For Our Consideration

EA Medal Of Honor partners page

Partners In Arms

In their quest for realism, military shooters have ventured into murky moral territory.

By Ryan Smith • August 13, 2012

Ever since a graduate student claiming to be The Joker allegedly shot dozens of moviegoers at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the debate about gun control has been co-opted by those attempting to connect or disconnect the dots between the fiction of costumed comic book characters gunning for each other in Christopher Nolan’s violent opus and the very real slaughter that left 12 people dead. Video games have been mentioned mostly by proxy in the conversation (the movie theater gunman was reportedly addicted to Guitar Hero, not Call Of Duty), but this might also be an opportune moment for the industry to reexamine its long love affair with the modern military shooter and attempts to blur the line between violent video game fantasy and reality.

Take, for instance, the rather overt case of Electronic Arts’ Medal Of Honor: Warfighter. Companies often toss around buzzwords like “immersion” or “authenticity” to promote their video games, but EA’s claim that they’ll “put you directly in the boots of the soldier” for the upcoming sequel to Medal Of Honor doesn’t just smack of hacky marketing speak. First, there’s the promise of ripped-from-the-headlines settings and characters in Warfighter—you’ll be battling the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf and the Somalia-based cell of al-Qaeda in “real-life hotspots” around the world. But EA takes the realism factor further by allowing players to test out a photorealistic replica of, for example, the TAC-300 sniper rifle. Like the way the gun drops terrorists or racks up headshots in multiplayer? Feel free to visit Warfighter’s official website and click on a sponsored link that will take you to McMillan, the manufacturer of the gun. There you may purchase a real-life TAC-300 to your own specification (night-vision kit is optional!) and have it shipped to your local federally licensed gun dealer for pickup.

The McMillan TAC-300

There are a host of other guns, knives, scopes, and weapon accessory companies listed as “partners” on the website for Warfighter. (There are 11 listed at time of writing, and EA says they’re revealing a new partner each week.) In October, you’ll be able to purchase a limited edition Medal Of Honor: Warfighter tomahawk for $75 from SOG Knives that features “an extended cutting head.” It’s certainly a bit more intense than, say, the pewter dragon from the Skyrim Collector’s Edition.

In EA’s defense, the company has created Project Honor, a program that promises to donate money from Medal Of Honor-themed merchandise sold in their partners’ respective stores to charities like the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Honoring the military is a worthy cause, but EA is still doing so by promoting weapons that lead to 10,000 homicides on average a year in the United States.

To be honest, military shooters crossed into ethically murky waters even before Medal Of Honor’s blatant gun advertising. That’s weird for me to write because I’ve always toed the libertarian line on this issue. To me, guns and video games are irrevocably intermeshed like the electronic guitar and rock music. I’ve personally killed hundreds of thousands of people in games (and have the Xbox achievements to prove it) with rifles, pistols, missile launchers, machetes, chainsaws, and gravity guns. I’ve rarely batted an eyelash in response to all of the virtual brutality. But I was also lucky enough to grow up in an era when dissociating the onscreen violence from anything in real life was easy. I was weaned on 8-bit shooters like Ikari Warriors and Contra—both of which portray military operations about as accurately as Super Mario Bros. demonstrates life as a plumber in Brooklyn. In those early games, bullets pop slowly out of pistols like slow-moving golf balls, and enemies don’t “die” as much as they flash briefly before vanishing.

Medal Of Honor Voodoo Hawk ax

The technological sophistication of military shooters has increased over the years to the point where the guns look awfully close to weapons used in real battlefields and—“uncanny valley” issues aside—enemy soldiers resemble real human beings. When we shoot them, they don’t flicker out of existence. They scream and bleed and die. Of course, the realism that military shooters portray tends to be an aesthetic one. The shooting galleries of Medal Of Honor and Call Of Duty aren’t much like real soldiering—as pointed out by the Onion parody “Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare Game Features Awaiting Orders, Repairing Trucks.”

But try telling that to my 13-year-old nephew, who got kicked out of school after getting caught with a semi-automatic BB gun in his backpack. It’s not a coincidence that the gun resembles his favorite weapon from Modern Warfare 3. Call Of Duty has fostered an obsession with all things guns and military for him. He can rattle off obscure details about the clip size and firing range of assault rifles, and he says he wants to serve as a Navy SEAL after graduating high school. Sure, his parents shouldn’t have let him start playing M-rated military shooters at age 10, but listening to all of the prepubescent squeals during a usual multiplayer match, I know he’s not the exception to the rule.

I can’t say for certain whether or not my nephew would have brought a gun to school without the role of military video games, nor can I say if gun sales will increase because of Medal Of Honor: Warfighter. But if we want the vicarious thrills of violent video games to remain morally justifiable, we need to protect the fourth wall between the first-person shooter and real life. EA’s willingness to make a connection between a video game gun and an actual firearm is the strongest evidence yet that we’ve already let the wall crumble too much.

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349 Responses to “Partners In Arms”

  1. AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

    I know it’s mostly an emotional response, and I probably won’t be bothered to try and come up with rationale for it right away, but I honestly feel EA has just hit a new low.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Yeah, without wishing to comment on the quality of their games (which I understand has actually been creeping up recently) EA’s basically been a walking PR clusterfuck for the last five years or so. Between all that Dante’s Inferno madness and the way the ad campaign for Dead Space 2 explicitly marketed an M-rated game to teens (“your mom’s going to hate it”) they’ve been putting their foot in their mouth pretty regularly. And now they’re basically begging us to critically re-examine the art/violence relationship by literally placing weapons in customers’ hands. If Jack Thompson hadn’t embarrassed himself out of existence long ago, this sort of crock might have actually given his arguments some traction.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Electronic Arts is pretty fucking terrible. They’ve become the Michael Bay of the video game industry, which is actually worse than the real Michael Bay.

        • caspiancomic says:

           Ha, good to know. I had heard people suggesting that thanks to games like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge they were less of a humiliating presence in the industry, but without having played those games I only had their word to go on. It’s reassuring to know EA remains as awful as I’ve kind of always assumed.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Yep.  Dead Space definitely does not belong on that side of the ledger, but I believe they stated in public that it was Mirror’s Edge’s failure that turned them back to what they were doing before.

          I didn’t buy it.  Blame me, caspian, blame me!

        • George_Liquor says:

          @GhaleonQ:disqus I did buy it, and I can tell you Mirror’s Edge failed because it’s just not a very good game, not because it lacks some requisite amount of firepower. 

        • Merve says:

          Mirror’s Edge had a terrible storyline, and the mêlée combat just didn’t work. I’ll defend the rest of it, though – even the shooty bits that everyone else hated.

        • Afghamistam says:

          Mirror’s Edge was a good game poorly executed. In fact, wasn’t it EA’s impatience and intransigence with the developer’s vision that led to the botching in the first place?

        • Merve says:

          @Afghamistam:disqus: That’s the rumour, but as far as I know, it’s completely unsubstantiated. For example, lots of people think EA was trying to turn the game into a first-person shooter, but the developer claims that the game was intended to have shooting sections from the start. Any time something goes wrong with a game, people like to blame EA, which is fair, I guess, considering the shit they pull. But if people keep accusing EA of misdeeds when they don’t have an iota of proof, then it’s all going to get a little “boy who cried wolf,” and people won’t take things like this – EA using a video game to sell actual guns – seriously.

        • tossin says:

          What Merve said.  There’s nothing out there that has first-person parkour platforming.  It’s a shame the story sucked.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        This is infuriating.  I’ve been completely on the side of “violent video games don’t cause violence any more than violent books or movies”.  But to directly link people to a website that allows you to purchase the weapons you use in a game?  Sorry, that’s crossing the line.

        It’s kind of sadly funny how insane Jack Thompson became in his misguided quest (trying to hold up a sign in court during his own hearing?  NUTJOB!)…and how this is probably the ONLY thing I might agree with him about.

        • Asinus says:

          Did you click the link to the gun in the article? It has a great gun porn video with some “fuck yeah mother fucker” music. 

          I like guns… I mean, I don’t have guns lying around my apartment, but I like them in the same way I like other machines, but this does make me a little weirded out. Okay, a LOT weirded out. I mean a semi-auto sniper(-esque) rifle with the tag line “shoot to win”? I thought that maaaybe it was going to be a .22 or something that you’d see often for competition, but no, it’s Winchester .300. That’s pretty powerful round and I’m not sure what you’d be winning with it. Winning over some animals? Winning in a school shooting? It’s like they’re intentionally targeting the schizoid market that may confuse the rules of the video game with the rules of reality. 

        • JoshJ says:

           Totally agreed. And I’m even a firearms enthusiast. I HAVE bought firearms I’ve enjoyed from videogames. But a link right to the site? Yea… that crosses a line for me too.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           Video games don’t cause violence, but they do contribute to an overall culture of violence.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          Re Asinus:

          Yes, actually, competition occurs with basically every caliber of rifle.  And there are things that you cannot do with a .22 than you can do with a .300 Win Mag, like shoot accurately at 300+ yards.  .22 LR isn’t very good ballistically, it is simply widespread because of it’s cheapness.

          .300 Win Mag is also a good hunting caliber for medium to large-sized game.  Nothing wrong with that.

        • Asinus says:

          That’s true, @DarkerLoaf:disqus , but they’re selling the gun with an optional night vision scope. Again, none of this stuff is, by itself, “bad,” but it’s the synergistic marketing that creeps me out. I didn’t mean to come across as “nobody should have a gun that size” type comment, I was just commenting on the tie in as a whole. You get people who are playing a game where they shoot people and then try to sell them a real gun with the marketing campaign, “Shoot to win…” Just comes across as poorly thought out at best (or very well thought out, depending on your goals, I suppose). 

          And yeah, .22s are terrible. I would like a .17, though. Those seem fun, inexpensive, and accurate. For a while I did want to get a larger hunting rifle for target shooting (I’m still angry that I passed up on a really, really affordable bolt-action Mauser a couple years ago), but the .17 seems like a nice compromise. 

        • Please, tell me how linking to a legitimate business is deplorable, it’s not any worse then dlc or micro-transaction, not to mention that most of the people who would actually follow through and buy the weapons, were probably already going to buy them in the first place… idk when the last time you looked at the price for most of these firearms but it’s FAR outside of the impulse buy range.   

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I just can’t believe that sort of snotty, “This ain’t your parents survival sci-fi horror sequel” style of advertisement could possibly still carry any sort of cultural cache. Might as well just show a picture of a kid in a backward baseball cap pouring Mountain Dew down the front of his neon-colored Zubas while doing an ollie of the principal’s desk.

        • VS says:

          This type of advertising will always work, because kids will always want to rebel against the values of their parents. That kind of “parents are lame” mentality is what actually pushes things forward and is responsible for most if not all social progress. As for the advertising… Silly, yeah. On its way out? Not at all.

        • Merve says:

          Well, they can’t be marketing to people under 17, because the game is rated M. They can’t be marketing to people 18 and over, because they can just buy the game without having to listen to what their parents think. So, kudos to EA for marketing to that incredibly hard to reach demographic of 17-year-olds.

        • stakkalee says:

          @Merve2:disqus That’s some targetted marketing! 

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       I think it’s less a new low, and more of a thorough exploration of the low they currently occupy.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

         I don’t know, their Dead Space 2 ad campaign exclaiming “Your mom will hate it,” as @caspiancomic:disqus mentioned above was stupidity given form, but it merely made me roll my eyes.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

          Those ads are probably my least-favorite concept for an ad campaign in recent memory, but at least there isn’t a link at the end encouraging you, too, to buy a plasma cutter and try it out on the local wildlife.

          ETA: what I’m doing here is agreeing with you.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

           @green_gin_rickey:disqus Remember those ads for the original Legend of Zelda? The one with the guy just screaming “Zelda” and doing creepy impersonations of the various enemies?

          I just love that we found an ad campaign that makes this 80’s commercial look genius by comparison.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           Isn’t that guy famous? I feel like that guy is famous.

        • Afghamistam says:

          Well “Your mom will hate this explicitly fantastical horror sci-fi game” is one thing.

          “Your mom will hate this game because it will turn you into a fucking sociopath weapon fetishist” is quite another.

    • Hendawg says:

       Aye man so true

  2. HobbesMkii says:

    For a long time, I’ve noticed a knee-jerk reaction among gamers to deny, deny, deny whenever someone points out that there could be link between violence and video games. Somewhere along the line, the people who made those links became people like Jack Thompson who’d blame video games up and down for all violent crime in America and other countries and that seems to have radicalized gamers to be the exact opposite crazy–if violence occurs, it must have been from some other source; video games can have no effect.

    Perhaps it’s solely my contradictory nature, that when everyone goes right, I go left, but it feels to me as if the answer is, of course, a place in between both sides.

    For me, it ties into the argument of games as art. Art inspires some people to violence. I’m not saying it inspires people in their right mind to violence, but those who are willing to do violence can be set off by the right piece of art. Clarence Darrow once argued (successfully) that Nietzsche’s writing caused two boys to murder a third. The Nazis used “degenerate” art as justification to imprison artists (and many other totalitarian states have done violence to artists whose work gets too political).

    It seems naive, to me, that anyone could argue games are incapable of causing violence, in some way, then, especially if that person also argues for games as art. And when the game seems manufactured to move weapons, like the ’80s Saturday morning cartoons were manufactured to sell toys, well, it seems harder still for anyone in their right minds to deny linkage.

    That said, outside of getting away from adver-gaming, I’m not sure there’s much to be done. Like I said, I doubt anyone who is of a sound mind would be moved to violence by a video game. And there will always be people who aren’t capable of restraining themselves from violence who can be set off by such things.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

      I think part of the problem is we tend to only focus on direct causality when it comes to violence.

      I don’t particularly buy, for instance, that Grand Theft Auto made a kid shoot someone. It is certainly plausible that some kid played the game and was inspired to do so, but I would put forward the idea that a person who plays one game and gets an uncontrollable notion to mimic it in real life was not mentally sound to begin with and would likely have reacted to the next piece of violent media. Someone who can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy or can but don’t have any sense of empathy are already crazy. A lack of violent games won’t change that.

      However, it is as you said, games are art. Art is a part of our culture. And culture, as much as some may like to think otherwise, shapes our viewpoints. We grow and adapt with it. Call of Duty will not make a generation into the types of people who carry assault rifles everywhere, but they are a part of a culture that is approving of cold soldiers.

      How one even begins to fix a culture, though, is far beyond me.

      • Girard says:

         Anyone interested in this stuff might enjoy Dave Grossman’s super-interesting book On Killing:The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.

        Grossman is a military man, so the book isn’t overly reactionary or pacifistic, making it feel rather more measured and well-argued (and I say this as an often reactionary pacifist). He looks at a variety of data showing how, prior to mechanized units being introduced in battle, casualties were lower, and intentional misfires were higher, as soldiers tended to practice a kind of “silent protest” by simply not firing their weapons, or firing over their enemies’ heads, to psychologically insulate themselves from the prospect of killing (for instance, excavations of Civil War battlegrounds turn up TONs of rifles with multiple charges loaded in the barrel, because soldiers were pantomiming firing, then re-loading their still-loaded rifles). His thesis is that people have an extremely strong psychological aversion to killing other people, and that conditioning away from that aversion, while ‘necessary’ for military victory, can also have a high psychological cost.

        He goes on to discuss the psychological forces that can lead to killing, and the psychological fallout that follows killing – indicating in many ways that the soldier who kills is a casualty (albeit a psychological one) just as much as the soldier who is killed. He touches on the developments in mechanized warfare that separate soldiers from direct killing by requiring teams (to load and operate a proper machine gun), and developments in military training and in larger culture that contribute to eroding the once-very-strong aversion to killing that he posits as endemic to human nature.

        I may not be representing it well, but it’s a really interesting book. I heard about it in an interview with Evan Wright about his great book & TV series Generation Kill, if that lends it any more credence…

        • SamPlays says:

          PTSD is a horrible, horrible condition that affects far more people than you might imagine. It’s certainly associated with soldiers but anyone who experiences a traumatic event (i.e., death of a family member, natural disasters, vehicle accidents, any type of crime). It’s also a condition that has been far too sanitized in the media. George Carlin was on the nose when he criticized the detached, clinical re-interpretation of “shell shock” as “post-traumatic stress syndrome”. 

          BTW, General Kill is awesome, as is pretty much everything else by David Simon.

        • Asinus says:

           (for instance, excavations of Civil War battlegrounds turn up TONs of rifles with multiple charges loaded in the barrel, because soldiers were pantomiming firing, then re-loading their still-loaded rifles).”

          That’s really interesting. 

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

             I think about all the documented rituals that most cultures utilize to strip a returning soldier of his war persona and prepare them for returning to a life of peace.
             Their clothing, their nom de guerre are ritually burned, as they represent a destructive purpose that has no place at home.  The ritual also serves to liberate the soldier from the many sins committed during war time.
             I’d have no idea how to implement something like this contemporaneously, as even mentioning it reeks of the flabbiest, liberal-arts, pop-psychological meta-indulgence; but given the disastrous numbers of veteran suicides and the well documented issues with soldiers integrating back into civilian life, I feel there is at least a seed of merit to the idea.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          Your arguments makes sense, and I think that they (or Grossman’s if you prefer) would make video games potentially partly responsible for violence or the ease of committing violence.  My argument does not refute that they would lower the barriers to violence, simply that the expected result in more actual violence, with the highest number of people ever playing violent video games and watching violent movies, is not there.

          But I would say that most of Grossman’s arguments would be better applied not so much to video games, but in predator drone strikes, or even in warfare where the country as a whole doesn’t have to directly engage in killing and the realities of war are far removed (such as in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where only a small portion of the populace are involved an no fighting is occurring or affecting the home front).

