Controversial 'Active Shooter' game draws different opinions from survivors, gaming community

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DENVER -- First-person shooter games like "Battle Field" or "Call of Duty" are very popular among the gaming community, but one particular game has garnered national attention for its theme revolving around school shootings. 

'Active Shooter' mimics a real-life school shooting where it's up to the gamer to decide whether to play either as a police officer or as the shooter, whose objective it is to hunt and kill as many students as possible.

News that the game was being released on June 6 didn't sit well with Seattle mother Stephanie Robinett, given the recent tragic events in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas. 

Robinett started a petition on Change.org to stop the game's release. More than 200,000 people signed that petition which caught the eye of Valve, the software company that played a demo of the game on its Steam platform.

Valve pulled the game from Steam and released a statement, blaming a "troll" for the game's development.

“This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as "[bc]Interactive" and "Elusive Team." Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation. His subsequent return under new business names was a fact that came to light as we investigated the controversy around his upcoming title. We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve. The broader conversation about Steam’s content policies is one that we’ll be addressing soon.”

But Colorado native Danny Ledonne, who once developed a controversial shooting game based on the Columbine High School massacre, thinks the outcry from the public and the subsequent pulling of the game from the platform could have a chilling effect on the gaming industry. 

The game he developed, titled "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!" recreated the events of the April 19, 1999 shooting. 

Ledonne said the game, released in 2005, was created with a purpose in mind. 

“The game got deeper into the story as to why events like this might have happened. Things like social isolation, things like mental health, things like bullying, depression, easy access to firearms. Those are discovered throughout the game,” said Ledonne. 

Ledonne said he developed his game after spending six months looking into police records of the Columbine shooting. Throughout the game, information is laid out highlighting the teens' troubling life.

Which is why Ledonne argued that removing a game based on an unwanted reaction sends the wrong message to the video gaming industry.

“I think it really sends a chilling effect when some makes a game and it gets pulled before it's even released because maybe this game in particular was in poor taste, maybe it wasn't well made, maybe it wasn't made with sincere intentions. We wouldn't do that with films, we wouldn't do that with books, we shouldn't do that with video games either,” said Ledonne.

But Tom Mauser, who lost a son in the Columbine High School massacre, and who saw little logic in the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! game coming out, doesn't see any in "Active Shooter" being released.

“This one is basically a 'shoot’em up game' at a school. There is nothing to be learned from this video (game), other than some sick pleasure in shooting students. Who is the audience for that? Who would say, 'this is fun,'” said Mauser.

The developer has yet to answer Denver7's request for comment for this story; but he posted a question to Steam days before the game was pulled, asking gamers for their opinion. He asked gamers, "How is "Active Shooter" any different from mentioned games? Yet, games like Hatred, Postal and Carmageddon are literally about mentally unstable people slaying dozens of people and just all bad."

A gamer who goes by the alias Cannibalwolf wrote, "You’re (sic) game is looking very good." Meme Rectangular, another user on the platform, wrote, "mental health is the problem here, not interactive media."

While it's outrageous for some to imagine profiting from a common tragedy in our modern society — adding more insulting to injury in the process — others don't see a problem with a video game that offers players the role of school shooters, arguing these games are no different to media outlets playing out a tragedy for days on end. 

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