Parents of students murdered in February at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have lashed out at a new video game that lets gamers play the role of a school shooter, stalking through classrooms to rack up kills.
“Active Shooter” is billed as a “SWAT simulator’, and will be released on Steam, an online games marketplace. Players can assume the role of the shooter himself, or play as an elite SWAT team member tasked with neutralizing him. As the shooter, the game keeps a running count of how many cops and civilians players have killed.
In one scene shown in the game’s trailer, the shooter throws a hand grenade into an auditorium, a scene reminiscent of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 15 students.
To the parents of the 17 children murdered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the game crosses a line.
“It’s disgusting that Valve Corp. [owner of the Steam marketplace] is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country,” Ryan Petty told the Miami Herald. Petty lost his 14-year-old daughter in the February shooting.
Andrew Pollack, whose 18 year old daughter died in the shooting, told the Herald that the game’s developers are “sick people,” and that games like it would desensitize young people to the horrors of gun violence.
Another bereaved Parkland parent turned gun-control activist, Fred Guttenberg, was equally disgusted:
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. This game may be one of the worst.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) May 27, 2018
The game has been roundly condemned by Twitter users, who described it as “awful,” an “atrocity,” and “the vilest thing ever.”
Ugh, this is awful. An “active shooter” game with levels set in a school. Why would Steam even allow something like this on its platform? https://t.co/v93hPZY9po
— Dan Ackerman (@danackerman) May 27, 2018
— 🇺🇸❤️💜💙RockmomAZ💙💜❤️🇺🇸 (@openhearts_mind) May 27, 2018
Please, everyone: @steam_games is the maker of an unreleased Active Shooter game depiction of killing “civilians” (read: your children) and cops in a school setting. This is far, far, far beyond the vilest thing ever. Please RT to let Steam know this is unacceptable, inhumane. https://t.co/cnMvgXjW0Z
— Steve from the West 🇨🇦 🚵🏻♂️ (@steverpeg) May 28, 2018
A petition calling for Valve to remove the game from its marketplace has attracted over 18,000 signatures at the time of writing. “It’s just wrong in every way,” said one supporter, Karen Nash.
“Please do not take any of this seriously,” reads a disclaimer from the game’s developer, Revived Games. “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.”
Valve has not indicated that it will remove the game from Steam, as its content policy only explicitly forbids hate speech, pornography, and adult content that’s not properly labeled with warnings. Any developer can list their game on the Steam marketplace for a $100 fee.
However, the game’s publisher, Acid, said in a statement that “after receiving such high amount of critics and hate,” it will likely remove the role of the shooter and only let players control the ‘good guys’.
“Active Shooter” is due for release on June 6, just over two weeks since a student shot and killed 10 people at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas; and almost four months after the Parkland massacre.
“What are these games showing you how to do? Kill people,” he said. “The vast majority [of psychologists and psychiatrists] will tell you it leads them to become numb to violence, to have less empathy to their victims and be more aggressive.”