          However, it is not a reply to my argument, which is that this is one of the most peaceful times in history with lowest number of violent deaths per capita world-wide at the same time as there are wide-spread video games.
          Perhaps if we engaged in some sweeping world war with lots of gun violence (it would have to be more than WW II, though) or lots of mechanized killing (much more likely and more directly a result of video game technology), then one could say that video games contributed to overall violence.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          Sounds like the book is really worth reading.  I knew there was a reason that I read AV Club forums.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Some other good books about the current conflict I recommend are Love My Rifle More Than You written by a female soldier about her experience in the Army, One Bullet Away by Nate Fick (the competent platoon Lieutenant from Generation Kill), Black Hearts, which is about atrocity committed by US soldiers in Iraq (and is a tough but rewarding read), and The Operators which is the book version of the Rolling Stone article that led to Stanley McCrystal being fired.

        • The Guilty Party says:

          I think the argument that ‘People have a big psychological block against killing other people’ only works with the addition of ‘in cold blood’.

          Because you need to somehow explain the various brutal hand-to-hand weaponry deployed across the span of human history.

        • Girard says:

           @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus : He actually discusses the post-war “ritual” in the book – not so much the rites you describe as the typical homecoming pomp that was common in times when war was seem as a less ambiguous good. Veterans returning from WWII received parades, and the assurance that they were heroes and members of the “greatest generation,” which helped create a conceptual space which perpetuated justification of their violence, and salved the mental wounds of having murdered.

          Later, when (particular) wars were seen in a negative light, like during Vietnam, when soldiers were decried as babykillers and so on, this denied them the self-mythologication and helped contribute to the huge amount of PTSD suffered by veterans of that war.

          Note that this is presented (in the book, a well as by me) as a cause-effect argument/observation, and not an advocacy for jingoistic patriotism or a return to unambiguous cheerleading of war. It simply observes that those social mechanisms served a certain psychological function for veterans, without which, their psychic scars were far deeper.

        • Girard says:

           @The_Guilty_Party:disqus He actually addresses different parts of your point throughout the book. Re: hand-to-hand weaponry, he details how the development of weapons has been as much to provide psychological leverage as mechanical leverage in killing. Killing with a cudgel is much easier and less traumatic for the killer than having to wrestle someone to the ground and strangle them with your bare hands, face-to-face, for instance. And killing with a blade is less traumatic than bludgeoning with a cudgel, and firing a rifle from a distance is less traumatic than using a blade, etc. etc. (He also notes that sides that retreat from a battle invariably suffer greater casualties than the opposing side – and suffer the majority of those casualties after retreat, rather than before, because it is psychologically easier to fire on someone from behind).

          The ‘cold blood’ issue is brought up in his discussion of the development of training practices throughout history meant to induce “hot-bloodedness” in soldiers, from propaganda inciting rage against dehumanized others, to various wartime chants to berserker trances and so on. He also details the psychology that leads up to a kill, including the adrenaline rush that often enable a kill in ‘hot blood’ (but which still typically results in trauma after the fact).

        • Rob Crawford says:

          Video games PALE in comparison to how kids used to play. Squatting in your living room, twitching a controller is NOTHING compared to the immersion of running around the yard with your “rifle” in hand, “shooting” at the other kids. You’re actually employing the correct muscles and actually “shooting” at real people.

          And yet only the looniest of loons believes that playing “cowboys and indians” or “cops and robbers” or “soldiers” led to kids being more capable of real violence.

      • doyourealize says:

        It’s not just violence that brings out the “either/or” argument. Looking at the recent financial crisis, you don’t have to search too hard to find someone blaming a specific person or thing, insinuating that had that one thing not happened, everything would be wonderful. Same with climate change. All these things are in fact “caused” by a slow build up of incidences that’s not so easy to pinpoint as people pretend to make it. The causes are trackable, but books are written to provide the evidence, not sentences and soundbites.

        I tend to agree with @HobbesMkii:disqus here. It’s easy as a gamer to want to defend your hobby when anyone wants to blame it for society’s ills. We can all step back, though (and this comments section seems to be doing just that), and accept that possibly, obsession with “ultra-realistic” war games may be a small piece of the puzzle. There’s some truth to the argument that parents shouldn’t be allowing their children to play these games, but games companies shouldn’t be encouraging the connection. And in that light, EA’s new blurring of the lines campaign to connect the game to real life is immature and unethical. It may not be the cause of the problem (as Ryan points out, he can’t be sure his nephew wouldn’t have brought a gun to school if he hadn’t played these games), but the dots might be a little easier to connect.

        • Asinus says:

          You’ll never win an election with that sort of Frenchy, nuanced, classical guitar, wind surfing, educated perspective. Elitist… something… 

          • doyourealize says:

            I’m doyourealize and I approve this message because jobs and middle class and the children.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

         I think the real issue is that kids will play these games, then subconciously become conditioned to think of war as “good guys busting in and shooting the bad guys,” then they grow up and start to vote.

      • DarkerLoaf says:

        What of my argument that overall global gun violence (and violence in general) both per-captia and nominally is down?  If you look at the last hundred years of human history, people in era of videogames have committed the least violence towards each other per capita.  So, my above argument was talking about indirect causality.

        As far as direct causality, I’m sure that video games somewhere for some idiot has helped cause a gun death or a violent death, and it would likely be easier to prove that proving that somehow gun deaths are up because of video games.  More than likely, they are responsible for the catalyst of violent confrontation as an argument over the game itself between two people.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

           You raise a good point, and one that I had forgotten. Violence, overall, is down. It can be hard to remember this when you’re constantly exposed to messages of BLOOD IN THE STREET, PSYCHOPATHS ARE EVERYWHERE, YOU’RE NOT SAFE EVEN AT THE MOVIES, etc. etc. etc. Whereas I remember reading that in the 19th century, I believe, violence was often so common in some places the news didn’t even bother to report it. Though that is a suspiciously vague statement, which I should probably do some more research into.

        • Merve says:

          The problem with that statistical argument – and to be clear, I don’t disagree with it; I’m just playing devil’s advocate – is that other factors have caused declines in gun violence. Say, for example, that higher real incomes led to both decreased gun violence and increased violent video game purchases, but then in turn, increased violent video game purchases led to very slight increase in gun violence. Overall, we would see a decrease in gun violence, but not one as large as it would have been in the absence of violent video games.

          Now, the issue is that this phenomenon, which is an instance of what econometricians call “multicollinearity,” is hard to deal with. It becomes tough to disentangle the effects of what’s causing what. It might be easy to convince people that poverty is a leading cause of gun crime, but based on the stats, it’s not at all easy to convince them that violent video games aren’t.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          RE  AHyperkineticLagomorph:

          Here’s a article that talks about what I’m talking about:

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

      Art can certainly effect change in a person, or inspire them to action. Words and images, abstractions of “real things,” can have physical and psychological consequences for the person interpreting them or experiencing them.

      To the human brain, there isn’t that much difference between reading a
      convincing description of a battle, and being in one. Certainly one of
      those experiences is more potent than the other, but when it comes down
      to it all experiences exist only as your mind interprets them.

      One issue is that to keep people from being exposed to abstractions with negative effects, you have to engage in some form of censorship. People don’t like that. They don’t like being told that something is off-limits, or that they can’t express a certain idea, or that they have to get permission to purchase something that isn’t a “real” weapon or a “real” experience.

      Modern liberalism means people want certain rights, and one of those is freedom of speech and expression. If I’m not going out and shooting people, why shouldn’t I be able to play a game that simulates the same? Another one, in this country and some others, is the right to bear arms. If I promise to use it within a set of boundaries, why can’t I have a military-grade weapon?

      People don’t like to think about minorities when big decisions are being made. So we have people who are affected by mental illness, or children who may be too young to fully process right v. wrong and reality v. fantasy, and they are most vulnerable to influence from fictive experiences. But, if we make it more difficult for certain groups to gain access to those experiences, or to gain access to weapons, aren’t we restricting their rights? Aren’t we engaging in discrimination, marginalization, censorship, fascism? Or at least, aren’t we approaching a reality in which we do those things?

      There’s so much gray area that most people decide to ignore the nuances of these issues, pick a single side, and argue it hard. On one forum discussing the Aurora shooting and the Sheik temple shooting (only a few miles from my own home,) a woman pleaded for more safety nets for the mentally ill, better systems to find and help people before they become violent or otherwise harm or are harmed because of their illness. She argued her point compellingly, providing evidence from several cases of mass-shooters and their mental health histories. Many of the commenters replied that it wasn’t our responsibility to help the mentally ill, not at all, that the entire mental health system in America was fine–the real issue, the only issue, is gun control. All other arguments, they said, are just distractions from the real issue.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        The mentally ill used to be the concern of the state in the US for almost a hundred years. There were a lot of problems with institutionalization, not the least of which was the rampant abuse at the heart of the asylum model, but community-based care obviously doesn’t work when it’s estimated that at least one third of all homeless people are mentally ill.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           I don’t think we need to be putting large numbers of people in state-run asylums, but I do think that it’s important to make sure that those who do seek out care–James Holmes, for example, was seeing a counselor while he was a student, but lost that access when he dropped out–have an easier time getting care and getting help for their problems.

          It ties into the larger issue of whether or not you agree with socialized/state-run medicine in general, with the caveat that physical illness does not contribute to violence, while mental illness can.

        • evanwaters says:

          Yeah, I think the problem is the swinging of the pendulum. The way we effectively imprisoned anyone who was visibly eccentric, and ran mental hospitals with only a rudimentary understanding of what mental illness was, was contemptible and I’m glad we aren’t doing that anymore- but now we’re just neglecting the mentally ill until they do something violent. That’s not good either.

      • Electric Dragon says:

         “To the human brain, there isn’t that much difference between reading a convincing description of a battle, and being in one.”
        Do you have any citation for that? I think there’s a lot of difference between reading about and being in an actual battle. You don’t get PTSD from reading a book.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:


          They’re not at all equal in power, but reading text with a great deal of imagery activates areas of the brain associated with sensation alongside those associated with language. So, while reading about a battle in a book won’t give you PTSD, it can activate the same areas in your brain that would be activated in a real battle.

    • innocent_passerby says:

      Good points.  For me it’s less about causing violence as providing the structure for it to occur easily.  I’m reminded of a community psych researcher in Alaska working in an Inuit community with a ridiculously high suicide rate among teenagers.  The method of choice was death by hanging in the closet.  When the community took out all the bars from their closets, the suicide rate dropped dramatically.  Usually the physical act of violence  is driven by an impulse, and I don’t think there’s much hope of controlling violence at that level.  But whether or not that impulse has a plausible script to go by, and materials at hand that match that script, can make a big difference as to whether the violence becomes physical.  Probably people who are on the edge of violence can be inspired to that violence by a bad traffic jam, and people who are determined to do violence will do it by any means necessary, but this kind of marketing does seem to increase the likelihood that someone with a less-than-thoughtful impulse to do violence will be able to carry out that act without ever having to really consciously think about what they’re doing.  I would definitely agree with @AHyperkineticLagomorph:disqus … it’s not that I think it’s definitely going to lead to an increase in violence, it just makes me feel ill to see these lines crossed.

      • doyourealize says:

        Interesting story about the Inuit community. I hadn’t heard that before. However, they hopefully didn’t just call it a day after removing the bars from closets. There was obviously some deeper societal pressures at work that could have been examined, especially by a psychologist. Just like including adds for guns in video games won’t necessarily cause more violence, taking them out won’t extinguish it. (It is the right move, though.)

        • innocent_passerby says:

          Oh absolutely, there was work that went along with it (I believe the idea came out of community-wide meetings, it’s definitely not a one-variable situation), and I think you’re right about the practical effect of including/removing gun ads being really pretty low.  Definitely more to the picture, but I think it’s kind of impressive to see that even given the same crappy conditions and pressures, the violence rates can go down when you make violence harder (and part of making it harder is the community decision to try to reject the option). 

        • Merve says:

          “However, they hopefully didn’t just call it a day after removing the bars from closets.”

          I feel the same. Canada’s Inuit communities face so many issues that could lead teens to commit suicide – financial poverty; inadequate schooling; unemployment; lack of access to advanced health care and psychiatric care; culture clashes; illicit drugs; existing in a hybrid monetized/non-monetized economy. At the risk of using a somewhat inappropriate metaphor, we have to treat both the symptom and the disease.

        • Asinus says:

          “What? On the bar in the closet? That can’t support a person… here, watch…” 

    • Merve says:

      I’d say something on the subject, but MovieBob has already tackled it better than I can:

      Bottom line: Yes, art can inspire people to cause violence. But we can never know for sure what art will set those people off.

    • Girard says:

       And the thing is, if there was really no link between violent games and violent behavior, the Army wouldn’t have invested so much in campaigns to inculcate potential recruits (including minors, cleverly skirting laws against explicitly recruiting minors) in their particular form of (socially and legally sanctioned) violence by opening Army-themed video arcades and video games.

      In the past, paintings, posters, and cartoons have served as extremely effective tools of propaganda and incitements to violence. Does this mean those artforms are inherently propagandistic, violent, or incapable of subversive or subtle treatment of violence? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have tremendous potential power to incite or encourage violence. I feel games are in a similar boat as an artform, though the immersive qualities that makes games particularly good at encouraging obsession (such as catching all the Pokemon, grinding characters to level 99, unlocking all of Star Road, building a diamond castle in Minecraft…) might make them a bit more prone to encouraging an obsession with violence (and would explain all the kind of terrifying 10-to-13-year-old boys I’ve encountered in class with a bizarre, encyclopedic knowledge of firearms learned through games like Call of Duty).

      • Captain Internet says:

        The (US) Army creating a game as a recruiting tool doesn’t necessarily mean they were acknowledging and then exploiting a link between games and violent behaviour. I think it’s simply that they needed to recruit more young men, and the young men were all playing computer games.

        Of course, the US Army were also offering you the chance to get your hands on the products that were in the game, just not in quite the same way as EA. 

        • stakkalee says:

          I don’t think you can just call AA a recruiting tool.  Most studies of the effects of video games on people’s sensitivity to violence have only measured short-term effects, but we’re now in an age where players have been exposed to realistic violence in video games for their entire life.  AA has achievements much like every other video game, but they’re not just awarded for being a good soldier (staying with the squad, following orders, etc.) but for “neutralizing” enemies as well.  I’m sure the primary goal of AA is to increase recruitment, and you’re right, they do make a similar link between the virtual and the real in the way EA does by offering access to the fancy weapons.  The problem is that the Army’s recruiting standards are WAY too low right now, and it’s very possible for a mentally-disturbed individual to not just get access to those weapons, but even training in how to use them.  I’m not saying the Army is responsible for the actions of any of its soldiers, but if they’re not actively taking steps to ensure they’re not training “crazy” people to use weapons they’re doing the country a major disservice.

        • Captain Internet says:

          @stakkalee:disqus – I’ve no idea what they’re doing with it now, but when AA1 came out the explanation was exactly what I’ve laid out above.

          Furthermore, I know for a fact that some people have had their lives influenced for the better by military training and discipline, much in the same was as others have had their lives turned around by boxing gyms. 

          They have psychiatrists. They are not just hoovering up violent loners, teaching them how to kill and then sending them back into society.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @stakkalee:disqus I don’t know that the long-term studies will show us much, either. Some of the studies concerning conditioning to violence stress that human beings have a hard time committing to killing one another, and the mental block that exists for most people against homicide is quite strong and rebuilds itself quickly. One of the comforting things is that while researchers were able to show that someone who played a violent video game was desensitized to violence immediately after playing, it took less than a day for them to be resensitized to it, and just as unwilling to kill as before playing. Soldiers are drilled to live 24/7 ready to fight, which is something that the rest of us just don’t experience. 

        • stakkalee says:

          I certainly didn’t mean to suggest the Army was “hoovering up violent loners”, but the fact remains that the Army’s recruitment process doesn’t weed out people like Wade Michael Page and other racists.  I’ve known many people as well who were put on the straight-and-narrow thanks to the Army, but I’ve also met others who learned about weapons and battlefield tactics but didn’t internalize the lessons about discipline and the judicious application of force.

          I agree that the Army presents AA as simply a recruiting tool.  I just find that that explanation ignores a number of questions and issues surrounding sensitivity to violence, the acceptable use of firearms, and the unique way video games shape cultural and personal perception.

          @HobbesMkii:disqus I take comfort in knowing that the moral compulsion to not kill is likely quickly reestablished in the absence of desensitizing stimuli.  But as you say, we aren’t living it 24/7.  And this is all getting further and further afield from the main topic, which is EA and their extremely ill-considered promotional campaign.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Oddly enough, reading through the NYTimes today, I came upon a Room for Debate about right-wing hate groups. One of the contributors kind of backs up the points made by @stakkalee:disqus about the military and not adequately looking out for people prone to carry violence back into civilian life:

      • SamPlays says:

        I see what you’re saying here but I’m not sure that the Army’s approach to marketing their organization is based on the purported link between violent games and violent behavior. I would suggest that using video games to attract potential recruits indicates the Army is keenly aware of who is most likely to sign-up for a job in the armed forces. 

        I’m also not sure that a message of violence is sufficient to incite violence but I agree that it could influence how one might think about certain issues under the right conditions. The information processing required between exposure to a message and committing violence is not exactly straightforward (see work by Petty and Cacioppo for one well-supported theory). If the point of the message is to incite violent behavior, it’s implied that the audience is sufficiently non-violent by nature – otherwise, you wouldn’t need to prepare a convincing message to urge people into violent behaviors. 

