Mass Shootings

Steam Pulls Video Game Active Shooter—and Permanently Bans the Developer

The virtual school simulator would have allowed players to play as either "the good guy or the bad guy."


Dmitri Maruta/

Say farewell to Active Shooter. The video game, which was to be released on June 6, was going to offer players a chance to shoot up a (virtual) school. But last night the online game store Steam pulled it from its platform and permenantly banned the game's publisher, the Russian company Acid, following intense anger and disgust from pretty much every corner of the internet.

Acid's cheery promotion of its controversial title was bound to ruffle more than a few feathers. "Be the good guy or the bad guy. The choice is yours!" read the game's description, which stressed that gamers could play either the shooter or a police officer in this "dynamic SWAT simulator." Typical stuff for Acid, which has had a number of poorly reviewed, trollishly titled games on Steam, all of which have now been removed. (Sample title: Tyde Pod Challenge.)

Neither Acid's obscurity nor its request that people "not take any of this seriously" endeared people to Active Shooter.

"I have seen and heard many horrific things over the past few months since my daughter was the victim of a school shooting and is now dead in real life. This game may be one of the worst," tweeted Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter died in the Parkland massacre. "Everyone that cares about school & public safety should be OUTRAGED," tweeted Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin, who launched a petition demanding that Valve—who owns Steam—shelve the game.

Elected officials on both sides of the aisle were quick to weigh in. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, whose state experienced its own mass shooting earlier this month, sent a letter to Valve asking that the game be pulled. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) called the game "inexcusable."

Games of this type are hardly unprecedented. Indeed, trollish releases mocking obscenely violent or horrific historical events are almost as old as the video game industry itself.

Take the 1982 release Custer's Revenge. Later renamed Westward Ho, the primitive side-scroller puts the player in the shoes of a naked, visibly aroused General Custer who must dodge arrows in an attempt to get to the other side of the screen where awaits a ready and unwilling Native American woman. Charming.

Then there's the 2004 game JFK Reloaded, a "historical simulation" that lets you relive the Kennedy assassination from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Indeed, Active shooter is not even the first school shooting simulator. That honor, as far as I can tell, goes to 2005's Super Columbine Massacre RPG, where you play one of two perpetrators of the Columbine massacre.

Even some mainstream games give players the chance to commit acts of terroristic violence. The second installment of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has a playable (albeit skippable) level where players massacre unarmed civilians in a Russian airport. The Grand Theft Auto franchise gives you any number of opportunities to run over, mow down, stab, beat, burn, or blow up a whole city just going about its day.

So tasteless video game violence isn't new, and it is not even obviously getting worse. If anything, games have maintained a steady amount of obscenity while society as a whole has gotten safer.

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  1. …gamers could play either the shooter or a police officer in this “dynamic SWAT simulator.”

    What gamer would want to play the latter? Just standing around outside listening to the carnage.

    1. Although the virtual pension from early virtual retirement I hear is pretty nice.

      1. Turns into a fun survival game when you retire to virtual Florida and have to fight off waves of virtual mosquitos.

        1. And avoid drunk seniors driving erratically in their golf carts on the way home from a late night booty call.

        2. In South Florida, no one can hear you scream. Not with all the pythons.

      2. .Just standing around outside listening to the carnage.

        That would have been awesome if they had made that an achievement. E.g., if you stand around outside and wait for the shooter to run out ammo before doing anything you get the Early Retirement achievement. Guess we’ll never know if they went there.

  2. Somewhat on-topic: A gamer friend showed me his copy of an RPG book called Carcosa which was banned from the game site BoardGameGeek after receiving complaints.

    The game is set on a Lovecraftian alien planet where player characters use sex magick, psychotropic drugs, and obscene rituals to cast spells.

    It was a fun read but I was hoping it had better images inside the book.

    1. At least it’s not FATAL.

      1. Has anyone actually played FATAL? I’ve heard so much about it, but never met anyone who has actually played the thing.

    2. Nothing you named seems too far gone in RPGs. Why did people complain?

      1. There was no LARPing extension available.

        1. A lot of sacrificing children for the unholy rituals and spell casting in the book – some had to be virgins while others deflowered. Torture and other blood-letting while imbibing hallucinogens.

