Arsenals of History 2019: Guns in Video Games

Arsenals of History is an annual symposium of firearms museum, and met this year at the newly renovated Cody Firearms Museum. The theme of this year’s symposium was social media and museums. This presentation was given by Danny Michael, Assistant Curator for he Cody Firearms Museum. Video games today are a massive influence on much of society, and today’s big-name games (like Battlefield One and Call of Duty) often include quite accurate representations of historical firearms. How can a museum best cater to the interest of gamers who find themselves looking at the real-world models of those game elements? Should museums recognize this at all? What are some options and potential practices?

16 Comments

  1. I’ll start by stating the obvious, just to provide context:
    Museums exist primarily to educate. Video games exist primarily to entertain.

    So, in thinking about how museums might engage with the video game world the easiest steps are probably those that satisfy both goals. A museum might create an installation that juxtaposes clips from a video game with actual artifacts, and videos involving those actual artifacts. For example a clip from a video game showing firing and reloading a rare firearm, side by side with a video showing the actual firearm being fired and reloaded. And then move on to larger context: showing the social, industrial, and polictal context in which a firearm (or tank, or automobile, etc.) became either common or rare.

  2. Played thousands of hours of video games, FPS, and own plenty of guns. Things I’ve noticed different about guns in games and real life (for what it’s worth)

    -never had a misfire, jam, misfeed or any other possible feeding problem
    -fire thousands of round, shoulder is not bothered at all after finishing
    -never cleaned an online gun-NEVER EVER.
    -all the ammo works the same all the time.
    -no flyers from the snipers
    -never mishandled a magazine
    -sights work all the time, weapon is always zeroed.

    These are just a very few, many more. But everyone gets the idea.

    As above post stated, for entertainment. Cleaning guns is definitely not entertaining, but beer helps.

    On another note, great topic. The vast majority of young gun owners get their start with online games. Bringing this up is something that is way overdue.

    • That last part is actually how I developed a love for firearms. My father was watching me play Modern Warfare 2 and pointed firearms that we actually had. Asked him to show me and it was all over from there.

      I’d imagine and hope that my story is not unique at all. Especially with video game companies claiming that they wasnt to pay more attention to real details.

  3. no this doesn’t make sense to do but you have to consider what the museums are trying to accomplish: appeal to younger generation that is all “online”.

    speaking from some experience, they won’t care to get out and see real world examples until they get a little older.

    so they can annotate that “this is the most popular COD:XXVXVXIII gun” it will not garner anymore visitors.

    about the only thing that WOULD, is going to be some kind of comparative firing range but that would be a horrible idea.

  4. A while ago the Royal Armouries would hold regular weekend seminars called “History in your hand”. Subjects included rare items from the collection, weapons of the Indian subcontinent etc. Fascinating stuff and well attended – by a lot of the same faces. They ran one on “Weapons from Video games”. It was crammed with people I’d never seen before. What became apparent very early in the day was that most of the new faces had never seen, held or used any sort of real firearm. The most common comment was “God, it’s so HEAVY”. It was a real eye-opener for many of them.

    • That is exactly the sort of thing that came to mind when I watched this video. Trooping across a desert in a video game and seeing combat footage on TV is one thing, but the moment a person straps on a plate carrier, Kevlar helmet, and a full combat load of ammo and gear, even for just a few minutes, they gain a real eye opener, and maybe just a little reality that a video game is not real life. On the plus side, I have had more than a few conversations with collectors who first got interested in collecting and shooting because of the firearms they were using in the very first Medal of Honor games in the early 2000’s.

  5. Simple Weapon of Choice scenario:

    Of the following weapons, which would you gladly take into a firefight on No-Man’s Land in the middle of a rain storm (all NOT quiet on the Western Front)? Yes, I’m making a ridiculous scene that would only happen in the videogames, especially the multiplayer kind…

    1. Colt M1911A1 or Walther P-38 (you get a sack of grenades with this choice)
    2. Schnellfeuer or full-auto Luger with drum (NOT KIDDING, THAT IS A REAL THING!!)
    3. Thompson M1921 with 50-round drum
    4. FN P90 (with AP rounds)
    5. M1 Garand with scope (WHAT?!)
    6. Winchester Model 1912 Trench Gun with rifled slugs
    7. M16A1 with M203 grenade launcher
    8. AKM with 75 round drum (!?!?!?!?)
    9. FN Model D
    10. PKM
    11. KORD 6P50
    12. Or, per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!