        But I’m going to digress on that point because the point I want to make is that attitudes, beliefs and values have little predictive validity when it comes to real-world behavior. Even if you get to a point where messages about violence lead to an “obsession with violence”, there’s no evidence to suggest that a person will enact that elaboration with actual violent behavior.

        No, if you could only get those kids to dedicate their memory banks to memorizing the periodic table, you’d be in business!

      • stakkalee says:

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here.  The US Military has been partnering with various publishers for a long time – you linked to America’s Army, which I’ll point out is already on version 3.3; 26 different versions have been released since the first one on July 4, 2002.  Subtle, that last touch.

        I think video games as a medium are much better suited than most others to produce art that provokes an emotional response, because they’re much more participatory than other media.  With other media your experience is passive, but in video games you, the player, actively shape the form of the art you’re experiencing.  You can make the argument that video games, especially in their modern forms, desensitize us to violence in a way other media, and indeed previous technological eras in the video game medium, didn’t.  I’d argue that that’s the case, and that the US Army recognizes video games as a tool not just of recruitment but of training as well, which of course begs several questions, such as 1)Training for what? and 2) If other video games employ the same tactics as AA, or borrow gameplay ideas from those titles, do those video games also impart the same type of “training?”

        I think what EA is doing is deeply problematic, and definitely immoral, although I don’t think they’ve crossed any ethical lines.  But to make that final link between the cartoonish violence in which players participate with the real-life means to perpetrate actual violence simply increases the likelihood of some individual with a mental disorder making that final leap from the virtual to the real.

    • SamPlays says:

      It’s understandable that fans of video games would get defensive whenever debates about violence flare up. Often, the arguments are composed of incendiary, illogical statements about the nature of gaming, violence and the people who engage in both behaviors. The fact of the matter is that there is no consistent, valid evidence to suggest a causal relationship between violent games and real-life violence. The primary issue is that researchers have not clearly and consistently defined gaming violence, gaming behavior and violent behavior, either theoretically or operationally, in an experimental setting. When you take a meta-analytic approach to decades of research, the combined effect size of individual findings is minimal. This means you can find research that will support either side of the argument.

      I completely agree with your last paragraph when you say that people of “sound mind” will be unmoved by the visceral thrills found in many video games, while others will be “set off” by the exact same thing. The concept of violence is far more complicated than people give it credit and you cannot discuss its antecedents, action and consequences without wading (or wallowing) in multiple, concurrent theories from psychology, sociology, biology, economics, philosophy… you can see where I’m going with this:) People are looking for a simple answer (i.e., causality) but that outcome is entirely improbable.

      • The Guilty Party says:

        Unfortunately, we (those of us who are citizens of the US) exist in a society where decisions are arrived at by battles between simple answers.

    • Asinus says:

      I think that a link is there, but it doesn’t imply causality between violence and video games. I don’t think I’m being too weasely with my words here, either. I just think that people with violent tendencies are going to be attracted to violent games. The games might become a way for them to hone their violence or to give it shape, but it just seems highly probable that someone who played some violent game or another (after Columbine, fingers were pointed at DOOM) and shoots up a school, workplace, theater, etc. was going to do that, or something like it, anyway. The game just provides them with a twisted narrative they can tell themselves as a bit of rationalization.

      However, with this sponsorship and “product tie ins,” EA is shortening the path between violent tendencies, video games, and the means with which to carry out violence with the very weapons a person has been virtually practicing with. God, you’d almost think it was a sick experiment to see if, indeed, there will be an increased number of mass shootings with the weapons from the game or not. 

      I will grant you that video games can and are used to take the edge off of killing other people– and if the only thing that’s stopping someone from murdering lots of people is a lack of efficacy, games could help them over come that. So, what I’m saying with my flipping and flopping is that it’s not a straight causality, but there probably is a sort of symbiotic relationship that begins with the violent person being drawn toward violent things, the violent thing providing a space to rehearse their violence, and a way to frame themselves as a hero(?) in their actions– the protagonist. 

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I agree for the most part. I’m not of the opinion that GTA turns fourteen-year-olds into mass murderers. But there is linkage. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, cited Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft as training tools. Now, he obviously sought those games out intending to use them for that purpose, and not intending to draw inspiration from them. 

        But I do think art contributes as a causation to violence. It’s hardly the only cause, and may not even be the single largest cause. But we don’t know how people will react to any piece of art. On the night he was arrested, Mark Chapman (who shot and killed John Lennon) was found with a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in which he’d written “This is my statement.” Obviously, the book had a sincere effect on him (and as you say, allowed him to frame himself as the hero, Holden Caulfield), one that fed into his own mental state and encouraged him to act. I see no reason why, if video games aspire to be art on par with film, television, or literature, that they might not have some similar effect on another person. And I think, should they have that effect, we need to own up to the fact that they did. We don’t need to censor them (which I find just as unthinkable as censoring Catcher), but we do need to recognize the role they played.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           The thing about GTA is that it never tries to make its protagonists as heroes. They are always scum-of-the-earth criminals, and while that may be fun to role-play as, I think it’s fairly obvious that the things you do are wrong.

          Military shooters, on the other hand, tend to portray their protagonists as the Hero bravely defending his country against the Bad Guys, by shooting all of them (there’s never a “discuss your issues diplomatically button”).

        • evanwaters says:

          I really don’t see how he could have used WoW as any kind of teaching tool, unless he kept kneeling down and trying to loot the corpses.

        • Asinus says:

          I think we agree… I’m pretty sure we’re even meeting at the same point but just coming from different directions. 

          @evanwaters:disqus WoW taught him the best rotation to use to DPS down those kids. Oh yeah, and not to stand in glowing circles.

        • RockTheFaces says:

          But, Professor_Cuntburglar, have you ever talked to someone about their experience in GTA 4, or told a story yourself? Personally, when I relayed an anecdote about something crazy that happened in the game, I never said, “Nico did this,” or “This happened to Nico.” It was always, “*I* drove my car off the Empire State Building,” or, “*I* ran over 15 pedestrians in one fishtail.” 

          I’m not saying any of this directly leads to violence, but I think there’s less disassociation between character and player in the GTA games than a lot of people are willing to concede.

    • DarkerLoaf says:

      I’ll agree, violence could be inspired from a video game.  I would say that more often than not, video game experiences, are meaningless twitch-reactions and not “the will to power.”

      And while Nietzsche is probably responsible for some deaths since his works have been around this long, he’s not directly responsible for any deaths, as are not video games.  Also long as humans have been alive, we’ve played “War” as a children.  If we are going to argue in terms of just raw statistics, violence globally, is at an all-time low.  So, if anything, one could argue that videogames are responsible for less violence, since people are to unused to acting in the real world. 

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I think this is an excellent point for clarification: Art can be held responsible for its influence, but artists cannot be held responsible for actions caused by their art. Nietzsche’s work may have influenced Nathan Leopold to, with Richard Loeb, kill Bobby Franks, but Nietzsche himself did not violate (what I believe to be) natural law by taking another human life, nor did he encourage such violation. Art is subjective, and once an artist has produced a piece of art, that piece lives a life of its own. It lives perhaps thousands of lives-one for each person who consumes it.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          An interesting point, you make there, HobbesMkii.  I’m assuming you’d apply your logic to video games as well?

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @DarkerLoaf:disqus Absolutely. I don’t hold Sam & Dan Houser responsible if some idiot kid plays GTA and decides to start smashing up cars or Vince Zampella responsible for people who take Call of Duty too much to heart (it can’t be his fault the community that plays his games is full of racist, hate-filled pre-teens). 

          The only time I think this would be countered is if you actually have a piece of art (Mein Kampf leaps to the forefront) that actively encourages people to violence. But the lion’s share of culpability still lies with the person who committed the act, not the artist. They had the free will to avoid violence and chose the opposite path.

      • Girard says:

         Your mention of play is important. Role-playing is a really important tool for kids, and people, to explore and toy with issues, sometimes very difficult ones. I’m generally a pacifistic person, and am made very uncomfortable when I see kids (sometimes my own students) engaging in play fighting (ninjas, superheroes) or gun play (soldiers, cowboys), but, unlike some well-intentioned folks I know, I can’t tell them that such play is “bad” or off-limits, because I recognize that such play is really important to them acting out and understanding the ethics of violent or problematic situations. Video games are awesome tools for role-play, including role-play of cathartic violence (not that I’d have handed Call of Duty to any of my preschoolers…).

    • Shain Eighmey says:

      To be honest, if video games are capable of inspiring people to acts of violence then that just puts them right on par with other forms of art like film and literature. Dare I say, especially literature. 

      Those books, they make people kill people because they put these dangerous thoughts into the minds of children. They’re dangerous! *feigned panic*

      In all seriousness though, I’m more amazed that we haven’t come up with a better way to handle this than anything else. 

    • Let it be forever known that on August 13, 2012, a mature and thoughtful discussion about video game violence occurred on the Internet. 

    • Rob Crawford says:

      Clarence Darrow once argued (successfully) that Nietzsche’s writing caused two boys to murder a third.”

      Really? When? He *tried* that defense in Leopold and Loeb, but they ended up sentenced to life + 99 years.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         As opposed to getting them the death penalty. Darrow’s defense hinged on pleading guilty and then being allowed to make a case before the judge for clemency. It’s considered a masterful bit of defense. He even said at one point, “It is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.” Apparently, the judge agreed.

  3. George_Liquor says:

    I learned a valuable lesson recently. About three months ago I changed jobs, but forgot to ask a very important question during the interview: “Is everyone I’m going to be working with a total fucking gun-nut?” The Aurora shooting happened on the other side of town from my office, so naturally it was the topic for discussion the following Monday. Thing is, these guys weren’t worried for the victims or whether more shootings might follow; they were worried about what would happen to the various high-powered assault rifles they all evidently own. One of them even quoted that 10,000 homicides per year statistic and compared it favorably to the number of car-related deaths–as if a) those two statistics had anything to do with each other or b) the fact that more people die in cars each year somehow vindicates their owning military-grade firearms for no other reason than they like to go shoot the fuck out of old TVs. 

    I miss my old job.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Cars obviously serve no other purpose than taking life, much like a gun. Sometimes, when I go hunting, I don’t even take a gun, I just drive the deer/bears/etc. down in my Ford F-250. Does a little motor oil and paint get embedded in and ruin the meat? Sure. But that taint is the taint of freedom.

      • George_Liquor says:

        It kills and it tenderizes!

        This is what I wanted to scream at them, but instead I sat at my desk and bit my tongue because I’m a fucking pussy. These aren’t young men I work with, either. These are guys in their 40s and 50s who should have the fucking life experiences necessary to make the connection between the AR-15s they use to blow up this shit and the AR-15s psychos use to murder people in a movie theater.

        • caspiancomic says:

           I like that the website specifies that Tannerite is a legal exploding rifle target, thank you very much.

        • George_Liquor says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus I like that it emphasizes how Tannerite is a real product for real men. C4 is for pussies.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           Is that just jars of exploding goop? To purchase? So that when you shoot things it makes a big ‘splosion, because you’re not 4 anymore and are too grown-up to just make explosion noises with your mouth?

        • Asinus says:

          C4 is for pussies.” Only if they’re really tight. 

      • Raging Bear says:

        That was you?!

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Oh, yeah…I’m sorry about your cousin. He was very tastefully stuffed, though. You can barely see the skid marks.

        • Raging Bear says:

          @HobbesMkii:disqus You just count yourself lucky that that was my least favorite cousin.

      • DarkerLoaf says:

        Heh.  Also, I’ve known people to do that.  I guess I have access to the redneck world in that regard.  I’ve also eaten roadkill.  I don’t advocate it, though.

    • “I miss my old job.”

      Dude, I feel you. I spent a year in Northern California in grad school, and regardless of how people that I met felt about gun ownership, they were mostly reasonable and willing to see the other side of the argument.

      I came back to Michigan for the summer, and with a lot of my old friends in the area have left and so have a lot of my college friends from Ann Arbor (work, grad school). I met a lot of people through some friends who have remained in the area, and these people identify as “independents” politically who don’t seem to care about any issues other than their love of guns and the military and dislike for the government and taxes. After the Aurora shooting, they’ve been blowing up my Facebook newsfeed with basically the same kinds of things you mention your coworkers talk about, and it’s usually some inflammatory rhetoric about how “guns don’t kill people” and “these are objects that can kill people but nobody wants to outlaw them, so you fucking liberals just want to take away our rights” and so on. Like you can’t even talk about this issue with them, because they’ll just jump on you. I don’t even hate guns or oppose gun ownership, but I think there needs to be limits, and it’s frustrating that there are people who won’t even hear you out and automatically reduce your argument to something that it’s not.

      • TaumpyTearrs says:

        I was training my new coworker last night, and at first I didn’t think we’d get along cause he looked pretty straight edge and wants to be a cop. Turns out he used to get high, he loves [adult swim] and plays video games and Dungeons and Dragons, so I thought we were simpatico.

        Then guns came up, and it turns out he LOVES his guns. Completely opposed to any form of gun control more than we have now, and thinks its a little to controlling as is. He brought up the usual arguments and statistics. He is smart enough to realise no one will take away his guns because it would be politically unfeasible, but it still worries him.

        I said that no one in power thinks the way that I do, so the only way he will lose guns is if they all suddenly disappeared one day because I found a genie that granted me three wishes, and it would be immediately followed by big tittied women flooding the streets giving out drugs and alcohol before making out with each other. Even in this scenario, where ALL guns disappear, and titties and intoxicants are readily available, he said he would STILL be incredibly upset, AND he would make his own guns.

        Until that moment I never realised that gun lovers truly LOVE their guns, like I would a great work of art or a cute kitten. Even if no one else could threaten them with other guns, they still want their guns.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

      Why are the dudes who own military grade weapons always the last dudes on earth who you would want to have access to military grade weapons?

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I am generally confused why anything labelled “military grade” can be owned by not-the-military.
        They made a civilian version of the damn Humvee, because it was unsuitable for street usage in its military form, but go right ahead and buy yourself a nice M4…
        to hunt sprouts or apricots or whatever.

        • As a friend of mine from the Army and a gun enthusiast explained it me (so I might be remembering some things wrong), military grade assault rifles like the AR15 are usually modified for civilian use. The AR15 when used in the military and called the M16 (I don’t know why these different designations exist) can be switched between automatic, meaning 3-round burst per trigger pull, and semi-auto, i.e. 1 round per trigger pull. The civilian version is only semi-auto. The problem is that it can be modified into automatic, which is illegal, but that won’t stop people, whether they’ve purchased the gun legally or not, who want to modify it from doing it if they really wanted to.

          My friend also claimed that some hunting rifles do more damage than a civilian-use assault rifle, implying that there’s nothing wrong with making it available, and that people should have the choice and so on. I don’t agree with that viewpoint, particularly because modification into an automatic assault rifle is possible. Plus, why the hell is that stuff available to civilians anyway? Aren’t handguns and hunting weapons enough to protect from any potential threats you might encounter in daily life? It just makes no sense to me.

          I also hate the argument about everyday objects being used to kill people so people should stop talking about banning guns. I’m sorry, but most everyday objects have uses beyond FUCKING KILLING PEOPLE; they can be used as weapons but aren’t necessarily weapons. I don’t understand why some people have such a hard time grasping that concept, because I came to that conclusion in fucking high school, and that made me reconsider my attitudes on gun ownership a lot.

          Sorry, I’ll be getting off the soapbox now.

        • Asinus says:

          IIRC (and there are probably actual law-talkers here who will be able to refine/refute me here) there was a Supreme Court ruling in the long long ago (I want to say 1936… because whenever I guess a date, I put a ‘6’ on the end) that said that the second amendment applied specifically to military weapons. Otherwise it wasn’t fair… or something. Now that I write that out, it sounds like BS, but I swear I heard someone who knows what he’s talking about talk about this. 

          Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Bofors cannon to buy. 

        • The Guilty Party says:

          @The_Asinus:disqus Not saying I agree with gun proliferation, but I can see the point of the 2nd amendment being specifically towards military weapons.

          if the purpose of the Amendment is to ensure there is no class-difference based on who is allowed to bear weapons, and to ensure that the citizens have the power of rebellion against a tyrant, then saying ‘you can have guns, but way smaller than those in power are allowed to have’ does kind of defeat the point.

          Whether or not either aspect of the amendment is still reasonable (or even consistently maintained: how good will your military grade M16 do against a tank or APC?), I can see why they decided that way if they’re literal minded.

        • stakkalee says:

          @The_Asinus:disqus , @leave_the_silver_city:disqus , @The_Guilty_Party:disqus , I hate to drop link and run, but Justice Scalia has  some thoughts on the legality of owning “handheld” weapons.  I don’t know whether to laugh or hide under my bed.

        • @stakkalee:disqus SCALIIIAAAA!!!

        • Electric Dragon says:

           @The_Guilty_Party:disqus : do you mean U.S. v. Miller (1939)?

        • Asinus says:

          @google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus , that’s probably it and it seems to be far more vague than the person selling it made it out to be. In fact, since the justification is the wording of the second Amendment itself, it doesn’t really clear anything up at all. 

    • DarkerLoaf says:

      Well, I can say that I feel the same as they do in regards to gun violence.  Drunk drivers are far more deadly than guns.  Doesn’t matter that they have nothing to do with each other.  Drunk driving is even illegal.  Would there be gun deaths if guns were illegal:  hell yes there would.  Perhaps there would be fewer, but we allow many things in our society to kill, cigarettes included.

      But many people I know have been affected by drunk-drivers, and nobody I know has been affected by a mass-shooting.  I was personally struck by a drunk driver in a head-on collision by a drunk at 60 mph; thankfully, I’m alive and relatively pain-free (I’ll feel it when I’m 70).  One of my best friends was killed by a drunk in his early 20’s.  One of my parents colleagues was also killed by a drunk-driver.

