This week is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, an annual event where video game publishers unveil their plans for the upcoming year. Normally, E3 is a relatively straightforward trade show, where companies try to get people excited about the latest releases they have in store.
But 2016's E3 happened to take place at around the same time as 49 people were murdered in Orlando, and that highlighted an uncomfortable fact: at the same time as the world was mourning the worst mass shooting in American history, the video game industry was promoting a series of games whose main feature is shooting people.
How do you credibly mark such a horrific event while while still trying to sell games dedicated to looking down the barrel of a gun at all times? The companies didn't have an easy answer, and it showed, over and over again.
No one is saying video games had anything to do with the shooting in Orlando, and none of the games being showcased had any material directly related to the attack. Many of the most violent games are either sci-fi or fantasy themed and have little resemblance to modern-day situations. But no one said Revolutionary War muskets had anything to do with Orlando, either, and the cast of Hamilton still felt it prudent to take them out of their Tony Awards performance.
The first two press conferences that publishers Electronic Arts and Bethesda held at E3 took place on the same day as the Orlando shootings. Even as they showed off shooters like Battlefield 1 and Quake, neither of the companies mentioned the shootings in any way, although Bethesda's presenters did wear rainbow ribbons on the stage.
The next day, Microsoft had a moment of silence during its XBox presentation on Monday, with XBox head Phil Spencer announcing that "the gaming community mourns with you." Then the company went on to announce Gears of War 4, the latest in a line of gritty sci-fi shooters with a plethora of guns and gore.
Ubisoft, which publishes video games licensed by late military writer Tom Clancy, hired actress Aisha Tyler to host its Monday conference for the fifth year running. After a flamboyant dance number set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," Tyler took a moment to pay tribute.
Tyler acknowledged the awkward situation, even as she offered her deepest sympathies on behalf of Ubisoft to victims and families of the victims in Orlando.
"I want to take a moment to do something that's gonna feel a little incongruous and potentially a little uncomfortable to some of you," Tyler said. "There's no smooth or easy way to do this."
Sony executive Shawn Layden concluded his company's Monday presentation with a final tribute to the victims.
“The Playstation community stands foursquare with our friends and fans in the LGBT community as well, and I know they’re all in the hearts of everyone tonight," Layden said.
The cognitive dissonance of mourning the Orlando shootings on one hand and then showing off their violent games on the other was not lost on those watching the conferences.