Responding to criticism aimed at violent video games after the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., Disneyland has pulled the plug on several coin-operated arcade games in which players shoot at human targets.
Workers unplugged or removed 30 games from the Tomorrowland and Critter Country arcades and two Disney-owned hotels just west of the park late last month.
Disneyland executives would not provide a list of the titles removed, but said the games were not in keeping with the park's family image.
"We just don't think there's any place for violent video games at Disneyland," said park spokesman Ray Gomez. "This had probably been under consideration for a while, but the events in April brought it to the forefront of our thinking."
The park's new policy distinguishes between games in which the targets are living creatures and simple accuracy contests.
The classic Frontierland shooting gallery, where players shoot at light-sensitive targets including tombstones, lanterns and rocks, remains unaltered. The theme park also continues to sell toy guns.
Disney's move reflects the widespread outcry against violent video games since 13 people were shot to death at Colorado's Columbine High School in mid-April. Shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who then killed themselves, were rabid fans of the carnage-soaked titles "Quake" and "Doom."
Their actions, along with several other school killings in recent years, have led to speculation that video games desensitize children to bloodshed, though psychological studies have not proved any link between virtual and actual violence.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate authorized a study to look into charges that the entertainment industry targets children in marketing violent products.
Game makers, many of whom are attending the E3 trade show in Los Angeles this week, maintain that they have become scapegoats for tragedies for which there are no easy answers.
"There's no research to show that violent video games lead to violence," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Assn., at a breakfast kicking off the conference. "Video games don't teach people to hate. They don't teach people to be Nazis."
Executives with Chicago-based Midway Games Inc., one of the industry's largest arcade-game publishers and the maker of Mortal Kombat, would not comment on Disney's decision because they are among 25 defendants sued by three Kentucky families whose children were killed in an earlier school shooting.
But several game developers voiced concern, saying Disney's move could have a chilling effect on new projects and would set a precedent for other companies to reject video games for moral, not business, reasons.
Amir Rubin, chief executive of Santa Monica-based Interactive Light, said the backlash after the Littleton massacre had prompted his company to recast "Bounty Hunter," a hard-core title in development.
In the original version, players would chase criminals and shoot them down.
"And then this crazy slaughter thing happened and we knew we had to change the focus of the game," Rubin said, adding that the game will have more of a sci-fi theme. "Instead of shooting people with bullets, you can freeze them or glue them and capture them."
Interactive Light supplied several dinosaur-themed games to replace more violent games removed recently from Disney World in Orlando, Rubin said. Sales of sports games and other "wholesome" fare are picking up, he said.
Makers of coin-operated games are creating a rating system for arcade games similar to the one already used to grade software. Some arcade machines already bear stickers indicating the level of violence in their content.
Local theme parks and arcades have taken a variety of measures in response to concern about video violence.
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia is offering a monthlong promotion in which anyone who turns in a toy gun or violent video game at a nearby sheriff's station gets a free park admission ticket.
At Dave & Buster's, which has entertainment centers in Irvine and Orange, the shoot-'em-ups Terraburst, L.A. Machine Gun and Time Crisis 2 are among the most popular arcade games.
But no one under 21 is allowed into the centers without an adult. Employees are supposed to make sure that adults are no more than an arm's length away when their children are playing violent games, said Reggie Moultrie, the chain's vice president of amusements.
"Our philosophy is, Mom, Dad, please monitor what your child is exposed to," Moultrie said.
Knott's Berry Farm executives say they took out arcade games in which players shoot at bad guys or monsters about five years ago. Players can still test their accuracy at Hunter's Paradise in Ghost Town, but their laser beams pierce only tree stumps, frying pans and other inanimate objects, said Bob Ochsner, the Buena Park attraction's manager of marketing and sales.
"It was just a matter of sensitivity," he said.
Times staff writer Jennifer Oldham contributed to this report.