players to find solutions that would save lives in emergencies, calculate loads on broken bridges to stop them from falling, find ways of evacuating threatened people, prevent electrocutions, get blood supplies through traffic to disaster emergency posts...

Maybe such games already exist, I confess that I know very little about gaming, I just brushed by it recently because I needed a high-performing computer to run CUDA parallel processing programs on the GPU, and it's mainly gamers who use such powerful machines.

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