Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Petitions Against Sandy Hook Massacre Game
Nearly a year ago on December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother in their home, before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he then shot and killed twenty children and six staff members. When first responders arrived on the scene, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The tragedy struck a chord - not just in America, but throughout the world - as any violent act that involves children will.
What happened afterwards?
The incident dragged one of the most pervasive and divisive topics in the United States back out into the open - both sides agreed that such a tragedy should not have happened, and should not be allowed to happen again... but neither side could agree on which was the best way to accomplish that.
Ultimately, as is what happens when an argument splits the country almost an even 50/50, no real changes in legislation or school policy were made. What changes occurred happened mostly on a civilian level, not a political one - charities sprang up, programs were devised to educate and inform, mental health hotlines renewed their efforts...
And nearly a year later, one man decided to make a video game.
"As we approach the one-year anniversary of the horrific massacre of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, an American expatriate in Australia is exploiting the tragedy by inviting internet users to play an online video game he created entitled 'The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary.'"
The flash game, originally uploaded to Newgrounds (and has since been taken down), directs the player to recreate the murder of Nancy Lanza and those killed at the school in graphic detail, and at the end displays a 'kill ratio'.
Working to change and improve the systems that lead to such acts of violence is hard - the proof is in the pudding, but how well can you prove the effects are working if the intended result is no violence at all? It's hard to know for certain what works and what doesn't.
To his credit, the game does not appear to have been created as a joke to mock the dead. Sydney resident Ryan Jake Lambourn claims that his intentions were to draw attention to the fact that "absolutely nothing positive has come out of [the tragedy at Newtown]," and he says he supports the reform of American gun laws - but it appears he has very little idea just how people would react to his virtual recreation of the massacre.
What worked for Spec Ops: The Line (that is, making us question ourselves as the player and the supposed hero, making us actually think about what it is our character is doing) does not work here, where the dead are familiar names, and the pain is still fresh.
It really doesn't work when you don't learn anything from it, and your game-finishing sense of achievement lies in a successful kill list of schoolchildren.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is an American anti-gun organization founded in the mid-70s, comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. They have contested the stalled legislature against the National Rifle Association for years, and now they are taking a stand against The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary as well.
A petition was launched to protest the existence of the game; and it insists that he remove the video game from the internet immediately and to apologize to the families of Newtown.
Donna Soto, the mother of Vicki Soto, a teacher slain in the shooting, told the media, “It’s absolutely disgusting that somebody thinks this is funny. All the families are suffering. We’re coming up on December. My daughter’s birthday just passed. It just adds insult to the suffering that we’re dealing with.” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal agreed, stating, “I find the exploitation of this unspeakable tragedy is just shocking.”
The petition states that there is no room in civil society to glorify atrocities as entertainment and inflict unnecessary pain on survivors who are still grieving over the loss of loved ones.
While I don't necessarily agree with the existence of the game in its current incarnation and consider it tasteless and hurtful, a blanket statement that entertainment cannot and should not be made of horrific events is not one I'm willing to buy either.
Wonderful, inspirational films and televised media have been made to highlight the very best of mankind and the very worst - Schindler's List, Band of Brothers, and the recent Paul Walker film Hours based on the events of Hurricane Katrina. I have no doubt that video games can follow in the same tradition - if done well, and if done respectfully.
What do you think? Will you sign the petition?