Following a report that Walmart would be halting video game sales after a mass shooting, the company has denied that such a policy exists. The company is, however, sticking by its decision to remove in-store displays that depict violence.
Last week, Walmart sent a memo instructing its staff to remove displays depicting violence from its stores in the wake of a gun attack that killed two people and injured another at one of its locations in Southaven, Mississippi, and a mass shooting that killed 22 people and wounded 24 at another store in El Paso, Texas. The new policy included advertisements, game demos, and even hunting videos. The company also canceled any future events that would be promoting violent video games.
The day after the memo was publicly revealed, Twitter user Erik Tyler Louden posted a picture of mostly bare video game shelves at his local Walmart, speculating that games had been removed from sale. IGN picked up the story, reaching out to Walmart to ask if such a policy was in fact in place. The company’s response seemed to confirm the removal, saying in part, “we’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week.” However, when Kotaku reached out to Walmart to clarify, a representative told the outlet that there was no company-wide policy to remove games from their shelves. The original IGN article has since been updated to say that a Walmart representative had followed up, calling the original confirmation of the video game removal policy a “miscommunication.” According to Kotaku, Walmart’s notice to staff may have left room for individual employees to remove some products at their own discretion.
Mine is not even selling the games anymore (temporarily) and I'm seriously upset. Like where am I supposed to buy a physical copy now? The nearest GameStop is way too far away from me. pic.twitter.com/PRGSgMpEPL— Erik Tyler Louden (@TylerMayCry) August 9, 2019
Walmart’s decision to remove violent imagery from its stores may have been motivated by political forces along with respect for victims of the recent wave of horrific gun violence. Following the incidents, politicians and pundits alike came out to blame video games as the cause for the violence in the days between the shootings and the company’s memo. Both President Trump and Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy blamed video games for the shooting in El Paso and another in Ohio. That’s despite the El Paso shooter posting a white nationalist manifesto online shortly being the rampage, as well as years of research failing to prove that video games lead to higher levels of violence.
Video games have been the scapegoat for violence for quite some time now. Last year, the White House released a "Violence in Video Games" video reel that included gory clips from franchises such as Fallout and Call of Duty, linking the long-standing series to mass shootings. And now a similar movement is afoot. But whether or not Walmart chooses to remove video games from their store shelves, in the end, is their right as a company. It seems for now, though, that that isn't the case.