January 28, 2013

Bad Timing Or Political Prowess: NRA’s New App

After publically bashing mainstream media and video games for violence in America, the NRA launched it’s own first person shooting app.

This is not a blog about my political views, or anyone else’s, for that matter. Let me make that very clear right up front; I have no agenda.

This is about the National Rifle Association’s recently released first person shooting application.

In partnership with MEDL Mobile, the NRA released its app, NRA: Practice Range.

The app is touted as “the National Rifle Association’s new mobile nerve center, delivering one-touch access to the NRA network of news, laws, facts, knowledge, safety tips, educational materials and online resources.”

As far as first person shooters go, it’s not much of a game. It involves no lining up of sights or trigger control. It is exactly what it says it is: a practice range.

The user can choose from three shooting modes: shaky, hot shot, and dead eye; as well as three shooting scenarios: indoor, outdoor, and skeet; for a total of nine combinations.

The app itself is free, but users have the choice of purchasing better weapons for $.99 (USD). In the indoor range, you’ll be shooting pistols. Outdoor, it’s rifles, skeet, and shotguns, of course.

During loading screens the app offers gun safety tips and random facts about the NRA’s positive impact such as, “Gun Safety Tip #6: Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.” and, “Fact #2: The Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program has reached more than 25 million children!”

From a design standpoint, it’s a pretty good-looking app, and its pretty well laid out. The home screen, loading screen, and menus look decent. The game play design is a little more lackluster. As far as the guns, backgrounds, surrounding areas, and animation are concerned, they’re pretty retro looking. Being a gamer of sorts, I’m somewhat reminded of old PC games of yesteryear. Hats off to the designers at MEDL Mobile, kinda.

From a user’s standpoint, it’s a piece of garbage. The gyroscopic control mode starts out low and to the left and slowly but surely turns the shooter to the left, so that at the end of the 60 seconds of shooting you’ve got the phone turned almost completely sideways just to see the targets. Puzzlingly enough, the analog controls yield even less control. I don’t know how they managed this, but I’ve never played an iOS game with controls that were so poor. It’s also a little laggy and it froze when I accidentally tried to purchase a gun. Finally, it randomly quit on me once. Epic fail.

Surprisingly enough, the app received three and a half stars out of four. I don’t think that reflects the quality of the game in any way. In fact, I’m more inclined to believe that of the 1,982 users that voted, many are devout supporters of the NRA and rated it accordingly.

Now that you know the app is complete junk, here’s the controversy.

First of all, the game was released under the rating 4+, which sparked tons of critical bloggers to furiously click and clank away at their keyboards questioning the intention of the app as well as Apple’s rating system. See here, and here.

Since then, the app’s rating has been increased to 12+ for the following: Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence. The rating was adjusted on Monday. While I don’t think four year olds should be playing FPS games, I can’t say I saw any intense or realistic violence. It’s just shooting at targets, but the people on the other side of the fence are entitled to their opinions as well.

Secondly, and the bigger controversy in my opinion, is the timing.

The app was released right before major gun legislation is being discussed in Washington and right after the heartbreaking Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Half of me says it’s bad timing in the wake of the tragedy, while the other half of me says it’s probably great timing for the NRA to bring more attention to their organization and its views.

What do you think? (About the controversy, not the crappy app!)

Image Credit: MEDL Mobile via Apple’s iTunes App Store

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