Facebook apologized for showing a demo of the Oculus Rift Bullet Train shooter at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a week after seventeen students died in a school shooting in Florida. In a statement, Facebook's vice president of virtual reality, Hugo Barra, said the demo was part of "a standard set of experiences" that Oculus presented at public events. "In light of the recent events in Florida and out of respect for the victims and their families, we have removed them from this demonstration, and we regret not having done so in the first place." Barra also tweeted a similar statement. "We're wrong," he wrote.
Barra was responding to a video clip published by NowThis News producer, Sean Morrow, showing a short clip of a CPAC visitor shooting an automatic weapon in virtual reality.
We eliminated the demo and regret not doing it at the beginning. We have this wrong. Our demonstrations come with a standard set of content, some are action games with violence. These should not have been present, especially in light of recent events and out of respect for the victims and their families.- Hugo Barra (@hbarra) February 23, 2018
Bullet Train is a short proof-of-concept game developed by Epic Games in 2015. The science fiction experience is not bloody, but it involves shooting human enemies with a wide range of realistic looking weapons, something that sour. note immediately after a mass shooting. Video game companies have struggled with this problem before, even during the 2016 E3 game convention, where companies awkwardly displayed first-person shooter fire only hours after Pulse's deadly night attack. (At least one company released a VR shooter demo of the program that year).
This demonstration was also dissonant because President Donald Trump, who spoke at the CPAC, recently blamed mass shootings on violent video games and movies, as did other conservative political figures, such as Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.
The video game industry has a controversial symbiotic relationship with gun makers, who see games as a way to promote firearms, and some companies have distanced themselves from gun makers in recent years. But there is no conclusive link between video games and violent behavior, and the general relationship between games and ethical attitudes is complicated. Ironically, however, the developers of Bullet Train really worried about doing "a murder simulation" in virtual reality. Eventually they turned the short demo into a complete game called Robo Recall, where you fight with robots instead of people, using guns that look more like sci-fi movie accessories than modern-day guns.