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28 May, 2018 15:18

‘Beyond insane and sick’: Parkland parents lash out at school shooting simulator

‘Beyond insane and sick’: Parkland parents lash out at school shooting simulator

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:

The game has been roundly condemned by Twitter users, who described it as “awful,” an “atrocity,” and “the vilest thing ever.”

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.

Despite multiple  studies disproving the link between video games and real-life violence, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was quick to point the finger in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting.

“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.”