A controversial video game that simulates mass shootings was pulled this week following massive backlash, its publisher confirmed Tuesday night. However, as spokespersons for the company responsible for its distribution later confirmed, the game was axed for reasons unrelated to its violent content.
Active Shooter, from game publisher Acid Publishing Group, was slated for a June 6 release on Steam, a digital gaming distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation. But on Tuesday, following a wave of protests and boycott threats, the game’s page listing on Steam had been removed, and Valve confirmed it would no longer carry Acid games or those from Active Shooter’s developer, Revived Games.
A spokesperson for Valve told Kotaku and Motherboard that it had pulled the listings because the Active Shooter’s developer and publisher were actually one person — a troll who had been kicked off of Steam in the past.
“This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc]Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team,’” the spokesperson stated, describing him as a “troll” with a history of customer abuse and publishing copyrighted material. “We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve.”
They added, “The broader conversation about Steam’s content policies is one that we’ll be addressing soon.”
Active Shooter allowed users to play as a gunman during an active shooting situation, or as a SWAT team member seeking to take down the gunman. “Pick your role, gear up and fight or destroy! Be the good guy or the bad guy. The choice is yours!” read a description on the game’s now-defunct store listing page.
As The New York Times described it:
The online game unfolds from the point of view of an attacker, aiming a weapon down a school corridor or throwing a grenade into an auditorium. The character creeps around corners and up staircases. Bullets spray, blood spatters. SWAT team members are shot dead. Civilians are splayed out on the floor.
Backlash to the game was swift.
“Nothing will bring my daughter back, but there is a role for adults to have in terms of being responsible, and this is not responsible. This is gross, this is profiteering, this is unacceptable,” Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, one of the students killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, told the Times.
A petition on Change.org called on Valve not to release the game as planned.
“This is horrific. The company is taking the stand that this game is legal because of free speech and everything else that tech billionaires hide behind when they are doing something the public knows is absolutely, morally corrupt but legally fine — but we cannot stand for this,” wrote Stephanie Robinett, who started the petition. “How can anyone sleep at night knowing that they are profiting from turning deadly school shootings into entertainment?”
Despite having previously claimed that violent video games were partially to blame for school shootings — a claim not supported by scientific evidence — the Trump administration has not yet weighed in on the controversy.
The game’s planned release coincided with a spate of more recent school shootings, including one at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas in which 10 people were killed.
As ThinkProgress previously noted, there have been 21 school shootings so far in 2018 in which people have been hurt or killed.