UPDATE: The game developer has backed down and the game is to be withdrawn
Jacqui Goddard in Miami
Parents of children killed in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre have demanded a ban on a video game in which players take the role of a gunman stalking classrooms and hallways shooting students.
Active Shooter, which is due for online publication next week, allows users to simulate a mass slaughter in a school and score points for every civilian or SWAT officer they kill.
“Get ready guys. This is going to be a fun ride for all of us,” the game’s designer enthuses.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, was killed when a former student armed with an AR-15 assault rifle opened fire at MSD in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, said yesterday: “I’m enraged, I’m outraged…They are using what happened to my daughter’s school, to my daughter, as a game and they should be put out of business.”
Active Shooter offers a gunman’s eye view of a school, showing the barrel of a gun in the foreground and instructions to “hunt and destroy”. A scoreboard keeps track of the body count.
Alternatively, the player can choose to be a SWAT officer tasked with extracting civilians and neutralising the shooter. Scenes include classrooms, corridors, the assembly hall and the gymnasium. Blood showers from victims’ heads and bodies when they are hit. The shooter’s arsenal also includes hand grenades.
A total of 4,685 people have been killed in gun violence in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit tracking agency. That includes 22 shootings in schools, including at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas, where ten students and teachers were killed by an armed student on May 18.
The trend has prompted an increasing number of schools to seek insurance policies to cover the costs of mass shootings, such as payouts to families and counselling for survivors. Proposals by President Trump to give school districts the option to arm teachers and other school staff have proved an obstacle to some seeking coverage, due to the increased risk of liability.
In New Hampshire, families of teachers “killed in the line of duty” will receive a $100,000 payout under new legislation passed last week.
Jaime Guttenberg’s spinal cord was severed by a single bullet as she ran from the gunman at MSD. Thirteen other students and three teaching staff were also killed, and 17 wounded.
Mr Guttenberg has become a prominent gun reform activist since his daughter’s death and an outspoken critic of the National Rifle Association, which has resisted calls for a tightening of gun regulations. The organisation pumped $30 million into Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign and has faced a backlash for bankrolling politicians opposed to gun reform.
“The NRA should be joining me in the outrage against this game. The president should be joining me. They’ve all blamed video games for shootings instead of guns – where are they now?” said Mr Guttenberg yesterday.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 18, was killed at MSD, said the game “crosses the line”. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina, 14, also died in the shooting, called it “disgusting.”
Neither the game’s developer, Revived Games, the publisher, Valve, nor the game’s storefront, Steam, were available for comment yesterday.
A disclaimer on Steam’s page states: “Please do not take any of this seriously…If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911.”