A group of New York City students took a teacher-chaperoned trip to an indoor simulated shooting game facility on a school day, provoking a rebuke from the schools chancellor.
iCombat outfits children like SWAT officers and lets them pretend to have shootouts in an indoor fake village, and there's no minimum age to play. The level of the realism in the game has sparked concerns in the law enforcement community and among child psychologists.
Indoor Extreme Sports was the first in the country to get the game, and when the Bronx students entered the facility, the I-Team attempted to ask the teacher about the trip. The teacher refused to comment, as did officials at the school.
When Department of Education officials were asked about the trip, they investigated and said the students were part of a school club. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the trip inexcusable and said that the principal of the school contacted him to apologize.
"The principal called me and the principal apologized and said it would not happen again," said Walcott. "A mistake was clearly made."
Parents waiting outside the Bronx High School of Visual Arts on a recent day were equally alarmed to hear about the trip.
"If they end up enjoying that as a game, they could end up picking one up for real, and then God knows what could happen," said one mother.
"They're too young to get it into their heads that it's OK to do this," another parent said.
That's the concern being vocalized by child psychologists like Dr. Harris Stratyner.
"There's no question that this increases aggression and it desensitizes them to killing, and it's a big, big mistake," said Stratyner.
Sal Lifrieri, who served as director of security and intelligence for OEM under former Mayor Giuliani, said "They're going to want to take it to the next progression, to that dangerous next step."
Indoor Extreme Sports declined to comment. Universal Electronics said in a statement that iCombat is a like a new version of Laser Tag, which gets kids who play video games off the couch and into something more active.
A spokesman said the game is similar to "any other toy guns" and added that "it's the harmless fun of tagging each other or playing cops and robbers." The company noted that parents ultimately decide whether their kids get to play.