This weekend there was a big hoopla over BioShock Infinite's newly revealed box art. Fans complained that it was too standard and boring, and didn't even feature Elizabeth, the focal point of the game. Where's the beautiful sky city? Previous BioShock titles always had the iconic Big Daddy on the covers, what about Songbird? What on this box art even indicates just how unique a game we're bound to see next year?
But I spotted an entirely different problem on this particular box art. A recurring problem, it seems, when I dug a little deeper and compared BioShock Infinite's art with some other recent shooter box art.
It's all about that trigger finger.
Take a look at Booker DeWitt, shotgun-like weapon resting over his shoulder. Take a look at how he's holding said shotgun. His hand is tightly gripped on the butt of the gun, but his index finger is also tightly gripped over that trigger. How that thing is not currently firing out behind him is beyond me.
Even if his finger wasn't tightly squeezing the trigger, the practice of resting your finger inside a gun's trigger guard (basically the metal part of the gun that houses the trigger) is against the safety rules laid out by almost every organisation, including the NRA. Proper trigger finger discipline dictates that you rest your index finger against the frame of the weapon, not inside the trigger guard.
There are, of course, multiple safety precautions built into the gun. But, as one of New York's training facilities outlines on their site, "Safety is a mindset, not a lever on a firearm." Let's run through why that's so important to remember.
The NRA and other known gun associations all agree on a fairly standard set of rules. These rules encourage gun users to assume the most dangerous of situations, or at least the potential for them. The gun, as far as you should assume, is always loaded and so should always be pointed in a safe direction. Even if the gun is unloaded, there may be a bullet in the chamber or magazine, or the safety may be off without you realising. The safety could even be worn down from use, and therefore faulty. When ready to fire, the bullet may stray from the target, possibly hitting someone in its vicinity, even behind it. Especially if you're using a high-powered weapon, the bullet can even penetrate the target and travel through it.
In all these situations, proper trigger finger placement is key. If the safety is off, or if the gun is loaded without you being aware of it, keeping your finger off the trigger will ensure that you're using it safely. Until you are ready to fire the gun, until you are ready to destroy what you're pointing at, you should keep your finger off the trigger. It's far too easy to accidentally pull the trigger because of a spasm or startled response to something. Even the sear — another safety mechanism that acts to hold the hammer or striker back until the proper amount of force is applied — could be faulty. That's why it's so important to practice trigger finger discipline. When all else fails, the habit to keep your index finger stretched out alongside your weapon will keep you and everyone around you safe.
Proper trigger finger placement is the mark of someone who knows what they're doing. For video game characters who wield weapons either professionally or at least consistently across several hours, it's a pretty glaring error to be posing with a weapon and not practising the most basic of gun safety rules.
But it's not just BioShock Infinite that violates the proper trigger finger discipline rule. It's neglected by other games too. Let's take a look.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: The soldier's at least pointing the gun in a (somewhat) safe direction, but does your finger need to be on the trigger here? Maybe there's an enemy he's calmly shooting above him while he's crouched on the ground, who knows.
Max Payne 3: Max himself is reckless in the game, and I suppose it's to be expected that his enemies are, too.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Oddly enough, most other pieces of art from the game (including the in-game barracks screen) feature the soldiers practising proper trigger finger placement. But this box art is another story. Not everyone is a culprit, but the left-most and right-most soldiers certainly seem to be disobeying gun safety rules.
The Darkness II: Aw c'mon Jackie. You almost had it right. And then I looked at your right hand.
Far Cry 3: Vaas may be a psycho villain, but he certainly knows how to hold his weapons. In fact, he has the best trigger finger I've seen on a game's box art in a while.
Battlefield 3: Good job soldier.
Halo 4: Because of course the Chief knows what he's doing.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter: The game might not be great, but at least the soldiers know what they're doing.
Spec Ops: The Line: Google this one and you'll see versions where this soldier isn't using proper trigger finger discipline, but he does on the official box.
007 Legends: I hear this game is terrible, but I'm not surprised it goes under this section. It is James Bond after all, even if it doesn't look entirely perfect.
Hitman Absolution: This one is debatable because while our agent's finger is certainly on that trigger, it seems he's in the heat of battle. Though it seems to me like he's back against a wall, peering around the corner, so it might not be entirely necessary just yet. But hey, he's the professional.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: This is another heat of the moment situation where this particular soldier might actually need to fire his weapon. And if you look up some other stances, every soldier participates in proper finger placement when otherwise not in action.
Assassin's Creed III: The official box art is of Connor about to hack into a red coat soldier, but this Game Informer cover has him posing with a pistol too. And he's definitely got his finger wrapped dangerously around that trigger. Unless he means to shoot a bug (bleh, bugs) he should really be careful about the possibility of ricocheted bullets.
Borderlands 2: Again, not official box art. But Axton looks like he might shoot Salvador, and Salvador could accidentally shoot... something in front of him as well.
Practicing safe gun use is important, and with that comes trigger finger discipline. You can't be holding a gun without knowing exactly how to hold it.
I'm one of those that enjoys target shooting. You might have even seen me shoot a gun right here on Kotaku for all you guys. And just this weekend while I was celebrating my birthday, I almost got hit by a bullet that had ricocheted to my feet. But my index finger is always stretched across the side of my guns until the very last second when I'm prepared to destroy whatever is in front of me.
If I can do it, all these video game protagonists surely can too.