A Connecticut lawmaker, Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey, has called upon games industry leaders to cease the licensing of real-world weapons brands in their titles.
The letter describes the act of licensing with weapons manufacturers a "nefarious relationship" which "blurs the lines between fiction and reality," and which acts to "effectively market [...] assault weapons to children and young adults."
The letter does proceed to acknowledge several oft-repeated points concerning game violence, noting that "research has shown little connection" between game violence and real-life acts, and that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that video games are protected under the First Amendment's right to freedom of expression. However, Sharkey says, "there is little to be said in defense of the industry-wide practice of arranging licensing deals with gun manufacturers."
Gun branding in games has been tackled before, such as in this Eurogamer piece published in January 2013
. The article posits that royalties from licensing agreements mean sales on games directly fund weapons manufacturers. This is an assertion denied by Electronic Arts and Activision -- the latter of which is named in Sharkey's letter -- which both maintain they have never paid licensing fees to gun makers.
Nevertheless, there is still a marketing angle, Sharkey says. "Video games expose our brand to a young audience who are considered possible future owners," Ralph Vaughn, a representative for rifle manufacturer Barrett, told Eurogamer
. So, while money may not change hands directly, some gun manufacturers reportedly do indeed see video games as an advertising opportunity.
In addition to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, the letter is addressed to Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, Valve head Gabe Newell and Electronic Software Association (ESA) president and CEO Michael Gallagher. The letter, reproduced in full, is embedded below.
Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey's letter to the games industry