Shock, Anger Over Columbine Video Game
Saturday, May 20, 2006
For a little more than a year, the online game "Super Columbine Massacre RPG!" and its creator have been sailing the Internet underground.
But some popular Web sites devoted to gaming began blogging about it this month. And it's no surprise that the game, based on the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., now is generating controversy.
For it's one thing to have a documentary ("Bowling for Columbine"), a movie ("Elephant") and several books ("No Easy Answers," "Day of Reckoning") about that dark day, but it's quite another to have a game.
"There's a video game?" asked a shocked Linda Sanders, widow of William "Dave" Sanders, a teacher slain that day. "On what happened?"
She was too distraught to keep talking.
The game's creator had insisted on maintaining his anonymity until a friend of one of the victims discovered his name and posted it on the game's site this week.
"It was just a matter of time," said Danny Ledonne, 24, the game's designer. Until Thursday, he had identified himself only as "Columbin" in the few news reports on the game.
The game has been available online since April 20, 2005, the sixth anniversary of the deadliest school violence in U.S. history. (Fifteen people died and numerous others were injured.) Ledonne said he made the game partly as an "indictment of our society at large" and partly because he was "a misfit," "a loner" and "a bullied kid" in high school, much the way Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two students responsible for Columbine, were characterized.
Ledonne, who grew up in Alamosa, Colo., a rural burg four hours south of Littleton, said he anticipated a negative response to the game, hence his effort to remain anonymous. He cared about the reaction of the victims' families, he said, but also believes they do not "own the opinion" on Columbine.
Ledonne admits that the site is not "a very good game." Harris and Klebold, fans of the gory game "Doom," probably wouldn't think much of it.
It's a 2-D game with tiny, cartoonish pixies and the look of a 1980s Nintendo title. It's not especially bloody. ("Not what gamers are expecting," he said.) It can take nearly five hours to play. In the first half, one plays as Harris, then later as Klebold. Armed with a Tec-9 semiautomatic, the player can move from the cafeteria, down the hallways, up the stairs, then to the library. The player decides whether to kill. In the end, players learn there's really no way to win.
The game, which is free but asks for a $1 donation to keep the site operating, has been downloaded nearly 40,000 times since it was posted last year, Ledonne said. More than 30,000 occurred this month, he said. It was downloaded so many times Wednesday -- more than 8,000 -- that its server temporarily crashed.