The annual video game trade show E3 took place in Los Angeles last week in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Each year, the conference draws tens of thousands of industry professionals who are in the business of turning virtual violence into entertainment.
It became clear during the trade show that organizers and exhibitors alike were trying to bridge this contradiction in a way that would not offend the public or condone real-life violence.
At the L.A. Convention Center, flags were flown at half-staff. Actress Aisha Tyler, who was hosting the press conference for video game developer Ubisoft, offered her deepest sympathies to the victims and their families in Orlando before introducing one of this year’s most anticipated video game releases: Ghost Recon Wildlands, which is an open-world shooter game.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer also began his presentation of Halo Wars 2 and Gears of War 4 by saying, “To everyone affected by the recent tragedy in Orlando, our hearts are with you and you should know you are not alone. The gaming community mourns with you.”
The Entertainment Software Association, which sponsors the E3 trade show, said that it was taking extra precautions to keep this year’s conference safe and secure for all attendees.
ESA President and CEO Mike Gallagher also denied any correlation between video game violence and violence in the real world, saying that “violence in our country and gun violence in video games … this industry does not cause any of the violence that you see in society.”
There is currently no evidence that points to video games as a contributing factor to the behavior of the Orlando shooter — and games promoting gun violence are extremely popular among the American public. According to Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, about 25% of video games being sold are shooter games.
The average U.S. trade show attendee spends about nine and a half hours viewing exhibits. At the E3 conference this year, around one quarter of those exhibits promoted games with heavy gun violence.