What you need to know
- Multiple acts of gun violence have broken out recently, including an El Paso Walmart.
- Several public officials in the U.S. have started blaming violent video games.
- A couple of Walmart locations are now hiding the massive catalog of violent games it sells.
- Walmart has issued conflicting statements on its position, including a denial any ban is taking place.
Update: Walmart has issued a separate statement claiming no games will be pulled from shelves. We've updated the story to reflect this.
Following multiple acts of unspeakable gun violence over the last week, there has been a serious effort to shift the conversation away from the actual causes and on to the old topic of violent video games. Even though we've had this conversation over and over again, with what feels like countless efforts proving this has nothing to do with video games, several Walmart stores felt it was appropriate to lean into this entirely flawed logic.
If you walk into a Walmart right now and head to the video game section, what you will see is essentially a ghost town. Signage for anything but sports and racing games has been pulled in many stores, and now there are reports of everything from Call of Duty to Splatoon 2 being pulled from shelves. These games are all still available on the Walmart website, and locations all still report having these games in stock according to that website, but if you were to casually stroll through one of these stores right now it basically looks like a penny sale on Black Friday.
When IGN reached out to Walmart for questioning, this was the official response:
"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. We are focused on assisting our associates and their families, as well as supporting the community, as we continue a thoughtful and thorough review of our policies."
It's difficult to parse this statement fully. Were the associates and families impacted by this violence under the impression violent video games caused this, and hiding these titles is somehow seen as part of the healing process? Does Walmart think making the games unavailable has any actual impact, and if so, why is this effort only being made temporarily? Is it possible someone at Walmart believes the colorful ink-slinking squid people in Splatoon 2 are capable of spurring someone to violence, and are they planning to lock down the paint section of the store if this is the case?
Apparently Walmart is telling its employees to take down displays that show violent video games, specifically shooters, as well as movies and hunting videos. pic.twitter.com/2N3t4B86tf— Kenneth Shepard (@shepardcdr) August 7, 2019
Walmart has since updated its position, claiming no directive has been given to remove games from shelves. There are still several photos of stores where games are gone, and clearly this memo went out in at least one store, so it's unclear just how far this goes at the moment.
This is obviously a nonsense move, even if not being enforced by the entire company. Walmart is already not particularly successful when it comes to selling video games. Despite its massive reach, Walmart is behind both Amazon and GameStop when it comes to video game sales. There's clearly not going to be any significant impact to the bottom line here, which leads you to believe this is just a supportive political gesture. Especially when you consider many Walmart stores still stock and sell both firearms and ammunition. And for a company claiming to be focused on assisting its community, this distraction feels like a pretty terrible thing to do.
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