The correlation between gun violence and violent shooter games is dubious, but there are some very real links between the two industries, with gun-makers using these virtual worlds to advertise their products. The latest Medal of Honor game, for example, as part of a marketing campaign, created a separate "partners" site that linked to the real-versions of the weapons used by players. The links no longer work, but, as you can see above, Electronic Arts maintains a "proud" partnership with companies like the McMillan Group, whose slogan is "shoot to win" and makes all sorts of guns. The two companies also made this promotional video together.
Similarly, the military has used Call of Duty to recruit soldiers, to give some of the many examples the New York Times's Barry Meier and Andrew Martin outline in today's paper. So while playing video games does not turn kids violent, companies like Electronics Arts make the segue from faux to real weapon quite easy.
While the National Rifle Association has used video game violence as a way to shrug responsibility off of its lobby for all the shootings this year, the organization also benefits from these marketing relationships. The NRA might not have a direct relationship with Electronic Arts. But gun-maker Magpul, another partner with the game-maker, for example, recently ran a promotion with the NRA on Facebook (pictured right). And "shoot to win" MacMillan gives money to the NRA. So, if video games have anything to do with shootings, it's not the prevalence of these games, but the related money and marketing that benefits the gun companies and the NRA itself. (Not to mention, the NRA makes some pretty vicious video games, too.)
The discussion of violence after Newtown and a year of mass shootings has developed into NRA versus video games. But it's hard to consider those two sides of opposite evils when they are in bed together. Maybe the discussion deserves more nuance, as Chris Sullentrop tries to do over at Arts Beat:
It’s tough to believe these three things at once: 1. Video games are a uniquely powerful medium of communication. 2. They have a negligible effect on behavior, whether promoting violence or aggression or hugs or butterfly collecting. 3. Children should be shielded from violent games (and from all violent media) for a very, very long time, and the 10-year-olds who are playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II (or going to see “The Dark Knight Rises”) are being failed by their parents.
I believe all three arguments are correct. But I’m not sure I can explain how they logically cohere.
We're not sure, either. But perhaps one piece of that puzzle is that the violent games put direct links to easy-to-acquire guns. Just a thought.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.