      We make the choices we want in terms of the ills a society is willing to tolerate.  Instead of promoting safer public transportation, we’ve made the choice as a society to drive our death machines as some kind of “freedom.”  Those co-workers shooting TV’s down in the dump will never be a danger to you.  But a high school girl texting her boyfriend driving is almost a certain risk you face daily.Also, “military grade” fire arms are not the greatest cause of death in terms of gun violence.  .38 special revolvers or .22 LR have killed a lot more people than 5.56 NATO in the United States.

      So in terms of “freedom,” gun nuts cause little damage with theirs, while the socially accepted “car nuts” (which basically includes everybody who socially accepts the driving of cars) kill without reason.  

      • George_Liquor says:

        Yep, that’s the same specious argument they trotted out. Cars become rolling death machines that serve no other purpose than vehicular homicide, while guns become innocent, blameless and holy.

        I’m not worried about my co-workers and the guns they pack. I’m not worried about being involved in a mass shooting myself. I’m pissed off because a psychopath with a documented history of mental illness legally purchased an assault rifle, several handguns, explosives, high-capacity magazines and thousand of rounds of ammo and then murdered 12 people ‘without reason’. He didn’t run them over, he didn’t blow cigarette smoke in their face, he fucking shot them to death with guns.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          Well, it is interesting to consider that objects not designed to kill are responsible for far more deaths.

          I don’t think guns are holy or blameless:  they are designed to kill.  But for being designed to do so, they are used far more often for fun (in America).  I will also admit that because there are guns in America, there are more gun deaths in America.

          However, we cannot easily get rid of those guns, politically or physically.  There is no authoritative gun registry or anything like it.  The guns that are in existence can last more than a hundred years, often even with regular use.  We are a country of gun-toting fools and will likely always be, legal or not.

          As far as your outrage, it is justifiable.  It is basically impossible to prevent somebody, so long as guns are legal, who never committed a serious crime and never had a history of mental health problems that would have prevented him from buying a firearm.  So, right or wrong, as long as guns are legal, he could buy one.

          You could argue and I would accept that if guns were difficult or even illegal to obtain, that shooting deaths would decline.  Even in countries like Norway with restrictive gun laws, the shooter was able to obtain guns, since he had no previous record, much like the shooter in Aurora. So, likely, you’d have to illegalize guns entirely to really reduce all types of shooting deaths.  And then, because of our proliferation of guns, you’d still have more shootings than most countries because of all the guns people would hold on to for as long as they could.

          As someone who enjoys shooting for its own sake, I acknowledge that more people are killed because of our country’s love of and proliferation of guns.  And it is selfish of me to enjoy my hobby with this cost in mind.  However, I do think that this is completely comparable to car accident deaths.  They are more easily preventable (simply by an increase of public transportation) and an increase in regulation–it probably should be more difficult to get a driver’s license than it is now.  Cars kill more people and have a massive effect on our culture and the environment than guns do.  Consider that you must have a driver’s license and (in most places) legally you must have insurance in order to drive a car.  That is because of the tremendous damage that is inevitably caused by driving.  
          Many country have stricter guns laws but worse driving enforcement and regulation.  They have far more deaths.  We could easily prevent more with improved public transportation, but yet, for the same reason gun nuts clutch their guns, “freedom” nearly every adult is forced to use dangers automobiles as part of our culture because we do not provide the option of convenient public transportation.Driving is the most dangerous things that most of us will ever do, and we do it every day because we so deeply accept it culturally.  But it is still under the same justification:  freedom.

        • George_Liquor says:

          you’re still equating accidental car deaths with deliberate shootings. If you really want an apples to apples comparison, you need to equate vehicular homicides with shootings. Those numbers skew a little different. Even drunk driving deaths–which I would agree fall under vehicular homicide–account for no more deaths per year than shootings.

          A car, when used for its intended purpose, is not a weapon. A gun is. That’s what it was made to do, regardless of whether you use it for ‘fun’ or not. Frankly, I don’t accept ‘shooting guns is fun’ as a valid reason why they should be so damn easy to obtain or why we have to always be a gun-lovers.

          For what it’s worth, I totally agree that driver’s licenses should be harder to obtain, and fewer people belong on the road. My last car accident involved an older-than-dirt woman who was clearly suffering from dementia and had no business behind the wheel. Her own insurance company said as much when they were settling my claim.

        • Girard says:

           @DarkerLoaf:disqus : So, can I maintain my smug sense of superiority if I hate guns and cars? Because, seriously, fuck cars.

      • The Guilty Party says:

        Should we ban cars? That would cause massive societal upheaval the likes of which has probably never been seen before, and would lower our standard of living. It would also save some lives.

        Should we ban guns? That would make people sad and interfere with their ability to hunt. It would also save some lives.

        You gain more and pay less when you ban guns compared to banning cars.

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          I never suggested that.  I only suggested an improvement in public transportation and possibly regulating licenses better (not as important).  We could probably stand to improve our roads, too.  That would save lives with minimal disruption and more overall convenience.  And as an added bonus, better mass transportation would limit our effect on the environment.  And it would probably save low 10,000’s of lives.

          On banning guns:  It would save less lives than improving public transportation, but some, probably in the low 1000’s of lives per year.  I wager it’d be less than we’d think because of the millions of guns that would last more than 100 years.
          Compare US to Japan.  We have about 300 million each.  It is regulated, but not illegal to own a car in Japan.  They had 4,863 accidental car deaths in 2010 (  We had 32,000 deaths accidental car deaths in 2010 ( have roughly 10,000 gun deaths per year as of now.  Japan has been able to reduce it to about 2 a year or almost nothing, but they lost World War II and were able to start from having no guns to begin with.

          More than half of all gun deaths per year in the United States are suicides, unlikely to go down much after a ban on guns.Also, a ban on guns wouldn’t be politically possible, as many people believe individual guns to be protected by constitution.  However, improving our transportation system has no such barriers and wouldn’t make anybody “sad.”

        • DarkerLoaf says:

          Oh, one odd side effect of banning guns would be this:  it would prevent people from committing suicide with a gun.  Since over half of gun deaths per year are suicides, not murders (which I just learned).

          Suicide rates per year do not seem to correlate whether guns are legal and available, rather on culture or other factors:
           So, the over half of all gun deaths in the US that are accounted for by suicide would become deaths of another flavor.

        • Arthur Chu says:

          I question that assertion strongly. A well-known statistic about suicides in the US is that teen girls are much more likely to attempt suicide than teen boys, but teen boys are much more likely to successfully kill themselves simply because of the method — boys are much more likely to have access to guns, and using a gun makes suicide pretty certain, while girls are much more likely to try methods like drug overdose or cutting or other things where successful medical intervention is far more likely.

        • Arthur Chu says:

          “Going into every house and getting every gun”, to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, is an impossible holy grail to be sure.

          It’s still a more accessible one than actually transforming the infrastructure and regional demographics of America so as to make the vast majority of the population suddenly become car-independent.

          What most people mean when they say “reforming public transportation” is just a drop-in-the-bucket kind of handwavy solution that doesn’t actually do shit to change the way people live, just makes things slightly more convenient for the minority that lives in a place where they can afford to rely on public transportation.

          Actually transforming America so most of us could live the way people live in Japan would mean literally rebuilding most of the goddamn country. It is a goal that is in the near term utterly impossible and can in the long term only be approached slowly and piecemeal — and honestly that’s a slow piecemeal process that’s probably less affordable and effective than things we could do if we had a modicum of political will right now to decrease gun ownership.

          Also, if you think no one thinks that there are constitutional barriers to taking the necessary steps to improve our transportation infrastructure you haven’t talked to any Republicans at all lately.

          Obama did less than 2% of what actually would need to be done to put transportation infrastructure on a sound footing that will last through, say, his own lifetime — and for doing it he was branded a communist dictator monster and reckless spendthrift of the public purse.

          We just started to make a very very small (by worldwide standards) high-speed rail project that would be a very small foundation on which you could start to build real widespread mass transit in one state, the State of California, and it’s already mired in tremendous controversy and “fiscal conservatives” are crowing about rapidly reaching the point where they can kill the project.

          So no, improving infrastructure in the US is not the easy goal you think it is, unless you’re talking about spending tiny little driblets of cash to revamp urban subways and pretending like that’s some kind of big deal (the same way we basically give a pittance to the school system and act like we’re frustrated from throwing endless streams of money down a giant hole when in fact compared to how most of the world spends money we’re ridiculously tightfisted on everything but our military).

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

         I’d actually be totally happy if we had greater access to public transportation and regulated guns to a greater degree.

        Heck, lets legalize gay marriage while we’re imagining this impossible liberal utopia.

    • DarkerLoaf says:

      I guess what hurts gun-nuts in terms of the political discussion is that a vast majority of them tend to be assholish or douchey.  Generally not dangerous, but jerks, like:  shooting street signs kind of douchey or getting in your face about gun ownership with open carry at Starbucks kind of douchey.

    • Asinus says:

      Yeah… the car thing. That makes me so angry and frustrated that I’ve decided to stop engaging when people bring it up because either the person is too encased in their own opaque bubble to see another perspective or is being intentionally obtuse about it. There may be other options, such as simply being unable to grasp the difference between intentional murder and accidental deaths, but either way, I don’t think I’m going to convince anyone who has bought into that argument.

    • doyourealize says:

      Not that you need to know, but someone pointed out that exact car statistic near the end of the comments section. Is he the guy?

  4. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

       A great article on an endlessly fascinating, if not frustrating topic.
       How long has it been since World War Two shooters first came into prevalence?  A decade and some change?  Even then I was mystified by the appeal, being one who enjoys games both for their capacity for fantastical escapism and being of a generation that was using a much more limited technological palette by which to express our most violent id.
       To me it seemed a little masturbatory to revisit a recent history event and win it single-handedly through the deaths of very grounded, very non-cybernetic or demonic-horned enemies.
       But that line of thought is fundamentally unfair.  As Smith points out, this is a medium built on a foundation of death.  There are certainly exceptions, but outside of puzzle games, sports games, sims and a few niche genres, few games realize the antagonistic challenge narrative inherent in the medium in a fashion other than an orgy of willful human nullification.
       And as for the masturbatory part, I’d be splitting hairs to say winning WWII is any more self-indulgent then saving the perennially absconded princess.
       So even though there is a part of me that understands my worries are just inherent in any aging fan who sees the hobby they identify with shift toward younger sensibilities, I am still uneasy about the conflicts depicted in-game circling closer and closer to our present, while the technology driving it, surrounding it -and perhaps most importantly- selling it becomes more and more sophisticated.
       By no means am I opposed to video games addressing current conflicts.  In fact the immersion provides a second to none potential for really delving into what it means to be in the middle of some intractable conflict.
       But it’s been proven again and again that there is absolutely zero commercial incentive to use a game to that end.
       However, you can get Ollie North to do a promotional video establishing the titillating paranoid tone for your latest America the Collapsing Empire fantasy, easy-breezy.
       That’s pooped up.  

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Six Days in Fallujah was supposed to be that game. According to the CEO, the Marines who fought there asked Atomic Games to make one based on their experiences. And then that it was “too controversial” to make a game based on an event as recent as the Iraq War and the publisher pulled out. Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker won an Oscar and Generation Kill cleaned up at the Emmys. Because apparently contemporary conflict can be entertainment, just not that entertainment.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Just from what I read of the game, I have my doubts about how well Six Days in Fallujah would have succeeded in that regard, even if it hadn’t been dropped like a pie pulled bare-handed from the oven.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Still, it seemed like an honest effort.

          This was not David Jaffe talking about how Heartland was going to change the world before he returned to Twisted Metal.

        • HobbesMkii says:

            I have my doubts that it would have been Hurt Locker or Gen Kill-level good too, but I just thought a lot of the argumentation used to bring it down was bullshit. If these Marines had written a book about their experiences, no one would have said anything. But they chose a different media and got slapped for it.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

             Another wrinkle I can’t help but think of, is active force military are huge consumers of the Call of Duty, Medal of Honor et al. FPS’s.
             I don’t hear a lot of mainstream clamoring for realistic war games from military personnel; it seems most of the 18-25 year old soldiers playing these games are perfectly happy with the baked in escapism the games provide.
             But despite my high-minded belief in a realistic portrayal of war in a game, I’d no sooner play ‘Six Days’ than I would Medal of Honor.  So if the series isn’t meant for me, the conscientious objector and it’s not meant for actual soldiers, perhaps it’s really not surprising the game folded.
             ‘Hurt Locker’ was a damn good movie, though.   

      • Geo X says:

        I haven’t seen either of those.  Do either of them make you go “Fuck yeah! Let’s murder some Iraqis!” Because if so, then I would have a problem with them.  If not, I think this comparison is not a good comparison.

        • SisterMaryFrancis says:

          No it’s an accurate comparison. The objective in Six Days in Fallujah wasn’t to just kill Iraqis at some ridiculous clip like Call of Duty. The premise was you were part of a squad tasked with patrolling the streets, identifying threats amid the majority of NPCs who were noncombative, and (hopefully) taking them down without casualties on any sides. The point of the game was to put the player in a stressful situation where making the right decision was absolutely crucial all the while keeping deaths to an absolute minimum, which is what Hurt Locker and Generation Kill also tried to show their audience. It certainly wasn’t a gung-ho military game, more of a “in their shoes” kind of simulation.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           Yeah, just to build on what @SisterMaryFrancis:disqus  said, they originally termed the game “survivor horror” based around its intent to make the player uneasy in game. I have a lot of respect for Atomic Games when it comes to military games. They produced the finest WWII strategy games I know, the Close Combat series, and have worked with the US military for ages building simulators for them.

        • SamPlays says:

          It would make more sense if you were to have a problem with the person saying “Let’s go murder Iraqis” rather than The Hurt Locker and Generation Kill. Anyone who is capable of saying such a thing with conviction got to that point long before they saw a movie or watched a TV show.

  5. caspiancomic says:

    Man, guns are weird. I visited a firing range for the first time not long ago with some friends, and while fun, it was also pretty sobering. I fired a modest M1911. After shooting, we admit to each other that we made our decisions based on either our favourite rap lyrics or video games. I chose the M19 because Snake carries one in MGS3. So read into that direct video game cause to firing a real gun effect whatever you like.

    Ordinarily this is the part of the conversation where the insufferably self-righteous Canadian (yours truly) declares Americans to be a pack of gun hungry lunatics, but the fact is this has been a particularly tragic year for gun violence in Toronto. There was a mass shooting at the city’s biggest and most central mall, and another pair of fatalities in the east end of town, which were enormous occurrences for a town that’s normally so peaceful. Naturally, our incompetent gorilla of a mayor fucked the whole thing up, claiming he was going to- no joke- deport anybody who was busted for a gun crime. He honestly seemed kind of surprised when people suggested to him that maybe violent crimes aren’t all committed by immigrants. Idiot.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Yeah, the only time I ever fired a gun was a revolver I chose because it was the same model as the one Indiana Jones used. Granted, I was eleven, but I doubt the principle would be much different applied at thirty five.
      Also, it was super cool and it did make me feel powerful. It was a good lesson in understanding that guns don’t need to be regulated because they suck, they need to be regulated because they’re awesome. If they were awful, every reactionary knucklehead in America wouldn’t be confusing them for freedom.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Yeah, intellectually that’s one of the things that sort of frightened me most about the experience. I’m a really peaceful guy, with absolutely no militaristic or otherwise violent desires, but firing a gun made me feel like King Shit of Fuck Mountain. Normally when you hear about shooting deaths among civilians, particularly when the perpetrators and/or victims are very young, you hear people talking about how these kids never learned to respect the weapons before using them. It’s all power, no responsibility. Which, if I’ve learned anything from comic books and the movie adaptations thereof, is not the ideal proportion of power to responsibility.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That’s the entire issue, isn’t it?

          As humans we still relish the use of tools, especially if they serve destructive means. Even just holding a stick, a baseball bat or a metal pipe makes us feel mightier and prepared to fight. The weaker and less influential we feel, the greater the feeling. Hockey is probably a lot more aggressive and violent beyond the sport because people are given wooden implements… that’s conjecture, but it sure seems like it. As such it seems almost natural to pump adrenaline the moment you’re holding some sort of weapon.

          I’d argue however that while the instinct to get up close and clobber someone with a hammer is certainly more engrained in us, it takes a lot more guts and determination just to pull a trigger from a distance. We are instinctually destructive, there’s no doubt about that in my mind… That’s why any use of power is so alluring, especially if a bullet flying at twice the speed of sound can act as a proxy for our fist or club.

          Also: I frequently balk at the glee people sometimes have with videogames when mowing down hordes of enemies CoD-style, but I know I’ve caught myself doing it, for example when playtesting our ArmA2 mod… And I am a crazy left-wing liberal anti-gun big-government pot-brownie-eating homosexual environmentalist.

          So, considering how many people live on the gun-side of life, how good power feels and how easy it is to get swept up in the awe of the moment… scary. Few will argue against the point that power corrupts, so I wonder why we argue that the power to take dozens of lives in a few seconds could possible not.

          PS: The fact that anything beyond pistols and shotguns/bolt-action rifles is at all available to the consumer is beyond insane anyways.
          How is that going to end? Patriot-Missiles for goose-hunting?

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: Patriot missiles would certainly be an efficient way to get rid of the CANADA GEESE THAT ARE FUCKING EVERYWHERE OH MY GOD. A message to my American friends: Canada geese, their name notwithstanding, are not a national symbol. Feel free to insult them or deal with them in any way you see fit.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Merve2:disqus Canada geese are a bunch of hosers. (Am I doing it right?)

