A video game based on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., the deadliest episode of school violence in the U.S., is stirring up controversy this week.
The online game, “Super Columbine Massacre RPG,” has been available on the underground Internet for the past year, but some popular gaming Web sites began blogging about it in May, setting off a whirlwind of attention — and opposition.
The 2-D game is poor quality, more closely resembling an early generation Nintendo title. Many, including families of the victims, have expressed outrage over its premise. The game allows players to stand in for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the bullied duo who were responsible for killing 15 people and injuring many others.
Danny Ledonne, 24, designed the game, which — in spite of its subject matter — is not especially bloody. He reportedly spent more than six months creating it. He gathered information by watching videos, reading newspaper articles and scouring thousands of pages of details released ;by Jefferson County, Colo., after the tragic event. Ledonne could not immediately be reached for comment.
The game characters are armed with Tec-9 semiautomatic guna. A player can roam hallways, visit the cafeteria, go up the stairs and into the library. The player has the power of life and death in his hands, deciding who to kill and who to spare.
The full game takes about five hours to play, and there is no way to win. Ledonne does not charge for the rudimentary video game, but asks for US$1 donation to keep his site operating. The game has been downloaded 40,000 times since it debuted in April 2005. Three-fourths of those downloads were in May, presumably in response to the bloggers’ interest in the game.
“We do see video games that are based on actual events. Unfortunately, when it comes to school shootings, it really drives home the point that there area lot of people that are out there to make money of these awful tragedies,” James Miller, directing founder of End Youth Violence, told TechNewsWorld.
It’s Not About the Game
End Youth Violence was involved in victim advocacy on behalf Columbine High School survivors when a similar video game glamorizing the shootings surfaced in 2004. That one was called “Columbine High School Massacre – The Video Game.” End Youth Violence stopped the release and took control of the game’s Web site. Visitors were forwarded to the End Youth Violence Web site instead.
Still, Miller is not dead set against video games in general, nor does he believe the games sow deadly seeds in the minds of most children who play them.
“When you look at a child who has already been preconditioned to violence or there are some other indicators of psychological issues, like depression, video games can definitely be a stepping stone,” he said. “Video games are not going to turn well balanced children who have a good family influence, a strong set of values and an understanding between reality and fantasy into killers.”