Shooters: How Video Games Fund Arms Manufacturers

"This doesn't sit comfortably", says anonymous PR flack.

Today licensed weapons are commonplace in video games, but the deals between game makers and gun-manufacturer are shrouded. Not one of the publishers contacted for this article was willing to discuss the practice. (EA: "I'm afraid we can't progress this." Activision: "Not something we can assist with at present... My hands are tied." Codemasters: "We're focused on our racing titles these days." Crytek: "We can't help you with that request." Sega: "[This] doesn't sit comfortably." Sony: "I can't help with this I'm afraid.")

However, the gun makers are more forthcoming. "[It's] absolutely the same as with cars in games," says Barrett's Vaughn. "We must be paid a royalty fee - either a one-time payment or a percentage of sales, all negotiable. Typically, a licensee pays between 5 per cent to 10 per cent retail price for the agreement. But we could negotiate on that."

"We want to know explicitly how the rifle is to be used, ensuring that we are shown in a positive light... Such as the 'good guys' using the rifle," says Vaughn. His company insists that its gun isn't "used by individuals, organisations, countries or companies that would be shown as enemies of the United States or its citizens." Ideally, Vaughn says, Barrett's gun will only be used "by US law enforcement or US military".

Previously, previously.

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37 Responses:

  1. Jon H says:

    "Ideally, Vaughn says, Barrett's gun will only be used "by US law enforcement or US military"."

    So Barrett would prefer not to see games where a rugged individualist exercises his 2nd Amendment right to own a Barrett weapon, in order to fight the US government or for "self defense"?

    Huh. Imagine that.

    • Dusk says:

      Doesn't mean he wouldn't want to see it happen, just means he wouldn't want people to associate him with the idea.

    • Justin Buist says:

      I'd imagine that would actually be OK with Ronnie Barrett, provided it's set in some despot ruled future US, but games like that aren't out there. Or, if they are, they probably aren't approaching gun companies for licensing.

      I should probably note, before I get into details, that Barrett's flagship product is a $9,000 semi-automatic rifle that weighs 35 pounds and is 5' long firing a cartridge that is about 6" long. This is not a gun used in crimes. This was a gun designed to facilitate long range shooting at extreme distance. The US military picked up on it and originally used it for clearing out materiel but then figured it worked out people too.

      Keep in mind that he cuts off any government agency that exists in an area that bans the .50BMG cartridge. He cut California law enforcement out when California banned the .50BMG. He will not service their existing rifles or sell them new ones. He then re-tooled to make his .416 Barrett guns, which are the same as the .50BMG but necked down a bit, very similar to the 30-06 being scaled down to the .270. Fitting as the .50BMG was just an exploded version of the 30-06 to start with and the .416 Barrett is basically a scaled up .270. And he did that pretty much so he could still sell them in California, though I will admit I think .416 Barrett has some advantages over the old .50BMG, just like the .270 sometimes works better than the old 30-06.

      I don't believe you'll ever finder a better defender of the individual right to own firearms, on the manufacturing side, than Barrett.

  2. phuzz says:

    I can kinda sorta see the "we need guns to protect ourselves from corrupt governments" argument (for all that it looks pretty paranoid from this side of the pond), but the US government has the biggest military in the world. They have drones and tanks and stealth fighters and fucking nukes!
    How does even a very large gun like the Barrett help you if your government decides to send a drone to drop a Hellfire on you?
    (which they have done to the odd US citizen already, abit ones who are 'bad guys')

    • PatrickH says:

      Because there would be massive civilian causalities. How is a drone strike or a tank or a fighter jet dropping a bomb going to be used on a spread out force, that is intermingled with the people?

    • Ben says:

      You have to realise that the 2nd Amendment nuts don't understand the first thing about living in a free society; in particular, they don't understand (or claim not to understand) that freedom from the threat of physical violence is the first and most important freedom, without which all the others are worthless. What they actually want is the freedom to be able to use their guns to threaten other people, without any interference from the Government: that is, they want to return to a society where the strong are allowed to oppress the weak without restriction.
      I have to say I don't quite understand why anyone thinks this (TFA) is wrong: presumably people who like playing the sort of games which include not just guns but specific, identifiable, models of guns think that Guns Are Not Bad, so why would they object to licence payments to the manufacturers? After all, the manufacturers are already getting pretty good adverstising out of the games.

