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Natalie Haynes: Don't knock 'em down just because they shoot 'em up

The thing is...

The thing is that if high-culture vultures are looking for reasons to grow melancholic, (and they often are, a bit like Young Werther), then the fact that the most successful piece of entertainment in human history, it emerged yesterday, is a shoot-'em-up video game should be enough to push them towards a Werther-style early grave by a linden tree.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has smashed through the record set by James Cameron's movie Avatar, which made $1bn in 17 days. The game reached its billion dollar mark in a paltry 16 days. It is everything non-gamers dislike about games: violent, militaristic and full of set pieces where you blow Russian ultranationalists to kingdom come.

But this isn't a sign that we should despair for the future of humanity. For a start, the game costs roughly three times the price of a ticket to see Avatar (even if you live in London, where cinema tickets are extortionate). So three times as many of us queued up to see the blue hippy aliens as bought the kill-it-if-it-moves game.

Second, this is the first time in millennia that every young man in almost every part of the world hasn't automatically grown up expecting to fight in wars. If some of them choose to fight in pretend-wars instead, in which no one actually dies or even gets hurt, isn't that vastly preferable?

But, of course, children are damaging their brains and communication skills by playing violent games. No wonder they scare us at bus stops. Except that MW3 has an 18 certificate, just like violent movies do. So if someone buys it for an eight-year-old, they're breaking the law. And it's good that we have room for entertainment which isn't child-friendly. Goethe isn't for kids, either, and no one complains about him.

As for communication, gamers can play with and talk to other gamers all over the world. Just because someone is sitting on their own in a darkened room, lit only by the flickering television, that doesn't mean they're alone. There are approximately 30m players of MW3, which is more than the populations of Portugal, Greece and Sweden combined. In fact, we should probably form an economic union with the gamers, since we aren't that keen on Europe any more.

It's also worth remembering that gamers aren't just shooting and slaughtering. They can also collaborate with other gamers to achieve common goals: in other words, they need to exhibit the kind of teamwork and efficiency that the Young Apprentices have been showing Lord Sugar, but they don't usually feel the need to give 150 per cent. Plus, if the hostile Russian Federation does invade, at least they'll be prepared for battle.