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'Robo Recall' Appearance at CPAC Was Surprise to Developer

Facebook says appearance at CPAC not reflective of politics of company

Attendees visit the Facebook Help Desk inside the Conservative Political Action Conference Hub at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. Earlier in the day U.S. President Donald Trump addressed CPAC, the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the nation. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Epic Games had no idea that its virtual-reality empowered first-person shooter Robo Recall would be showing up as a demo at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, the developer behind the game tells Glixel.

The game was pulled from the demo at the conference after social backlash over showing off the shooter just weeks after a school shooting left 17 dead in Florida. "We didn’t have any idea," a spokesperson said. "What Oculus chooses to show at CPAC is entirely their call.”

The timing of the demo wasn't the only thing that raised questions. Oculus' appearance at the convention - which featured controversial talks from the NRA about the "god given right" of American's to own guns and later led to a speaker needing an escort out of the convention after she spoke out against Trump - also raised eyebrows among some.

Oculus didn't respond to requests for comment by Glixel, but Oculus parent company Facebook did.

“Facebook routinely participates in events hosted by organizations across the political spectrum," a Facebook spokesperson told Glixel. "Our presence allows us to share information about our products as well as facilitate a dialogue in which people can share their views and create content to engage their audiences. Our involvement is not an endorsement of any particular position or platform.”

Asked about the use of Robo Recall in its mix of demos at the show, Facebook had this to say: "There is a standard set of experiences included in the Oculus demos we feature at public events. A few of the action games can include violence. In light of the recent events in Florida and out of respect for the victims and their families, we have removed them from this demo. We regret that we failed to do so in the first place."

Facebook's vice president of virtual reality Hugo Barra also commented on the appearance of the demo at the show shortly after it was pointed out on Twitter.

"We removed the demo & regret failing to do so at the start. We got this wrong. Our demos come w a standard set of content, some are action games w violence. These shouldn't have been present, especially in light of recent events & out of respect for the victims & their families."

In virtual reality game Robo Recall, developed by Epic Games, players take on the role of Agent 34 as he removes robots from circulation by blasting them to bits with guns. The player appears as a set of disembodied hands which are controlled by real-world movement and the enemies are an escalating stream of infected robots. 

The appearance at the convention comes at a time when an increasing number of politicians, including President Donald Trump, are pointing to violent video games and a rise in "media violence" as a factor in school shootings. While the NRA previously made this claim following the shootings at a school in New Town, Connecticut, they haven't blamed games this time around. An overwhelming number of scientists and researchers have said they don't believe there is any correlation between playing violent video games and acting out violence in the real world.