Parkland parents condemn video game that simulates school shootings

By Martin Vassolo

Miami Herald

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 in the school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.

The game — “Active Shooter” —— is scheduled for a June 6 release via the digital video-game marketplace Steam. It 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 on selling the game for $5 to $10 on Steam and releasing an alternate “civilian” mode.

A description of the game, which will not be sold on a console system, comes with a 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.”

The game is 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 in a school shooting in Texas. It also comes during a year when survivors of the Parkland shooting revived a debate on gun control that culminated with a global March for Our Lives demonstration.

Adding to critics’ claims that the game is seeking to monetize controversy, other games this 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 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 last week that its game “does not promote any sort of violence, especially any (sort) of a mass shooting.”

Ryan Petty, the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High student killed during a shooting at her school in February, called Sunday 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 also killed, said that “sick people” were behind the game’s creation and release and that these kinds 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.

Acid noted that other more violent games have been on Steam’s platform, including the 2015 game “Hatred” that involves killing civilians at random, though not in a school setting.