• Kyodo

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A Japanese card game called Yu-Gi-Oh is being attacked by teachers and parents in Goi, western Brazil, for encouraging violent behavior in kids.

They claim the game, based on a comic series created by Kazuki Takahashi and which has become a worldwide hit, has promoted violence among children and teenagers and is even responsible for nightmares.

The game, marketed by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan, uses colored cards and features two players who face off in a battle consisting of three duels, featuring magic spells and traps to vanquish monsters.

At least two schools in the municipality have banned the game from their premises, alleging it has promoted lack of discipline and violence among students.

“The cards display monsters and other weird creatures, and this is against our philosophy as a religious school,” said Neli Freitas, 52, director of the Instituto Presbiteriano de Educao.

The Presbyterian school, which has some 2,000 students and is one of the city’s most traditional, seeks “to promote Christian values like friendship, cooperation and equality among people” in elementary, junior high and high school classes, Freitas said.

The game stimulates violence, sneers at cooperation and promotes the use of lies to achieve victory, he said. “Its mystical atmosphere scares our children,” she said.

“These creatures and activities play the role of symbolic violence for children, who live between fantasy and reality and are not usually ready to tell right from wrong,” said Abigail Rodrigues, 38, the school’s coordinator.

Parents have contacted the school and reported noticing changes in their children’s behavior after they started playing the game. The school has encouraged debate among students to “raise consciousness on the issue” and has banned the game.

The school first noticed something was amiss when kids became more excited than usual during break time.

“The younger ones try to imitate the way the characters fight in the game and the older ones, aged around 7 or 8, have been having agitated sleep,” she said.

The card game was launched in Brazil early this year and its animated version for TV has become a hit on Rede Globo, the country’s No. 1 network.

The debate on the game intensified when TV network Bandeirantes broadcast a special program discussing the effects of Yu-Gi-Oh on children and teenagers.

“Many parents pressed for the game to be banned after they saw the program on TV,” said Claudia Leao, 36, the pedagogical coordinator of Colio Seg School.

The 50-card game is sold in Brazil for about 70 real, the equivalent of 3,000 yen, a relatively high price in a country where millions have a monthly income of less than 12,000 yen.

However, pirates have hurried to copy the cards and now it is common to see children flocking around street vendors in Rio de Janeiro to buy the pirated versions.

“This is my favorite game and I play with my friends,” said 7-year-old Alex Rocha as he bought some spare cards, accompanied by his grandmother. “I have to control him otherwise he will spend all our money,” she said.

The Goiania-based daily Diario da Manha is polling readers about whether they support or oppose the ban on the game at the city’s schools.

The ongoing poll has so far demonstrated that most people believe Yu-Gi-Oh is harmful to children. Of the 430 people who have cast Internet votes, 290 believe the game should be banned, while just 124 do not agree with the ban.

“There is no violence in the game. It stimulates children’s memory, intelligence and the use of English, the language used on the cards,” the daily quoted the owner of a toy store as saying.

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