For now, the leading candidates for chairman of the Board of County Supervisors have reduced their debate to violence.
Incumbent Kathleen Seefeldt (D) has asked that violent video games be removed from county recreation centers as part of a larger effort to fight juvenile crime in the county.
"I think our children are exposed to much more violence than they should be," Seefeldt said yesterday. "In the overall scheme of things, violent video games are a small thing. But there is a cumulative effect on kids growing up in this violent culture."
Seefeldt held a news conference Wednesday to highlight the issue of violent video games and asked that the five games in the Dale City Recreation Center and the six games in the Chinn Aquatic and Fitness Center be removed.
All have since been replaced, according to Beth Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Prince William County Park Authority, which manages the recreation centers. No video games will be included in the Freedom Center in Manassas, which is scheduled to open in September.
Sean Connaughton, the Republican challenger in the Nov. 2 election, went a step further and said that video games in general are inappropriate for county-funded recreation centers.
"When the county funds recreational facilities, the purpose should be to provide social and sporting activities the kids are not getting otherwise," Connaughton said yesterday. "Fact is, the county is making money on these kids. If we provide the facilities, we need to stay true to their purpose."
Seefeldt countered that the main purpose of the video games is to bring youngsters into the recreation centers so they will take advantage of the centers' other programs.
"The Park Authority is always trying to think of ways to encourage the use of the facilities as opposed to kids hanging out on the streets," Seefeldt said.
Robertson agreed, calling the video games "a hook to bring kids into the centers." The video games, she added, make minimal money: varying widely from month to month, the quarter-a-play games bring the county an average of $850 a month at both centers. Meanwhile, the Park Authority spends about $430,000 a year in programs geared toward youths in the county, Robertson said.
But Seefeldt's effort to eliminate violent games may accomplish Connaughton's goal of eliminating all video games.
Anthony Betto, owner of Anthony Amusements, the video game supplier for the Dale City Rec Center, said it is increasingly difficult to find nonviolent games that still appeal to young males, the predominant customers for video games.
"Only a small percentage of my games are docile," Betto says. "[Young boys] want violent games, and more and more they are playing them on home video game systems."