A new video game in which the player stalks and shoots fellow students and teachers in school settings is drawing fire from critics at local school districts who say “death is not a game.”
“School Shooter: North American Tour 2012" is a first-person shooter game that allows the player to move around a school setting and collect points by killing defenseless students and teachers.
The game, developed by Checkerboarded Studios, is actually a modification, or mod, of a popular first-person shooter game called “Half-Life 2.”
According to Checkerboarded’s website, checkerboarded.com, “you play as a disgruntled student fed up with something or other (We’re not exactly sure), who after researching multiple school shooting martyrs, decides to become the best school shooter ever.”
Players can arm themselves with the same weapons as real-life school shooters, including Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot up Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999, and Seung-Hui Cho of Virginia Tech in April 2007.
“The possibilities are endless!” the site boasts. “You are free to do whatever you want (So long as it involves shooting people in a school).”
The mod had been posted on ModDB online repository of game add-ons. However, it was pulled from ModDB because, founder Scott Reismanis said, it was “getting quite a bit of mainstream press due to the controversial nature of the content.”
In light of the mod’s being pulled by ModDB, Checkerboarded developed its own website for the game, ssnat.com.
According to that site, the developers are “are a small team of people who are absolutely dedicated to bringing you—the player—the best school shooting experience an angsty little s-- as yourself could ever experience.”
Among the “cool” features the mod will have, according to the site, will be the option of committing suicide at the end of each level.
“You’ll be treated to a fine first person animation of you using your selected weapon to take your own life after spouting a hilarious one liner,” the site states.
Since its creation, the game has spawned a legion of critics, particularly in the field of education.
Cornwall-Lebanon Superintendent Joe Kristobak said he does not like any video games like this.
“I’m not a fan of any of these games,” he said. “Violence is not a game. Death is not a game. If you start promoting it as a game, it becomes less realistic to people. It becomes a fantasy. I’m not in favor of any of these games that promote violence.”
In fact, Kristobak questioned why this game and others like it are even a matter of debate.
“I don’t think there should even be a discussion about such a topic,” he said. “We shouldn’t even be wasting our brain power on such a ridiculous matter. It tells you what money can do. It really angers me, to be honest with you.”
Annville-Cleona Superintendent Steven Houser said the game is “obviously” a bad idea.
“Anything that would create simulations that would harm innocent people, particularly in a school, is a bad idea,” he said. “But I’m not sure if the people who designed it were thinking if it was a good idea.”
Houser likened the issue to the recent Supreme Court ruling that protected free speech even if it is harmful.
“Is speech that’s harmful to other people, should that be protected?” he asked. “Our Constitution says yes, but it doesn’t say much about our society if it’s there.”
The game has drawn the attention of state Rep. Lawrence Curry, a Democrat from the Philadelphia area. Curry is preparing a resolution designed to alert parents, students and teachers about the game and remind parents to monitor carefully their children’s use of media.
In a news release, Curry said he understands there are first-person shooting games on the market, but because this game mimics the real-life tragedies of Columbine High School, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University in February 2008, that makes it particularly objectionable.
“The tragedies of Columbine, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University are among the most horrible acts on campus in American history,” Curry said in the release. “The lack of empathy this game shows for school shooting victims, their families, friends and other loved ones is upsetting and disrespectful.”
Copyright (c) 2011, Lebanon Daily News, Pennsylvania. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2011 edition of Education Week as Critics Target ‘School Shooter’