Games with Real Guns

Today a friend of mine linked on Facebook to this video, entitled “Is Buying Call of Duty a Moral Choice?” from the Idea Channel. I have to confess that initially I was surprised at this, not expecting this particular individual to be in the “videogames are bad” side of the debate. But I watched the video anyway.

And it actually made some very good points, and I found myself firmly nodding in agreement throughout. Not because Mike Rugnetta says that violent games cause violent behaviors, since he explicitly says the opposite: “Now am I saying that videogames are going to teach you to do something stupid and dangerous with firearms? No, I am not. And furthermore, that line of reason is infuriating.”

The point of the video is that some videogames are not only depicting firearms and having players shoot things/zombies/monsters/people, but some games are actually replicating real guns. But that isn’t really the problem, either.  The problem is that not only are they replicating real guns, but many of them are paying license fees to real gun manufacturers in order to accurately replicate not only the appearance, but also the functionality of actual weapons. And Rugnetta – who is himself a shooter player – takes issue with the fact that gamers are (knowingly or unknowingly) funding arms manufacturers.

First, it seems deeply and upsettingly hypocritical that the NRA is attacking the games industry as the source of violence when their supporting industry (gun makers) are in fact profiting off of certain parts of that industry. If there is any truth (and I’m dubious about that outside of the simulations built for the military for just that purpose) to the assertion that violent games are “training” for the killing of actual people, then using “real” guns instead of hypothetical fantasy or even just generic guns would exacerbate that problem. If not, the use of real weapons is still supporting the gun manufacturing industry, who do make the actual weapons that people do actually use to kill one another.

This isn’t to say that I’m anti-second amendment. I’m not. But I am against being able to make an informed decision about whether or not I need to be providing money to the people who make AK47s and rocket launchers. Other entertainment industries – films, tv, books – aren’t paying licensing fees to use guns (often because they’re using generic weapons or prop weapons or because they’re BOOKS), so why are games? In essence, while I don’t have an inherent problem with absolute verisimilitude, I do have an issue with games that would choose to fund the gun industry and not say so publicly (whether the developers’ or the publishers’ choice, I’m not sure) just for the sake of modeling a real gun instead of one they’ve invented themselves.

Second, there’s the idea that many FPS (first person shooter) players aren’t aware that they’re funding the arms industry. And maybe some of them think that’s great, some of them don’t care, but some of them might be upset by that (since gamers as a unit tend to politicize more on the left side of center), and they don’t realize that their money isn’t just going to Treyarch, but to the makers of actual firearms. So what I see as the most important point is that developers should be more transparent about the fact that they’re paying money to the gun industry (if they are).

As a consumer and a player of FPS games, I will likely now make the choice to buy games that aren’t as realistic in order to avoid giving money to the gun industry (which I’m pretty sure makes enough money all by itself without having to license digital replicas of its products). Not because I think such games are inherently more dangerous (because I don’t), but because I want to be able to make the choice not to support an industry that I do think makes the world more dangerous, because ultimately, its bullets are real.