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School Shooter Video Game - Wrong on Every Level

Added 4/25/11 - Several commenters on Facebook and on this post have pointed out that they do not believe this game will ever actually exist, that it is the work of trolls, a joke.

The following is an opinion post based on reading about the mod on several major news sites and reading the reactions of members of the parenting, education, and political community. I am not an investigative journalist nor do I claim to be one.  If this is a joke, it goes beyond poor taste.

I feel sorry for everyone involved with the new School Shooter video game that’s got parents, educators and media all fired up.  I feel bad for parents who may need to fight with their kids about whether or not it’s okay to play a game that allows them to murder other children in a virtual environment.  I feel bad for kids who are so desensitized to the over-the-top violence in the world around them that they want to play this game. 

I feel sick to my stomach for parents of children who have been killed in school shootings, who turn on the news to find that their children’s slaughter is being replayed over and over again for amusement.  I feel bad for adults who are willing to spend hours of their lives developing a product that turns the horror of the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres into a game in order to make a few dollars, riding the wave of an outraged and ultimately curious public.

Not understanding the appeal of pretending to kill people for fun, I’ve never been a fan of violent video games.  I’ve read arguments about how violence in games, books, movies and play can be empowering or cathartic to children and how the data against violent video games is skewed.  In the book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence, Gerard Jones says that in many cases a spike in violent game use has come AFTER an increase in violence or turmoil in the world, suggesting that playing these games may actually be a tool we use to cope with the reality of the world around us.

Okay.  I can see truth in a lot of his arguments.  Reading that book actually opened me up to letting Magoo play with wooden swords and Nerf guns and read super-annoying Bakugan graphic novels.

So read a comic book or play cops and robbers in the back yard.  But don’t tell me that reenacting the mass murder of students and school children has any redeeming value.  I doubt that even the makers of this game, a modification of the popular first person shooter game Half-Life 2, could defend it in any meaningful way.  As far as I can see, they are being as insensitive and offensive as possible to gain maximum media exposure for their product.  And I guess it’s working because here I type.

I wonder if they will ever get to the point where they feel a twinge of regret for exploiting an unspeakable tragedy.  When some kid opens fire on a room full of 12-year-olds and it turns out that he’s logged hundreds of hours playing their game leading up to the shooting, will they even wince for a second or will they suddenly feel inspired to start coding the next installment of the saga?

Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler, and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.