Facebook found itself in the spotlight of gun-violence controversy after showing off a first-person virtual-reality shooting game at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week.
Facebook was demo’ing futuristic combat-simulation game “Bullet Train” in its booth at CPAC in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. The company and the game’s developer, Epic Games, have showed off the VR experience at trade shows before.
But the optics were bad. It’s been just over a week since the horrifying mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead. The event sparked national outrage and reignited demands for the U.S. government to ban the sale of rapid-fire weapons designed for killing people. Meanwhile, Facebook was hosting the demos at CPAC, a confab that draws many pro-gun advocates.
After media drew attention to the “Bullet Train” demo, Facebook announced Friday it was shelving violent game titles from its exhibit.
Hugo Barra, Facebook’s VP of virtual reality, said in a statement, “There is a standard set of experiences included in the Oculus demos we feature at public events. A few of the action games can include violence. In light of the recent events in Florida and out of respect for the victims and their families, we have removed them from this demo. We regret that we failed to do so in the first place.”
Facebook’s demo of “Bullet Train” began attracting notice Friday after NowThis producer Sean Morrow tweeted a video clip of it:
Facebook is at CPAC and they have a VR shooting game pic.twitter.com/wmV23jezpN
— Sean Morrow (@snmrrw) February 23, 2018
In the wake of the Parkland massacre, several pro-gun politicians — including Donald Trump — have resuscitated the time-worn argument that violent video games and movies are responsible for contributing to violent behavior that leads to such mass shootings.
“Bullet Train” is developed for the Oculus VR platform by Epic Games. In the game, players assume the role of an agent in an infiltration simulation set inside a train station where they must “blast through resistance forces.” Gameplay features teleportation, time manipulation and “close-quarters combat,” according to Epic Games.
“[Y]ou can physically interact with an array of weapons, from guns to grenades to missiles, and even feel them through haptic feedback,” according to a description of the title on the Oculus site.