We’ve covered the Torture Game, in which players can gratuitously torture a captive avatar to their hearts’ content. But the controversy over violent and potentially exploitative video games hit an entirely new level with Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, a free online game that lets players recreate the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School that resulted in 15 deaths (including the suicides of the teenage shooters).
MSNBC reports that the game “presents players with a low-res gaming experience that uses material culled from [the shooters] Eric Harris’s and Dylan Klebold’s own words, media reports and police documents.” Players are placed in the roles of the shooters and allowed to relive their last two days. No surprise, it’s sparked considerable uproar since its launch, so much so that the creator, 26-year-old Danny Ledonne, made a documentary about the aftermath.
Granted, while the Columbine game may be one of the most politically and emotionally charged, plenty of other games allow players to reenact national and international tragedies, from the JFK assassination to “September 12th,” which lets players send missiles into an Afghan Village. (For a list of these and other controversial games, go here.)
So are games that tackle violent and dangerous subjects merely using technology to exploit national tragedies, and possibly even do more harm? Or are they important sociological art pieces that can educate players about issues like war and murder? Both sides have their vigorous supporters, and there’s no one answer—though one thing science has shown is that there’s no proven link between playing violent video games and committing real-life acts of violence.
But regardless of personal feelings on the matter, what is troublesome is the suggestion, from MSNBC.com commenters and beyond, that we censor these games or, even worse, monitor their use in order to “sniff out” players who might be “dangerous.” Violent, provocative, and arguably exploitative art and entertainment had carved a space in our cultural landscape long before video games hit the scene. Plus, given the government’s track record as far as using surveillance technology, video game monitoring has the potential to do far more harm than good.
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