E3 Is Not Your Soap Box: Why Blaming Violent Video Games At E3 Is A Cowardly Move

E3 Is Not Your Soap Box: Why Blaming Violent Video Games At E3 Is A Cowardly Move


E3 is the time we see what’s new in the video game industry. Social media is ablaze with discussion, speculation and surprise. This year’s E3 came in the shadows of yet another mass shooting in America. It was a fact that was impossible to look past. Shirts were decorated with ribbons, conferences with nods of sympathy.

Unfortunately, a number of developers and members of the game media decided E3 was their soapbox. This was the year that guns in video games had suddenly became ‘a problem’. We should have seen it coming. There’s been nibbles at the topic for years, mostly people packing a kickstarter, patreon or product to sell. E3 2016 was the year that saw the likes of Jonathan Blow, Justin McElroy and ‘T.C. Sottek‘ bemoan guns in video games.


I sat there on twitter, watching the increasing amount of people highlighting the issue. I witnessed people working in PR (who front games like Call of Duty) making their voice heard in support of the notion…all while they took a pay cheque. It seemed people were happy to earn a living promoting something they clearly disagreed with.

The video game media has been whipping itself on the back of late. If it’s not lying to their users or giving misinformation, it’s declaring gamers ‘dead’ while lambasting certain genders and races. Should we be so shocked that this is the next step? The sad fact is, instead of using their platforms and voice to expose non-violent games, they chose to bemoan and preach.


Violence in entertainment sells. This is a simple fact. As a species, we have used violence as a form of entertainment for the longest time. From the Roman gladiators to the modern realm of boxing and mixed martial arts. Video games, books, film, Tv and music are no different. The controlled violence.

To see such people complain about violence in video games is both ignorant and frankly silly. There’s so many diverse options to explore outside of violent video games. Use them options, play those games. Don’t try to frame something you disagree with as ‘bad’ or corrupting. I find it depressing that there is so many video game industry figures and journalist so bitter towards their field of work.


Jonathan Blow was once known for his brilliance (Braid). After a rather forgettable follow up in The Witness, he can be  found moaning about current trends in triple A games. Polygon writers are no different. Question cries of sexism, racism and other social issues have left their name dented. Following their inability to take on criticism or play video games (Hey Doom!) they’ve became something of a punch line.

It’s that they can’t express an opinion, it’s just the way they go about it. Rarely offering alternatives, they prefer to preach and preach and preach. Focusing on the complaint of guns in video games at this year’s E3, of all years, feels too convenient. Every year E3 is filled with shooters. Using the recent events in Orlando to suddenly decide this was the year to suddenly talk about the topic is quite distasteful, maybe even sick.


Video games aren’t the issue here. The art form that requires talented people to dedicate their lives to, is not the problem. Your countries gun laws are the topic to be discussed. It’s a shame, a disgusting one at that, when people still blame media for the atrocities of individuals. E3 is not your soap box, nor are video games the problem. Stop blaming the industry that feeds you, that made you. Stop being a coward.


Regardless of belief, race, gender or sexuality, the loss of life is tragic. 49 lives were cut short, 49 people with their own stories, their own daily routines. People just like you and me. Video games are a non-matter in comparison. We should all remember that, no matter where you stand on violence in the media.



Sean Halliday


  1. Richard
    June 15, 2016, 2:43 am

    Thanks Sean,

    Good to see people in the gaming community standing against manipulative political tactics when there are more important things at hand.

    • Sean Halliday
      June 15, 2016, 3:00 am

      I don’t have a dog to back in the American political scene. I just find it cowardly to take shots at video games/E3 in connection to the shootings. While they may no be saying they directly blame violent video games for real life violence/crime, that’s how it comes off. It’s a typical method used in a number of UK news papers and during the 19/7080s video nasties campaign.

      Thanks for reading a leaving a comment

  2. Technj
    June 15, 2016, 2:52 am

    Should *have. Not of.

    I assure you, I’ll read the whole thing.

    • Sean Halliday
      June 15, 2016, 2:58 am

      It’s a trap i keep falling into haha, should be corrected now

  3. Blipvert
    June 15, 2016, 5:46 pm

    Bang on. Abso-fucking-lutely bang on.

    I’m sick of these game journos who quite clearly are in the wrong profession, and indie devs like Jonathan Blow who spout off almost as if they are jealous of games that sell more that theirs – indie, niche or otherwise.

    That’s why I largely ignore any and all websites that demonstrate this PC-esque behaviour as well as berating their readers when they should be concentrating on giving us decent information about GAMES. Not fucking agendas. They can leave that to their own blogs.

