Retailers are an important part of the controversy quotient. While the games industry is usually pinned first if someone who plays games commits a violent act, the next strike falls on the parents, when the games industry lashes back. Retailers are typically named in the most publicized cases, such as Columbine or the case of the shootings in the Smokey Mountains. With an arguably reliable ratings system in place, the ESRB, some argue that retailers choose the dollar over the responsibility of checking identification. So when a 15-year-old grabs his dad's gun and heads to school one day, who is to blame? Herein lies the riddle.
Retail buyers make conscious decisions to purchase certain games. Controversy and hype aside, some games might not have made it into stores just because they looked too violent or gory; they might also have looked just plain unsellable. This section presents a short sampling of retail situations in which games or peripherals were banned or forced to change for the store shelves but weren't quite controversial enough for legislatures to care. Likewise, note that most of the games mentioned in the previous section met with retail roadblocks in addition to getting banned entirely.
In about 1987, light guns made their appearance with the Atari XE Game System (XEGS), although developers had tinkered with toy guns in this capacity since the late 1960s.
Then in late 1997, Namco's superb Time Crisis action game made its way from the arcades to PlayStations and brought along a worthy device known as the GunCon, a light gun that allowed players to emulate arcade-style shooting. By this point, Namco was already savvy to the concept of gun violence in the US and shipped a gray GunCon with a bright reddish nozzle with games in the US. Japanese counterparts received the black, more-realistic-looking GunCon. GunCons boasted accuracy within three pixels and were notably good devices. The GunCon 2 and many others, such as the XK21 Lightgun by 4Gamers, are available for PC and video games today.
Shortly after the Columbine High shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Sega announced that it would not make a light gun available for the Dreamcast and would prevent import guns from working with the system. Third-party guns eventually became available, making fans of House of the Dead happy once again.
Other games and franchises, such as Area 51, Point Blank, Lethal Enforcers, Virtua Cop, Vampire Night, Dino Stalker, Die Hard Trilogy, Resident Evil, and Silent Scope, just to name a few, also made use of light guns, many shipping with the gun-style controller. Today, Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Kmart, Electronics Boutique, and Game Stop all carry light guns in their more toy-ish "safe" appearance. But it was only after retailers threatened to pull the guns from shelves that gun makers such as Namco shifted to the toy-ish cotton-candy-colored wonders gamers use today. More-realistic guns, however, are still available in Japan, which notably does not have the problems with gun violence that the US does. Guns, for one, are illegal for civilians.
GameSpot associate producer Ryan Davis remembers light guns before they were changed to look more like play guns: "Growing up in the 1980s, I can vividly remember when my squirt guns turned from realistic-looking jet black to garish hues of safety orange and safety yellow. Even at age eight I could wrap my head around why you wouldn't want kids walking around with replica-grade Uzi squirt guns, but I thought it utterly ridiculous that the NES Zapper had its barrel changed from light grey to bright orange in the late '80s--in fact, I still do. A banana is more threatening than that thing."