Anti-gun violence advocates and the parents of Parkland shooting victims are outraged over a new video game that enables users to play the part of an active shooter who opens fire inside a school.
The computer game, which is called "Active Shooter," permits players to control either the gunman or a member of the S.W.A.T. team who attempts to stop the attack. The game, which is created by Revived Games and due out June 6, has been met with widespread backlash, with critics condemning it as unsympathetic in the aftermath of numerous school shootings in America.
"The last thing we need is a simulated training on school shootings," Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February, said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "Video game designers should think of the influence they hold. This really crosses the line."
Meadow, 18, was one of 17 students and faculty members at the Parkland, Fla. school who were killed in the Feb. 14 attack. There have 23 incidents so far in 2018 on American school campuses where someone has been struck or killed by a bullet. Ten people were killed in a shooting at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school earlier this month.
"Active Shooter" is set to be released on Steam, an online video game market that is operated by the Valve publishing company. The game is promoted on Steam as a "dynamic SWAT simulator," with a description page for the game noting that a mode where users can play as a civilian is also coming.
"Please do not take any of this seriously," a disclaimer on the description page reads. "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)."
Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was also killed at Stoneman Douglas, is hopeful the game will never actually be released.
"It's disgusting that Valve Corp. is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country," Petty said in a statement to The Herald. "Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a 'game.'"
The game also disappointed Andrew Patrick, the media director for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who told the Daily News that products such as "Active Shooter" are "insulting to the victims, the family members (and) all these students that are fighting to change the laws" for gun control.
He believes the bigger issue, however, remains how easy it is for people to obtain guns in America.
"We're not going to blame the access of video games for gun violence," Patrick told The News. "We blame the access of guns.
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"I don't think this (game) is going to create a school shooter," he continued. "I think that what really we've seen why these massacres have happened is because someone was able to get an AR-15 pretty easily, or were able to steal their parents' shotgun or revolver and go to a school. I think this is more just an ugly sidebar to this epidemic, which is that gun violence -- even in its most realest forms -- is glorified and continues to get marketed in subsets of the culture."
The anti-gun violence organization Infer Trust slammed "Active Shooter" as well, with a spokeswoman saying they're "appalled that the game is being marketed."
"It is horrendous," the rep told the BBC. "Why would anybody think it's a good idea to market something violent like that, and be completely insensitive to the deaths of so many children?"
The game's developer defended "Active Shooter" on a Steam message board by pointing out other violent games exist on Steam. The game's maker did not rule out the possibility of removing the shooter's role from the game amid the backlash.
An online petition to cancel the game's release has racked up over 20,000 signatures in the three days since it was created. ___
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