          1. -Singing- ‘These are a few of my favorite things…’

    3. >>>sex magick, psychotropic drugs


  3. Guys, why did you let Hihn out? Now he’s bothering VC under a new name.

    1. Guess someone forgot to put the gimp back in his box.

  4. So they couldn’t even come up with an interesting “good guy” pov, like a student that has to run out to his car and fetch a gun. Lame

    1. It’s a lazy cash in game, basically.

      1. From what I’ve seen, that’s 90% of the games that are made over in Russia. Cheap knock off’s and rip off’s of other more successful titles only with a fucked up slant.

        I think the one major success story of a Russian gaming company was World of Tanks, and that shit has gotten way out of hand with successive bizarre attempts to repeat that winning formulae. There could be others, but that’s the one that springs to mind.

        1. And random indie games have been very cool.

        2. Can’t think of any others either but I can’t be sure because of the annexation of the Crimea; Metro and Stalker are Ukrainian games.

          1. The first one is probably so obvious and ubiquitous at this point that we forget it, but Tetris is Russian. Not an indie game, but Russian.

            Pathologic was a really cool Russian game. Might be more, but it’s not a super deep-well and they tend to be quite odd when they do come out.

  5. Steam pulled it from its platform and permenantly banned the game’s publisher, the Russian company Acid

    Man, what’s the deal with these fucking Russian trolls? They seem to be everywhere. What are they? A bunch of fucking nihilists?

    1. All nihilists are German. It is known.

    2. “Say what you will about the National Socialists, Dude, but at least it’s an ethos…”

  6. Police Quest: SWAT 2 (Sierra, 1998) was a tactical game that allowed players to be either cops or terrorists. I see it’s still on Steam.

    1. Is COD: MW2 and it’s airport mission still on sale?

  7. “Everyone that cares about school & public safety should be OUTRAGED,” tweeted Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin, who launched a petition demanding that Valve?who owns Steam?shelve the game.

    It is so exhausting and confusing to keep switching my outrage on and off. Can I just remain in a permanent state of outrage about everything?

    If you want a vision of the future, Winston, picture a human mouth in a perpetual scream.

    1. Turns out Edvard Munch knew what he was painting about…

      And that’s my art history joke for the day.

      1. I was thinking of the mouth from the Morton Downey Jr. show. Now THAT was entertainment!

  8. “Everyone that cares about school & public safety should be OUTRAGED,”

    What they should’ve done is made a prequel or a mini- pre-game where you foist anxiety, anguish, and guilt on random listeners and passers-by until they snap and shoot up a school or office building.

    1. I want a game where I can trigger 3rd wave feminists and other PC fanatics. different levels “complain to friend, complain on tumblr blog, cut self… “

  9. So a private game distributor refuses to distribute a private game. What the problem?

    1. I don’t think the author of the article claimed there is a problem.

  10. We are so damn sensitive these days. Carmageddon, Redneck Rampage, Leasure Suit Larry, etc., could never get made or enjoyed for their over-the-top escapist fun.

    1. Considering the last Leisure Suit Larry, perhaps we are blessed that it’s gone.

    2. “get made” is different from “distributed by Steam”. You can always host your own store and sell/distribute the software that way. It’s just not as easy.

  11. Paging Barbara Streisand.

  12. Was there a zombie mode?

  13. As I recall, the first first-person shooter was Doom. It launched in 1993.

    Coincidentally, 1993 was the peak year for criminal violence in the U.S. It’s been dropping ever since.

    So while that correlation does not prove that videogaming becoming pervasive has reduced violent crime, it does prove that the spread of violent videogames has not led to a flood of violence. Because there isn’t one.

    Well, except on the 10 p.m. News, and in government imagination.

    1. It’s contentious saying who was first for a genre. But at the very least Wolfenstein 3d, also by ID, predates Doom.

      1. Get back to your basement, you maladjusted lolbertarian nerd. Nobody wants to hear you drone about your childish hobbies, immature politics, and noisy music.

      2. Yeah, it’s hard to get more primitive while still retaining the ‘FPS’ classification than Battlezone or Maze Wars. Not that you’d play those games and think “This is like Doom!” but they were first-person shooting games and beat Doom by at least a decade or two.

        1. For that matter, why isn’t Asteroids considered a first person shooter?

      3. What about Duck Hunt?

        1. Duck Hunt can reasonably be called a game that uses a “first person” perspective in which the player is a “shooter” of game. But it cannot reasonably be called a member of the “first person shooter” genre.

          English language, amiright?

          1. “First person, shooter”

            1. “Invite the strippers, Stalin, and Lenin” vs. “Invite the strippers, Stalin and Lenin”.

              English language, amiright?