      • Brian Dunbar says:

        You have to realise that the 2nd Amendment nuts don't understand the first thing about living in a free society

        Either you are trolling or you are wildly uninformed.

        • nooj says:

          Neither. He's making a sort of "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" point.

          Getting back to the observation in the OP: why are video game manufacturers unabashedly featuring recognizable, purchasable, real-world guns, deliberately doing so in a recognizable, realistic, feel-good way, but then--to a man--refusing to acknowledge it?

          At least the gun manufacturers have the steel to make an "honest" buck?

          • Brian Dunbar says:

            At least the gun manufacturers have the steel


            then--to a man--refusing to acknowledge it?

            Conjecture: they don't want to get caught up in anti-gun hysteria.

            • jwz says:

              I guess it's good for business to act like you're ashamed of your product. Or something.

              • nooj says:

                "Sure, we glorify violence, but it's not our fault! That's what the market wants!"

                I guess a couple of (hundred?) million years of might makes right can't be undone by a couple of (hundred?) thousand years of civilization.

      • Chris says:

        More likely they don't agree with your basic premise that removing guns from society does anything to free people from the threat of violence, and you can't imagine how anyone reasonable can think that (not taking the time to look too hard into the details, of course).

        • Ben says:

          The problem with the 2nd Amendment is not primarily that it puts guns in people's hands: lots of countries have an armed citizenry without the ridiculous levels of gun violence you have in America; a gun is just a tool, it takes a person to fire it, and so on. The problem is, first, that it encourages the attitude 'if you have a problem, the solution is probably violence', and second, that it feeds into your insane and paranoid level of distrust in your Government.
          The first means that anyone teetering off the edge of sanity, or anyone doing anything currently considered to be criminal, is extremely likely to start shooting their way out of any difficult situation. Remember, the 2nd Amdmt is all about using guns to resist those who are oppressing you; both the insane and the criminal often believe they are the ones in the right and the rest of society is oppressing them. The easy availability of guns makes the problem slightly worse, but it isn't the root cause.

          The second is a much more important problem. An institution that people will not trust cannot ever become trustworthy; the American Government is made up of American people, and if those people all believe that Government is necessarily corrupt, and know that everyone else believes that, they have no incentive not to be corrupt themselves (beyond the extremely limited incentive not to get caught). The cynical attitude that governmental corruption and inefficiency is unsurprising and not something to make a fuss about is far more damaging than you realise.

          • Bill O' Rights says:

            "your insane and paranoid level of distrust in your Government."


            Governments with too much power have killed orders of magnitude more people than all the "gun nuts" who ever existed.

            By the way, there's nothing I like better than being lectured on how uncivilized/uncivilised we are by Europeans.

            That would be the Europe that still has active "ethnic cleansing" going on as we speak. The one that's only 20 years past its last Communist slave state and 30 years past its last Fascist slave state. The one that embarked on a 500 year long looting, raping, and enslaving spree, then (when all the juice was sucked out) went home and abandoned their dysfunctional colonies to fend for themselves.

            The level of hubris is just incredible.

            • Pavel Lishin says:

              Would that also be the monolithic Europe with a single government, where one European is empowered to speak for all?

              And if we're calling out 500-year-long looting, raping, and slaving sprees, part of that was before America, and part of that America cheerfully took part in.

            • Ben says:

              I am not 'European', I am English.
              I assume your completely unnecessary defensiveness comes from an implicit recognition of the fact that we know what we are talking about and you do not. After all, we have built a free society with our own hands and, where necessary, our own blood, and successfully defended it against tyrants within and without, whereas you were handed the template for one designed by some of the best British minds of the day, and have never had to defend it against anyone.

              • jwz says:

                Now look, "Feeding the Troll" is a fun game and all, but now you've stepped into a load of nationalist bullshit just as toxic as the troll's is. What's this "We" you speak of, pal? You didn't do shit. The "We" you're talking about all died long before you were born, and you don't get to take credit for fuck-all.

    • Brian Dunbar says:

      If it gets to the point where the government _is_ dropping missiles on US Citizens [1] then we've lost.

      Think of 'guns in civilian' hands the way governments think of the armed forces, and all of their expensive toys. They are not there to be used.

