This is NRA: Practice Range. It's a new iOS game released apparently by the fine folks at the National Rifle Association, who have graciously decided to make it both free and available to kids aged 4+ so that anyone, no matter how old they are, can practice using guns to shoot things.
There are three modes in the game, which is designed by MEDL Mobile and listed on iTunes as an "Official NRA Licensed Product." We've got: Indoor shooting, outdoor shooting, and skeet shooting. In all of them, you get to pick a weapon and use it to shoot moving targets. You can use handguns and shotguns. You can also buy an AK47 assault rifle for just $0.99, which is a very good deal for an AK47 assault rifle. Other weapons, like an MK11 sniper rifle, also cost $0.99 each.
And then there is the best part. As you play NRA: Practice Range, you'll see NRA Fun Facts™ like "The NRA sanctions or sponsors over 11,000 shooting competitions and 50 shooting championships each year!" and "NRA programs train over 750,000 gun owners each year!" These NRA Fun Facts™ are also free and available to kids ages four and up.
Today is the one-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, which groups like the National Rifle Association have been trying to link to violent video games for precisely one month.
The irony of NRA: Practice Range is likely lost on NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, who spoke out last month against video games, calling gaming "a corrupt shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people." LaPierre pinned the blame for Sandy Hook and shootings like it on games like Mortal Kombat and Bulletstorm.
This isn't the first game the NRA has made. Back in 2006, the friendly group of gun owners released NRA Gun Club, which was hated by just about everyone. NRA: Practice Range is also, quite frankly, totally awful.
The game will surely raise eyebrows, but it technically isn't the kind of garish shooter that the NRA was going after. It's a gun game, but is it a violent video game? Depends on your definition of violence. And whether this is an NRA blunder is up to debate, according to game designer and scholar Ian Bogost, who recently wrote about the rhetoric around video games for The Atlantic.
"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. It also serves a rhetorical function as a PR-baiting tool. For example, when game devs and critics call the game 'terrible,' as some have done, the NRA can simply respond that our community must only want to partake of the violent uses of firearms, and that's why we are unable to appreciate a firing range simulator.
"The point is not whether or not you agree or disagree with the NRA's stances or its media efforts, this game included. But rather, that the game is consistent with and carefully positioned within that rhetoric. It's not some sort of PR mistake, for them."
We've reached out to the NRA for comment and clarification.
Update: On Twitter earlier today, NRA: Practice Range developer Medl Mobile addressed the whole age thing:
Hi @fmork, the NRA app is to promote gun safety, not "for kids aged 4+"— MEDL Mobile (@medlmobile) January 14, 2013
@medlmobile Well, it's listed as age 4+ in appstore, so they are in the target audience. Perhaps 17+ would have been more appropriate?— Fredrik Mörk (@fmork) January 14, 2013