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Lawmaker calls upon game industry to cease real-world weapon branding
Lawmaker calls upon game industry to cease real-world weapon branding
August 22, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

August 22, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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    39 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



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



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Comments


John Trauger
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Paraphrased: Politician targets easy mark du jour to make points for himself by playing to stereotype."

Ruston Coutinho
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I don't understand what is wrong with game makers using real gun brands.

Philip Ramirez
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Well by using the likeness of real brand guns developers have to pay licensing fees which supports the gun industry. This means even if you never touched a gun in your life because of your own moral objection you could be indirectly supporting the gun industry by just buying a game.

If you don't mind a 7 minute related video then here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeIHH0XEs6E

Dave Bellinger
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Except, as noted in the article, both EA and Activision deny paying any licensing fees, which is likely true of other developers/publishers as well. The actual argument here is advertising, rather than actual revenue: that children playing these games now become future gun owners. But the article does in particular point out that there is no direct money, at least as far as EA and Activision are concerned, going to gun makers from video game sales.

Alexander Womack
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Wow! Exactly...And racing games should ban real car branding because so many MORE people die on our roads every year then killed by guns...Sounds legit.

Alfa Etizado
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Cars and guns aren't comparable. Cars weren't built to kill people, and besides in most games the cars we're driving almost nobody can afford.

I for one don't like knowing that the product I bought in some way brought money to real gun makers.

Harry Fields
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No disrespect but if you don't want your money going to support something you can't abide in, then don't buy the game?

This is something they do to add authenticity. Hollywood does it, as well. Many gun mfgs won't require a licensing fee to use a product's likeness anyway as they consider it free advertising in many uses (chiefly, the mil-sims and other titles that play the patriotism tune). And games like GTA, model their own weapons that may resemble real firearms but they're not actually portraying them as Glocks, etc.

Bob Charone
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You can't outrun a bullett...

Doug Poston
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@Alexander: Sadly, there have been calls for bans on "Street Racing" games.

@Bob: If you can outrun a McLaren P1 I'd be impressed. ;)

Alfa Etizado
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I bought games before I even knew that kinda thing happened though.

Michael Joseph
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I think there are laws that regulate how guns are advertised (similar in purpose I think to cigarette and liquor advertising restrictions?).

In specific trade or sporting magazines and perhaps store catalogs and sales fliers ads are legal? Actually I don't know anything about this.

a barely relevant link...
http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-guns-are-advertised-in-a
merica-2012-12?op=1

Shea Rutsatz
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I'm good with non-branded weapons. It's a different case than other in-game branding (which isn't always ok), as guns sole purpose is to kill. Cars kill too, but it's obviously not what they're intended for. Imagine if a character is smoking in game, and pulls out a pack of Camels? Or booze? Sometimes it brings a level of familiarity and realism, other times it's cheap.

So, I'm not against guns in games by any means - but it does seem weird to overhear some 10-15 year olds talking in detail about the specs of a real assault weapon.

In the big picture though, I can't imagine it having too big of an effect.

Dusty Hunsaker
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Saying that a gun's "sole purpose is to kill" is like saying a knife's sole purpose is to kill. Knives and guns are both tools that CAN be used to kill things, but have other legitimate uses as well. Ornamentation, competitive shooting sports, and investing are a number of other uses for guns that don't involve killing.

Michael Joseph
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@Dusty Hunsaker

technically true.

I personally like to use bear traps when playing hopscotch.

John Kelly
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I see your point, but it's (sort of) a force.

You're dead on. Hopscotch is a kick-ass game. I look forward to it being ported to the Rift.

However, with some touching up on your sarcasm, you could have a valid point. It doesn't matter what something is designed for, what matters is what it is MOST used for.

Guns, however, were designed to kill originally. Not humans daresay, but by far and away the human is target numero uno down those iron sights.

Yet to put guns at fault for what's happening in this dystopian America today is beyond me. Everything, EVERYTHING, has to do with education. The world is mentally regressing, and violence is the immediate consequence.

Dusty Hunsaker
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You might want to check some facts on that. There were more deer killed in the 2011 hunting season, in the state of Kentucky, than there were homicides involving firearms in the entire United States. Saying humans are "target numero uno" is just completely false.

That said, I completely agree that putting money into education is going to be the safest investment, with the highest returns.

Nathan Middleton
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Do other uses outstrip guns as a tool for killing people on a worldwide scale?

