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Valve slammed over "horrendous" Steam school-shooting game

UPDATE: Game removed, developer banned.

UPDATE 30/5/18: Valve has removed controversial school-shooting FPS Active Shooter from Steam, and its developer and publisher - Revived Games and Acid respectively - have been banned from the platform.

In a statement addressing the matter, Valve explained that Revived Games and Acid are, in fact, one person - Ata Berdyev. Berdyev was previously been removed from Steam last autumn, according to Valve, when he operated under the names [bc]Interactive and Elusive Team.

"Ata is a troll," read the statement, "with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation. 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." 

Berdyev previously fell foul of Valve after Adult Swim issued a copyright claim on Piccled Ricc, his unauthorised Rick and Morty game - reportedly just a pre-existing Unity demo scene with swapped assets. In fact, Berdyev appears to have a history of quick-fire assets flips on Steam, including the likes of the now-removed Fidget Spinner Simulator.

As part of its statement, Valve also noted that a "broader conversation about Steam's content policies is one that we'll be addressing soon".

ORIGINAL STORY 25/5/18: Just a week after the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas that saw 10 people fatally shot and 13 others were wounded, Valve has come under fire for a Steam school-shooting game that encourages you to "hunt and destroy" children.

Active Shooter, which at the time of publication is live on Steam and due for release on 6th June, is described by its developer as "a dynamic S.W.A.T. simulator". The idea is you're sent in to deal with a shooter at a school, but you can also play as the actual shooter, gunning down school children.

It looks like this:

Now, an anti-gun violence charity has called on Valve to pull the game from Steam. (We've asked Valve for comment but it has yet to respond.)

The developer of Active Shooter is called Revived Games, the publisher Acid. Revived Games' credits include White Power: Pure Voltage and Dab, Dance & Twerk.

"Acid", who plans to add a survival mode in which you play as a civilian and have to "escape or perform a heroic action such as fight against the shooter itself", took to Active Shooter's Steam page to defend the game. "First of all, this game does not promote any sort of violence, especially any soft [sic] of a mass shooting," Acid said.

"Originally when this game started its course of the development, I have planned on having SWAT only based gameplayer [sic]. Then I thought about adding more gameplay to it by adding additional roles: of the shooter and the civilian. While I can see people's anger and why this might be a bad idea for the game, I still feel like this topic should be left alone. As I mentioned in Steam discussion forums, there are games like Hatred, Postal, Carmageddon and etc., which are even worst compared to Active Shooter and literally focus on mass shootings/killings of people."

Acid said they have contacted Valve and are waiting for a reply. "After receiving such high amount of critics and hate, I will more likely remove shooters role in this game by the release, unless if it can be kept as it is right now," Acid said.

A spokesperson for Infer Trust told the BBC: "It's in very bad taste. There have been 22 school shootings in the US since the beginning of this year.

"It is horrendous. Why would anybody think it's a good idea to market something violent like that, and be completely insensitive to the deaths of so many children?

"We're appalled that the game is being marketed."

When once Steam was heavily curated, Valve now employs a hands-off approach that means scores of games of varying quality are published to the platform every day. According to SteamSpy, 7672 games were released on Steam in 2017, with an average of 21 games per day.

Anyone can publish games on Steam through the Steam Direct program for "a $100 recoupable publishing fee per game".

There are rules and guidelines that are supposed to govern the content distributed on Steam, however. You're not supposed to publish hate speech, for example: "i.e. speech that promotes hatred, violence or discrimination against groups of people based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation." Developers are also not supposed to publish "content that is patently offensive or intended to shock or disgust viewers" or "content that exploits children in any way".

It seems Active Shooter slipped through the net.