By JESSE LEAVENWORTH
The Hartford Courant
December 20, 2012
Like many other 12-year-olds, Max Goldstein was a veteran of the video game killing fields.
He played "Call of Duty" after school and on weekends, enjoying the thrills and challenges of cyber combat.
Max, a lacrosse player and student at Newtown Middle School, said he had even read articles about the numbing effect of violent video games. Still, Max said Wednesday, he didn't feel the games were harming him. His parents, like so many other parents, allowed him to play.
Everything changed, however, with the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. Now Max has started a movement called "Played Out."
His stepfather, Craig Mittleman, is helping him get a bin from a refuse company that will be placed outside the Newtown Youth Academy sports center within the next several days.
Max has his pile of video games ready to dump, and he will be encouraging other kids to do the same.
Max announced his idea to hearty applause Wednesday at a meeting of a new group, Newtown United, at the public library on Main Street.
Taking advantage of the national spotlight on Newtown, the group of parents and other residents is trying to stem gun violence by speaking out and pressing lawmakers for change. They discussed how to increase the size of the group and get its message out.
Max said outside the meeting that his change of heart didn't come right after the mass shooting on Friday. It was actually this week, when he attended the funeral of his friend's brother, Daniel Barden, one of the victims of the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary.
As he listened to the prayers and songs, it hit him, Max said, "how real this was." He didn't want to kill, even in the illusory sense of a video game.
His mom, Roberta Mittleman, said she had initially prohibited Max from playing violent video games, but gradually succumbed. After all, Max is an A-student and a gentle kid and she didn't see any real harm in it.
As with everyone in Newtown, Friday's massacre changed everything for her, as well. The shooter, Adam Lanza, was a fan of video games.
"I don't believe it's a root cause, but it's a contributing factor," Roberta Mittleman said.
The slogan of Played Out, Max said, is, "Choose not to play."