        • Asinus says:

          Patriot missiles aren’t very accurate. You’d be better off having @HobbesMkii:disqus drive through the flock with his F-250.

        • Fluka says:

          My Republican father likes to drive by the geese, roll down his window, and shout “GET A JOB.”

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @The_Asinus:disqus Do you know how hard it is to get an F-250 airborne high enough and long enough to hit a goose? Incredibly hard. Believe me, I’ve tried. I vote Patriot missiles.

        • Electric Dragon says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus And yet baseball and cricket are very much more peaceful sports even though they also involve wooden implements. So maybe it’s also that hockey players wield their sticks while wearing lots of padding. Maybe that makes them think it’s ok to lay about one another with ultraviolence. Or maybe it’s that the frenetic pace of the game means there is no time for considered reflection. Or maybe the violence is entrenched in the culture of the sport now and it would be hard to change. Path dependence, cultural hysteresis. You can’t get there from here.

    • TempuraJoker says:

       The politics of gun culture here in the US is one of the things that will keep the EA move from being exploited by politicians.  We have a slaughter in a movie theater, and there’s nary a word that maybe perhaps the 2nd amendment doesn’t cover enormous magazines for semi-auto rifles.  Politicians (and Fox News) will generally jump on a chance to holler about violence in games, but now that MW has aligned itself very clearly with the gun industry, the only outcry will be from the usual parent’s groups.

    • Merve says:

      At the risk of derailing this conversation, how the hell did Rob Ford get elected?

  6. GhaleonQ says:

    Eh, I say thin gruel.  (Background: native rural central Wisconsinite, has never fired a gun and would prefer to keep it that way, 90 percent of hometown friends and family hunt every year with guns and bows.)

    If video games convince people that guns or the military is cool, that’s fine.  Guns and the military are fine.  Accept it.  If fantasies were always substituted for realities, I daresay there would be far fewer, say, video games writers.  (Or, to turn it back on myself, politicos.)  Art’s under no obligation to present objective truth, only subjective truth.

    I think you get close to the real issue near the end.  What constitutes responsible gun ownership and responsible service?  Granted, people have to get permits and permission to do either, but is 1 gate protection enough against irresponsibility?  The U.S. military has done as great a job as can be expected of weeding out oddballs.  I’m not sure that a round of firearms safety classes prevents people from becoming more interested in the negative uses of guns.  The above shooters promote neither gun wonkery (no psycho ever claimed a wargame as inspiration for misdeeds) nor realistic life situations.  People who know responsible gun nuts know that “buy the thing off the Xbox” is hardly the attitude they have when pursuing their hobby.

    • George_Liquor says:

      What constitutes responsible gun ownership should be simple: Don’t use your gun or allow it to be used to kill someone who isn’t a threat to your own life. 

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Right, and that usually entails separating “gun life” from “regular life.”  Good owners pick up/carry a gun and recognize that they now need to act cautiously and only with conscious intent.  Bad ones are quick to threaten or get drunk and irresponsible.  Does the above create or encourage bad owners?  No.  Does it blur the line between “gun life” and “regular life?”  I think so. I just don’t think “knowing things about guns” is the warning sign.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Well unfortunately, we don’t have an effective ‘bad gun owner’ test, so the next best thing we can do is restrict access. I think we need to reinstitute the assault weapons ban. They’re a class of firearms that have absolutely no purpose outside of a warzone.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           Really, any gun that can fire a whole lot of bullets in quick succession (I’m not a gun nut, obviously) should be illegal, as should clips that hold more than say, six bullets. If you can’t hit your target with a gun that falls within those perimeters, then you have no business owning a gun.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @George_Liquor:disqus @Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus I agree, or I at least agree that they should be restricted to ranges.  I don’t think EA plays a meaningful part in whether gun laws are narrower or wider, though.

        • Kelly Stoops says:

          @ George_Liquor By that line of reasoning Sports cars and Sportbikes should be banned as they don’t have a purpose outside of a racetrack.  Just like those machines however there are plenty of legitimate, sporting, self defense, and entertainment uses of “Assault” weapons.  The issue is not the machine but what people do with them, its not practical to control how people act by restricting the tools they choose to act with.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           While I’d prefer that such types of guns be made entirely illegal, I would accept a ban on them in public places (yay compromise).

          If you’re driving a race car on a public street, you’re only gonna do something dangerous/stupid with it. Same thing with these high-powered guns.

        • George_Liquor says:

          @google-b2a3e518b5216f16115bc5e430e9fc44:disqus I don’t feel like repeating myself any more. Just consider this:
          Race cars and sport bikes are not weapons.

          Assault weapons are weapons. They’re designed to kill people, and only people, regardless of what ‘entertainment’ you may derive from them.

          Also, racing cars and bikes generally are banned anywhere outside of a track.

      • caspiancomic says:

         I told you, don’t get a gun until you tell me your name.

    • feisto says:

      You’re skirting Ryan’s main issue here, which is whether EA is blurring that line between fantasy and reality to a dangerous degree. Which, I think, boils down to this: how much space should we allow ourselves between our entertainment and our reality? Is there such a thing as too little space, or are we capable of immediately switching off the stimulation the entertainment brings us when we move away from it? What about more impressionable minds, i.e. children?

      If we walk out of an action-packed movie and find ourselves in a gun shop selling the very same weapons that were featured in the movie, is that going too far? What if it wasn’t a gun shop but cool ads with links taking us to online gun shops where we can find the very same weapons?

      If games allowed us to immediately purchase any gun we use in the game, kind of like how we can immediately purchase music we like, is that going too far?

      I think these are interesting arguments to discuss, and I wish you wouldn’t boil it down to a generic “are guns good or bad” argument.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        No, again, I’m emphasizing intent whereas you’re emphasizing the action itself.  I’m not sure why it would be bad for someone who thought guns looked cool to try to learn about or to own them; my assumption is that the mere desire to use firearms (or firearms of a certain type) puts you off.  I’d think the same of the equivalents for Beatmania or NHL 2012 or SimCity or Love Plus (yes, even Love Plus).

        You’d have to explain why the differences between album cross-promotion and gun cross-promotion aren’t squashed by limitations on video game purchases, credit card ownership, and gun permits.

        My argument remains with the content of the games, which may effectively skew intent.  Something like a more serious S.O.COM., though still a fantasy, would encourage tactical thinking and team-based mission structure rather than a superman fallacy.  The values of the actual institution are echoed in the fantasy.  If Sniper Elite was actually about sniping, then kudos to anyone who wants to become a sniper rifle wonk because of it.  The problem with Love Plus and Call Of Duty is that the values of the things they’re emulating are perverted, not that they want to make money off of that perversion.  If you’ve purchased a simulation in any genre, then you’ve already signed on to the developer’s bastardization. No sense blaming people trying to bilk you further.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           I think the thing that makes me uncomfortable about this is that these games are essentially really fancy toys (I say this as someone who loves video games, and is an adult). It’s sort of like if they put an ad on the back of a GI Joe action figure that lead to a website where you could buy Joe’s assault rifle.

          I think on some level EA has a responsibility to acknowledge that these games are bought by impressionable minds, like kids and stupid people.

        • George_Liquor says:

          I don’t buy the argument that game companies are blameless because they’re just holding a mirror to society. Not when they’re bundling coupons for sniper rifles in their games, anyway.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus @George_Liquor:disqus @feisto:disqus And I certainly wish that they wouldn’t, as it debases the culture.  I just separate “culpability” and “scene-setting.”  I mean, God knows none of you would like my preferences to be enforced on video games.

          Contra feisto, I think it does come down to “guns are good or they are bad.”  In the article and the comments, reaction is based on whether increased gun ownership and military service is good or bad.  With respect, I think people who believe knowing about weaponry (which is an integral part of human culture and history) should familiarize themselves more with the anthropological aspect.

          I’ll tack this on since we’re having a respectful discussion: do you think that games should require a save and hard reset after _ hours?  Nintendo has little warnings that pop up, but surely antisocial behavior like 35 hours of gameplay over 7 days damages a person’s health and relationship with society?  (I’m not suggesting that the slippery slope is direct here.  I’m wondering what your personal limits are for restricting art/play from the developer side and from the regulatory side are.  That helps me contextualize your thoughts on gun cross-promotion.)

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           I don’t think guns are “good or bad,” I think that they are dangerous things that should be treated with intelligence and respect.

          The issue here is that this sort of blurs the line between “virtual guns,” which would never directly hurt anyone ever, and “real guns,” which could easily kill an actual person if not handled properly.

          In response to your last bit, while playing video games for hours is certainly bad for the player, it rarely affects other people. An individual should have a right to take risks as long as they only endanger themselves, not others. It’s why drunk driving is illegal but drunk walking is not.

        • feisto says:

          I think it’s kind of telling that you separate learning about guns and owning them as an either-or thing rather than two things that I think should absolutely go together; maybe that’s why you’re making the assumption you did about my views on guns. (Full disclosure: I’ve never held a gun in my life, mostly due to them being illegal in the country I live in, but I totally see the appeal of wanting to own and use them.)

          You bunch Love Plus with Call Of Duty, but I would argue that’s a false analogy. The “goods” offered in Love Plus don’t exist in the real world; those offered up in Call of Duty do. Somebody impressionable playing the first will eventually have to face up to that fact; the same playing the latter can, if they want, get a hold of the real thing. And if they’re less interested in learning about it than using it, that could be a problem.

          And I think that’s what Ryan’s arguing. What EA’s doing is using the stimulation created by a game through the use of an in-game weapon that exists in real-life to get you to buy the real thing. But if used wrongly, the weapon could lead to serious injury. Sure, that potential scenario might not be EA’s intent; but shouldn’t they act a little more responsibly?

          I agree that if someone plays these games and comes out wanting to learn more about guns and combat, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I don’t understand why you’re assuming only the best intentions of those who play these games.

  7. Geo X says:

    >>Guns and the military are fine.  Accept it.
    I’m afraid I can’t accept it.

  8. Alex Banks says:

    Lets ignore that this is basically a slightly better written version of the argument that “rap music is going to turn all our white suburban kids into murdering gangsters!” or every other moronic pop culture horror story.

    Lets ignore that these games sell tens of millions of copies each year while violent crime continues to decrease.

    The worst part of this article is the idea that guns are somehow immoral. Guns are tools, dangerous tools, but still just tools.

    Your nephew obsessing over video game guns is no different than my 74 year old British ex-pat of a farther obsessing over WWII German aircraft. 

    Your nephew is no more likely to commit a violent crime than my farther is to start bombing London with a Messerschmitt.

    • feisto says:

      That’s a ridiculous analogy, and you know it; it’s far easier for Ryan’s nephew to get a hold of an automatic gun than it is for your father to get a hold of a combat-ready Messerschmitt.

      In any case, Ryan clearly states his libertarian leanings in regards to gun ownership, so arguing that his article boils down to “guns are immoral” is a bit disingenuous. What he’s arguing, as he clearly states at the end of the first paragraph, is that EA is dangerously blurring the line between “violent video game fantasy and reality” to a degree he hasn’t seen before. You might not agree; that’s fine. But don’t come in here criticizing an argument that the author’s not making.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Also, I’m pretty sure Messerschmitts were primarily fighter aircraft, so bombing London in one would be generally outside their bailiwick. Don’t end up like @google-be683a359436179cbe81389b529bbde6:disqus, here, people, embarrassed when you discover your plane isn’t built for bombing runs. The next time you want to attack London in a WWII-era German aircraft, select the Stuka.

        • feisto says:

          Always count on @HobbesMkii:disqus to dish out the practical advice.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @feisto:disqus I just want you all to be informed. If I may make a flawed comparison: You wouldn’t use a socket wrench to unscrew something, so you shouldn’t use a plane primarily designed for air-to-air combat to attack a densely populated civilian target. 
          For that you need a screwdriver.

        • George_Liquor says:

           Never bring a Messerschmitt to a Stuka fight. Words to live by.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @George_Liquor:disqus I don’t want to be a bummer here, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people died by those words. 

      • Kelly Stoops says:

        Actually it is just about as likely for one to happen as the other since automatic firearms are incredibly difficult to obtain as a civilian (unlike what the news would lead you to believe).  In reality you would have to go to almost the exact same lengths to obtain a combat ready Messerschmitt as you would an automatic firearm since they are extremely rare(outside of the military) in the first place.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      The difference is that tools are, with the single exception of weapons, meant to be creative, whereas weapons are single-mindedly destructive.
      Granted, I have a garage full of things I could kill someone with, even from a distance. But these things weren’t designed for that. The pneumatic nailgun was made to put timbers together, the buzzsaw to cut them into pieces. The chainsaw is a landscaping tool and so on.
      Weapons, and guns especially, are made to kill. That’s it. They are destructive from the first moment on and serve no constructive purpose. A gun is a tool that makes only a single task simpler and that is to hurt, maim or kill. No other tool has that distinction, unless you have the basement full of inquisitorial torture devices.
      I’ve heard this “guns don’t kill people” argument a million times and I’ve never considered it valid.
      It’s like saying “Drills don’t make holes in walls”, “Fridges don’t keep food cool” or “Insulin doesn’t save anyone”. Of course they don’t, things are not autonomous, but all of those actions would be a lot harder without them.
      Guns aid killing, that’s not something that can be argued. Guns aid killing the same way hammers help me drive a nail.

      The problem here is that people are often immoral, so the gun doesn’t need any inherent morality. And considering how easily we have managed to kill one another with knifes, stones, swords, pieces of wood or cars, I am not sure that finding ever increasing means to simplify this process is such a blessing.

      • Merve says:

        The next time I use a chainsaw to kill someone in a video game, I’m going to say that I “landscaped” him to death.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Well, the Olympians in archery and skeet shooting would disagree with you.  Recreation, sport, and the hunt are all legitimate pursuits.

        I’m sympathetic to this whole argument but as part of a holistic approach.  I’m not against commercialization as a principle, but I’d prefer that art not become a shopping device.  I just don’t understand why weapons are singled out.  Do you think more Call Of Duty fans will die because Call Of Duty-branded Gamer Fuel or Call Of Duty-endorsed rifles?  Society has recognized the threats of randomness or accident in the latter and have restricted it as such.  I think sloth culture is a greater trend in gaming than gun culture.

      • Girard says:

        I’ll have you know that the iron maiden in my basement is exclusively for juicing large quantities of fresh fruit! A tool is always inherently ethically neutral, and the fact that a tool can be a triumph of engineering and of some ostensible practical use automatically precludes it from being the sadistic product of a depraved and misanthropic mind!

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

       While rap music certainly doesn’t “turn kids into gangsters,” it certainly does support the ideas that violence can solve problems and women being sex objects. Not to mention the idea that wearing you pants around your ankles is acceptable in public.

      Similar issue with military shooters.

      • Asinus says:

        And if, back in the 90s when this gangster rap thing was at it’s most controversial, the CD liners included mail-order forms for the guns mentioned in the songs (“Get a Mac 10 for ‘the side of your hip’ just like Eazy-E!”) then the comparison would be more apt.

  9. trilobiter says:

    Essentially, EA is taking advantage of the lengths to which gamers like us will go in defending the medium from the charge that shooting games cause real shootings.  We play games, so it matters to us whether they have negative effects or not, but it makes absolutely no difference to companies like EA. 

    They can sell the guns that people use to kill each other, and have plausible deniability because people like us will get all defensive about whether *the game* caused the shooting or not.

  10. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    This article reminds me that someone needs to do a remake of Ikari Warriors, stat.

    Also, Warfighter? That’s the worst goddamn title for a game I’ve ever heard. It sounds like a straight-to-video Mark Wahlberg movie.

    • Nudeviking says:

      It sounds like it should be one of those black label games that came out when the NES was first released: Ice Climber, Mach Rider, War Fighter.

      • Staggering Stew Bum says:

        If Warfighter is a success, and my lack of faith in humanity almost guarantees that it will be, look for Activision to respond with Call of Duty XXVI: Combat Combatant before EA fires right back with Warfighter II: Warwarrior. Then I can just sit back and watch Ow My Balls! and have a refreshing glass of Brawndo while society dies.

        • TaumpyTearrs says:

          If the last Medal of Honor game was any indication, I don’t think you have to worry about it being a huge success. Just like with the last game, the only interesting thing about it is early access to the next Battlefield beta.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Yeah, it’s been a long time since the Medal of Honor series was top dog for shooters. It’s not even a close third, now.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:


        • Effigy_Power says:

           MANKILLER is so sexist. Can we make it PERSONANNIHILATOR? I am all for inclusion.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus I’d agree, except military shooter developers have yet to develop software capable of rendering female characters.

    • Merve says:

      There’s no such thing as a straight-to-video Mark Wahlberg movie. As Marky Mark would say, “If I had been in that movie, it would never have gone straight to video like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in the studio and then me saying, ‘Okay we’re going to get this movie in theatres, don’t worry.’ “

      • Staggering Stew Bum says:

        There’s no such thing as a straight-to-video Mark Wahlberg movie.

        You are quite correct, sir. These days they call it “straight-to-DVD”.

        But I think we can agree that if Marky Mark were omnipresent a lot less shit would go down.

    • SamPlays says:

      Tom Clancy has already earned this trophy for his “Advanced Warfighter” series. The patent for “Gun Shooter”, however, is still available.

      BTW, the next person to knock on your door will probably be Marky Mark to set the record straight. Did you know that he once said 9/11 wouldn’t have gone down the way it did if he had been on one of those planes? Oh man, that’s just too much for the brain to process!

