The new shooting game NRA: Practice Range is sparking controversy, as its awkwardly-timed release falls directly in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Yesterday the video game news and gossip site Kotaku reported that the free game, which involves shooting moving targets with weapons like handguns and assault rifles, was available for download and marketed to kids ages 4 and up. But game designer MEDL Mobile replied on Twitter that the app aims to promote gun safety and is not in fact for kids ages 4 and older. So who exactly is this National Rifle Association-branded game targeting?
NRA: Practice Range is given a rating of 4+ on the iTunes site, but it is unclear as to whether that is an explicit reference to age. When asked what the rating refers to, an Apple rep told Parenting.com that she did not know and emailed a link from Apple’s support page. According to the page, “an app rated 4+ contains nonobjectionable material, but an app rated 9+ may not be suitable for children under the age of 9.” Apple’s media contact has not responded with clarification.
Those familiar with National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre’s outcry against video games last month may be surprised that the app is listed as an “Official NRA Licensed Product” on iTunes. After the Sandy Hook shooting LaPierre called gaming "a corrupt shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people” and blamed the tragedy on games like Mortal Kombat and Bulletstorm, reported Kotaku.
So is this new game a huge PR gaffe for the NRA? Or a super-savvy marketing move? Game designer and scholar Ian Bogost seems to think its consistent with the NRA's message.
"It's another specimen in the NRA's ongoing effort to present gun ownership and use as a part of a practice of sportsmanship and as participation in an existing community of 'responsible gun owners,'" he told Kotaku. "Contrary to immediate reaction among some of the game playing and development community, the NRA's presentation of the game as an educational tool fit for kids will read as consistent with their overall project and message among NRA supporters.”
Should there be an age rating for NRA: Practice Range, or is it an educational tool appropriate for all ages? Leave a comment.