'Electric Chair Game'
Sweeping Italy - Virtual
Death Considered Great Fun
Loss of Discernment between the Real and the Virtual
VATICAN CITY ( - Today's issue of L'Osservatore Romano carries an article on the ultimate craze in amusements in Italy: "The Electric Chair Game."
According to the Italian edition of the Vatican newspaper, an amusement hall began to enjoy unexpected success when it premiered this "disconcerting and macabre frontier of amusement" -- "just like a condemned criminal, [the player] sits on a wooden chair, identical to the one used in capital punishment in [some parts of] the United States and, after inserting a few coins, undergoes the chilling experience of the electric chair."
Virtually Real
"Whole families wait in line. Hundreds of children, adolescents, and adults fill the hall to see 'who can last the longest,' to see who makes it to the end. The winner is the one who 'lets himself be killed,' those who give up before the end are 'chicken.' "
The contraption has all the required elements to elicit strong emotions -- electrodes placed on the wrists, belts, rungs, background music that grows in volume, lights that come on when the "convict" "dies." Of course, everything is virtual, with no risk to health, the proprietors of the hall insist. The whole thing consists of a intense prickly feeling in the hands, and a strong emotional impact, when the body feels unexpected vibrations that rapidly intensify.
"It is all virtual, of course, except for a human reality that is perplexing and preoccupying. Beyond the obvious disconcert over the macabre pleasure that gives meaning to the idea, the news is distressing for two reasons," explained the article.
Who Remembers Those Who Are "Really" Condemned? "Above all because the tragic reality of the death penalty becomes a game (experienced directly in first person). Those who are brave in the sight of their friends have demonstrated 'courage' and feel excited by the discharge of adrenaline; but,do the players in this imitation of the electric chair have any idea of the tragedy of those who wait for the executioner to truly end their earthly existence?"
The organizers of the game answered by saying that "Those who are alive know nothing about the death penalty, and do not ask themselves so many questions."
L'Osservatore Romano states "If this is really the case, it certainly is sad. Why don't they know anything? Why don't they want to know? If they know, why don't they see the problem?"
For the Vatican newspaper, it is precisely this superficial culture, transmitted especially to children and youth, that is the great problem posed by the game.
Video-Game Logic
The second source of concern, according to the Vatican newspaper, is "the video-game logic" that hides behind this experience. "Is the game over? It doesn't matter, I have another life. When the sign, 'game over,' appears, another coin can be inserted and it can start all over again. All is repeated obsessively, with the credibility that electronic progress has made impressive. However, if the boundary between life and death is so convincingly and intensely annulled by the game, could it not result in causing a highly dangerous confusion between fiction and reality?"
"Is this not what is happening increasingly in the numerous episodes reported, where the protagonists are children and youths who invent the crime 'game' to overcome boredom? Is this not what happens in the delirious nocturnal races in cars going at crazy speeds and driven as though it were a video game? Except that in such cases, the game ends in tragedy, the race ends badly, and there is no coin to start the game again," L'Osservatore Romano alerts.
The article ends with a final question: "Do we want our youth to understand this, or will we calmly continue to line up with our children to 'play the electric chair'" game?"

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