Trivialising brutality

Maybe I’m too innocent or lead en excessively sheltered life, but I have to admit that this news story shocked me. In the United States a computer games company is planning to release a game called School Shooter: North American Tour 2010. The ‘game’ is loosely based on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in the United States, in which 12 students and one teacher were killed. In the ‘game’ the player’s task is to shoot as many teachers and students as possible. Even more amazingly and shockingly, the ‘game’s’ author has explained his ‘product’ by saying that ‘nobody has ever tried create a proper game about a school shooting’ – adding for good measure that he was more shocked by the demonisation of the Columbine killers than by what they did.

The website that was intending to host this particular piece of utter nastiness has changed its mind and has pulled it (but only after coming in for severe criticism), but the author still intends to release the ‘game’.

I rather hope that my response to this is not that untypical, but I am bound to wonder whether School Shooter is in the end that much different from hundreds of products that are freely sold and used and which have at their core an encouragement of mindless and sometimes extreme violence. School Shooter seems worse because its narrative is so close to actual (and repeated) events, and for me perhaps because of its educational setting; but the idea of the player shooting and killing defenceless targets is hardly unique in the computer gaming industry.

Computer games may seem very remote from ‘real’ life, but for some fans this dividing line can be alarmingly blurred. It may be time to look again at this whole sub-culture to see what values it is promoting or casting in ethical fog.

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9 Comments on “Trivialising brutality”

  1. Anna Notaro Says:

    ‘It may be time to look again at this whole sub-culture to see what values it is promoting or casting in ethical fog.’
    Well, it might not be accurate to define the world of computer games as a ‘sub-culture’ anymore, in fact the study of computer games or ludology is by all means a field of academic enquiry, as this
    Resource page clearly shows, in other words it has become ‘mainstream’
    http://www.sable.mcgill.ca/~clump/games.html
    The relationship between violence and video games has been particularly of interest, the following article illustrates how opinions differ on the matter
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100607122547.htm
    As far as the specific example mentioned in your post is concerned though, I certainly agree it is nasty and should not be released..

  2. Ernie Ball Says:

    Yes, but if it makes money, then its existence is justified, no? After all, don’t the people (and their one true avatar, the market) know best? You may find it vile, but that’s just your elitism showing. The days are long past when such elitism is appropriate: the arts, like higher education, have been thoroughly democratised and there’s no going back. And if the people speak and decide to embrace School Shooter, who are you to say that they shouldn’t? On the basis of what values? And if they aren’t shared, with what right do you impose them on others? Am I to believe that you insist that some things are worthy (or unworthy) in their own right, regardless of what the masses might think?

    • anna notaro Says:

      You should make up your mind Ernie, one day you advocate that tax money is better spent on philosophers than on “vice presidents for innovation”, thus criticizing a certain ‘marketization’ of education and the day after the market becomes the democratizing factor and the best criterion to evaluate the social and cultural implications of video-gaming, better being an elitist than proffering incoherent ranting, I’d say

  3. Kate Says:

    @Ernie Ball, just a bit of clarification, the games not going to make money. It’s a free mod, not a commercial release.
    I think it’s important that people bear that in mind before they go overboard.

  4. Vincent Says:

    Is it any worse than one called Street Shooter. Or Iraq Attack. How does shooting a human shaped alien differ for that matter. All are designed to dehumanise both the object and subject of the game with the least amount of effort by attempting to subvert the social controls. And they survive on hooey arguments like the one that states sidearms don’t kill people, people do.

  5. Al Says:

    If the man had talent he wouldn’t be aiming to shock. I’ll presume that the shock value is ment to hide the lack of talent and get back to my life…


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