Let’s influence our youth for the better

We all know money is a major motivating factor in what people are willing to do. If people think there is money to be made, they’ll do, well, almost anything. There was a joke about this in the long-running TV series, “Seinfeld.” George says something to Jerry about Elaine turning down an offer of money, to which Jerry replies, “People don’t turn down money. It’s what separates us from the animals.”

Money, you see, had to be the driver behind a Seattle-area company’s school shooting video game that was set to come up in early June. Yes, the game, “Active Shooter,” allows players to re-create school shootings by stalking school hallways and racking up kills.

School shootings are a tragedy. There have been too many of them. Young people have been killed. This is not a game. And, sadly, we likely haven’t seen the last of school shootings. We hope so. But we’ll probably wake up soon to another report of another shooting at a school.

So, one might think, considering the lives lost, the hearts broken and the risks that remain, this would be an area where people would show some respect and sensitivity and not make jokes or a game out of it.

But you would be wrong.

Some folks, confident there was money to be made, came up with Active Shooter, described as a “SWAT simulator” that lets players choose between being an active shooter terrorizing a school or the SWAT team responding to the shooting.

Sounds crazy, right? Who would come up with such a game in today’s world?

Even more crazy, who would want to play such a game? Sadly, a lot of people.

Fortunately, there was enough of an outcry against this game that it was pulled days before it was to be released on the video game marketplace Steam. The Seattle Times reports that an online petition urging Valve to pull the game before its scheduled June 6 release had more than 100,000 signatures.

Valve Corp. as Steam’s parent company said Tuesday that it was removing the computer video game because the developer was a “troll with a history of customer abuse,” according to the Associated Press.

The game was developed by Revived Games, published by Acid and led by a person named Ata Berdiyev, AP reported. Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi says Berdiyev had previously been kicked off the platform under a different business name.

Acid, in its defense, noted that other, more-violent games have been on Steam’s platform, including the 2015 game “Hatred” that involves killing civilians at random, though not in a school setting. What a great name for a game. “Hatred.”

As AP pointed out: The game was to be released about four months after a gunman killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and less than a month after 10 more were killed in a school shooting in Texas. It also comes during a year when survivors of the Parkland shooting revived a debate on gun control that culminated with a global March for Our Lives demonstration.

Now there are those who will argue it’s just a game. What’s the big deal? It’s not real. Stop being so judgmental and let us have our fun. Video games don’t influence real life, they will argue. Maybe. Maybe not.

Acid said in a blog post last week that its game “does not promote any sort of violence, especially any (sort) of a mass shooting.”

And those behind the game included a disclaimer: “Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you.”

That’s good of them.

Ryan Petty, the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High student killed during a shooting at her school in February, called Sunday for the game’s release to be canceled. His daughter Alaina was 14.

“It’s disgusting that Valve Corp. is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country,” Petty, who is running for Broward County School Board, said in a statement. “Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a ‘game.’”

Andrew Pollack, the father of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, who was also killed, said that “sick people” were behind the game’s creation and release and that these kinds of games would desensitize young people to the tragedy that befell his daughter.

“The last thing we need is a simulated training on school shootings,” said Pollack, the founder of the school-safety advocacy group Americans for CLASS. “Video-game designers should think of the influence they hold. This really crosses the line.”

And that is the main point of this, the main point we hope we all take to heart. We should think about the influence we can have on our youth. What are we, adults, telling our youth with our actions and our words — and our games? We can be positive or we can be negative. We may believe youth aren’t paying any attention and don’t care. But they are. And they do.

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