The Hidden Implications Behind the NRA Shooting Game

The Hidden Implications Behind the NRA Shooting Game


Games are Games, regardless of what form they take

The NRA has just released a free iOS shooting game one month after the Sandy Hook Tragedy and blaming the video games industry for excessive gun violence.

It is particularly easy to see how hypocritical it is for the NRA to release a shooting game of their own, despite having blamed video games themselves. The obvious criticisms about the game have already been well stated by The Huffington Post but there’s something even more reviling that I haven’t heard anyone mention:

There are microtransactions in this game 

The game is free to download but the NRA can make a few extra bucks if you choose to shell out 99 cents for some extra guns to shoot, including an AK-47, and a SVD Dragunov Sniper. These are weapons of war currently being used in modern militaries and are even popularized in video games (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) but that’s only part of the equation.

To accept microtransactions as a viable revenue model for your game, you are thereby accepting your gameplay is engaging enough to make players want to pay even more to engage with it further and in different ways.

In a game rated for ages 4 and up, the NRA has created a game meant to teach children about gun safety at an early age. What isn’t immediately apparent is that unlocking these guns through microtransactions is exactly the same type of experience that make games like Call of Duty so addicting in the first place.

While the NRA game is rather sparse and only has a handful of these transactions, the associated dopamine release with unlocking new guns to use in either game is present. The criticism towards videogame violence lies in the idea that pleasure-seeking individuals are allegedly compelled  to seek more thrilling experiences once their baseline “violent activity” no longer interests them and end up engaging in violent acts in real life.

Whether or not the player is using these guns in an imaginative war game, a realistic shooting range simulation, or even actual shooting range for that matter, the presence of these microtransactions is the NRA’s acceptance of this concept within their own game.

Unlocking new things to do is indeed a product of good game design in itself and the NRA has adopted it for their own game, which elevates their hypocrisy to a whole new dimension.

Games are games; It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting realistic coffin shaped targets with head targets or digital terrorists. Its simply preposterous to blame video game violence then create a game that is aligned with the criticisms against it, especially when one can blame the media for having over-sensationalized the entire tragedy in the first place.


Reader Matt Baetzhold also provided a video by Jimquisition of The Escapist explaining how the mere concept of “videogame violence” is a complete and utter sham.


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  1. Totally agree with the article, and I’m so glad this is being brought up (on this fantastic blog). Thank you!

    One thing: as someone deeply involved in gamification, I want to make sure we’re using accurate descriptions:

    “(..) the associated dopamine release with unlocking new guns to use in either game is present.” – unless you have PET scans of people playing the game, I personally feel it can be misleading to implicate neurotransmitters (though I would say it would be relatively easy to argue that dopamine release could be present).

    • Hi Zach. Thanks for the kind words! Really glad to see you’re keeping up with our content.

      And you’re right it isn’t -directly- caused by the actions I’ve mentioned so I took a bit of a liberty with how I’ve worded that but whatever the neurological-mechanism might be, the process of unlocking exists in each game.

      Playing games feels good and if the NRA wants to slam video games, while making one of their own that is meant to be fun too, then that just doesn’t make sense.

  2. Excellent post! I don’t know if you follow or are aware of the individuals behind the escapist or Jimquisition but they recently put up a video on youtube with another well stated take on the issue.