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“Active Shooter” Video Game Draws Harsh Criticism

Video games are no stranger to controversy, and to an extent, a lot of gamers understand that. We play games where we shoot enemies, blow things up, hack and slash our way through hordes of opponents, rob banks, steal cars, and sometimes do all of those things in the course of half an hour of gameplay. To an outsider, we might look like depraved and sadistic people, and we take way more than our fair share of blame for criminal activity and mass shootings that have been plaguing our real world lives. We can always fire back with the usual truths: there’s no psychological link between video games and crime, there’s no statistical backing for such a claim, and video games are often a simple healthy release of whatever emotions we tend to be having that day. But there is a line that we do not cross. However, these guys just crossed it.

Active Shooter is an upcoming game to be released on Steam on June 6th, where you play as a literal school shooter. In case you skimmed over that last part, let me restate it for the record: You. Play. As. A. School. Shooter.

In what world is this considered acceptable?

The game is an independently developed FPS where you pick to either take on the role of a SWAT team, or an actual school shooter. It boasts the following:

  • Realistic First Person Controller (Full bodied)
  • Variety of real life weapons
  • Impressive A.I.
  • Destruction physics
  • Real Life situations
  • Ability to pick a side

In a country where we’re averaging one school shooting every week, this type of game has no place, and it boggles the mind that someone would even think about developing it, much less actually develop it. Your entire role is to kill innocents, and your score is based off of how many you can kill before the cops take you down.  This is not okay. This is, in fact, absolutely horrifying. While violence is part and parcel in video games, it’s still fiction. There’s a difference between playing Metal Gear Solid and this. I don’t expect to become Solid Snake after a few hours, but providing shooters an example of what they could do to replicate such violence in real life is distasteful and harmful (as a fellow PCUer pointed out regarding a similar issue with 13 Reasons Why). It turns something horrible that keeps happening in this country into entertainment well beyond the boundaries of what could be remotely considered art. 

activeshooter1

I do not care that the developer posted the following message on his Steam page: “Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you”. This is a simulation of something that is still occurring repeatedly, and it’s been done in the absolute poorest of tastes.

I do not care that he posted this clarification as to his intent after receiving a veritable firestorm of people that won’t stand for this. He says, “There are games like Hatred, Postal, Carmageddon and etc., which are even worse compared to Active Shooter. First of all, if you’re trying to write an apology to the world, learn to type and proofread. Second of all, that doesn’t make this okay. There are worse games out there, and we see them all the time, but it’s still hard to fathom how someone would find this okay.

A similar controversy came to light back in 2009 with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. That game featured the infamous “No Russian” level, where you played as an undercover United States operative in league with a group of terrorists massacring hundreds of civilians in a Russian airport. The level was extremely graphic, gut-wrenching, and criticized worldwide by reviewers and journalists. However, Infinity Ward put up a few safeguards that made the level, in my opinion, acceptable. “No Russian” is important to the narrative of the game, both introducing the game’s primary antagonist and moving the plot along. The company also took steps to make sure that the level could be skipped at any point in time. There’s a warning at the beginning of the game that says that there’s some very graphic content coming up, and asks the player if they want to avoid it. You can even skip the level mid-scene if it proves too much to handle. Even if you do choose to play the mission and witness the carnage, at no point is your character obligated to participate. You can simply walk through the level without shooting and face zero repercussions. People that are citing Modern Warfare 2 as proof that a game like Active Shooter should be accepted into our culture are missing the entire point.

Active Shooter isn’t here to educate, or drive a narrative, or serve as catharsis for people actually being affected by school shootings. It’s an uninspired, tasteless, glorification of violence that only demonstrates just how sadistic some people can be in the wake of tragedy. It’s one thing to explore topics that make people uncomfortable; that’s something that games have been doing for ages. It’s a whole other thing entirely to try and profit off the mass murder of children.

0/10 stars, only because we aren’t allowed to go lower.

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About Jordan D. (11 Articles)
Jordan has been writing for twenty years, gaming for a little less than that, working in food service for nine years, and working on starting his own tabletop game design and publishing company for two. Based out of Manassas, VA, where he waits on tables and cooks for a living and lives with his wife, Jennifer.

1 Comment on “Active Shooter” Video Game Draws Harsh Criticism

  1. My nephew’s school just had a shooting incident last week. I can’t even fathom how the developer could even consider creating such a “game”.

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