      The military, and all of their weapons, are a bluff. The bluff is that if you attack a country, their military might is so fearsome it would mean doom for the attacker.

      The guns are here to deter the government from getting too overtly government-ish and grabbing power and going all Charles I on their people.

      Also consider that while the US does have a large military it's not nearly large enough to suppress active rebellion across the country. It's a pretty big place.

      And if it does come down to the government fighting a war here in the States .. then we've both lost, and in the resulting chaos and hurly-burly having guns might help. Couldn't hurt.

      [1] In this country. We're already dropping them on US Citizens outside the country.

      • phuzz says:

        "The guns are here to deter the government from getting too overtly government-ish and grabbing power and going all Charles I on their people."
        I can see this point, but as you point out, the government couldn't take over the whole country, because the army isn't big enough to hold the whole country (and that army is made up of people who would probably question the idea of pointing guns at their friends and family). On the other hand, the firepower that could be wielded would be enough to turn the whole country (and probably most of the planet) to glass. It's like trying to deal with ants with a sledgehammer.
        Basically what I'm trying to say is that the whole idea is very unlikely to happen, which brings me to my second point:
        You're not going to have to fight off a british invasion. I'm a brit, trust me on this one, Liz isn't going to come demanding her back taxes. So the whole situation the amendment was written to cover doesn't exist any more. It is an old law and it's about time you updated it for modern times.
        If you'll forgive an outsider pointing out the flaws in your political system (as we see them), the whole constitution thing and the bill of rights (I admit to being hazy on which is which) is great. The wholoe idea of checks and balances is a good one, but you set up this great system of government 200 years ago and since then you've only really patched it up.

        "We're already dropping them on US Citizens outside the country."
        As someone who doesn't live in the US, (and isn't a US citizen), that's not very reassuring.

        • Nick Lamb says:

          The US Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. What's not clever is this concept of "superior law". You have a situation where the sovereign government proclaims itself "unable" to change rules that were made by no higher power. And over time this insane situation has become almost holy, you have people who can't understand that they're just rules and rules can (and often should) be changed in response to circumstances.
          In the UK there is no "superior law", the constitution can be changed with just an ordinary parliamentary bill, introduced by any member and voted on in the usual way. And so we think nothing very much of it, and why should we? The artificial distinction between "superior" laws and the rest of the laws doesn't end up mattering in practice. Consider the 15th amendment (superior law) which supposedly fixes the racist electoral system in the US South. In a handful of years it was rendered ineffective. The Voting Rights Act made a difference not because it was "superior" (it wasn't) but because it was enforced, the Federal government was willing to put the boot in.

      • Tim says:

        The guns are here to deter the government from getting too overtly government-ish and grabbing power and going all Charles I on their people.

        That's the mythology of the modern "gun rights" movement, yes. I used to sympathize, but never could get fully on board. If you spend any significant time around gun nuts you might notice that in practice, it's equally important for them to fetishize vigilantism, usually with a racist subtext (gotta have guns to protect yourself from those Other People, can't depend on the cops!).

        Recently I learned something which, if true, puts that element of the gun movement in a rather different light. It finally makes sense out of the Second Amendment, which to me always seemed rather oddly worded if it was actually supposed to be about preserving liberty in the face of government tyranny:

        A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

        Sounds like The Constitution is talking about 'securing' the government of a 'free State' with a 'well regulated Militia' (one under control of that State), doesn't it? Second Amendment advocates always try to handwave away that stuff and only focus on the RKBA in isolation. I used to do that too, but it never sat well. There has to be a reason for the first part of the sentence to exist, no?

        Well, it turns out there was. Militias were an institution which predated the American Revolution. They were made up of able white males employed by plantations, armed and 'regulated' by colonial governments. Their mission? To provide 'security'. What was the threat? Not invasion. Slave revolts. Slavery requires a police state, and the militias were the jackbooted thugs in charge of oppressing slaves.

        The Second Amendment was a concession to Southern fears that the Constitution might have granted too much power over militias to the Federal government. Why was that a problem? Even with the 3/5 Compromise, the South feared Northern domination of the Federal government, and the North wasn't in favor of slavery. Southerners wanted to keep local control over militias. That's what's behind the language of the 2nd Amendment. It's not talking about a "state" in the abstract sense, it's talking about the member-states of the United States of America, and it's establishing the right of those member states to raise, regulate, and arm militias independent of the Federal government.

