In response to last weekend’s mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, store, Walmart is temporarily removing ads and demos that feature violent video games, which has sparked internet uses to call for a company boycott.
Earlier this week, Walmart told store managers to remove all signage and displays that contain “violent images or aggressive behavior,” according to a copy of the memo, which was posted on Twitter.
In the memo, Walmart demands that violent video game demos running on consoles, including PlayStation and Xbox units, be turned off or unplugged. Signage that references combat or third-person shooters must also be removed.
The memo makes no mention of pulling actual video games, which can often show characters carrying guns or weapons on their display covers. One Twitter user, however, said his local Walmart had removed physical game copies from store shelves in response to the temporary ad ban.
Mine is not even selling the games anymore (temporarily) and I’m seriously upset. Like where am I supposed to buy a physical copy now? The nearest GameStop is way too far away from me. pic.twitter.com/PRGSgMpEPL
— Erik Tyler Louden (@TylerMayCry) August 9, 2019
The Walmart memo says, “Use your best judgment whether an element is inappropriate. If you are unsure, remove the item or turn it off as a precautionary measure.”
Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins told PCMag: “We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and it does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment.”
According to the memo, the temporary ban also applies to violent movies and hunting season videos played on TVs in the Electronics and Sporting Goods sections. Nevertheless, the new policy is not sitting well with internet users. On Friday, the hashtag “#BoycottWalmart” was trending on Twitter with critics blasting the company for removing violent video game signage, but continuing to sell actual guns inside stores.
The controversy comes as Republicans, including President Trump, have partially blamed violent video games for influencing the gunmen behind last weekend’s two mass shootings, which took the lives of at least 31 people in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace,” Trump said earlier this week.
However, gamers, researchers and journalists, have pushed back on political attempts to link violent video games with mass shootings. “Video games are not unique to the US. What is unique here, however, is violence,” writes PCMag’s Will Greenwald. “In the countries where video games are also popular, these shootings are effectively nonexistent.”