I'm not even sure where you'd look to find those sort of stats.

Alfa Etizado
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Look, most guns were clearly designed to kill people. I don't know why run away from that. It is what it is.

See how many guns licensed in games are used for any of the non violent purposes you came up with.

Aiden Eades
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I will say I kind've agree on some level. Just the fact that gun branding in these games isn't overly important. It doesn't really add a whole lot to the game imho. It may be different for me because I'm not a gun nut, I don't know. But I consider guns such as the needler just as valid as an AR-15.

It isn't so much like a racing game where the vehicle list is huge and there are hundereds of real models everyone will have access to (kinda), where the aim is realism. It wouldn't hurt these games not to license real guns. (Of course there are some exceptions to this, but still)

BUT that's no excuse for bullshitting about hwo it's affecting children etc.

Basically what I'm getting at is, it wouldn't hurt game companies to stop licensing real gun brands, but there's no reason for them not to. Does that make any sense?

Kaitlyn Kaid
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@Dusty Hunsaker I think (and I could be totally wrong) that @John Kelly was looking at the historical context of firearms rather than their current use.

Hunting has never been the driving force in advancing firearm technology. New advancements in weapons have almost always been driven by their military use and then adapted to civilian needs afterwards (such as hunting). While there have likely been an order of magnitude more deer killed in your example, the developments that allowed that (from barrel rifling, to scopes, to bullet design and shell casings) have been driven from a military need first and foremost. This means that the driving force in firearm design has been human targets.

Again, I could TOTALLY be wrong in what they were intending.

Josh Neff
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@Dusty Hunsaker I'd be very cautious of statements regarding gun statistics were I you. We dont know for sure what the real numbers are. The National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to cut the CDC's budget the exact amount it had allocated to gun violence research. So objective factual numbers regarding gun use would be incomplete at best. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cdc-ban-gun-research-caused-lasting-
damage/story?id=18909347

Dusty Hunsaker
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@ Nathan

There are 94 guns for every 100 humans in the U.S. Of course this doesn't mean that 94% of adults own guns in the U.S., it's estimated to be more like 30-34%. Yet the fact remains that 30-34% of people have not committed a homicide. Clearly they are using their guns for something that isn't killing people. I know you asked about worldwide statistics, but I don't know where to find that information.


@ Kaitlyn

I fully agree that the advancement of firearm technology is driven by the military and use of force on human targets, but going back to the original statement of them having the "sole purpose" for killing people is what I was arguing. Blanket statements like that are an easy way to make a weak argument. There is no doubt that advancements in technology have made weapons more capable and lethal than ever before. But guns don't (usually) just pull their own triggers. At some point, a person makes that decision. Of course we could go into a big debate about mental health, access to firearms by unstable individuals, etc. But that's another talk for another day.


@ Josh

I'd be cautious about ANY statistics, not just those concerning gun statistics. Anyone with a good knowledge of statistics knows that they can be twisted in whatever way the statistician likes (or is paid to support). That said, I was not using the CDC numbers, I was using the Uniform Crime Reports that the FBI publishes every year. These are based on numbers reported by police agencies across the country (which can be under-reported as well).

Pallav Nawani
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"Clearly they are using their guns for something that isn't killing people."

I have feeling Dusty Hunsaker, that they are not using their guns at all ;)

Daneel Filimonov
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If young kids and adults are smart enough - and I'm sure most are - they can figure out for themselves that guns are bad.. Games are not the problem (again), it's external factors that lead to gun violence. Games are simply an alternative outlet to let out such violence. Why do people (if you can even call politicians that) create such vitriol? If everyone was educated enough to think for themselves, politicians would be out of jobs (or they wouldn't exist). Gah!

Michael Joseph
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Lack of maturity, rationality and responsibility across the population and culture is one major problem as it relates to gun ownership and the other problem is the general dysfunction (inequality, injustice, hyper-materialism, etc) of it all.

Entire nations have been undone with that recipe.

Some might say the dystopian future is now.

Jeff Leigh
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Considering that most games that feature real-world weapons are M-rated titles to begin with, I would argue that it's a bit of a moot point.

If there are any games out there that feature real-world gun brands that are not already M-rated, I would consider it a fair compromise - along the lines of not advertising cigarettes to minors.

John Kelly
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OK, so using American political logic, every roadway in the world should reflect a Mad Max deathrace because games like Need for Speed or Burnout exist. This hypothesis honestly would make more sense, seeing the LEADING cause of death for teens is alcohol/car related*.

