Somebody Made an Online Video Game of the Newton Shootings, so That’s Not Great
This is why we can't have nice things.
Today in no-good-horrible-very-bad news, a developer made a video game inspired by the Sandy Hook shootings, and the entire Internet is mad at him. Aw, geez. Really, dude? A video game about murdering a bunch of children who actually died? Great. That’s just wonderful.
The game developer in question is Ryan Jake Lambourn, a 28 year old American guy living in Sydney, Australia. He’s been extremely vocal about his decision to create the game over on his Twitter account, where he’s been arguing with people about the game’s ethics since he first launched it on Newgrounds (wow, that’s still a thing?) on the 16th. The point of the game isn’t to celebrate the shootings, he says — it’s to highlight the importance of gun control.
In the game, the player takes on the role of Adam Lanza and retraces his steps as he shoots his mother and then goes on a rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary. I tried playing it for a few minutes just to get a feel for the point Lambourn was trying to make — admittedly I didn’t get very far into it because the very concept of exploiting a horrific national tragedy just to make a point doesn’t sit so well with me, especially since it hasn’t even been a year since it occurred. However, I’ll also concede that it’s pretty clear Lambourn wants the player to feel uneasy. The graphics depict Lanza not as a person but as a gaunt, hulking shadow against jarring, stylistically-drawn backdrops. It’s not just a simple point and shoot, either — you’re forced to slowly raise the weapon up before shooting Lanza’s mother, for example, and once in the school, you have to make a conscious decision to open each door if you’re going for “historical accuracy.”
“Historical” isn’t the only way to go, of course. There’s also a pretty ridiculous “Eagle Tears” level, in which all the teachers have guns to defend themselves. However, Lambourn rigs it so that the teachers can accidentally hit each other and students, but never the player. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a “gun control” level, in which Lanza doesn’t have access to guns and instead decides to attack others with a sword, which results in less deaths.
In the credits section of the game, Lambourn further explains his intended goal in an audio message. The full transcription can be found over at Armed Gamer, but here’s a highlight:
As much as you might want to blame this entire state of affairs on politicians, or the NRA, you have to remember that your politicians aren’t mind readers and the NRA is not doing anything more than motivating its members to passionately talk to those representatives about their opinions. If you’re a middle of the road person who believes that firearms should at least have the same amount of regulations as a car, then it’s really on you because your absolute apathy is why the news is unbearable to watch.
So I want you to go and click that USA.gov link and find your state governor and find your representatives in Senate and Congress and shoot them an email or a phone call and tell them your opinions on gun control. That’s the least you can do. And if you feel inspired to shake off that apathy then you can bookmark that NRA link. The NRA are kind enough to have a very orderly and up to date list of important gun legislation from around the country so if you want to get involved it’s an extremely useful resource.
Despite his seemingly good intentions, though, Lambourn doesn’t seem to feel a whole lot of remorse for any pain he might have caused those who were actually personally affected by Lanza’s killing spree. You know, because Sandy Hook was a real thing that actually happened to real people only 11 months ago, and not just a political narrative that you can manipulate and reference to your liking.
“I decided it couldnt possibly compare to what they already went through and i didnt [sic] go out of my way to push it on them,” he said on Twitter. “its [sic] a cost-benefit analysis. i judged the potential benefit was greater than the potential damage.” Which, agh, yikes. That’s harsh at best. At worst, it’s kind of self absorbed to believe that your game will make so much of a difference in the world that it will counter such an intense level of human suffering. As long as it’s less intense than that time your child actually got shot in the head, right?
This isn’t Lambourn’s first time pissing off families of gun violence victims, either. In 2007 he also created a game based on the Virginia Tech shootings called V-Tech Rampage, and since then he claims that he’s been “routinely asked by fans of V-Tech” to make more games based on shootings. I’d be kind of curious to know what he means by “fans of V-Tech.” Fans of the game, I guess? Because I imagine that actual fans of the college probably aren’t into reliving that particular story, either.
Newgrounds has already removed the game from their website, which is actually kind of surprising given the horrible stuff we used to see on Newgrounds back in the day when it was still relevant. However, the game is still playable on other parts of the Internet, as evidenced by Lambourn’s website.