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.