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Well, they’re mainstays in Metal Slug and The King Of Fighters, but it’s insane that there’s not a super popular Commando ripoff for the iPad.  Cave games already use them as vertical arcade boards.  Why not do the same for ground-based shoot-’em-ups?

  11. PugsMalone says:

    Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later. I find it amusing that one of the best-known examples of a real firearm in fiction, James Bond’s Walther PPK, was changed to a generic “PP7” in Goldeneye.

  12. Marcus McSpartacus says:

    Why is it that “Honoring the military is a worthy cause”? They’re not feeding the hungry or building schools. They willingly volunteer to get paid to kill people in other countries, and they get socialised healthcare and education for themselves and their families.

    How is that jingoistic bullshit morally different than marketing actual weapons?

    • George_Liquor says:

      Well, actually they often do. Humanitarian efforts make up a larger portion of the US Army’s missions than combat. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for some of the biggest construction projects since the Civil War.

    • saabmanlutz says:

      The Army Corps of Engineers do a lot of good things, and the military helps out during natural disasters. It is very unreasonable to assume that everyone who joins the army is doing so to get paid for murdering foreigners.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

      I don’t think the Corps of Engineers is a good argument (especially when the “honoring” is done via the purchase of guns — not shovels and protractors), no reason a rational government couldn’t make a Corps of Engineers separate from the military.  The reason why honoring the military is a worthy cause is because the mere existence of the military (whether or not we like their current missions — and believe me, I don’t) protects our way of life, and the volunteer nature of the military means the rest of us don’t have to worry about getting drafted.  I’ll thank any soldier for that, even though most of the soldiers I have personally known are the most bigoted obnoxious ignorant jerks I’ve ever met.  The military is a necessity.  Honoring the military is a worthy cause.
      That said, I don’t think selling guns is a very honorable way of honoring the military.  I believe that if someone wants to donate to a cause, write a check.  If you want to buy a gun, buy a gun.  But don’t think that somehow doing both at once is better.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       It’s these kind of opinions that get thrown into reasonable discussions that help nobody and nothing.
      Just as guns aren’t holy tools of fun, soldiers aren’t governmentally sanctioned mass murderers. Narrow and extremist views are exactly what turns this discussions into mud-fests between screaming idiots, flinging slogans at each other, while leaving everyone with the desire to actually get this sorted out on the sideline, holding their ears.
      This has been a good and insightful debate between respectfully alternative views so far and some half-baked, internet-assembled ideology doesn’t aid it in any way.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

       I kinda wish that military porn (Michael Bay movies, Battleship, Call of Duty, etc.) would fetishize the actually good things the military does instead of all the killing foreigners (aliens count as foreigners).

    • Rob Crawford says:

      Actually, the military does feed the hungry and build schools. The first relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami were by US military — Navy and Marines, as I recall. Same with Katrina.

      Yah might wanna educate yourself.

  13. People who play rock music play electric guitar. People who play Guitar Hero play electronic guitar. 

  14. Professor_Cuntburglar says:

    So I wrote up a solution to this problem:

    (yeah, yeah, I know. I figured this would be easier to skip over than a wall of text)

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I would say it’s realism that hurts gameplay and creativity here, not the gun itself.  Metal Slug and Contra, Battle Garegga and Red Katana: these are games that demonstrate projectiles as something more creative than (Formula = (health + armor) – (bullet damage * rate of fire)).  I think the 3-d Metroids and aspects of Half-Life inspire despite depending on Doom’s tropes.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

         Yeah, definitely, there are games with guns that introduce innovative and interesting game mechanics. It just bothers me that so many games revolve around pointing at things and killing them, when there are an infinite amount of other possibilities for games. It’s really more of a thought experiment than an actual thing that should happen.

  15. sirslud says:

    That shit is disgusting, and I say this as a huge PC FPS player.

  16. DarkerLoaf says:

    I can’t say that I’m too concerned about EA’s partnership with McMillan eroding the forth wall, as Ryan Smith says.  Much of the tacticool stuff that EA is promoting is well beyond the average person’s budget, and certainly well outside the budget of the pre-teens and teens.  A McMillan rifle won’t make it’s way into the hands of a deranged shooter.  Fairly unlikely.  What ends up their hands:  cheap Glocks, S&W AR-15s (some of the cheapest best on the market), Mini-14’s (from Ruger, also cheap), shotguns…  And of course the highest priced brands are in need of the best marketing, because in the end they are selling their name-brands, not capabilities (Surefire comes to mind, though they have some high-value products).

    What’s the upside to videogame partner ships with weapon manufacturing?  Maybe they’ll get the weapons right in a video game for once!  All too often, Call of Duty games especially, the game designers will set arbitrary limits on magazine size having nothing to do with reality or have wildly different weapon damages for guns that shoot the same bullets.  Almost all the guns in Call of Duty Modern Warfare in the assault rifle, same with the LMG category, category shoot the same bullets (typically 5.56 NATO, which is all loaded at similar pressures), and yet they have different levels of damage.  I’m waiting the day when there’s an actually realistic first-person shooter, and though it may seem sick, EA’s partnership with actual weapons manufactures, may actually improve the chances of that.  And like you mention in your article, the Colorado shooter didn’t play violent video games, and video game violence has little to do with real-life violence, as any gamer will tell you.

    Thanks, Ryan, for the reporting, though, I found the article interesting.  I guess the cynic in me just looks at this trend and says, “So what?”

  17. DarkerLoaf says:

    I can’t say that I’m too concerned about EA’s partnership with McMillan eroding the forth wall, as Ryan Smith says.  Much of the tacticool stuff that EA is promoting is well beyond the average person’s budget, and certainly well outside the budget of the pre-teens and teens.  A McMillan rifle won’t make it’s way into the hands of a deranged shooter.  Fairly unlikely.  What ends up their hands:  cheap Glocks, S&W AR-15s (some of the cheapest best on the market), Mini-14’s (from Ruger, also cheap), shotguns…  And of course the highest priced brands are in need of the best marketing, because in the end they are selling their name-brands, not capabilities (Surefire comes to mind, though they have some high-value products).
    What’s the upside to videogame partner ships with weapon manufacturing?  Maybe they’ll get the weapons right in a video game for once!  All too often, Call of Duty games especially, the game designers will set arbitrary limits on magazine size having nothing to do with reality or have wildly different weapon damages for guns that shoot the same bullets.  Almost all the guns in Call of Duty Modern Warfare in the assault rifle, same with the LMG category, category shoot the same bullets (typically 5.56 NATO, which is all loaded at similar pressures), and yet they have different levels of damage.  I’m waiting the day when there’s an actually realistic first-person shooter, and though it may seem sick, EA’s partnership with actual weapons manufactures, may actually improve the chances of that.  And like you mention in your article, the Colorado shooter didn’t play violent video games, and video game violence has little to do with real-life violence, as any gamer will tell you.
    Thanks, Ryan, for the reporting, though, I found the article interesting.  I guess the cynic in me just looks at this trend and says, “So what?”

    • George_Liquor says:

       Well that’s a relief. I won’t have to worry about getting shot by those expensive designer guns now.

      • DarkerLoaf says:

        That’s good there’s no reason for you to worry about being shot in general, let alone by guns that people can’t afford.  Glad to know you aren’t excitable or irrational.

        There’s also no reason for you to be afraid of being bitten by a shark or struck by lightning.  Or shot by a designer lightning gun wielding shark influenced by Call of Duty.

        • George_Liquor says:

          As a Batman fan living in Aurora, there but for the grace of God, etc. Also, fuck you.

          On the other hand, if ya gotta go, ‘shot by a shark’ has got to be the best way to do it.

      • DarkerLoaf says:

        I was just replying to the snark in your comment, obviously intended to refute my arguments.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

       Personally, I get annoyed when games are like “look at all these real-life guns!” because, not being a gun nut, I have no idea what these guns do and how they are different. There have so many times when a game has been like “Here’s a MS360 Scope-Action Glockenrifle!” and I’m like “what the fuck do I do with this? How is this different from the MS720 Scope-Action Glockenrifle?”

    • Kelly Stoops says:

      This pretty much sums up a lot of how this article made me feel.  To suggest that this type of advertising will put more firearms in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them is ridiculous.  This is no different than a racing game having an advertisement for a sixty thousand dollar Corvette that a sixteen year old shouldn’t be driving.

  18. Effigy_Power says:

    I wrote the following tale before, but I’ll repeat it because I think it’s valid.

    My oldest brother spent a day playing the Rally mode of Gran Tourismo 2 or 3… and I mean, spent the day. His wife and kids were visiting someone all day and he had a rare day off. He loves rally, so he really got into it.
    Later, directly following this, he got in his car and took off to pick up something, I think some pizza. He saw a small corner and instantly was reminded of the cool turns he managed to do while playing GT. So he spun around, pulled the e-brake and flung his car around the corner like a pro… in his head. In reality the car skidded sideways (it was winter), slid across the slick street and hit a concrete post, denting in his door and wheel-housing. He later said that he didn’t know what he was doing, it just seemed like a natural continuation of his day.

    Now, that sounds like something only a moron would do and god knows I called him that and worse. What you need to know is that my brother has been a member of the NYPD for 16 years, was a 9/11 responder and educates children in school about safety. No part of my brother is careless, easily impressed or reckless, and yet a day of constant repetitious sensory input managed to make him throw his car into a concrete post.

    I would thus argue that if a fairly responsible father of three and a safety-nut to boot can be swayed to throw caution to the wind, not because he so desperately wants to, but because his brain is so conditioned to it by prolonged exposure, can just flip out like that, a lot of us could do the same. And I don’t particularly see why risking your life and that of others should be limited to driving simulations.
    Of course this is a single case and under no circumstances representative of the problem as a whole, but I prefer to air on the side of caution.
    And maybe making guns available through mailorder and in connection with the game providing the stimulus just isn’t a great idea.

    PS: The fact that these are available for mailorder is a completely different set of insanity btw…

    • evanwaters says:

      Well, I’d argue that driving decisions are mostly practical and governed by the ego, whereas with violent imagery you’ve hopefully got a lifetime of conditioning (and a certain evolutionary disincentive) against actually murdering people.

      Having said that, the partnership discussed in the article is sleazy as hell. If you’re a gun enthusiast, and that’s for hunting or sport shooting, that’s great, and if you feel a need to have a handgun for home defense or whatever, that I can appreciate- but when you have a gun promoted by a simulation of it being used to cut down mobs of people, that’s appealing to the wrong kind of gun enthusiast.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        True, but as you say, “mostly” and “hopefully”.
        And for a small percentage of people there is no difference between a snapshot decision on a hair trigger and willful violence.
        I will defend freedom of expression to the death and I think that a lifetime of exposure to violent imagery can actually work to make you less prone to repeat it, but it’s not those people I am worried about.
        I am worried about the small percentage that seeks to emulate all the arcade-like violence they are fed. I fully believe that people who act on these impulses already have mental or social issues to begin with and that video-game violence is nothing but one of many possible catalysts for a full-on rampage. But explosives can be triggered by different factors, none of which should be introduced by chance.
        And blurring the line between fantasy violence and real violence just by a tiny bit more can potentially have some bad repercussions… Maybe not, but it’s just not a risk I am willing to take.
        It’s a bit like global warming. I’d rather be wrong and prepare for something that doesn’t happen. Taking these things on faith is an act of misguided courage beyond my comprehension.

    • Swadian Knight says:

      A similar anecdote: once, after marathoning Fallout: New Vegas over the course of a weekend, I caught myself mentally quicksaving several times while driving my car on the highway the next day. After some consideration, I attributed this event to the sensory similarities between the two activities: both driving and playing a videogame are things I do by activating levers and buttons while comfortably seated, but I still find it jarring that I had unconsciously associated them in such a way.

      I wish that there was more of a disconnect between our depictions of violence and crime in art and the actual conducts they describe, but I have seen people I would consider to be well-adjusted individuals (as far as I can tell, at least) succumb to an idealization of ‘justified’ violence as a life philosophy that so many of our cultural works are eager to adopt as the first (and often only) solution to any number of problems.  When you add to that the fact that these games do not depict the handling and care of firearms as anything close to realistic and the false sense of knowledge and security that this gives to so many gamers and you’ve got a great list of reasons why EA did not just cross a line but danced all over both sides of it.

    • DarkerLoaf says:

      You can’t mail-order guns.  It seems like that, but not since the days of the Sears catalogue carrying guns could you actually mail-order them.

      They can be mail-ordered to a local Federal Firearms License carrier.  That is also what the ads say.

  19. Limeade Youth says:

    On only a slight tangent, shouldn’t we be concerned about the mentally ill playing video games?

    • George_Liquor says:

       You mean the entire Xbox Live subscription base?

    • Effigy_Power says:

       Well, the issue is that “mentally ill” or “unstable” are so very hard to diagnose. Nobody with violent tendencies and disassociation disorder should be subjected to hours of uncontrolled and unsupervised brutality, but then how do we know? Mental health is something that doesn’t get anywhere near the focus it should have and with the stigma of being diagnosed as what people consider “the crazies”, the vast amount of people who need help remain unaided.
      Not a huge surprise considering how the spending priorities in most countries are, not just the US.

    • Swadian Knight says:

      Have you ever heard of the Rosenhan experiment? Diagnosing mental illness is a pretty messy business.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      There was an article in The Escapist a while back about how some psychologists were using video games to treat soldiers with PTSD by them as immersion therapy aids. So, in that case, the mentally ill playing video games actually helped make them less ill. It can cut both ways.

  20. Ryan Smith says:

    Hey, just wanted to say that I’ve been impressed with all of the insightful comments posted in response to my article. 

    When I first wrote this piece, I included a little bit about the alleged causation between virtual violence in a video game and real life violence, but that was opening an entirely different can of worms, so I stuck to the issue at hand with EA’s tie-ins with Warfighter.As a follow-up, I went to visit my family this weekend and mounted on the walls of my nephew’s room was two real .22 rifles. I voiced my objections, but it fell on deaf ears.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      As you can see, we’ll pretty quickly open up any cans of worms you can’t get to on our own. 

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Thanks again for writing it.  I don’t mean to belabor my appreciation for Gameological, but if an article thus titled appeared on any other video game site, my virtual self would run screaming, arms flailing above head in a desperate drive to gain distance from the comments section.
         And not only do the comments here constructively build off of the article, I’ve learned a thing or two.  No small accomplishment given my whippet-addled brain from my years in the Reddi-Whip factory.

      • Ryan Smith says:

        Thanks. Although now that Kotaku has linked to this piece, I imagine the intelligence of the comments will start to diminish. Just a guess.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          On the one hand, I’m glad your article is getting more exposure.  On the other hand, nuts.
             Every once in a while, I worry about this site becoming too insular.  A tight collection of always-posters that comes across as cliquish and dismissive to perceived outsiders.
             But then all I have to do is read one comment that request I go fuck myself and that worry evaporates.
             Man, I used to really like Kotaku, too.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Yeah, it’s starting to happen already. At least we got to 200 comments before that happened. Hopefully most of the worst stuff will be a new thread and fall below the fold.

        • John Teti says:

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus I have worried about the insularity on occasion, too, but then I think, which is more welcoming to a newcomer? The Gameological regulars or the typical “gamer” comment thread?

          I doubt that the comments will turn south on this article, if only because everyone has set a good tone. As for Kotaku, I’ll just say the average Kotaku reader is way smarter than a minuscule subset of reactionary commenters. Very kind of them to spread the word.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @JohnTeti:disqus   You’re right that it’s good of Kotaku to link this article, and it’s juvenile of me to disparage them here.  I enjoy all the writers and feel they are still leagues beyond most other sites in the stories they publish on how games intersect with the larger world.
             Evan Narcisse’s rumination on the implications of Aveline as the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed: Liberation was both a good article and prompted generally good responses.

        • doyourealize says:

          You were right.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:


    • Asinus says:

      Just from a rules violation/punishment standpoint, his parents should have taken his guns away after he took one to school. Yeah, it was just a BB gun, and yeah, maybe he just wanted to show it to some friends in a fairly innocent way, but it still could have been misused and really hurt someone. That shows a fundamental error in judgment. 

      His thinking so few steps ahead when it comes to any sort of gun really makes me think you were right to voice your objections. If he doesn’t even seriously consider the risks of taking a gun around a bunch of other kids who may not be as careful as he is, then I wouldn’t want him having a rifle. Yeah, .22s aren’t very powerful, but they can do some damage up to a mile away (not accurately, which probably makes it even a bigger risk). 

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful article! And holy shit, thank you everyone here for the awesome comments. I was starting to take this place for granted, but I was reading this and an article over on RPS about Borderlands 2 having a “girlfriend mode” (ugh) and the comments here are seriously fucking amazing in comparison to the ones over there. I love this place. <3

      • Fluka says:

        Oh jeebus the comments on that RPS article.  I read it this morning shortly after it came out, briefly looked at the first few comments, and resolved to stay the fuck away from it for the rest of the day.  400 comments and counting right now!  

        (Also, as a former “girlfriend” who re-picked up playing games from her then-boyfriend/now-husband, I am fucking grateful for how damn open and accepting and non-condescending this site is.)

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Yeah, I glance through the first page of comments on there and goddamn was there a lot of dismissing the issue. I honestly don’t understand the mindset that some of  those people must have. Fuck. I’m going to cut myself off before I start ranting about how much I hate shitty ass “gaming culture” shit.

          And now that this was linked by Kotaku, there are stupid fucking comments in here too. You can actually see right here on this comment page the vast difference is in attitude between Gameological and most other websites’ comment sections. Is pretty interesting/hilarious/horrifying.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        RPS is ostensibly supposed to be among the better game sites to visit, no?  Does it overall have a lousy commenting base, or mostly just contentious articles such as this?

