Blurred lines: No, not the song, video games that promote guns like the one used in Newtown massacre


blurred lines

In the horrific Newtown massacre, Adam Lanza used the specific gun that was featured in Call of Duty, the video game that he played.

This is not to say video games should be blamed for gun deaths, even though the NRA is doing just that as gun manufacturers (the NRA's lifeline) are entering into licensing agreements with video game companies to showcase real guns. Because, you know, those games aren't lifelike enough already.

We know that they've already been promoting specific, lethal brands to children, such as Adam Lanza's Bushmaster:

And here's a bonus link, just to illustrate how precious these goons think life is... outside the womb: VIDEO: NRA convention speaker advises parents to store guns in kids’ rooms.

So hey, with all those Guns for Tots sales, who needs video games, right? Apparently gun zealots who use them to market deadly firearms to little kids do.

As part of a longer term effort to get the NRA, gun manufacturers, and their lobbyists where it hurts, in their wallets, Connecticut Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Dem, has been instrumental in pushing strong gun legislation through the state legislature... and getting Republicans to join him (!).

Kudos! Here is part of a press release that goes into more detail:

CT State House Speaker Urges Video Game Industry To Stop Promoting Guns Like One Used In Newtown Massacre

Connecticut’s State House Speaker urged video game industry leaders to stop using their products to promote military grade firearms, saying they were recklessly blurring the line between fiction and reality and endangering people’s lives.

In a letter sent to three company chief executives and the Entertainment Software Association, Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) said the video game industry needed to end all licensing and product placement agreements with arms manufacturers. Such deals, he said, were “nefarious” and may have contributed to last December’s massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown.

“Games designed to recreate the experience of wartime carnage and criminal violence constitute protected speech under the provisions of the First Amendment,” Sharkey wrote. “But there is little to be said in defense of an industry-wide practice of arranging licensing deals with gun manufacturers for the rights to use the make, model and visual design specifications of their real-life weapons.

Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, was an avid player of Activision’s game Call of Duty and used a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle featured in the game.

Sharkey has since played a leading role in pushing gun safety legislation through the Connecticut legislature.

“The industry practice of video game publishers entering into licensing, marketing or other financial arrangements to feature real guns in their games,” he added, “blurs the lines between fiction and reality in ways that can have tragic consequences.”

A report published in June by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project detailed how deals between video game companies and weapons manufacturers often lead to promotional campaigns enticing players to purchase weapons featured in the games they have just played.

Sharkey echoed the report’s call to end such deals. He noted that Electronic Arts, one of the biggest companies in the field, has already done so as a matter of company policy and he urged EA’s competitors to follow suit.

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  • Rod Wymer

    I wasn't intending to be argumentative, but I guess I will have to assume the role of Devil's Advocate on this one. I didn't mean to imply that the article insinuated that Adam Lanza purchased the gun, I was only pointing out that it was convenient for him and that he didn't necessarily seek out the Bushmaster by name. One of the key elements that games like COD provide the gamer is a sense of's a chance for the gamer to assume the role of a soldier using the same equipment that our military uses. Licensing is nothing new for video games, racing games like Forza, Gran Turismo, Need For Speed, and others use brand name vehicles in their games and often fight each other over exclusive rights to certain brands, as is the case with Porsche. Having brand name cars, rendered in full HD, using applicable upgrades and physics calculated 60 times per second gives these games a greater sense of authenticity, which enhances the immersion. Although I'm not a fan of military shooters, I can appreciate the authenticity that brand name weapons would bring to a game, and if the forum threads at 2old2play are any indication, I'm not alone in that sentiment.

    I really do understand the knee-jerk reaction to blame the media. We vilified rap music in the 90s, heavy metal and violent films in the 80s, Richard Pryor and disco music in the 70s, the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane in the 60s, etc. But did Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics really incite kids to commit suicide? Yes, no...maybe. It's hard to say. Video games might be that influential to some folks, probably the same folks who would try to jump a ramp in a shopping cart because they saw it on Jackass...despite the disclaimer. Some folks are easily influenced.

    But those easily influenced folks almost deprived the headbangers of the world of some heavy metal, we got a sticker instead. These folks are going to go left anyway, music, movies, and video games aren't the root cause, and may or may not even be the catalyst. Pac Man hasn't caused an outbreak of ghost eating, Splosion Man hasn't made spontaneous combustion fashionable, and Mario hasn't inspired mass turtle kicking. I guess my point is almost moot since Activision has already voluntarily agreed to remove brand name guns from its game, but I can't shake the feeling that this is the PMRC all over again, and millions of COD players are having to do without while nothing is being done to get assault rifles out of the hands of kids, or even restrict magazine capacities. I apologize if anything I have posted came across as combative, I did not intend it in that way, but the mark of good journalism is the way it inspires a dialogue both for and against. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Cliff Schecter

    Rod - Of course the real ones are more dangerous. It is not even comparable. Of course the real ones should never be available to Adam Lanza (or most other civilians for that matter). That is not the point here.

    This also has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment. It's a corporate campaign to let the video game makers know how people feel so they can hopefully change their behavior, not a campaign to have the government ban their use in video games.

    Otherwise, the gun industry enriches itself through licensing deals like this, and it promotes specific brands of real-life lethal weapons that as you pointed out are readily available (even though they shouldn't be). It is no different than not wanting to advertise cigarettes to kids. Nobody is saying it is the cause. But it may contribute. And it may contribute to what lethality they choose because an assault weapon "looks cool."And frankly, it is in bad taste post-Newtown.

    It is not necessary, it could give kids ideas, it enriches the gun industry and it is in bad taste. All good reasons not to do it.


  • Nobody said Adam Lanza purchased it. The post specifically said "used." He chose to use that weapon, the one in the video game. The point of the post is that "the video game industry needed to end all licensing and product placement agreements with arms manufacturers."

    It's about marketing, about the NRA benefiting monetarily from gunmakers who profit off of this stuff.

    I also see nowhere in the press release that "pixelated weapons become more dangerous than the real deal." You may be reading more into this than is there.

    And whether or not YOU "cannot think of a single one that utilizes brand specific firearms," clearly they're out there or there would be no licensing deals. That's why there is this effort to prevent that from happening.

    Glorifying a specific brand name, selling that brand to kids, is a terrible idea that only benefits the NRA and gun manufacturers.

    Again, the point Sharkey is making is "promotional campaigns enticing players to purchase weapons featured in the games they have just played." It's real, it's happening, and it's wrong.

  • Rod Wymer

    I don't see a problem with using licensed weapons in military shooters like COD or Medal of Honor, or providing the player with technical specifics in games like World of Tanks. The problem is that these name brand military weapons are available and accessible to folks like Adam Lanza. Is the 2nd Amendment more important than the 1st Amendment? When did pixelated weapons become more dangerous than the real deal? As far as a game featuring "criminal violence" I cannot think of a single one that utilizes brand specific firearms. Games like GTA and Hitman may specify caliber, but never the brand, and if a brand is mentioned it is fictitious. I'm the head writer for a prominent online gaming community and, consequently, I play and review a lot of video games. It's true that video games are becoming more realistic all the time, but I do not see the lines blurring between reality and online gaming. However, I do believe that when tragedy strikes fingers must be pointed and someone must pay, but I would hate to the wrong guy take the fall based on half-assed deductive reasoning. My last point is that Adam Lanza did not purchase the Bushmaster, his mother did, and I seriously doubt that she was a big COD fan.