The Slamdance Film Festival (you know, the alternative to Sundance) isn't just for movies. Each year they also sponsor the Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition. This is a great outlet for independent video game makers to showcase their wares, and you don't even have to be a winner to benefit - the exposure from just being in the festival is a huge boost. But this year one controversial game has overloaded the circuits of the festival's sponsors. That would be the Super Columbine Massacre RPG. Yup, it's just like it sounds. The game has been available for download since April 2005, and has gained a huge following, but unspecified sponsors threatened to pull funding if the game was not removed from the Slamdance competition (it must have been somebody major, because it would have essentially shut down the festival).
Here's the festival blurb that has since been pulled from the site:
Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne, USA This game delves into the morning of April 20th, 1999 and asks players to relive that day through the eyes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, those responsible for the deadliest school shooting in American history. Using a basic role-playing game (RPG) interface, this game explores the thoughts and actions of two teens bent on blowing it all up.
As mainstream a source as Newsweek criticized the festival for pulling the game, but it's tough for me to be too hard on the festival. On the one hand, it is bowing to sponsors, which just plain sucks. On the other, what choice did a smaller festival like Slamdance have? Their whole festival could have been cancelled by a freaking video game. Based on this review, even I'm not even sure which way to go on this issue. Unlike a movie version of the Columbine Massacre (like Elephant, or the much better and saddly under-seen Zero Day), it's hard to imagine players of a video game actually getting any social commentary out of the game, and instead just having way to much fun blowing students away. I don't think video games can be blamed for violence, any more than I believe Judas Priest made a kid blow his face off. But then again, things sure do seem a lot more overtly and joyously violent in the world these days and I don't know quite what to make of it.
Aw, heck with it. I'm going to go back to playing Grand Theft Auto and stop worrying. That game is way more fun, anyway.