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          The articles are generally pretty awesome. The comments generally range from worthless to downright awful. Sometimes the comments can be alright, I suppose, but I can’t think of any, so I could be making that up.

        • Electric Dragon says:

          The articles and writing in general make it just about my favourite game-related site. But the comments seem to have been heading downhill – not strong enough moderation perhaps? Or perhaps it’s passed that tipping point where noise overwhelms signal.

      • Fluka says:

        I absolutely love their writing.  Some days, their comments seem to be okay (above average by internet standards), other days they are far more atrocious.  So maybe it is indeed the contentious ones that suck?

  21. Kelly Stoops says:

    I fail to see the difference in “promoting weapons that lead to 10,000 homicides on average a year in the United States.” and the same promoting that we see of Sports Cars and Motorcycles that are responsible for just as many if not more deaths each year that are used with reckless abandon in games just like these “real” weapons are.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Well, there’s an embarrassment of comments above that address that very issue.  But a brief recap is simple enough.
         I use my car to go to the grocery store, drop my child off at school and travel across country to visit family.
         I use my gun to place a bullet in something with enough velocity it will not escape damage.

  22. DarkerLoaf says:

    Darker Loaf can tell you what isn’t efficient:  using the AV Club to procrastinate while he should be writing for his job.

  23. TheRealEdwin says:

    Firearms are legal. So what’s the problem?

  24. marcusmaximus04 says:

    “Honoring the military is a worthy cause, but EA is still doing so by promoting weapons that lead to 10,000 homicides on average a year in the United States.”
    Misleading. That’s the number for total firearm-cause homicides, which covers a much larger array of firearms than those being sold by EA’s partners, AND includes non-illegal homicides(e.g. self-defense, or even police shootings).

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I think when he writes “weapons” he means firearms in general. I actually don’t understand how you got to your reading, which seems to rest on the idea that Ryan’s asserting that 10,000 homicides (yearly avg.) were caused by EA’s promotion of certain manufacturers’ items, which is so obviously not true you’d have to do a lot of mental stretching to overlook it.

      • marcusmaximus04 says:

        Sorry, I think you misunderstood. I was saying that lumping the entire group of all firearms in existence, whether purchased legally or illegaly; handguns or hunting guns or assault rifles is misleading.

        …and of course the fact that he uses the homicide number, which, as I stated, includes justified killings.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Okay, well, then I guess I have to ask how is that misleading? The argument is that cross-promoting guns with video games feeds a culture of gun violence. He’s not restricting his argument just to EA and its gun manufacturer partners, he’s using EA and its partners as a case study. He then produces a stat that shows how much gun violence there is in the US, which is especially important to put EA’s promotional sales into the larger nationwide context. That seems entirely above-board to me.

        • Arthur Chu says:

          Looking at the Trayvon Martin case and the fact that it’s really only happenstance that the fucked-up-ness of those events went viral and became a national media firestorm makes me wonder how “justified” the bulk of those “justified killings” in the stats really are.

  25. Sean says:

    Shut your mouths. The fact that you brought up the Dark Knight shooting in your first paragraph immediately invalidates your perspective in the game design sphere.

    I’m not a fan of EA, and I’m not a fan of the Call of Duty/Medal of Honor reboot. But I think it’s stupid to try to throw the gun control debate into an entertainment medium that has absolutely no interest in the discussion.

    I prefer games such as ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead if I’m gonna get involved with a shooter, because it offers a much more realistic military-type environment compared to the over-sensationalized tripe that is Call of Duty.

    We have enough laws governing firearms, what needs to be done is having our law enforcement agencies focus on properly enforcing them.

    Now, shut up, sit down, and grow the f*ck up!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      And also, there’s no way Uncharted 3 deserves a C.  Go back to ur Wii, you Wii babies!

      • Fluka says:

        *Notices that comments suddenly are becoming less insightful.*
        “I bet this has been posted on Kotaku.”
        *It has been posted on Kotaku!*

        • GaryX says:

          I also saw a poll on another gaming website that linked to this article, so I imagine it’s spreading around.

          • Fixda Fernback says:

            Haha. I was on a Cracked article a few weeks back, one about sexism or something in video games (So I’m guessing it was a John Cheese piece), and the comments were as atrocious as you imagine. There were a couple of intelligent, thoughtful people though so I told them we’d love to have ’em join us over here. The reaction of the other commenters and the things they said about this place were awesomely hilarious.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          Kotaku?  No way.  Don’t you remember when @twitter-52999851:disqus  here got a mention from Keyboard Geniuses a few weeks ago for recommending people “Stop f*ing whining and shut up!”

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus He probably doesn’t even know the joy of being a Keyboard Genius. And if this post is any indication, he probably never will.

        • doyourealize says:

          Links, @GaryX:disqus !

        • Electric Dragon says:

          @GaryX:disqus : then call me MISTER Pompous Cunt.

          (Actually, don’t. I prefer @google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus , or just ED will do if you’re in a hurry.)

      • Merve says:

        There’s no need to mock other posters. We’re better than that.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          You’re right, and now I feel a little ashamed. But not too ashamed, considering the vitriol that guy came at us with.

        • Merve says:

          That’s fair, @HobbesMkii:disqus. I’m just kind of sad now, because I had a legitimate response at the ready:

          “The fact that you brought up the Dark Knight shooting in your first paragraph immediately invalidates your perspective in the game design sphere.”
          How, exactly? If anything, that first paragraph points out how tenuous the link between video games and violence was in James Holmes’ case.

          “But I think it’s stupid to try to throw the gun control debate into an entertainment medium that has absolutely no interest in the discussion.”
          I don’t think the article is about gun control as much as it is about breaking the wall between fiction and reality. True, video games have featured realistic weaponry before, but this is the first time, as far as I know, that there has been a coordinated promotional effort between a video game company and a weapons manufacturer. What the article doesn’t address is the difference between the game itself and the materials used to promote it. After all, this corporate partnership is visible only by visiting the game’s website, and honestly, the vast majority of the people who will play the gave will never visit its website. Now, if the game itself features “Buy this weapon now for your personal arsenal!” links, then that’s a different story. For now, maybe the article is a bit too reactionary, but I think it’s worth discussing these issues preemptively.

          “We have enough laws governing firearms, what needs to be done is having our law enforcement agencies focus on properly enforcing them.”
          I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. There’s a complex mix of socioeconomic factors that push people towards gun crime, most of which admittedly have nothing to do with video games. But enforcing existing laws to the best of our ability is a good start.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          You’re absolutely right.  The only reason I did so, and perhaps this is still not reason enough, is it really seemed like a one-and-done comment.  I can’t imagine the poster ever returning to engage in the community in either a constructive or destructive way.
             But I appreciate you mentioning it.  Posting as an emotional reaction doesn’t do me any more favors than those I might be mocking. 

        • GaryX says:

          @Merve2:disqus It’s great that you want to have an intellectual discussion on the ramifications of violence and its relationship with video games, but when someone makes the reply Sean did, it’s clear he’s not interested in sharing that thoughtful discussion.

        • Merve says:

          @GaryX:disqus: You’re right, of course, but I’d rather foster an environment where people are respected. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          And to be fair, he did raise a couple of important points, just in an incredibly trollish way.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I want to respect your opinion, but you’re disrespecting the rest of us so much it’s difficult. 

      I’m almost certain that Ryan is not calling for gun control. He’s calling for moral restraint among video game publishers when it comes to gun distribution. This makes me think you barely read the article.

      That said, I will say that you clearly know very little about arms sales in the US, if you believe that law enforcement can police weapon sales without more regulation. By law, the ATF cannot track weapons by any method other than agents having eyes on the weapons in question (which is why they lost track of them during Operation Fast & Furious). In comparison, if the FBI wants to launch a sting operation on drug dealers, they simply have to bug the drugs. Every gun sale in the US is recorded by hand, then mailed to one understaffed central location, because electronic processing is prohibited by law. In fact, the ATF has not been allowed to add manpower to keep up with the growth in gun sales (it hasn’t added a single extra position in forty years). They can’t even legally require a gun dealer to run an inventory to check whether an item has been lost or stolen–prohibited again by US law. But, yes, they should “properly” enforce the law, now that we’ve tied both hands behind their back. Excellent point.

  26. Fluka says:

    As someone who only recently began gaming again after a childhood spent mostly playing point and click adventure and Sim Whatever, I really don’t understand why the industry seems to be pushing so hard on photo/hyperrealistic violence as a selling point.  Maybe it’s just because I’m a wimpy liberal, n00b, whatever, but I find that a sudden shot of a man’s head being blown off rips me right out of the game and just makes me feel a little dirty and guilty.  EA’s ad in this article is pretty much the perfect example of this: a reminder that yes, you too could own this weapon that you used to brutally extinguish virtual characters with, and it can also be used to kill things in the real world!  Maybe this is hypocrisy on my part, but I prefer my fantasies wrapped in a level of abstraction.  This is partially why, when given a fantasy RPG, I have chosen Mage nearly 100% of the time.  It’s easier to have fun when my character is mowing down hordes with waves of ice, fire, or shimmery magic, rather than a real gun which is used to kill real people in the real world.  My excitement for a lot of games shown at E3 this year was very much tempered by the profusion of throat-slitting goodness.  Dishonored, for instance, looks super-neat, but the trailers involving brutal dismemberment always take me a little bit out of it.

    As I explore games that have been released in the past 10 or so years, I find that I am particularly drawn to games that find gameplay in something other than killing.  Portal is the most obvious example of this (mostly…I am so sorry Companion Cube :( ).  I’m having loads of fun playing through Deus Ex: HR at the moment, partially because I can get through it almost without killing a single human being (fuck you, extraneous boss sections!).  Whenever I do accidentally knife someone, I go back and reload.  I feel slightly guilty about the people I killed during the tutorial section.  Things like this may go a long way towards proving to the “general public” that games can be a valid form of art.  It’s sad that such a huge percentage of gameplay in AAA games is based on mowing people down with guns, partially because it’s just lazy.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      I’m glad people like you are out there. I enjoy my fair share of violent, realistic shooters, but I can entirely understand people are uncomfortable with it. I guess these types of games are the big now because they’re immediately exciting and visceral. Also possibly because the children who were the big market for video games in the early 90s are adults now, and the market is adjusting its output accordingly.

      Even in those cases though, I hope you can see a difference between exaggerated violence (like in Dishonored) and the creepy militarism at play in the article.

      • Fluka says:

        Oh for sure.  This is not to say that I haven’t happily played games involving guns, usually sci fi, and gone “eeeeee” when the effect was particularly powerful or, er, pretty.  I have often joked that my Commander Shepard’s true love interest was the M-920 Cain (I <3 U mini-nuke).  It's more the lovingly rendered detail of bodily damage which is off-putting.  Dishonored sounds like it has enough non-lethal, or at least more creative "fantasy" death options to obscure this a bit, though.  More teleportation and death-by-rat, less horribly exposed internal organs and cartilage!

        The interesting flip-side to this whole debate is something like Spec Ops: the Line (which I have not played), which apparently uses some of the rah-rah militarism mentioned in this article to actually produce feelings of intentional guilt in the player.  As games get more photo-realistic, and creating this kind of visceral disgust becomes easier, I wonder if we'll see a lot more morally ambiguous FPS like this.  Or maybe we'll just see more crap like the CoD/EA promo, where you too can be the killer!

        • Marijn Lems says:

          I can heartily recommend Spec Ops: The Line to anyone who would like to play an antidote to the military fetishism in other FPSes. Like you say, it’s a horribly violent game, but it’s all in the service of telling a story of PTSD and the impossibility of moral military conflict.

      • Completely agree. And, to be fair, violent games have been around since the NES era, but I think that what made it easier to swallow was the sheer variety of games – your racing games, your RPGs, your mascot-platformers, your fighters, and so on.

        The industry completely doubled down on the violent war shoots (modern or futuristic, but who cares), which is already bland and cookie-cutter, but also creates this awkward violence-reality/fantasy disparity (and also kills story-telling, but that’s another issue).

        Honestly, the only AAA game that has a slim chance of beating this back? The upcoming Sly Cooper 4. (Maybe the new Ratchet and Clank as well, but I’ve kinda lost my faith in Insomniac games).

        I wrote about my idealistic game on my blog, but I won’t link it unless people are curious. But basically, the overall issue is a lack of variety of AAA games (I’m aware of indies and emulators, but then again, they don’t have commercials on television).

        • GhaleonQ says:

          I would love to live in a world where Sly Cooper 4 changes (in this world, can Sucker Punch make it, too?), and I hope you’re right.

          I know I don’t decide, but I think it’s fair for people to link to offsite content if 1. discussion has already developed and 2. if the poster arrives late or already contributed substantially.  I say post!

  27. Ryan Smith, I just want you to know this is an excellent article that approaches the subject with tact and subtlety, but without diminishing its importance.  I don’t have anything to add because you said it all better than I could. But I’m going to show this to as many people as possible.

    • Ryan Smith says:

      Hey, thanks Eric, I appreciate the kind words.

      • Also, there are clearly a lot of people misinterpreting your legitimate concern for some anti-video game nut rant a la Jack Thompson, thinking you believe video games trains children to be vicious murderers. I know video games alone aren’t going to corrupt some small child, but I DO know how much impact media has on how people view the world, especially in a culture that reinforces the content from all angles. So don’t worry about those people.

  28. Wow, just wow. Let’s examine your article. 

    1. Instead of simply copying the design weapons and equipment, giving no credit to those who make them, EA has actually partnered with and given credit to those companies. Instead of simply stealing the idea and branding it an AK-48 instead of an AK-47. 

    2. You write this from a completely unbalanced perspective. Here, your nephew brought a BB gun to school, resulting in his expulsion. Believe it or not there is no BB gun in Modern Warfare Three or any other recent shooter that I can remember (leaving out Fallout 3 and its progeny), at least none that I can remember. Instead of blaming the child, his parents for giving him a BB gun or maybe even the BB gun manufacturer for creating a “realistic” product (which is exactly what your nephew wanted btw) you instead blame violent video games? Stating that if not for their rendering of the weapon your nephew wouldn’t have brought a GUN to school. And no, your weak assertion that you can be sure that your nephew did this because of military video games does not negate the fact that you say in the preceding paragraph “my cousin did this because of military video games.” 

    3. You also seem to believe that the video gaming public at large is moronic. That a person of average or even below average intelligence could’t run a google search for P99 or FAMAS. Quite honestly, that’s insulting. 

    The moral issue here, if there is one, is that despite clear warnings that these games are intended for adults, they are purchased for and played by children. Giving credit where credit is due is not a moral issue, it is a question of realism and a question of integrity. EA chose to credit those who gave it ideas, the choice to buy a weapon is one that the consumer makes. 

    Also, just because you might as well use the correct nomenclature, the “clips” your nephew was referring to are actually magazines. A good rule of thumb is that if the cartridge holding device remains in the weapon it is a magazine, if the cartridge holding device is simply a means of placing rounds into the weapon it is a “clip” or “stripper clip” for reference please see the M1 Garand the German K98 Mauser or the Russian Mosin Nagant M91/30.

    • Arthur Chu says:

      You know, anti-video-game people all the time make the argument that by portraying the use of realistic weapons in games, game companies are actively promoting the purchase and use of those weapons in real life and therefore contributing to the harmful gun culture in the US.

      I used to argue against these people all the time — that just because a game has cans of Coca-Cola in it doesn’t mean it’s advertising Coca-Cola, that wanting to realistically portray something doesn’t mean promoting it, etc.

      And then we have companies like EA and people like you marching in and proving people like me completely wrong — you actually take it as a *moral affront* that past games that felt the need to portray realistic AK-47s didn’t actively promote AK-47s as a consumer product or tell you where you could go buy one.

      This is why, some days, I honestly hate being associated with “gamers” and “gamer culture”. (Oh, and thanks for throwing in the totally unnecessary magazine/clip shibboleth for extra good measure. Sorry we’re not as steeped in creepy gun-nut culture as you and your friends.)

  29. Zechariah Alexander says:

    Ethically murky water? They make games about killing people. Whether they’re real or not is meaningless; killing is killing. So you weren’t bothered by the previous games, but now since big bad EA is partnering with companies that make real guns that kill real people they’re suddenly walking the line???

    • HobbesMkii says:

      You don’t see any difference between killing someone made of flesh and blood with a father and mother and killing someone built out of a collection of pixels and programmed to behave in a certain manner?

    • Arthur Chu says:

      Er, fantasizing about killing imaginary people and actively giving people tools to kill real people are, in fact, on two different sides of “the line”, if you concede that “the line” exists at all.

    • stakkalee says:

      You don’t see a difference between the realistic portrayal of violence in video games and a marketing partnership between a video game manufacturer and a gun manufacturer to put real, live weapons in the hands of people who were using virtual versions of those same weapons mere minutes ago to kill ‘bad guys’?

  30. Arthur Chu says:

    Er, fantasizing about killing imaginary people and actively giving people tools to kill real people are, in fact, on two different sides of “the line”, if you concede that “the line” exists at all.

  31. drewhabits says:

    It looks to me (an imperfect observer, whose perspective is colored, like everyone else’s, by personal experience and personal bias!) like your argument here is that selling guns is inherently immoral, which I feel is a pretty bad argument at the end of the day. Also, before anybody gets mad and slams off a post calling me names or whatever, the last paragraph is the money one, so if you’re going to skip most of this, at least read that (ha ha, I’m assuming people pay attention to me at all! WHAT A MAROON).

