Thursday, April 14, 2011

Compelling Argument

Times Square Chronicles was trying to pass this off as a  "new" story this morning and clearly wants to make the creators of the game into a martyr. It even urges you to contact your local government with your concerns. Someone should probably tell them that this is a modification made for a pre-existing game that is in no way related to the developers of said original game. It's not going to be something sold at your local grocery store. It's been known for a while that a mod for Half-Life 2 has been in the works called School Shooter, meant as a satire that allows individuals to assume to role of a student and shoot people in their school.

Is it tasteless and offensive? You bet. But it's a voice amongst the millions that would argue that there is some value to this game.

I present to you the counter argument, Super Columbine Massacre RPG!

Danny Ledonne created the game in 2005 as a means of exploration. It wasn't about recreating the event for entertainment, but to allow people to confront this issue of school violence head-on. Ledonne is not a game developer, but a film maker. He approached this project from a new perspective, by telling a story that was enticing the user to ask questions. In no way was Ledonne condoning the violence at Columbine, nor at any other major school shooting, nor promoted the game as such. It's one of those products that has always been made clear from the beginning that it is a game meant to get people to think. The news outlets that say otherwise fail at basic understanding. I'd like them but there are just way too many to even bother. It's about as silly as someone saying you can use SCMRPG as a training simulation. It was made with RPG Maker 2000, a program that mimics the style of 32 bit sprites on flat backgrounds. It is the exact opposite of Call of Duty, which could easily be taken as a simulator.

There's a double standard in our culture when it comes to visual mediums, something that can be traced back to theater. When it comes to social issues and realistic problems of violence in schools, or poverty in your backyard, or anything of the like, people feel the need to censor it. Where as war and cops and robbers stories are totally fine because they are not happening around us. Here's the bottom line; if the gaming community didn't push the envelope we wouldn't have the culture of expression that we have now (as stifled as it is by the larger companies that fail to product original content). Movies, television, books, music, theater, sculpture, painting, all have gone down the same path. A part of what makes art art is that some things will exist that will offend people. They are there to force you to question your reality. That's the sign of a good artist.

Now I'm not saying that School Shooter is art. It's fairly obvious after one look on their website that it's meant as a satirical modification in a twisted demeanor. Rather, it's a mod to a pre-exisiting game that has gotten way too much attention. But people need to pull back and realize that the point of this, and any visual medium, is to get you to ask questions that might make you uncomfortable. Because isn't that what good art is about?

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