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LOCAL OFFICIALS OFFER GIFTS FOR GAMES; RESIDENTS CAN EXCHANGE GORY VIDEO GAMES FOR PRIZES.

Byline: Mary Schubert Daily News Staff Writer

They have names like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Seeds of Evil, Killer Instinct, Body Harvest and War Gods, and they carry ratings advising that their content is violent.

In the wake of last week's killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., video games that can be played on home computers or televisions have come under attack - accused of numbing young minds with fantasy violence that might lead to the real thing.

On Wednesday, Santa Clarita and Sheriff's Department officials announced that beginning Saturday and continuing through the end of May, children and parents can surrender their family's video games and toy guns and receive gifts in exchange.

Six Flags California has donated tickets to Hurricane Harbor and Magic Mountain for every child who parts with a video game, said city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz. Those who turn in toy guns will receive gift certificates for Mountasia Family Fun Center, Santa Clarita Lanes or Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream shops, or can choose from other prizes donated by local businesses.

``What this incident in Colorado can teach us is (youth violence) can happen anywhere. People need to be aware . . . what their children are involved in,'' said Dianna Boone, a community services supervisor for the city.

``The biggest problem I see with the video games is there are no consequences for your actions,'' added Lt. Carl Deeley of the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station.

Video game characters tend to solve their problems with violence, including shootouts, added sheriff's Lt. Tim Peters.

``That's not realistic to what life is,'' Peters said.

Under the Violence is Preventable program, kids and parents can turn in the toys and videos at Santa Clarita City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On nights and weekends, the sheriff's station will accept the items and hand out prizes.

There is a limit of one gift per child.

A perusal of the game aisle at a video store makes it clear that parental supervision is in order. On the boxes, manufacturers state the intended audience for each game in ratings like ``teens 13-plus,'' ``mature 17-plus,'' ``animated blood and gore, animated violence,'' and even ``realistic violence, realistic blood and gore.''

One of the more candid admissions on a video game box, however, belongs to War Gods, licensed and distributed by Texas-based Midway Home Entertainment Inc. ``Warning: Depicts explicit, graphic, bloody and gory acts of animated death,'' the box reads.

But the real insight into the games' power may be how their features are touted on the packaging. ``Your mission is clear. There are no options. KILL OR BE KILLED!'' reads the packaging for Doom by Midway Home Entertainment.

Forsaken, by Glen Cove, N.Y.-based Acclaim Entertainment Inc., is described on the box as ``the ultimate 360-degree death match,'' while Mortal Kombat Trilogy by Texas-based Williams Entertainment Inc. makes this claim: ``New brutalities let you pound your opponents till they explode!'' and ``Seven humiliating stage fatalities that send defeated opponents plummeting out of the arena to a grisly death!''

Santa Clarita pediatrician Loraine Stern said that such video games are one of many factors that influence children to commit violent acts.

``Viewing violence - whether in movies, television or domestic violence - makes children less empathetic of the victims of violence and more apt to engage in aggressive behavior themselves,'' said Stern, who has practiced 26 years in the Santa Clarita Valley.

``They become accepting of violence. It's not horrific any more.''

The unknown in this equation is that children aren't all affected the same way to violence they see in person or in various forms of the media, the doctor said.

``One child may be highly susceptible and another may not. Because we can't predict this, we need to maintain a constant opposition and disgust of the portrayal of violence where it is not necessary,'' Stern added.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color) City Council and Sheriff's Department officials announced Wednesday a program to offer rewards for residents turning in violent toys.

(2--Color) Toy guns can be exchanged for gift certificates.

(3) Santa Clarita Mayor Jo Anne Darcy speaks Wednesday.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 29, 1999
Words:699
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