    It’s not that a whole lot of arms dealers of various stripes aren’t immoral, and it’s not that EA isn’t a raging shitstorm of ruthless capitalism and greed; obviously both of those things are true! That’s not sarcasm! Many weapons manufacturers are basically war profiteers, and EA are more or less the worst major software company in the West in terms of caring about their product, customer, or employees.
    But to say that just because they are using real weapons as in-game models and then allowing players to go to the manufacturer’s website from one of EA’s own websites (something interested players could do on their own, with the only extra step being typing a manufacturer’s name into a search bar) is somehow immoral is a little bit of a stretch, unless the act of selling or owning a gun is also taken as inherently immoral. If that’s your opinion, fine, you’re entitled, but I strongly disagree with it. You might also have hurt Switzerland’s feelings, and now they’re going to go drown their sorrows in chocolate, cheese, and clocks. Nice job, jerk. Now the entire Swiss population has diabetes and always knows what time it is, and it’s all your fault. I hope you’re happy.

    It’s also worth noting that these aren’t direct sales. If you buy a gun from a manufacturer’s website (usually not a great idea, unless you like paying extra for some reason? Maybe… Maybe you hate having money?), unless you yourself are a federally-licensed firearms dealer, you have to have it sent to one, who will only transfer it to you if you are legally entitled to have it, based on whatever the local laws are. In many states, that involves a waiting period, and it always involves a criminal background check. It’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of hassle, and usually a lot of time. It’s not a perfect system, and there are definitely cracks in it that need filling fast (one of those cracks: Arizona), but none of them are related to EA including advertising on its game websites for products featured in that game.

    And these aren’t impulse buys! The TAC-300 in your example costs, before shipping, tax, and transfer fees, well over $5000. Without, admittedly, knowing a damn thing about what guns are in this game, I’d feel safe assuming the cheapest one would probably be a Beretta 92FS, which still has an MSRP of $650. That’s still a significant chunk of change!

    Your 13-year-old cousin probably should not have been playing hyper-violent video games. I know they’re popular and that peer pressure is a real thing, but just because it’s HARD to tell a kid they can’t have something their friends have doesn’t mean it’s not the right play. I’m not saying his parents are bad parents, just that they made this one bad call. I don’t know them or anything else about them other than that they let their kid play games he probably shouldn’t be playing at his age. If little dude is bringing a dangerous toy to school, like a bb gun that could shoot someone’s eye out, nyuck nyuck, he is clearly not ready to have the real version of that toy glorified to him by the media he is allowed to consume.
    If EA had done this with, say, a golf game, would it be time to celebrate their commitment to spreading health and fitness by encouraging youth to play a sport? If Rock Band’s music in-game equipment store thinger (with the fancy mics and the different drums, you know, that thing!) linked to Amazon or Guitar Center, would it be a brilliant way to encourage kids to learn to play an instrument? Or would both of those just be gimmicky throw-away things that offer, at best, a back-of-the-box bullet point and are rarely used? I know I answered my own rhetorical questions there with another one, which is maybe poor form, but I don’t think I’m far off the mark.

    For my part, I think Medal of Honor does WORLDS more damage by jingoistically glorifying the pointless violence of the United States’ most contemporary “wars,” celebrating the our military’s ability to kill dozens or hundreds of technologically-inferior opponents for every soldier we lose, regardless of why we’d be sending them out to do that in the first place, than it could ever do by reminding players that guns are a real thing in the world that they could maybe buy.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I think that the problem is not selling guns, but selling guns using this context. Indeed, the military fetishization and hyper nationalism in games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor is very troubling (to me anyway), but at least you can make the argument that “It’s not REAL. It’s a work of fiction, and only a fool would not be able to tell this from actually shooting people with actual guns!” And then EA comes along and provides the link between the games and actual guns. This seems an awful lot like an endorsement. “If you liked shooting virtual people with virtual guns, try shooting things with the REAL gun.” 

      It blurs the line between the game and the reality of guns. It links them together in a totally frightening way. 

      Hell, even if you’re of the camp that thinks “Videogames are only good ever. They could never maybe shape someone’s way of thinking or confirm their way of thinking and maybe nudge them in the general direction of shooting people ever.” It wold be logical to be upset about this because it only provides more ammunition to people who want to link videogames with violence.

      I’m getting carried away and off topic. The argument isn’t “selling guns is immoral.” It’s “selling guns using this frame of reference is a bad idea/frightening/whatever.”

      • Merve says:

        I apologize if I’m putting words in @twitter-38602120:disqus’ mouth, but I think the key thing to keep in mind is that this firearm cross-promotion isn’t part of the game itself. It’s part of a promotion on the game’s website that few players will ever see. The people who made Warfighter aren’t encouraging players to go out and buy guns. The game itself isn’t encouraging people to go out and buy guns. It’s the marketing departments at EA and McMillian that cooked up this weird cross-promotion who are doing so.

        That being said, it’s a slippery slope from here to having an in-game pop-up that appears when you pick up and use a new weapon saying, “Like your new assault rifle? Click here to purchase a real one now from!” I think it’s worth exploring where this kind of thing could lead if left unchecked. But I think it’s also important to remember that this isn’t about video games causing violence; this is about corporate marketing departments trying to mix military shooters and gun culture in strange and possibly unethical ways.

      • drewhabits says:

        The phrases, “murky moral territory,” and, “ethically murky waters,” mark it as a moral or ethical issue, which is one of the things I take issue with.

        If you’d read all the way through (WINK), you’d know I’m not of the camp that thinks media “could never maybe shape someone’s way of thinking,” but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a problem with the gung-ho jingoism of the modern military shooter.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          That wasn’t supposed to be suggesting that YOU are of that camp, but a hypothetical “you” being of that camp. I was going off on a tangent with that, and it has no real bearing on the points you brought up. 

          I don’t really see how it couldn’t be viewed as a (at the very least, potentially) moral/ethical issue. 

    • doyourealize says:

      I don’t really agree with everything you say, but it’s good to see you’ve taken the time to make a valid and coherent point. I’d like to think we here at Gameological will read and intelligently/humorously respond to those that actually want to take part in a conversation.

      I’m not going to expand on why I disagree (I’ve spoken my piece in this section), but the real reason I wanted to write you is to let you know that there are still two paragraphs in need of a “proper break”…you’re welcome.

  32. ItsTheShadsy says:

    This is really eye-opening. I had thought that the Blackwater game from a year ago was a fluke – and surely the darkest, deepest place that the cultural-financial connection with military games could go. But this adds a whole extra dimension to brouhaha over video game violence.

    Violent conflict is something that’s endemic to many games, but this is a concrete and unsettling example where the virtual killing translates into the sort of culture of violence that exists outside the game world. And not even in the same way as trite arguments about children being brainwashed by Grand Theft Auto.

    I have no ethical problems with games that deal with immediate and realistic conflicts (I think Six Days in Fallujah would’ve been fascinating), but I’m disturbed by the escapist aspects of video games intertwining with the glorification of war culture. When I’m playing Halo (or even EA’s own Battlefield 3 to an extent), I understand that the violence and death are part of an entertainment experience. But by appearances, Warfighter seems to eliminate that cognitive barrier and portray real war as indistinguishable from the game – something that renders war culture that much more palatable to the player.

    The anecdote at the end rings true for me; I have had friends whose obsession with realistic military shooters kickstarted their descent into Second Amendment-brandishing fanaticism. Even that was before big publishers started teaming up with actual military manufacturers and cross-promoting their wares. Considering that I’m part of a generation raised on Doom and Counter-Strike, I’m very worried to think about how these developments will affect future attitudes towards militarism.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Thanks for mentioning the Blackwater Kinect game, it’s been on my mind since I first read this article.
         It was a mercenary maneuver by a mercenary group, making it some unsavory mercenary squared entity.  I find it sincerely unnerving enough to penetrate the fundamental ridiculousness of it’s existence.

  33. Kyle Bowen says:

    This is a lot of flailing in the wind, you can google anything you want. You also have to verify age to get into the part of EA’s website to even view these ads. Parents who don’t know how to limit their kid’s access to the internet, shouldn’t allow their kids access to the internet.

    Parents, grow a backbone!

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      This isn’t something that just concerns children. I think that a game such as this that glamorizes, trivializes, and promotes war can affect the perspective and beliefs of anyone who isn’t guarded against that. For a well-adjusted adult, their main contact with the military could feasibly be a game that entices players to be part of the war economy. Those are the kind of circumstances that can affect  people’s perceptions about violence and conflict, and I’m not comfortable with that.

  34. HoustonCL says:

    Why how anti-gun of you?  You do know that cars kill three times as many people in the US as guns right?  Maybe you should bash games like GT that advertise selling cars in their games…

    • doyourealize says:

      The comments section has already expanded on the non-connection between cars and guns.

      • Asinus says:

        I couldn’t help but notice that you mentioned cars and guns. Did you know that cars kill way more people than guns, you 3D Dot Game ZERO! BURN! Do you want to ban cars too?! Tough salad!

  35. Nick Edwards says:

    Wow, I think I’m dumber for having read that post.  Increasingly rampant gun violence disturbs the author, so his solution is not to do anything about actual guns that are killing actual people (because that would somehow hurt his tender libertarian sensibilities) but to complain that a video game company (which, lets be clear, make pretend virtual guns that hurt no one at all) is promoting it’s product in a way that might perhaps maybe encourage someone to buy legal guns and then shoot people?  What a wanker.  We don’t need a fourth wall between video game pretend guns and real guns, we need any kind of wall at all between real people and real guns.

    If people aren’t willing to advocate the country take basic steps like ‘making guns less available’ I don’t see why on earth we should blame companies that AREN’T EVEN IN THE GUN BUSINESS for crazy people using products THEY DON’T MAKE in unsafe ways.  You want the country to be a wild west gun free-for-all, fine, but at least nut up and live with it.

    • doyourealize says:

      This is kind of an extreme reading. At no point does Ryan say that we shouldn’t do anything about gun violence. He even admits that he’s not sure if there’s a connection between real-life violence and video game violence. Just that he thinks EA is taking a step in the wrong direction.

      Stop being so inflammatory. It’s not either this extreme or that extreme. It’s shades of grey.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I too would much rather see more effort put forth to curb real gun violence than fake gun violence, but I think the author’s point is a valid one: EA’s taking that final leap into blatant product placement for gun & knives in a game like Modern Warfare is at the very least extremely crass. 

  36. Thanatos says:

    EA won Worst Company in America in 2012 for a reason!

  37. ?? says:

    lol unless you have a FFL not happening (US at least) also same gunlaws are in
    effect, and if you want an Auto you’ll need a class three FFL, and a crap ton of
    money for the gun. This isn’t a big deal.

    No 13 year old some place is
    going to get a full auto M-16 in the mail.

    Now someone thats 18-21, yeah
    provided they meet all the requirements and know of a gun dealer to ship it to.
    If you want some military grade firepower find a shiffty Russian working at a
    dockyard.  Learn a bit about gun laws before you go “murky” on me.

    • doyourealize says:

      Taking bets on how long this takes to get deleted.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Why, is it dirty? I can’t decode it.

      • Merve says:

        I’m guessing that he or she posted it with his or her phone, which can mess up the formatting sometimes. The content of the post itself isn’t really objectionable; it’s pointing out that there are financial and legal barriers to obtaining the advertised weapons.

        • doyourealize says:

          While the line breaks are annoying, the tone is insulting, and I can forgive the grammar (no I can’t), I have more of an issue with the poster obviously having commented without reading the article first. His main point (that not just anyone can get a gun shipped to them) is mentioned in the article!

        • Merve says:

          @doyourealize:disqus: Maybe I’m suffering from a massive brainfart today, but I re-read the article three times, and I can’t find where @facebook-15929841:disqus makes that point.

        • Asinus says:

          @Merve2:disqus , I assume that @doyourealize:disqus is referring to this: “have it shipped to your local federally licensed gun dealer for pickup. ” He doesn’t say, “You can’t get it shipped to your house,” but that line implies that you can’t. 

        • Merve says:

          Fair enough, @The_Asinus:disqus. ?? was just pointing out that there are barriers even beyond that.

        • doyourealize says:

          “There you may purchase a real-life TAC-300 to your own specification (night-vision kit is optional!) and have it shipped to your local federally licensed gun dealer for pickup.”

          While he doesn’t specifically say “not everyone can have a gun shipped to them”, the mention that the gun goes to a gun dealer (not to a house) is enough to show that the author is not writing about how some “13 year old some place is going to get a full auto M-16 in the mail”. This commenter missed the entire point of the article.

    • Asinus says:

      I’m just going to flag this because of your line breaks. 

  38. P.F. Bruns says:

    No matter how much or little stock one places in the influence of video games on a person’s actions–I happen to believe that as long as a person has a reasonable grip on reality, that person should be mostly okay with moderate video game play–tying a video game to a sniper rifle promotion right after two tragic shootings is just a monumentally stupid idea.

  39. Samuel Moss says:

    When does video games jingoism become propaganda?

  40. John McGrath says:

    Wow. The ignorance of this article, and anyone who agrees with it, is astonishing. Immersion is a selling point and no more. It’s also rated “M”. So, lets blame the parents for being craptastic on not stopping their kid from playing it. Anyone, who is of sound mind, knows that a video game, NOT MATTER THE HYPE BEHIND IT, knows they aren’t a real soldier because they picked up a controller. That’s all it is, advertising and hype.

    The other point;  “OMG! I can buy the same rifle the guy has in the game!? That’s an outrage!” Really? So you’re saying people are SO stupid, they never had the ability before to look up the civilian version of a military rifle? That’s interesting. Lets look at the example you gave, the Tac-300. Yup, it snipers tool. No doubt about it. It also cost over $5000. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $5k lying around to buy something worth a decent used car. Lets also look at the SOG tomahawk. Please, someone point out the difference in a person getting this or going to a hardware store and getting a small hand axe? They may as well have put Home Depot in the list of links as well.

    Common sense is really dying. It’s very sad.

  41. Marijn Lems says:

    Seems like the prophesied Kotakunami turned out to be just a few errant raindrops. Good to see the high level of discussion being maintained in athread that numbers over 300 posts, everybody! And thanks, Ryan, for writing this article in the first place. The game industry might be making more violent games because of the older average age of gamers, but the fact that we’ve grown older without abandoning our hobby has also lead to much more critical discussions of the often ethically dubious treatment of violence by developers, distributors and marketing departments.

  42. Byron says:

    It provides a link that has information on a firearm…that only people that meet the prerequisites for firearms can purchase. That doesn’t strike me as a massive breach of anything in particular, modelling the weapons after actual models and makes would be more significant in tying the game to ‘real life’ than simply providing an internet link to a manufacturer site, which would be easy enough to find a la google.

  43. I was obsessed with firearms as an adolescent, and I am pre-console by several years.  Yawn.

  44. Stephen Cromwell says:

    OMG, you mean evil EA corporation trusts dirty, filthy, disgusting, lazy, potentially-evil GAMERS with REAL, ACTUAL, FUNCTIONING, LEGAL weapons that any stupid, bloodthirsty American can BUY with MONEY?  Holy Crap, we should totally tell them not to do that because its …. uh…. dangerous?  I guess?  Maybe?

  45. Nice going morons, you just killed my only chance in getting a really awesome Tomahawk. But still, EA should really reconsider their whole “promoting video games with real guns approach.” It just might kill someone on accident.

  46. Nate79 says:

    This article is pathetic.  The article should be about what an idiot your nephew is for bringing a gun to school, not about how a company provided links to the companies that manufacture the weapons in the game.  It’s not like we don’t know the weapons really exist until we see a link along with our favorite video game.  Also, no regular citizen can buy a real-life “assault rifle”.  Semiautomatic rifles are not assault weapons and only individuals who have gone through an exhaustive clearance process can obtain a license to buy fully automatic weapons.  Even if someone did order the TAC-300 and had it shipped to an authorized dealer, they will have to meet the age restrictions for purchase and go through a background check. Guns aren’t evil, but people are.  Sensationalism like this is a disgrace to journalism. 

  47. Azazel says:

    ” Honoring the military is a worthy cause, but EA is still doing so by promoting weapons that lead to 10,000 homicides on average a year in the United States. ”

    I seriously doubt any of those were committed with a $5k tactical rifle like the ones McMillan offers. Personally, i’m surprised it took so long for a game company to partner with a gun company. Car companies have been doing this for years. Gran Turismo and Need for Speed has probably helped sell millions of cars over the years. If the gaming industry can help gun companies sell their products too, more power to them. That’s called capitalism.

  48. BitterAlmond says:

    Domestic terrorism is a societal problem that is getting mixed with the right to bear arms in a much more patriotic join-the-militia-to-protect-my-country that the States are all about.

  49. Sam Cook says:

    EA kind of sucks as a company, but this is great.

  50. Alter Eggo says:

    You don’t seem to “toe the libertarian line” at all. In fact, you sound like a hysterical ninny, to be as polite as I can.

  51. Ignorance is AWESOME! If parents allow exposure to military or hunting games and the kids show interest the parents need to get off their lazy behinds and EDUCATE their kids in the proper handling of weapons.  I saw weapons not firearms because your 13-year-old nephew needs to be taught the proper handling of a weapon.  Since his parents have not done it why haven’t you stepped up?  My nephews showed an interest and guess what happened? My brother ensured that not only were they properly educated about the subject but made sure they had a good moral compass to guide them.  EA wants to link the manufacturers that they used in their game? Good for them.

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  54. Jack5678 says:

    Proper parenting, weapons training, MORAL training and strict age limits for realistic combat gaming should prevent many problems. But what about the psycho kid who has fallen through the cracks? What are the facts and issues? Check out this book, written by a West Point Psychologist who specializes in school shootings: “Stop teaching our kids to kill”