Seven years ago, the entire country was rocked by the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Hundreds of news stories and hours upon hours of cable news dwelled upon the horrid and senseless slaughter perpetrated by diabolic teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Thirteen were killed and twenty were wounded on that awful, awful day - April 20, 1999.
That black story is back in the news, with a twist that is at once shocking and sadly, unsurprising. The Rocky Mountain News reports some deeply disturbed jerk has produced an Internet video game out of the Columbine massacre that puts players in the boots of the killers. It's called "Super Columbine Massacre RPG."
The trend toward violent video games just gets sicker by the day. Contemplate this sad fact: the game's been downloaded for free an estimated 10,000 times.
A player starting the game is met with this statement: "Welcome to Super Columbine Massacre RPG! You play as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on that fateful day in the Denver suburb of Littleton. How many people they kill is ultimately up to you."
The game player is represented by Harris throughout the game. The player navigates scenes that require Harris to plant bombs in the school cafeteria, meet Klebold on a hill outside the school, and attack students inside the school. In each killing scene, the player has the option to play on "auto" mode, in which the game chooses the weapon, or on "manual," in which the player decides whether to use a gun or a bomb.
Each time the Harris and Klebold characters kill someone in the game, a dialogue box pops up on the screen with the words, "Another victory for the Trench Coat Mafia." There's also dialogue in the game where after you kill students, you're praised for being "brave boys." As if gunning down unarmed students you've never met is somehow courageous.
Parents of the real victims are understandably stunned. "It's wrong," said Joe Kechter, whose son Matt was killed in the library. Brian Rohrbough, whose son Dan was murdered on a sidewalk outside the school, put it best: "We live in a culture of death, so it doesn't surprise me that this stuff has become so commonplace." He added: "when people glorify murderers, they make murder acceptable."
The warped individual who created this game is most proud of himself. He told the News that he attended a different Colorado high school at the time, and he wanted to make something "profoundly unique and confrontational," which he has certainly achieved. He also professes some admiration for the murderers. They were "at times, very thoughtful, sensitive, and intelligent young men." It was "empowering to see two oppressed, marginalized kids rise up." He then says this could be oversimplified, since he claims he made the game to spur "inquiry and civil discourse."
The sicko also thinks the game is "innately comedic," due to its extremely simplistic, low-tech graphics, making a violent school shooting into a "game with tiny, cartoonish sprites...that make firing a TEC-9 feel like casting a magic spell." It "parodies video games."
His nihilism comes through as he denounces "platitudes and panaceas" about why it happened and how it can be prevented from happening again. Harris and Klebold were "canaries in the mine...precursors to the collapse of modern civilization." "Society," he complains, "has a powerful self-preservation meme [cultural tradition] and most people are incurably affected by it. Thankfully, I'm not - hence, the game."
Our inventor is also a pompous hypocrite and a coward. Contrary to his claims, he is affected enough by a self-preservation streak that he insists on hiding behind the veil of anonymity.
Sadly, this genius has allies among the video-game enthusiasts. Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Tech who specializes in video-game criticism, is ecstatic about re-enacting Columbine. "I think the effort is brave, sophisticated, and worthy of praise from those of us interested in video games with an agenda," he declares. The game isn't fun, but it's challenging, he writes, "conceptually difficult. We need more of that." But the game doesn't reward you for putting your gun down and going home. It rewards you and calls you brave for killing innocent teenagers. Why Georgia Tech hasn't fired this idiot is a disgraceful mystery.
It's stories like this that underline why states are cracking down on the sale of violent video games to minors. Violent video game legislation has passed in Michigan, Illinois and California, and is being considered in many states including Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota as well as at the federal level.
But the players of "Super Columbine RPG" don't need an ID to prove they're an adult. Any child can just download this sick game, free of charge, in the privacy of his own disturbed world.