A video game depicting the Columbine High School massacre was recently pulled from an alternative film festival.
The key sponsor from the University of Southern California has in protest withdrawn its support of the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Six video game makers have also pulled their entries from the film festival.
The creator of Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, Danny Ledonne of Alamosa, Colo., said he believed the game would spark serious discussion about the shootings.
“I had the same kinds of issues in high school that the two shooters did and I just dealt with it differently, fortunately,” Ledonne said Friday, according to the Associated Press.
The controversial game depicts cartoon graphics and photos of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and some of their writings. The game players take the place of Harris and Klebold, who killed 13 people and committed suicide in April 1999 at the school near Denver.
Ledonne said Slamdance contacted him about entering his game in the competition, but “didn’t have the courage of their convictions to stand behind.”
The University of Southern California’s Interactive Media Division planned to offer summer fellowship to the winners but withdrew the sponsorship. Assistant Professor Tracy Fullerton said Friday she viewed it as a fundamental issue of freedom of expression.
Slamdance Film Festival co-founder and president Peter Baxter, however, said organizers couldn’t justify keeping Super Columbine Massacre RPG! in the competition.
“I spoke to people who are still suffering very much from Columbine,” said Baxter, according to AP. “Some things are more important than one game or a festival.”
Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., sparked increasing debates over gun violence as well as the role of violent movies and video games in American society.
The two teenage shooters killed 12 fellow students and a teacher, and wounded 24 others, before committing suicide. The shooting is considered to be the deadliest school shooting and the second deadliest attack on a school in the United States history.
"The game does not glorify school shootings," game creator Ledonne told The Washington Post. "If you make it far enough into the game, you see very graphic photos of Eric and Dylan lying dead.”
Speculation continues regarding the impact of the video game in the September 2006 Dawson college tragedy in which 25 year-old Kimveer Gill, dressed in a trench coat and sporting a mohawk, went on a shooting rampage.