ESPN and Walmart temporarily shun violent video games after mass shootings

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Shortly after the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, two companies have taken steps to avoid promoting violent video games — which some, including the president, have pointed to as a contributing factor in America’s high mass shooting rates. Both Walmart and ESPN have temporarily distanced themselves from violent video games, despite the apparent lack of a causal link between games and mass shootings.

This week, Walmart employees were instructed to remove signage for violent video games and films, as well as change demonstration kiosks that would allow customers to try out such games. Any events promoting violent video games were also canceled, and screens showing hunting videos were turned off as well. A spokesperson for Walmart said the decision was made “out of respect” for the two mass shootings. but would not result in a change to the products sold.

Walmart also sells firearms, and is not currently planning to stop selling either the weapons or ammunition for them. We have reached out to the company for additional clarification.

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As first reported by Rod Breslau on Twitter, ESPN decidedly took a similar approach when it postponed a planned Apex Legends tournament during the X Games — the Apex Legends EXP Invitational scheduled for August 11 will now be held on October 6 via ESPN 2.

“The decision was made out of respect for the victims and all those impacted in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, and it seemed the prudent thing to do given the swirl of that moment,” a source familiar with the matter at ESPN told Digital Trends.

LeMia Jenkins, director of national media relations at Walmart, told us, “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.”

Neither Walmart nor ESPN directly made a connection between video gaming and mass shootings — something that can’t be said for several politicians in the wake of the two incidents. Though video games are popular worldwide, the rate of mass shootings in the United States is astronomically higher than elsewhere, with one variable being the prevalence of firearms.

This hasn’t stopped video games from perennially being blamed — instances go as far back as the 1990s and the panic surrounding violent titles like Mortal Kombat and Doom. Wayne Lapierre, National Rifle Association chief executive, has cited a game called Kindergarten Killers as a sign of the damaging power of the medium, despite the game being an obscure independent project that almost no one has actually heard of, let alone played.

President Donald Trump is the latest person to connect video games with mass shootings, mentioning them during a statement he gave shortly after the recent attacks.

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