The game “Active Shooter”, self-described as a school shooting simulator, has been removed from the Steam store ahead of release.
Although the game was never released, its Steam Store page sheds a bit of light on what exactly consumers would be contending with:
“Pick your role, gear up, and fight or destroy! Be the good guy or the bad guy. The choice is yours! Only in “Active Shooter” you will be able to pick the role of an Elite S.W.A.T. Member or the actual shooter. Lead your team, extract civilians, and neutralize the shooter.”
The game would allow players to choose one of three roles: A S.W.A.T. member, a civilian, or the school shooter. According to the game’s developer, the project began as a much less polarizing activity – a S.W.A.T. simulator – until a later update added in the ability to play as the shooter and track how many civilians or police officers you’ve brought down.
According to a recently-published BBC News article, the game was pulled due to the developer’s “history of bad behavior”, a claim the developer in question has denied. The developer, a man by the name of Ata Berdiyev, had previously worked under the names of two other companies: [bc]interactive and Elusive Team. The “bad behavior” side of things comes into play with a move by [bc]interactive: The release of a game titled Piccled Ricc, which did not associate itself legally with Rick and Morty, and thus was taken off of Steam due to obvious legal and copyright issues.
The removal followed the game and its nature gaining a significant amount of negative attention on social media. Angry parents of school shooting victims called the game a “disgrace” and demanded it be removed from the marketplace.
Alberto Carvalho, educator and superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, released a tweet that publicly called out Valve for listing the game on its marketplace and Apple, a partner of Valve, for supporting a game that is “an insult to decency”.
After the tweet, Valve released a statement addressing its actions:
“Ata is a troll, 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.”
Steam also stated that they would soon be moving to address the broader aspects of its content policy.
Prior to the game’s removal, the developer tried his best to stay ahead of public outcry, doing everything from editing the game’s summary text to exclude a line about killing as many civilians as possible or deleting a previous message that hinted at a planned addition of NPCs modeled after children for shooter players to attack and kill. He has also claimed that the media has been playing him and the game in a negative light and that his game is being unfairly targeted among other similar titles.
While none of these actions stopped the title’s removal, that last statement does hold true. Other games present on Steam today, such as POSTAL, Carmageddon and Hatred allow players to take control of psychotic murders and slaughter innocent people.
Hatred, in particular, received similar negative outcries to Active Shooter in the months leading up to its 2015 release. Hatred puts players in control of a furious man armed with an assault rifle and allows them to go on seemingly unprovoked shooting sprees around suburban America. The game often begins with the player walking around the town undetected, where they can begin their spree by breaking into a neighbor’s house and shooting everyone inside. Eventually, cops arrive to the scene, and the player must evade or kill them to survive.
While its unlikely that Steam will retroactively remove the aforementioned games from the store once it finishes ironing out whatever “content policy” it plans to address, angered parents and victims can breathe a sigh of relief with the removal of “Active Shooter”. One can only hope that future games looking to cross into such aggressively controversial territory will learn from its mistakes.