        So, ironically, the Second Amendment had nothing to do with resistance to tyranny. It was instead a reassurance that individual "free States" would be free to continue enforcing the ultimate tyranny, slavery.

        My source, which goes into more detail, including money quotes from several Founding Fathers:

        The Second Amendment Was Ratified To Preserve Slavery

        (I'd like to see a more scholarly take on this, with well researched cites for all the quotes. After all, manufacturing Founding Father quotes is a bit of a cottage industry. These days, it's usually done by right wing sources, since people on that side of the political spectrum tend to implicitly believe that whatever the Founders did must have been Good and Right, but there's still the occasional questionable quote coming from the other side of the aisle. However, I've decided to provisionally accept the idea since it makes far more sense out of the 2nd Amendment than any explanation I've ever seen before, and fits very well with what I know about the history of the Constitution, which was greatly influenced by Northern-Southern tension over slavery.)

      • Ben says:

        The guns are here to deter the government from getting too overtly government-ish and grabbing power and going all Charles I on their people.

        You do realise the revolt against Charles I ended up instituting a government considerably more oppressive than the one it replaced, right?

  3. Dan Mosedale says:

    Vile. But not terribly surprising.

  4. (Previously)

    This is the first rifle I was able to recognize in a movie. Maybe they're still sore about being Clarence Boddicker's favorite crime gun. (It is also featured prominently in the arcade game.)

    Or maybe, in the dystopian future world of corrupt, deregulated law enforcement agencies, concepts of bad and good are turned on their head!

    Not surprising that the game companies are so shy about it, given how eager people (?) are to believe that video games are the integration point between shooting sprees and psychopaths.

  5. I've been curious for a long time about the cross-over point between product placement fees and licensing fees. Coke pays Universal to show a logoed can in a movie, but video game makers pay car and gun manufacturers to showcase those products in try-before-you-buy virtual demos?

    I guess that means that specific car and gun models are already deeply embedded in some gamers' brains, while soda brands have a much weaker grip on moviegoers' psyches?

    • Dan Sylveste says:

      Criticality/importance. In a movie, is it critical which brand of soda or beer the character is drinking? No - so the movie people have the power to select any brand and therefore charge placement fees. In a game is it critical (in terms of game authenticity or completeness) for the player to be able to drive a certain type of car or use a certain type of weapon? Yes - so the car/gun people have the power to license their brand and charge licensing fees.

      • James says:

        I can see that for guns, but not really for cars.

        • phuzz says:

          I can see it for cars, but less so for guns. :)
          But I suppose that with both, you'll have some practical considerations, eg, a gun having 5 rounds or 6, or a car having four or two wheel drive, and also character considerations, eg the character suits a revolver and Mustang rather than a semi-auto and a Camry.

          The companies who are getting paid to have their products advertised for them must be laughing though.

  6. deathdrone says:

    Jwz I had a really long dream about you last night. In my dream you had an adorable round face instead of being a hard scary russian or whatever, and I was surprised at how cute you were. That's all I can remember. I was going to type it all out this morning but now it's gone, sigh.

    Oh, this millionaire jewish lady that I bang sometimes (real person) was in the dream, and she was on the phone with someone who wanted to hire you, and they were like, does he know photoshop? And the jew looks at me like it's a serious question. And I'm like OF COURSE HE KNOWS PHOTOSHOP HE'S JWZ but the jew was blowing it, i don't think you got the job.

    I used to think all the cursor functions in emacs lisp were so fucking dumb. I would complain about them to my coworkers. I guess to try to sound smart. Not like they had any idea what I was talking about. The whole save-excursion thing, and having everything be global and none of the functions taking arguments, I was like, "omg this is like the antithesis of functional programming this is so bad! jwz how could you!" I was such a faggot back then.

    But then I ended up writing my own windowing system and text editor and I ended up doing things pretty much the exact same way. I mean, it doesn't really even make sense to do it any other way. All those variables are inter-related, you can't really separate them, unless you wanted to make some kind of opaque buffer-and-everything-in-it object which is probably more trouble than it was worth.

    Fuck, everything is so complicated.

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