One man has created a flash game entitled “The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary,” and in doing so, he has doomed us all.
It is unlikely to cause anyone any physical harm, except perhaps its creator, an Australian-American by the name of Ryan Jake Lambourn. However, it is by far the most offensive game ever made and sure to affect millions of people in some way. The simple flash game that can still be found on two websites has made national news for a reason: it could have some very far reaching consequences.
What do I mean? The game has dealt a blow to American ideals and institutions. How big is yet to be determined, but here are just a few examples of damage:
This is clearly the most obvious one. A video game in which a player must reenact the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings that took place last December in Newtown, Connecticut is just wrong. Plain and simple. I do want to take the time to applaud Tom Fulp, creator of newgrounds.com and a video game developer in his own right, for removing the game from his popular website. In a forum statement found here, Fulp notes that while he is a firm proponent of free speech and gun control, both of which are Lambourn’s stated purpose for the game, he was “choosing respect for the Sandy Hook parents over respect for NG’s (newgrounds.com) censorship policies.”
Most of the statement is right on. Newgrounds has taken a massive amount of heat for hosting unethical or morally wrong content in the past without budging. It has hosted 2 games that deal with the Columbine shootings for years now. I remember seeing one of the games back in like 2010 and thinking “wow, this is really messed up.” But The Slaying of Sandy Hook, which I did track down and play, is just different. Even though the characters are basically just painted squiggles and you know what to expect based on your prior knowledge of the tragedy, it still manages to hit you in all the wrong ways. I am not overly superstitious or dramatic or anything like that, but the game just feels evil. There is just no other way to explain it.
Freedom of Speech
As Fulp hinted, there is a real question of censorship and freedom of speech here. The game is certainly art. It took more skill than I possess to create. I hate its guts, but there is no getting around that. Violent and offensive movies and music are certainly protected, as well as racist and bigoted organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, so this game must be protected. Whether it is or not, Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy want it removed. Scores of legislators and family members of victims have joined them. The creator’s twitter handle is hit regularly with threats and condemnation.
However, none of this actually gets to the heart of the matter. The issue of Free Speech as it pertains to The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary is not whether or not it is protected; it’s whether or not it will lead to the censorship of future games.
A war has been waged for well over a decade against the violence in video games. Crimes have been pinned on video games constantly, and even though studies like this one conducted by the University of Glasgow have found no correlation between video game usage and violent behavior, the issue still finds its way into daily life. Earlier this week, a concerned caller went off about it while I was doing a local radio show on a separate gaming issue. And a game like Sandy Hook could be just the fuel needed to reinvigorate the conflict. Someone who wants to see censorship in video games can take something like this and plaster it on billboards and television completely out of context. It isn’t a product of the video game industry. We gamers know that. It is just some kid trying to stir up trouble and feel popular. But our parents or those outside the gaming sphere may not know the difference between a user-generated flash game and a published title. They just see video games. And a video game like this could result in some hasty decisions made about all games.
Gun control is the stated aim of Lambourn’s game and its predecessor, VTech Rampage, which is pretty self-explanatory. A voice actually tells you about it during Sandy Hook. It notes:
”Back in 2007 I created a game called ‘Vtech Rampage’ about the Virginia Tech shootings. In the years since, I’ve been routinely asked by fans of ‘Vtech’ to make more games of just about every mass shooting that’s gotten media coverage. All these massacres don’t seem to have any … effect on legislation. Here we are nearly a year after the sandy hook shooting … and absolutely nothing positive has come out of it.”
I can almost understand how the message is meant to be conveyed. The game forces you to kill children, so you are meant to say “wow, this is awful, and it really happened. How can we still allow people to own guns after things like this.” But all you really end up saying is “wow, this is awful. I am not going to play this anymore, and I hope this lunatic is eaten by wolverines.” A game this graphic and in such bad taste could NEVER be used in campaigns for gun control. Could you imagine what the press and 2nd amendment supporters would do to someone if they presented this game in a gun control message?
So Lambourn had a stated claim, but in making the game the way he did, his claim will fall on deaf ears even among like-minded individuals. Furthermore, I could see it actually doing damage against the campaign. All it takes is one right-wing talk show host or media outlet to catch hold of this issue, and then it’s “look what has emerged from the gun control camp” or “those liberals are at it again.” And now those pro gun control people have to explain something that they hate equally. The two senators from Connecticut, the parents of the victims and Lambourn could all be lumped in to one camp in the court of public opinion, and you know that the parents and leaders are the MOST opposed to what Lambourn is doing.
In short, the negative publicity generated from such a game heavily outweighs the conveyance of his message. That message is buried by so much negativity that no positives can possibly be found within the game. This image from Lambourn’s official twitter account pretty much says it all:
As a country, we sensationalize things way too much. Criminals, politicians and celebrities act badly, and in doing so, receive the attention they crave from 24-hour media coverage. I realize that this is exactly what I am doing with this article. Ryan Lambourn is a troll of the highest order, and this type of negative publicity is what feeds him. He is nourished by it. I understand that, but I also have a duty to inform readers of issues in the video game world that are worth attention. This is certainly such an issue. I also have so many negative emotions flowing from playing such a horrible game that I feel the need to vent some of them (but not all, as they contain a lot of four letter words). If you are curious like I was, you will be able to find the game somewhere. However, I would really recommend that you don’t. My sincerest hope is that people become aware of this issue and learn from it.
Originally posted to Corrupted Cartridge