I’m trying to remember if I’ve paid for a game with realistically branded guns in it. If I have then I have given money to the arms industry and I don’t like that. I have never before cared if the game was so realistic in its virtual arms that it included brand names.

An image for the sake of having an image

The whole rigamarole around the NRA and the no no longer rare school shootings in the USA have got the video game industry looking at its portrayal of gun use. People talking about guns in games as happened before and it will happen again (relevant BSG clip). This current round of media coverage on the issue has been lacking any real depth. Although it has shown that the NRA doesn’t understand irony.

Luckily, one person at EuroGamer asked a good question: do gun companies get licensing fees like car companies do from video games?

The short answer is yes. There is more to it than just licensing fees, it’s treated as a branding opportunity by the gun makers. Plus, it turns out that even BB Gun sales do increase when a model is used in a popular franchise.

The game companies the reporter spoke to were not willing to divulge any deals for guns made with arm manufactures.

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.”

According to Vaughn, the cost of the license fee depends on the reputation and achievements of the developer in question. “It could be a few thousand dollars or many thousands, based on past projects and projected sales,” he explains. The way in which the weapon is presented in the game is important too. “We must give prior approval to the image or logo in order to protect the brand’s integrity.”

What’s more is that, just like we’ve seen in hollywood, the arm makers want to ensure that their weapons are used by the “good guys.” When it comes to branding you don’t want to mess it up; this goes right down to gun performance.

Turns out that people really do care about this stuff. Just this week on Reddit user Waja_Wabit posted some graphs on the efficiency of weapons in Call of Duty (MW3).

MW3 weapon graph

Still, when it comes to people killing one anther in real life it’s a symptom of a societal problem that goes well beyond gaming. Games include people running people over in a car for fun, but that hasn’t proven to be a problem that’s increased from gaming. FarmVille is focused on farming and when was the last time you heard a farmer say they started farming because they were told to by a video game?

Gun violence is a cultural problem. Canada gets all the same games as the States but we don’t have problems with bullets like they do down south. Indeed, most guns used in crimes in Toronto come from America. Blaming games does nothing to actually save lives – gun control does.

What really stuck me is that guns are so commonplace in the USA that at least one kid (allegedly) forgot he carried one (also from the EuroGamer article):

“It was a Monday and I was coming [to school] from my grandpa’s,” Smith says. “We had gone to the target range. I accidentally left a gun in my book bag. I forgot about it and took it to school. I don’t know how they found it.”

Or, one accidentally shoots their neighbours’ table.