*I'm not saying anyone in or involved in the making of NforS or Burnout were drunk...

Gil Jaysmith
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Did anyone read this at the time? http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-02-01-shooters-how-video-g
ames-fund-arms-manufacturers

Jonathan Adams
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I'm all for reducing the glorification of guns in our culture, but I don't see how this will do that. Removing advertisements for actual arms, perhaps.

Reuben Smith
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On the one hand, I don't really care if a game uses a real branding. I wasn't bothered that Goldeneye called the FN P90 an RCP-90; it certainly didn't diminish my enjoyment of the game.

On the other hand, I feel like this is making a connection that doesn't really exist. The majority of guns used in crimes are not present in most video games and the manufacturers aren't the ones you'll typically see. There may be glorification going on, but it seems to have little impact on the guns actually used in crime. The Bureau of Justice posts stats on this sort of thing, and if memory serves, the number one or number one contender for most used gun in a crime is a .38 Special revolver, which means that L.A. Noire had a bigger impact on criminal weapon of choice than any Call of Duty title -- not that this means anything other than that I think the advertising connection is tenuous at best.

Glorification that leads to a law-abiding citizen legally acquiring a firearm from a game and safely and legally using it thereafter is a non-issue in my thinking, even if I agree that guns shouldn't have nearly so high a pedestal as they have.

Andrew Shaftling
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Would be a good idea to start with gun laws first. Then I'd say this might be a reasonable proposal. Otherwise it's just pathetic populism.

Ordani Briton
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Yeah, game makers should just stop calling them guns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsInWGCHq0c
America's Army "video game " should stop using guns in there game.
Sarcasm intended.

Terry Matthes
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Not branding them in game is a step in the right direction. We all know these games are marketed to impressionable young kids. There's no need to go so deep into the "realism" that the guns need real life brands.

Golden Eye was an amazing game with gun play at it's core and it didn't have real gun names.

We need to clear the bullshit out of our heads and realize it's all about product placement for arms companies and getting a chunk of cash through licensing and exposure. Go ahead an argue for the arms companies if you want, but to be honest they pay lobbyist to do the same thing and they're better at it.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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actually the majority of FPS games are marketed to teens (T rating) or more commonly adults (M rating).

I'm not aware of any shooter that uses licensed weapons that is marketed to young kids (E or E10+ ratings).

Shea Rutsatz
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You do know that kids can - and do - get a hold of these games, very easily?

Harry Fields
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So the fact that the game is amazing due to compelling gun play doesn't bother you but if the guns were modeled after real ones, it's suddenly bad? I don't follow. That's like saying "Smoking is bad" and then having Solid Snake light up a generic smoke instead of a Marlboro Red... Oh wait...

I've been playing games for 31 years. I've been working on them in some capacity or another for 15. I've killed millions of digital people, some graphically... some graphically with realistic weapons. I own a handgun, shotgun, and .22 varmint rifle passed down from my grandpa that I'd target shoot with at age 10. I've never once thought of shooting a real person or otherwise used my firearms in an unresponsible manner.

Why? Wait for it...
Because I was raised to recognize that some things, you just don't do. Shooting people (unless for last ditch self-defense) is one of them. Waving around firearms like an idiot is another.

Dave Bellinger
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@Shea

I think that fact is so obvious, that it should be the real discussion. Instead of talking about how kids are getting their hands on these games/educating parents on the cautions they should take, and things they should consider when purchasing games for their children, we're talking about gun branding and, maybe one day in the future, mandating all guns be brightly painted like Borderlands.

It's not that that's a bad idea, of course, but it seems like the much harder and irresponsible path than parents becoming more involved in their child's hobby. Pie in the sky though, I know.

WILLIAM TAYLOR
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I wonder if changing "AK-47" to "KA-74" will really lessen the alleged influence on the youth that comes from shooting hundreds of fake people in the face, the primary/only gameplay element of many shooters?

Jack Kerras
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Hey, folks?

It's pretty disrespectful to call for video game companies will use 98% of a gun company's design, slap a new name on it, and not give the folks who do the designing and building anything for their work.

Just saying.

If you're Dust 514 and you make sci-fi weapons, whatever. If you put a Chiappa Rhino in your game and call it The Charger, you're being an asshole to the guy who dreamed up the gun.


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