Monday, June 13, 2016

EA's E3 Presentation and the Gun Violence Debate

The madness of E3 is already in full swing. So much so that even my blog had a hard time with using Day -1 over Day 0 in the subject line of yesterday's live blogging event. But it was an okay start to the week of events leading to one of the largest developer and retail showcases in video games.

I will do my best to live blog again today, but it'll have to be during my lunch break since I have that 8-5 job to take care of first. Today's list includes XBox E3 (this is Microsoft's press conference, which will be focused on the consoles and not their other branded content), Ubisoft, and the PlayStation Experience. Twitch is all over the big presentations this year so you can watch it all online for free without much trouble. Unless you get the skipping video like I did last night. That sucked. Horribly. At least it didn't ruin my experience, much.

In the wake of the Florida nightclub shooting that occurred on Sunday, The Verge published an opinion piece about the nature of violence in video games. The issue being not that there are violent games, but that when EA took the stage Sunday mid-day to talk about their lineup in the coming year, they didn't address the shootings. They didn't tone down the content. It was business as usual. I'm not sure what The Verge article is trying to get at. Based on the comments they have responded to, they don't expect EA to stop everything they are doing and mourn those who were lost. Nor to they expect the company to completely rework their entire show to not highlight games using guns - that would be months or work lost to upend and redesign in less then 6 hours.

I don't think a video game expo is the place to make political statements about gun violence. And it's such a delicate debate these days that any comments from EA, Bethesda, or anyone else could easily have people turn against them. The point of the expo is to talk about the new games coming out soon.

At the same time, ignoring the situation probably wasn't for the best. I wasn't anticipating them to start off the show with a monologue about the situation. But they could have pulled a Bethesda and attached a multi-colored ribbon to their suits to show solidarity for the victims. It's indirect action that brings attention to the issue, without directly addressing it.

Having been in EA's shoes before, I understand. You spend months building and prepping for a presentation (which by all accounts was pretty smooth compared to past years, even with the minor tech glitches with the live streams) and out of left field comes an event that could impact your content. Do you change it up 5-6 hours before you go live? Do you talk about it? Do you not talk about it? All of these decisions were going through the minds of EA staff to determine the best course of action. And for them, they didn't have the minutes or manpower to make changes on such a grand scale - so they went on with the show.

Maybe that's for the best. Maybe the fact that business was as usual for EA is enough to spur people into realizing that gun violence is too normal for the U.S. When we're one of the only first world nations that still has a relaxed gun policy (you can argue with me all you want, but I can pick up a gun in less then an hour and it's completely legal - that's nutty by all accounts) and we're #4 in the world in gun-related deaths behind Afghanistan, Iraq, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo - all war zones. Gun violence in this country can be measured in war numbers. Crazy.

The fact that EA went on with their original plan is telling. The commonality of gun violence is just that. Common. Maybe that will be enough to spur people into action and seeing just how big of a deal that is in our country, and allow people to address it and hopefully fix it.

We all know by now that violent games do not make violent people. There are hundreds of millions of us who grew up gaming as testament to this. Countries like Japan, Norway, and Germany have loads of violent games. Japan puts out a lot of crazy games. and some of the strictest weapon laws in the world. Homicide rates always rank below 1% on the global scale for these countries. If they can do it, why can't we?

So this might open up the much needed dialogue regarding the gun debate in the U.S.? Or it's just another day at the office. You decide.

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