    2. You recall incorrectly. It wasn’t even the 1st FPS from that same company. It wasn’t even the first big FPS, that was Castle Wolfenstein.

  14. I didn’t care when Russians ruined politics because they were already ruined but if this shit causes a crack down that many are looking for (see Red Dead 2 or Kingdom Come controversy) in this country I will advocate the nuclear destruction of Russia (JK). But it is brilliant if they want us to sanction a billion dollar USA industry because of some shitty trolling on their part.

  15. What annoys me is that a lot of people that are fine with games like CoD, Battlefield, CounterStrike, Metal of Honor (Is that still a thing?) get butthurt over these intentionally offensive and shitty games. Moralfags are the worst.
    Also shame on you Britches for not mentioning the “Postal” series–or hell–even the relatively recent “Hatred” controversy.

  16. And yet Valve continues to ignore my petition on behalf of cubicle drones everywhere to take Counter-Strike and the loathsome cs_Office off their platform.

    1. But office drones use that map and game to blow off Steam. (I’ll be here all week.)

  17. Christ I hate the term “active shooter”. If one is shooting, does that not imply one is active? Can one be an “inactive shooter”? Or an “active non-shooter”?

    1. Can one be an “inactive shooter”? Or an “active non-shooter”?

      Uh… yeah. If you stop raping only to move between victims, do you stop being a rapist? If you hop out of the driver’s seat to pump gas and hop back in the driver’s seat did you stop being the driver? A shooter who hasn’t been neutralized or fled the scene or run out of ammo or whatever is actively shooting people and running out of ammo and/or putting the gun down doesn’t automatically render them “not a/the shooter”.

    2. It’s a useful term for police or others directly involved in response to a shooting, as mad.casual explains. But I share some of your annoyance at how it has crept into public consciousness.

      1. My greater loathe is ‘first responder’ as opposed to ’emergency personnel’ or similar. Something like 40-60% of these incidents that aren’t resolved by the shooters themselves are resolved by people already on the scene before police get there. So… zeroth responders? People at the scene weren’t responding to being shot at until the cops got there? Talk about dehumanizing/blaming the victim(s).

    3. Passive shooter?

  18. Don’t forget the first famous violent video game, from 1976, Death Race, in glorious black and white.

    1. I’ve mentioned this before: that arcade game showed up in the carny arcade tent at the county fair in NW Minnesota in the late 70s, back when the hysteria around it peaked.

    2. Amusingly, the only one where I lived was in a drug store.

  19. When did Reason first start covering companies addressing the concerns of their customers as if that were somehow a First Amendment violation.

    Roseanne cancelled
    NFL rule against dissing the anthem
    Now this?

    Third story on the front page that seems to do this!


    Anybody else remember when Reason knew the difference between free speech and bullshit?

    Remember “Draw Mohamed Day”?

  20. This inspired me to look up the old computer game, “Postal“.

    BTW, it’s available on Steam!

    1. Postal is a classic. ^^

  21. I finished Super Columbine High School Massacre two times or so. =-D

  22. As I pointed out on facebook. Over the past few years, Valve has taken a mostly hands off approach to curation. For the most part their rules are pretty lax compared to most storefronts.

    They’ve only really banned or threatened to ban games on a few occasions. This list is not intended to be exhaustive. These are just the ones that I know about, so there could be some more.

    For instance, they banned the developer Digital Homicide and their games. It wasn’t because their games were asset flips or were shitty games. No, they banned Digital Homicide because Digital Homicide couldn’t handle criticism. Digital Homicide tried suing Jim Sterling over his negative review of their games. But really, what got them banned was when they wanted to sue Steam users themselves for giving negative reviews. They tried to subpoena Valve for these users details. And in doing so, they pissed off valve. Nobody misses Digital Homicide.

    They banned Hatred temporarily. Gabe Newell however removed the ban. Hatred was a controversial game, however, most realized that the media attention toward it was overblown, it wasn’t any worse than say GTA. It faded into obscurity to some degree when people realized the game was mostly mediocre. It’s not a bad game, but it definitely benefited from the controversy.


    1. They banned a game called The Key to Home, due to miscommunication with the devs. Valve assumed the game’s content was intended for pedophiles, though the dev insists the exact opposite. Whatever the case, it was rated all-ages in Japan.

      A few months ago, they removed the store page for A Kiss for the Petals – Maidens of Michael, a yuri visual novel. A user going by the name of Hamburger claimed he reported the game. While the community pages for the game were not removed, the store page has still not been restored.

