Terrified students run down a flight of stairs as a gunman takes aim from below. As the shooter picks off his victims, a counter tallies the number of civilians and cops killed. This is the disturbing scene depicted in screenshots from Active Shooter, a first-person school shooting video game set to debut next week. But condemnation of the game from Parkland students and parents fueled national outrage that led the platform set to release the game to announce its cancellation Tuesday.
"I have seen and heard many horrific things over the past few months since my daughter was the victim of a school shooting and is now dead in real life," Fred Guttenberg wrote in a series of tweets posted to Twitter. "This game may be one of the worst. This company should face the wrath of everyone who cares about school and public safety and it should start immediately." Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, urged his followers not to buy the game and to contact the distributor set to release the game about their complaints.
Developed by a Russian game developer known as ACID, Active Shooter enabled users to play as either an armed gunman trolling school hallway or a SWAT team officer sent in to capture the shooter. The game was set to launch on Steam, a digital distribution platform run by Valve Corporation, on June 6. According to the New York Times, ACID had planned to sell the game on Steam at a price point somewhere between $5 and $10. But mounting outrage over the game led Valve to announce Tuesday that it had decided to remove both the game and the game's developer from its platform.
"We have removed the developer Revived Games and publisher ACID from Steam," Valve spokesperson Doug Lombardi said in a statement to USA Today. Lombardi claimed Revived Games and ACID were accounts created by "a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev," a user who had previously been removed from the site under other names.
"Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation," Lombardi told USA Today. "His subsequent return under new business names was a fact that came to light as we investigated the controversy around his upcoming title. We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve."
According to the Times, a description of Active Shooter — which was recently removed from Steam — celebrated players' ability to play both the "good guy" and the "bad guy" in one game. The description urged players to "pick your role, gear up and fight or destroy!" According to the game's description, players can choose to be either "the actual shooter" or "an elite S.W.A.T. member." In a blog post on Steam, ACID denied claims the game promoted violence or mass shootings.
But Guttenberg wasn't the only person affected by the Parkland shooting to voice their disapproval of the game. "It's disgusting that Valve Corp. is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country," Parkland parent Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting, wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. "Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a 'game.'"
Parkland students were also outraged over the game. "THIS IS DISGUSTING," Parkland student and gun violence activist Jaclyn Corin tweeted. "Valve Corporation of Bellevue is launching a video game on June 6th that's a school shooting simulator. Everyone that cares about school & public safety should be OUTRAGED." She went on to urge her followers to sign a petition calling for the game's release to be cancelled.
White retweeting Corin, fellow Parkland student and outspoken gun control activist Emma González called on Valve to "shut down" the game "immediately."
Nearly 200,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking Valve not to launch Active Shooter.