    I know it’s totally off-topic, so feel free to ignore this post if you prefer.

    Cherndog

    • “(…)AKM with 75 round drum (!?!?!?!?)(…)”
      RPK and AKM magazines are interchangeable. No modification was required.

      Lets see: full-power rifle cartridge seems to have too much range/power for given scenario, leading to excessive recoil and limited ammunition which could be carried. This is even more notable for 6P50 firing 12,7×108 cartridge.
      9×19 or similar cartridge should suffice, intermediate cartridge could be accepted.
      “(…)Thompson M1921 with 50-round drum(…)” was designed specially for such environment, but it uses heavy .45 Auto cartridge and IIRC drum magazine has tendency to rattle – not good if you need to go sneak.

      “2. Or, per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!”
      It should be compact, have generous magazine capacity and fire pistol or intermediate cartridge. Hmm… Just grab 9 mm Samopal Vz. 48b
      https://modernfirearms.net/en/submachine-guns/czech-republic-submachine-guns/sa-23-eng/
      9×19 mm cartridge, 40 rounds, folding stock, magazine in grip (this make it not only short, but allows intuitive ramming new magazine – just move hand to hand)

      But ability to fire grenades might be also useful, so maybe it is time for 5.45 mm subkarabinek wzór 1989 https://www.forgottenweapons.com/rifles/wz-88-tantal/
      Polish development of Kalashnikov design, Doppelganger of AKS-74U, apparently Polish People Republic’s Forces so loved rifle grenades that even their “shortie” was able to do that!

      Or just get Erma-Panzer MP58 https://guns.fandom.com/wiki/Erma_SMART for ability of grenade-launching, though to make use of it you would need HE-FRAG grenades, not HEAT as tested with said weapon.

    • Cherndog,
      the choice depends very much on the opponent and his expected application of firearms. Availability of a 40 mm grenade launcher, for example, could outweigh any other consideration. On the other hand, if longer range fire is to be expected, machine guns dominate everything else. Generally, being not an American, I would nevertheless prefer the M1 Garand (scope or not). I know I can hit what I am aiming at and my ammo has the needed punch to be decisive. After what I have seen happening on the range (not in combat) I am not a believer in the spray and pray approach.

      • I was not really specific on where we were, but your choice is pretty good. Spray-and-pray is more of a matter of the shooter panicking and not really aiming, making him an easy target to spot and shoot from afar. However, if the fight carries into a trench, the M1 Garand will have some drawbacks, namely being a bit cumbersome in tight spaces. Do you have a trench weapon as backup, or will a pistol and a bag of grenades be enough for the job?

        • CD,
          no offense intended, on your observations but your commentary underlines the notable difference between “what the books may say…and real life.”
          My father, an unusually erudite former Infantry type with some notable real life experience in combat with the IJA related an adventure that took place in a jungle stream in the Philippines around midnight sometime in 1945.
          To put it succinctly, he killed a rifle/bayonet armed Japanese soldier, in a life or death melee,
          in total darkness, with the butt of his Garand.
          There’s much more to this story and perhaps one day I’ll relate just what that may be…
          But bear in mind, absolutely nothing EVER happens in a vacuum.
          Lesson to be learned, loaded or not, one is never unarmed with a Garand, even if you’ve all your ammo.

          • No offense taken! You reminded me that rugged long-arms still make good bludgeons in the worst-case scenario. That Japanese soldier probably sucked at bayonet attacks in the dark, as he MISSED his intended victim.

            I heard a similar tale involving a banzai charge gone obviously wrong, where the American “victim” yanked up his dead opponent’s rifle (with bayonet fixed to it) after his own weapon, a now-empty M1 Carbine (and no magazines left on his person), was no longer adequate for brawling since the stock was cracked from beating said opponent to death. The GI then expended all five rounds in the Japanese rifle and bayoneted the next attacker who got too close, and said attacker was an officer with a sword. Guess what the GI did with the sword in the dark… just kidding!

  6. Baddest feature is, players who never handled a real gun in their life, feel themselves to comment even querrel with real gun users about guns.

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