The creator of an online game based around the Columbine high school massacre has defended his decision to make it after victims' relatives spoke out against it.
The game has been kicking around the web for a good while now, but it's recently started to attract more attention as it has become more popular. Titled Super Columbine Massacre RPG, it sees players taking on the role of Eric Harris who, on April 20 1999, went on a shooting spree at the school with his friend Dylan Klebold. They killed 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.
Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Daniel, was one of those murdered, told the Rocky Mountain News: "We live in a culture of death, so it doesn't surprise me that this stuff has become so commonplace.
"It disgusts me. You trivialise the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent."
Joe Kechter, whose son was also killed in the massacre, simply said: "It's wrong."
Columbine student Richard Castaldo survived the attack, but was left paralysed from the chest down. He said the game "didn't make me mad, just kind of confused me. It kind of reminded me of that Elephant movie, but in videogame form.
"I think I get what he was trying to do, at least in part. Parts of it were difficult to play through, but overall, I get the feeling it might even be helpful in some ways. I don't think it's bad to discuss."
That's the argument of the game's creator, who will only be identified as 'Columbin'. Columbin told the Rocky Mountain News that the intention was to "promote a real dialogue on the subject of school shootings."
"Behind all the pixels is the fact that people really died, including two angry boys who were, at times, very thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent young men," said Columbin, who went on to claim that s/he was also a student at a Colorado high school at the time of the shooting and was badly bullied: "I didn't fit in, and I was surrounded by a culture of elitism as espoused by our school's athletes.
"I'm routinely accused of being soulless, of being destined for an eternity in hell, and similarly colorful assertions. However, I cannot emphasise enough that there is a small fraction of the population who really gets it, who really understands why I made the game and how possible it is to escape from the polarised, dualistic thinking the Columbine shooting seems to [elicit] in most people."
Columbin questioned "why videogames are held to a larger degree of scrutiny than films, books or other [media]," observing: "The Palm d'Orre at Cannes in 2002 was Bowling for Columbine and in 2003 was Elephant. Why, then, ought not a video game be made of the same award-winning subject matter?
"The silence is deafening."
You can read full interviews with Columbin and Costaldo over on Kotaku.com.