It's been de rigueur for parents of this last generation to worry about the effects of video games on their children. The violence. The sexism. The increasing isolation of the gamer who sits alone at a console with little need or desire to venture out into the wider world.

As a gamer myself (although the players of World of Warcraft would laugh at me), I have long understood the rubric of "kill 'em all, take all the money." I'm afraid my daughter will be tempted to inscribe it on my tombstone. Good thing I don't plan on having one.

I love video games. Long role-playing games. Turn-based games that I can play while I read, write, and do a bit of housework. I'm currently deep into Dragon Age: Origins. When she's not making jam, my daughter is mixing up potions on Skyrim. We love them, and we aren't giving them up.

But neither one of us confuses them with the real world. And I have to wonder if Americans have somehow conflated John Wayne movies and Final Fantasy into a worldview that promises a hero who will save the world.

What kind of myth prompted the war in Iraq? What do we imagine will result from a war with Iran? Exactly which American hero is going to smuggle arms to the Syrian dissidents and lead them to victory?

From movies to TV to video games, the theme is the same. A crisis arises which only an action figure can avert. I loved Stargate SG1. I especially loved the way they laughed at themselves. At least once a season, one of the characters would count off the number of times they had saved the world. Sometimes the entire universe. Like we talk about scoring tickets to the Superbowl or New Year's Eve with the Grateful Dead. Cool, but not entirely unexpected.

There's no magic bullet in an action hero in the real world. Democracy has not come to Iraq in any way that will redeem our efforts. Of course Iran wants nuclear capability. Wouldn't you if you were Iran? It's uncomfortable watching Syrian dissidents die right in front of us. We die a little with them. But an action hero cannot save them. It's not a video game. It's not a movie.

A video game is a metaphor. It's satisfying, because we can go in and "kill 'em all, take all the money" whenever we feel like it. Video games accomplish in a few keystrokes what takes months, sometimes years, of diplomacy, blood and treasure in the real world.

But perhaps there is a way we can use the game metaphor to our benefit. We can understand some of our problems over the past few years as relying too heavily on our Tanks. Most of our experience points have gone into Strength. Maybe we could divvy some of them out to Dexterity, Willpower, Magic, Cunning, and Constitution. Maybe it's time to field a whole team.