In May 2018, survivors of the Parkland school shooting massacre, and many others both on and off social media, responded with horror at reports of a video game in which players could assume the role of a school shooter.
Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, called the game (which is titled Active Shooter) “disgusting” in a tweet and urged others to sign a petition calling for the game not to be released. (The online petition garnered almost 100,000 signatures within four days.)
Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting rampage, accused Valve Corporation (the Bellevue, Washington, company that runs the Steam platform on which the game would be distributed and run) of “trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country” and also called the game “disgusting.”
The game was indeed real: it was published by a Russian company called Acid and developed by Revived Games (featuring games such as Furry, Tyde Pod Challenge, and White Power: Pure Voltage. which carries the following description: “The Underworld is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human species world. It contains the same parts of the Universe as humanity does, but much more in a darker, colder and hostile manner.”)
Active Shooter‘ s descriptive entry on Steam’s web site read as follows:
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.
A video preview of the game showed a shooter armed with a rifle, handgun, and knife stalking the classrooms and corridors of a school, shooting at both police and civilians while a “kill counter” shows the number of “cops” and “civ” (civilians) the player had murdered. Every civilian shown in the preview video appeared to be female:
In a difficult-to-follow post on May 23, 2018, the game’s publisher claimed that Active Shooter “does not promote any sort of violence, especially any soft [sic] of a mass shooting.” The publisher went on to note that the game will probably not allow players to assume the role of the shooter by the time the game is released:
After receiving such high amount of critics and hate, I will more likely remove the shooters role in this game by the release, unless if it can be kept as it is right now.
We asked Valve Corporation whether Active Shooter would still be released on June 6, 2018, and if so, whether it would still feature the shooter mode. We did not receive a response to our query, but shortly afterwards we noticed that Acid’s games were no longer listed among Steam’s offerings.
Subsequently, the gaming news web site PC Gamer reported that both the publisher and developer of the game — Acid and Revived Games — had been removed from the Steam platform. PC Gamer quoted what it called a “Valve rep” as saying that the publisher and developer were the same person:
This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc]Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team’.
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.
In mid-June, Acid announced plans to offer Active Shooter for purchase via its own platform. On June 26, they posted a notice to that effect on the Steam community board, noting that Active Shooter had been renamed Standoff. As of September 2019, Active Shooter was still listed among Acid’s offerings and a sequel, Standoff: Lockdown, was also available for sale.