School shooting video game dropped

Politicians and parents of victims had criticised Active Shooter, in which players simulate a school shooting

WASHINGTON • A video game that lets players simulate a school shooting has drawn fire from parents of shooting victims and politicians.

An online petition by activist group Change.org urging distributor Valve not to trigger the launch of Active Shooter had attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

On Tuesday, Valve, based in Bellevue, Washington, said it would not carry any games by Acid Publishing Group, the developer of Active Shooter, and that it had removed other games that Acid had put up on its Steam marketing platform.

Active Shooter was slated to be released on June 6 for between US$5 (S$6.70) and US$10.

A trailer on Steam, before the pullout decision was made, had opened with the player's character as a Swat (special weapons and tactics) team member entering a school to tackle a shooter, before switching over to the perspective of the attacker, with the action set to a pounding heavy metal score.

It ends with a trail of students' bodies littering an auditorium room as a statistics box keeps count of the number of police and civilians killed.

In addition to allowing players to pick sides, the game boasts a multi-player mode and ability to play as an unarmed student trying to survive.

"I have seen and heard many horrific things over the past few months since my daughter was the victim of a school shooting and is now dead in real life," said Mr Fred Guttenberg.

His daughter, Jaime, 14, was killed in the Feb 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"This company should face the wrath of everyone who cares about school and public safety and it should start immediately," Mr Guttenberg said on Twitter. "Do not buy this game for your kids or any other game made by this company."

Florida Senator Bill Nelson said: "Any company that develops a game like this in (the) wake of such a horrific tragedy should be ashamed of itself."

Mr Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in Parkland, also criticised the game.

"It's disgusting that Valve is trying to profit from the glamorisation of tragedies affecting our schools," he said on Facebook.

"Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a game."

Parkland students had launched a grassroots campaign for tighter gun control following the shooting at their school which left 14 students and three adults dead.

A disclaimer by the game developer, Revived Games, said the game "is meant solely for entertainment purposes and simulation".

"Revived Games believes violence and inappropriate actions belong in video games and not real world and insists that in no event should anyone attempt to recreate or mimic any of the actions, events or situations occurring in the game," it added.

"If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable)."

On May 18, 10 people were killed in a school shooting in Texas.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'School shooting video game dropped'. Print Edition | Subscribe