3D Artist and teacher by trade. Obsessive nerd, gamer, foodie, Whovian. I want to be Agent Carter when I grow up.
You may be thinking the same thing I am right about now; what kind of human trash would think a school shooting simulation game would be a good idea? Well, someone apparently did because Active Shooter had a slated June 6th release date on Steam. In the game, you can choose to play as a member of the SWAT team assigned to apprehend the shooter or play as the shooter. The game has since been pulled following public outcry and a petition with over 200,000 signatures. Valve, Steam’s parent company, claimed the removal had to do with the developer and released the following statement:
We have removed the developer Revived Games and publisher ACID from Steam.
This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as “[bc]Interactive” and “Elusive Team”. Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation. His subsequent return under new business names was a fact that came to light as we investigated the controversy around his upcoming title. We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve.
The broader conversation about Steam’s content policies is one that we’ll be addressing soon.
I’m going to get a little personal in this article and I hope you don’t mind. You see, I don’t just write about video games, I have a day job as a high school animation teacher at a magnet school in the US. So when it came to my attention that someone had created a video game simulator about a school shooting, I was shocked. As a teacher and lover of video games, I don’t buy into the right-wing belief that video games cause kids to shoot up schools (nor do I believe the most recent idiotic premise that the root cause is pornography). I’m not going to get into the politics of the issue, but I will say it takes a special kind of scum to try to capitalize on this very real and painful trauma currently lingering over the heads of America’s youth.
American students come to school every single day with the knowledge that they could die. This is not an exaggeration; this is reality. As a teacher, it has become my job to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have protocols in place for soft lock-downs (when there is an emergency in the area, but not on campus), hard lock-downs, (when the emergency is on campus, like an ‘active shooter’), what to do if we encounter an active shooter, and how to do critical accounting to report missing or injured kids.
My first real hard lock-down was frightening to say the least. It took place in between periods when most of my students had already left for their next class and I was supposed to be on my way to lunch. Four of my students lagged behind the bell, saving projects onto flash drives; video games of their own they were currently developing in Unity. Suddenly a panicked voice came over the intercom, “Hard lock-down, hard lock-down! This is not a drill! Hard lock-down!” I could hear students running through the hallways, ducking into the nearest classroom to take shelter. But that was all I could hear, muffled footsteps thumping on carpet, because everything else was silence; they knew this was real. The four remaining students in my room did as I had directed them in drills before; they quickly and quietly went to hide in a small adjoining room that doubles as a green room for filming (a converted supply closet). It was perfect because they would be out of immediate visibility, the heavy doors automatically locked, and I had the only key. As they hid, I ran for the main door to my classroom and locked it before darting to my computer to report the students hidden in my room, and then I went to hide with my kids. We sat there, locked in that dark little room for about fifteen minutes while they texted loved ones to tell them what was happening. No one spoke; we just waited. I think we were all waiting for the inevitable gunshots or screaming. We wondered if our time had finally come in this plague; were we going to be the next school on the evening news surrounded by police, fire trucks, and ambulances? What would our death toll be and would we survive? When the voice returned to the intercom, calmer this time, and announced the lock-down was over, we all breathed a sigh of relief and went about our day. For me, that day still lingers because that day, it wasn’t our turn and with every passing day and every new shooting, the question isn’t ‘if’ our day comes, but when?
Most days are normal, with lots of laughter, joking, and frustration; typical teenage stuff. But then small things will happen that jar you back to what we are dealing with in this nation. My classroom shares a wall with the boys and girls bathrooms and one day, during my Junior’s Animation II class, there was a loud bang. To me, it sounded like a stall door being slammed against the tile wall, but the kids in my room went quiet, their eyes wide. One girl spoke up, her voice shaky, “Miss, could you please lock the door?” I felt my stomach clench with sadness as I realized they were really scared and so I did; I got out of my seat, locked the doors and covered the windows. Then I called my administrator and they sent campus security but found nothing. That banging sound happens a lot now (the stall doors hitting the wall) and the kids have grown used to it. But the first time they heard it, they feared the worst.
I’ve seen gamers online bitching about freedom of speech and expression, censorship, and the stupidity of pulling a game because of the theme. To that, I say yes, I agree… for the most part. But think of it like this: what if a game developer came out with a title about child molesters? What if your task in the game was to round up as many children as you could to sexually victimize? Would you be so quick to defend it? Sure, there are other shooting games, many of which take place in urban environments or during warfare and combat scenarios. But a shooting game in a school full of kids should be ethically off limits just like a game about molesting children would be. If your stance is that video games don’t cause school shootings, then ask yourself; is this developer and this game doing any favors for your argument? As a gamer, I have no interest in defending this title. I will defend Halo, Call of Duty, and even Grand Theft Auto, but Active Shooter deserves to be thrown to the wolves. It cannot be defended.