    If a game I want to play has violence, I will play it. I’ve been playing games for over thirty years of my life and I haven’t killed or maimed anyone as a result yet (Not even a game pad or joystick has come under attack either!) – and neither have my IRL friends who love games as much as I do. Sean nails it with the video nasty thing too – I remember that quite clearly. Scaremongering at its worst.

    Perhaps the likes of Jonathan Blow, Justin McElroy and T.C. Sottek should start bemoaning the fact that guns are freely available in America before whinging about guns in computer games.

    Fucking morons.

  4. learntocomputers
    June 15, 2016, 5:59 pm

    I don’t mind violent video games, I do play them, and I absolutely agree with the right to make them, but I think your argument needs work.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that the onus is on video games for violence in America, but rather: since violence is portrayed somewhat positively in video games, it tends to lessen the impact of real violence. I think you missed this point in your article. And, overall, your reasoning doesn’t really show why reflecting on these things is necessarily cowardly.

    This isn’t a topic that “suddenly [became] ‘a problem’” and I think you acknowledge that, because in next sentence you claim that there have been “nibbles about this topic for years.” This is a topic that’s been discussed for years quite openly — beyond just nibbles — from the shock at the gory gameplay of the original Fallout to the introduction of ESRB to the Jack Thompson/GTA bullshit. If you think this topic doesn’t have depth or nuance, I think you’ll find otherwise.

    And really it doesn’t matter when this sprung up. Even if people started complaining about this 5 minutes ago; if you wish to refute what they have to say, you have to give logical reasons as to why what they’re saying is wrong.

    If you think that people shouldn’t be so insufferable about their point, I totally agree. The people you cited are annoying, snarky pieces of shit that can’t help but be assholes, but who they are doesn’t refute their overall point. Jonathan Blow and Polygon are very much hacks, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong on everything they bring up. By not addressing the argument directly, this piece just seems to be a way to vent your frustration against their snark. I agree, they’re assholes and none of these Tweets are worthwhile, but, again, that doesn’t acknowledge the overall point.

    And how they frame the argument totally does matter! I think if people disagree with something they should absolutely show that it’s “bad or corrupting.” If they don’t, then they aren’t showing the reasons why their opinion matters.

    Focusing solely on the negatives isn’t an inherently flawed way to show that something is wrong. And telling other people to just play/champion non-violent games rather than point out what’s wrong with violent games is shitty. People could just as easily say that your opinions on Fallout 4 (which I totally agree with!) can be ignored because you didn’t have to play it and all you did was moan about it (I don’t think that’s a bad thing!)

    Your appeal to history to keep the status quo is also a bad argument. I think we all acknowledge that humanity has done things throughout history that we shouldn’t emulate. Just because we did something in the past doesn’t mean it is morally correct to do it now. And, yes, all forms of media glorify violence, but that doesn’t mean that this glorification is good or justified. Of course game journos and devs will focus on video games, that’s their livelihood.

    Yes, gun laws absolutely have to be discussed and that is a problem that’s solely American, but that doesn’t mean people can’t reflect on multiple things. It isn’t cowardly to bring up this topic and it makes no sense as to why it would ever be. It can be annoying, sure, and refusing to hear the other opinions is cowardly, but the argument itself is not. And if devs and journos criticize the industry that feeds them, isn’t it more courageous to have your voice heard than disagree in reluctant silence?

    There are much better and more interesting ways to frame this argument. You could cite the importance of freedom of expression. You could say that sometimes abhorrent imagery is requisite to get an artist’s point across. You could say people are empathetic enough to understand that solving problems through violence in video games doesn’t translate to real life. But I think snubbing the argument without actually considering it won’t convince anybody of anything.

    • Sean Halliday
      June 15, 2016, 9:33 pm

      The point, at least my point, was they were using the shootings as a means to propel their arguments. That’s what i have a problem with. To go from nibbling at the subject to thinking ‘oh here’s my chance!’ is opportunistic at best.

      I’m not saying they can’t have their point, the discussion is there to be had, but not in the way they did it. It says a lot when some of them delete the tweets/backtrack soon after.

      ‘People could just as easily say that your opinions on Fallout 4′

      While that is true the difference is i’m not projecting a stance that comes at the expense of others. There’s a difference if they said they had no interest in shooters etc, but to dance around the attempts at linking video game violence to real life, that’s the issue. Watering down a franchise, which i then bemoan and point out why i think it’s a bad thing is different to me implying it has real life consequences.

      As for the gun law debate. I live in the UK, i genuinely don’t think i can discuss it given the lack of knowledge and experience i have on the topic. Guns are really not a thing here, it’s not embedded deeply into our daily life and culture like it is in the US. I don’t understand it, nor have i lived within it. It would be wrong for me to lecture those who have on the topic.

