A tone-deaf Facebook finally pulled a controversial shooting virtual reality game demonstration from the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Facebook’s booth at the conference in Maryland included the game, which had players shooting virtual people, less than two weeks after 17 people were shot dead at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
In Bullet Train, created by Epic Games, players fire on “resistance forces” at a train station. The demo featured Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality headset, making the scenes particularly realistic for players.
The website for Bullet Train boasts that players are “in the middle of the action,” with Oculus Touch motion-controllers allowing players to “physically interact with an array of weapons, from guns to grenades to missiles, and even feel them through haptic feedback.”
After Morrow reached out, Hugh Barra, Facebook’s vice president of virtual reality, tweeted back that the game demo was removed, noting: “We got this wrong.”
Bullet Train is part of a standard set of VR game demos that are shown at venues like CPAC. Facebook said it had removed all violent games from the demo Friday, The Washington Post reported.
Bullet Train was part of the Facebook exhibit when National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC Thursday to angrily blast efforts at greater gun control in the wake of the Florida shootings, calling them efforts to “make you less free.” He blamed the killings on the “failure of school security, the failure of the family.”
Barra’s tweeted response to Morrow about withdrawing violent games from the CPAC exhibit triggered a storm of angry comments:
Facebook’s last virtual reality blunder involved a “tour” of damage wreaked by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Critics called that tone-deaf stunt “disaster tourism,” and accused the company of using the suffering of the island to promote itself.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to critics by saying he was attempting to use virtual reality to evoke empathy and raise awareness about the disaster.
Facebook is now under pressure since investigators revealed that it provided a key platform for fake posts and ads by Russian interferings in the U.S. presidential election. The social media site has more recently been used to spread cooked-up conspiracy theories against Parkland students advocating for gun control.