      A couple of weeks ago Valve sent out emails to several developers of “ecchi” games. Games that feature some sexual themes or content, but are not pornographic. Some of the emails told devs to censor their games within two weeks or their games would be removed, others were just told they would be removed outright. Problem is that these games really didn’t have much left to cut out, At most some showed bare breasts, but there are games on steam that feature genitals or sex scenes.

      What’s more is that some of these devs worked closely with Valve to ensure that their games were within the TOS of steam. Valve made it clear that they were okay with ecchi games. This change of heart worried developers and users. The next day, Valve sent emails telling these devs to disregard the previous emails.


      1. It seems as if these games are safe for now. That said, it got some developers to start publishing games on GOG, a competing storefront dedicated to it’s no DRM stance. They realize that they can’t take another chance of Valve just suddenly removing their games on a whim with no official change in TOS. And especially since Maidens of Michael has still not been restored and Valve isn’t returning their emails.

        And here we come to this game. This game was coming out at basically the worst time possible. There was a possibility that perhaps the developer was trying to say something with this game, sort of like that time somebody managed to get a game on steam where you literally watch paint dry. But no, this developer made the game purely for shock value. In fact, all of his games are built around shock value with practically no effort put into it. And most gamers have long gotten tired of these asset flips.

        What’s more is that developers have also gotten tired because this saturation of shitty asset flips has managed to hurt sales of the good indie games. It’s so bad that many devs have mentioned doing better on the Vita, a dying (or to some people, an outright dead) handheld. Clearly, something needs to be done about this, because it’s costing devs money, it’s costing Valve money, and it’s driving away steam users who are tired of wading through so much crap to get to the good games.


        1. Add that this game is outright offensive to even most gamers. This isn’t like GTA where the negative attention comes mostly from the media. This game was getting a lot of negative attention from gamers as well. Gamers are tired of these kind of games giving games in general a bad name. Unlike some of those games you mentioned which may have been somewhat in bad taste, you can tell this is on a whole other level.

          Those have some bad taste, but this is outright tasteless. I’m not sure why Valve is suddenly the bad guy here, this game would not make it on any other platform. See if GOG would take it. Or Origin, or Uplay, or microsoft for the WIn 10 store. Or see if any of the console devs would take it.

          It’s only real chance outside of publishing on it’s own store or some obscure web store was Steam. And in the end, it wasn’t even the content that got it banned on there. The developer had previously been banned on Steam for violating their TOS. He tried skirting around their ban by going by a different name. Furthermore he was an outright troll. Maybe it was the controversy or maybe it was his behavior that tipped Valve off to investigate, but the point is that he was ultimately banned because he was previously banned.


          1. Again, we’re talking about the company that lets all sorts of terrible shit on their store. A lot of people want to make it out to be censorship with Valve suddenly enemy number one. It sounds a lot like SJW nonsense, where no matter how much you pander, one mistake and you’re through. They allowed Hatred. They allow the Postal series.

            They allow all sorts of offensive material on their store. There’s a game where the goal of the game is to kill yourself. They allowed super seducer, a game where you are taught how to manipulate women into having sex with you. You’d have a hard time counting all of the stuff they allow on their store that would not pass anywhere else.

            Are they perfect? No. that developers were worried that Valve had taken a stance against anime games is proof enough of that. But in terms of violence, it’s pretty clear that there’s really not much to be afraid of as a dev. Don’t violate their TOS or try to sign back up after being banned (or do anything to get caught if you do so).

            Continued… (I swear just one more part)

            1. Personally, I have no actual issue with his games existing or being on steam. As a gamer I don’t want it to hurt devs I care about. But as far as content goes, if it’s not for me, I won’t buy or play it. But there is a lot of shit on steam and something needs to be done.

              Before there was a lot of crap due to Steam Greenlight, but the crap stayed on Greenlight. Now a days due to Valve shelving Greenlight and introducing Steam Direct where devs can just pay a small flat fee, all of the crap has poured onto the main store and users are left utterly covered in it.

              If it were me, I’d keep the direct system, but put these games in their own section like how Greenlight was. If enough people buy and like it, it can be moved, or the dev could pay a larger fee and have it properly curated. But as it is, there’s practically 0 quality control. At one point there was even a game sold without it’s main executable file. So after paying, the game was literally unplayable. Of course, even after that was fixed, it’s still pretty much unplayable. The kind of shit that gets allowed makes console shovelware look like masterpieces.

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