      To me, it was a number of people wishing to say their piece on gun laws and propose links between violence and video games. The main issue being they decided to either dance around the topic or merely backtrack, they took the easy way out. I have no problem with criticising the industry, a lot of the posts on this site do exactly that. There was nothing stopping them from talking about video game violence or industry trends at any other point of the year prior to E3. It just seems very odd that off the back of a shooting they suddenly care so deeply.

      As a side note – all of the mentioned voices have much larger platforms for the discussion. Yet they chose a 140 characters, with the ability to delete, to speak their mind. That seems odd to me as well.

      Thank you for the comment and feedback. I’ll do my best to improve and flesh out points on these matters. I’m just one guy who does all this as a unpaid hobby (hence why i run no ads etc), trying to improve as i go along. Hope you enjoy the rest of E3 ^^

      • learntocomputers
        June 15, 2016, 11:01 pm

        You’re right, the shootings are being used to propel their arguments. Unfortunately, after a tragedy is probably the best time to reflect on these sorts of things.

        You’re also right that using Twitter/deleting Tweets is a stupid way to make an argument. I follow you on Twitter, so I don’t think anyone’s immune to that ;) . The thing is, however, that you wrote a think-piece about this, while they made bad, hasty opinions in 140 characters. Framing the argument to be about them seems counterproductive to the overall argument. You have the space, so you should tell them why they’re wrong, rather than writing a long form Tweet of similarly bad arguments.

        I don’t mean this as a bad thing, but your opinion does come at the expense of others. Obviously, people feel bad enough to talk about it (whether or not they’re being sincere), and keeping everything the same does affect them. The only way to be truly neutral is to say nothing about it.

        Your Fallout 4 articles were great because you used examples and your own experience to explain the reasons why you felt the game was bad. However, this you wrote in a manner that seems to denounce other people’s opinions solely because they’re huge babies. They are, but pointing that out isn’t what makes your writing influential, which you’ve proven yourself capable of.

        What makes your writing influential is having the ability to argue convincing points. I’m absolutely not asking you to weigh in on the gun debate or anything that you don’t feel comfortable talking about, but I would totally love to read your thoughts on why glorification of violence is fine/doesn’t matter in video games. It would be a step above a lot of the current discussion on this subject, and it would be the perfect response to their poorly thought out arguments.

        If you want to be the anti-Polygon, then you have to point out where they’re wrong. Otherwise, it comes off as impulsive/dramatic.

        Similarly, thank you for your response and writing these articles! I don’t mean to tell you how to run your site, especially since you do this as a hobby. Feel free to drop my advice if you think it’s wrong.

        • Sean Halliday
          June 15, 2016, 11:22 pm

          The problem with relying my personal experiences on the topic (the way i did with Fallout 4) is purely down to my lack of offence/issue with violent video games. I’ve never came across a game that makes me feel uneasy in how it handles the violence. Postal 2 is a over the top mass murder shooter, pretty much the equivalent to grind house/exploitation cinema. Your average Triple A shooter is the bog standard action film. There’s some interesting points to be made in how we turn war into forms of entertainment that never really conveys the horror of war, but even then it’s never felt disrespectful.

          For sure it comes at the cost of others, but that’s mainly from frustration. These people have proved to be talented, it’s why they got there. But instead of using their talents/position/voice to truly talk about the topic, they prefer to just poke and prod, never fully committing. I’m not Anti-Polygon as such, i still read their content from time to time. I just hold a cautious view towards how they like to cry wolf at times. This kinda of post isn’t something i normally do. I think it’s the second of two in the 4(ish) years the site has been up. I wanted to originally talk about it via audio but that didn’t pan out. Probably why the text equivalent came out a little clunky.

          Thank you for reading them. Always happy for people to comment and give thoughts and feedback. I enjoy talking about games, the industry and it’s culture so all comments are welcome ^^

          Perhaps i’ll revisit gun glorification in video games in the future. At the moment i’ve got few E3 posts, Overwatch stuff and some reviews due. Even then the posts might lack empathy for the ‘other side. I’ve just never played a game where the gunplay felt like it was portraying itself as pornographic lol. I equate most online shooters to play laser tag/paint ball/air soft. As for the story driven single player stuff, i’m far too away it’s just a game. If someone was to make a game in which you fired upon innocents, complete with cries of pain and realistic damage, i’d be a bit more uneasy with that if it made a spectacle of it. The closet we’ve came to that in video games tends to be RPGS, and they were trying to make you feel bad about those actions.

          It all falls down too perspective as well. The amount of people who’ve told me MMA ‘glorifies violence’ is unreal. To a point, it does but the real bulk of the appeal is the skill and dedication behind the ‘violence’. There’s a considerable difference between true violence and that of a controlled/entertained manner. I think our new’s outlets obsession with genuine violence is a much bigger issue than video games. But’s that’s a whole different kettle of fish!

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