Shine On

Playmobil’s bank robbery game has anti-gun activists up in arms

Would you let your 4 year-old play with a game where she could be a bank robber with a gun? (playmobil.ca)Would you let your 4 year-old play with a game where she could be a bank robber with a gun? (playmobil.ca)German toy company Playmobil has been stimulating the imaginations of young children for nearly four decades with their tiny figurines and elaborately themed sets. But anti-gun activists in the U.K. believe one of Playmobil’s newest games is stimulating those imaginations in the wrong way.

The “Bank with Safe” set, sold in Canada for $49.99 on Playmobil’s website, features a blonde bank robber toting a handgun, dark shades and red loot bag (hey – inconspicuous is out this season.)

Completing the somewhat unusual product advertisement, a bank manager hands over money to the robber with a good-natured smile on his face. And if stick-em-up style doesn’t appeal to your four-to-10-year old, the target age of this toy, they can change the scenario to reenact an ATM or gold bar heist. Police figurines are not included, but can be purchased in another City Action set.

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Naturally, this idea of play is not sitting well with certain advocacy groups and has caused a flap in the U.K. where the game currently lines the shelves of Britain’s Toys ‘R Us stores.

“We don’t want to be encouraging young people to look at these sorts of things. I think it is horrendous that young people are given all these images to shape them," Danny Bryan, chairman of Communities Against Gun and Knife Crime, tells the Mirror. “I wonder what is going on. It is sending out the wrong message.”

A few concerned commenters on the story’s message board agree.

A man named Paul Groom mentions that he wrote a letter to Early Learning Centre, a popular toy shop in the U.K. where this model is offered and blasted their decision to stock the Playmobil product. He recreated the letter for Mirror readers:

“How does this product reconcile with your published aim to stock ‘toys that help children get off to the best possible start?’” he writes. “The best possible start in what exactly? Criminal activity? Are you planning on having a play drugs den complete with dirty syringes or a play pub complete with brawling figures with broken beer bottles and fake blood?”

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Drug dens, maybe not. But what about Playmobil’s elaborate “Museum Thieves” kit, wherein a trio of suspicious-looking figurines carry out an Entrapment-style heist.

And our own Toys ‘R Us stores here in Canada have decided to carry an unusual game called the “Robo-Gangster Lab,” a game that appears to consist of a high-tech laboratory where mad scientists churn out 21st century Frankenstein’s monsters intent on wreaking criminal havoc.

Readers of the U.K. paper the Sun, however, have a bit of a different take on the matter.

“I love it! Why didn't Playmobil make these when I was a kid? We all played ‘cops and robbers’ or ‘cowboys and Indians’ as kids but we don't all turn into criminals. If any parent is that concerned just take away the ‘gun’ and it's a perfectly nice bank playset. Now, teaching kids to be bankers, THAT is something to worry about!” writes “reverendglass.”

What do you think? Is the Playmobil Bank and Safe set controversy much ado about nothing or a genuine cause for parental concern?   

Watch the cute video below about a baby who wakes up to "Gangnam Style" and does a funny dance.

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