This is a head scratcher, folks. Late yesterday, after our workday was officially over, a story broke stating the National Rifle Association (NRA) had just released a shooting game for the iPhone and iPad. The best part: it was rated for children four and up [Update: Apple has revised the rating on the App Store to 12+]. It’s worth pointing out that the game released on the one-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The main reason this was such a baffling move is because ever since the Sandy Hook shooting, the NRA has been quick to pass the buck and blame the video game industry as one of our nation’s chief instigators of violence. If you want to get hyperbolic – guns don’t kill people, according to the NRA, violent video games kill people. So for the NRA to develop a video game, even if it’s just a shooting range simulator as is the case with NRA: Practice Range, it’s still a mind-boggling move.
The NRA has stated numerous times that video games, as a whole, aren’t to blame, just the violent ones, as they’ve pointed to titles such as Bulletstorm, Splatterhouse and Mortal Kombat to prove their point. In their eyes, NRA: Practice Range is meant as an educational tool for youngsters to learn gun safety and proper gun etiquette. And to a degree, I get that. If you feel it absolutely necessary to teach your child how to use a gun, I do feel it’s a safer alternative to start with a video game than handing them a shotgun and sending them off into the woods. It’s Duck Hunt for the current generation, basically.
But the irony can’t elude them, right? For as long as I can remember, video games have been the scapegoat whenever a horrific act of violence crops up. Especially when it involves teenagers and young adults, as is the case with Sandy Hook and Columbine and Virginia Tech before it. So to release a video game teaching children as young as four how to shoot things, even if it’s just moving targets and clay discs, on the anniversary of a mass shooting no less, seems ill-advised, does it not?
The news of this game's release swept through the inner circles of the video game industry for good reason. We, the gaming industry, have been told by the NRA and others higher up the food chain that we have a bad image that we do nothing to shake. That’s probably true, and we need to do our part to fix it, but I feel the NRA should not be the ones we look to for help. And that’s what this game feel like – the NRA’s attempt to make a shooting game that’s in their eyes respectable and educational, as opposed to what we churn out (because we can't be trusted, of course), which is offensive, troubling and trains killers. Is this what being slapped in the face feels like?
But that's just my snap judgment on the situation. Now I pass the microphone to you, dear readers. What are you honest thoughts on the NRA’s game, NRA: Practice Range? Sound off below.