Cassie: These are the top video games, here?
Target Employee: Yes. Pretty much this section. Can I get you one?
Cassie: I don’t think so. They all have guns on the covers, or knives, or military men poised to assault.
Target Employee: Yep. They’re our top-sellers.
Cassie: I bought that “Call of Duty” game last year for my son. I feel really badly about it…giving something like that to him as a Christmas gift. What was I thinking, you know?
Target Employee (shrugging) It’s a great game.
Cassie: Yeah? But the whole game is about using your gun to kill the enemy.
Target Employee: There’s some strategy involved…to carry out the mission with fellow operatives.
Cassie: Have you noticed a lot of people buying other kinds of video games instead of these….killing ones? You know, because of what happened in Connecticut?
Target Employee: No. Not really.
Cassie: What do you think of all these games? (I gesture toward the display of top-sellers.)
Target Employee (laughing nervously): Well, the best games are kind of violent, Miss. But this one here—
(he points to a dark video box with a cover that shows a large skull in the center beside a sword dripping with black blood)
— is a well conceived game. You can play it without killing anyone…but you probably wouldn’t win. You have to kill to win.
Cassie: I think my son wanted that game. But the sword and black blood. That’s kind of turning me off. More killing. More death.
Target Employee: It’s just a game.
Cassie: (muttering under my breath) Until it isn’t.
(Target Guy harrumphs; I guess he heard my last comment. I can tell that maybe this skinny kid and I don’t see eye to eye on the topic of video game violence, but he called me “Miss” and so I think I might like him anyway.)
Cassie: I’ll probably just get that sports game over there. It was on his list, too.
Target Employee: Good call. Great game.
Cassie: Football…where the game is to crush skulls.
Target Employee (nodding his head and smirking; he’s starting to get me) Yeah, but look, the game’s rated “E” for “Everyone.”
The Target guy unlocks the individual video game case from the larger display case and explains that the anti-theft clip will be removed for me at the register on the first floor. We exchange “Happy Holidays” quickly, without really looking at each other. I head for the Toys section to examine the princess bike with training wheels for Genevieve. Now, halfway to the far reaches of the second floor Target complex, I’m starting to miss Violent Video Kid. I’m wishing he would come with me to “Toys,” so he and I could talk about pink bikes for a while.