An upcoming computer video game that would allow players to re-create school shootings by stalking school hallways and racking up kills has been condemned as insensitive and inappropriate by the parents of students who were shot to death during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
The game — titled "Active Shooter" and slated for a June 6 release via the digital video-game marketplace Steam — is branded as a "SWAT simulator" that lets players choose between being an active shooter terrorizing a school or the SWAT team responding to the shooting.
It was developed by Revived Games and published by the company Acid, which has said it plans to sell the game for $5 to $10 on Steam and release an alternate "civilian" mode. There are also plans to add alternate game maps.
A description of the game, which will not be sold on a console system, comes with the following disclaimer: "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."
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The game is set to be released about four months after a gunman killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and less than a month after 10 more were killed at a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. It also comes during a year when survivors of the Parkland shooting revived a debate on gun control that led to wall-to-wall news coverage and a global March For Our Lives demonstration.
Critics claim the developer of the game is seeking to monetize controversy. Other games the developer has sold via Steam include "Tyde Pod Challenge" and "White Power: Pure Voltage."
Developers can submit games to Steam by paying a $100 fee, but company guidelines bar any "content that is patently offensive or intended to shock or disgust viewers."
In recent days, the publisher of the video-game marketplace, Valve, has come under intense pressure to cancel the game's release. A petition to demand Valve drop the game has received 9,142 signatures in two days. A request for comment sent to Valve and Revived Games was not immediately answered on Sunday afternoon.
Responding to some of the criticism, Acid said in a blog post on Thursday that its game "does not promote any sort of violence, especially any [sort] of a mass shooting."
On Sunday, Ryan Petty, the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student killed during the shooting at her school in February, called for the game's release to be canceled. His daughter Alaina was 14.
"It's disgusting that Valve Corp. is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country," Petty, who is running for Broward County School Board, said in a statement. "Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a 'game.' "
Andrew Pollack, the father of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, who was killed on the third floor of the high school's 1200 building, echoed Petty's sentiment. He said that "sick people" were behind the game's creation and release and that these kind of games would desensitize young people to the tragedy that befell his daughter.
"The last thing we need is a simulated training on school shootings," said Pollack, the founder of the school-safety advocacy group Americans for CLASS. "Video game designers should think of the influence they hold. This really crosses the line."
Acid said it had contacted Valve about the criticism its game has received and will "more likely remove the [shooter's] role in this game by the release" if the company agreed. In a written statement to the Miami Herald, Acid owner Arthur Belkin said it was "sad people in America create such [a] big scandal about a video game...rather than focus on the actual issue."
Acid noted that other more violent games have existed on Steam's platform, including the 2015 game "Hatred" that involves killing civilians at random, though not in a school setting.
"While I can see people's anger and why this might be a bad idea for the game, I still feel like this topic should be left alone," the developer said. "As I mentioned on steam discussion forums, there are games like Hatred, Postal, Carmageddon and etc., which are even worst compared to "Active Shooter" and literally focuses on mass shootings/killings of people."