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    Aug 16th, 2009 at 22:26:39     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    I have come to two conclusions about Super Columbine Massacre RPG!:

    1. The game itself is horrendous to play. Just awful.

    2. The game exists in a tradition of socially conscious works of art; it attempts to open up minds to some of the ills of American culture.

    As a game, I find it to be too convoluted and frustrating to play. In multiple instances, I got stuck trying to figure out what I needed to do because the game offers little guidance (I snuck into the school and wandered around the cafeteria for a while until I realized I had to actually interact with the car to grab the bombs). Because of this lack of guidance, it is very easy to just wander around killing random students without internalizing the violence because the lack of clear plot direction leaves the player to his or her own devices. While I felt affected by killing students so much at first I tried my best to avoid them, after wandering around the school without any idea of what to do my reactions to the game morphed from shocked dismay to tedious monotony. For a game that is trying to challenge perceptions about Harris & Klebold, bullying, and high school culture, I feel that it leaves too much up to the player to discover independently. Many of the RPG’s features are only activated if the player finds them, but often times there are no indications or hints that those features even exist (the features range from conversations that really took place during the shooting to flashbacks into the boys’ lives). If the game provided more direction for the player to find and activate all of its features, it would not only make the game more focused, but it would also make it’s message much more compelling. As it is now, they are not mandatory elements of the game‘s plot. As a result, it is very easy to bypass them completely (I did when I played the game. I only found out they existed from reading articles about the RPG); to miss the features is to miss out on crucial details about Harris’s and Klebold’s lives and actions, which are important parts of the RPG’s overall message.

    Super Columbine’s messages are what elevate it from a mere game into art, in my eyes. In recent times, gamers and cultural pundits have debated whether video gaming can be viewed as a valid medium for artistic expression, with games like Shadow of the Colossus for the PS2 being used as successful examples of a videogame’s creative potential. I feel that Super Columbine exists as a different kind of expression; it is a modern day form of protest art, a genre in which art is used with the intention to challenge popular and/or longstanding ideas about the fabric of society itself. Protest art traditionally relies on people's understanding of the symbols it employs. Without that understanding, the art can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Super Columbine falls into the parameters of this genre: the game uses the Columbine massacre as a foundation for critique on the effects of bullying on young people, pop culture’s possible influence on an individual’s psyche, and the role the media plays in how stories are selected and presented to the general public. But at the same time, those elements can easily be misconstrued, especially given the game’s focus on a very sensitive (and recent) tragedy. I don’t believe Super Columbine Massacre RPG intends to make light of the massacre nor the people who have been affected by it. I believe that at its essence, the game endeavors to challenge conventional ideas by grounding its cultural criticisms in a well-known incident, despite its controversial connotations.

    I feel that Super Columbine Massacre RPG! reenacting the massacre as a form of protest art is indeed ethical, although I understand how its controversial nature can be extremely offensive to other people.

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    Aug 15th, 2009 at 17:41:25     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    After spending more time playing Super Columbine, I find its gameplay and story progression to be interesting, to say the least. The game starts off with philosophical quotes appearing on a black screen, the sound of a clock ticking softly and gradually increasing in volume. In a few moments, a knock on a door resounds over the clock ticking, and the screen reads, “Eric, wake up! You’re gonna be late for school.” The black screen clears, revealing the bedroom of Eric Harris and his representative sprite, depicted with a 16-bit graphics and color scheme reminiscent of the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis gaming era’s earlier period. The player, as Harris, takes control of the awakened youth, having the option to interact with objects around the room: a stereo that blares a MIDI version of a rock song when it is switched on; a telephone that starts a phone conversation with accomplice Dylan Klebold; a desk with Luvox pills on it, an antidepressant medication that Harris used in real life; and a PC where Harris picks up the “Doom” P.C. videogame as an item accessory. After the phone conversation with Klebold, the player guides Harris out of his room down to the house’s basement, where Harris accesses a Marilyn Manson CD (another item accessory), two duffel bags to be filled with bombs & weaponry, the schematics for the massacre, a scene rendered from the movie Natural Born Killers (a movie that Harris and Klebold used as inspiration for the massacre), and a video camera that when used triggers a cut scene with Harris and Klebold leaving their last words and acknowledgements (the pictures and dialogue of the boys were taken from the actual video they had made in reality).

    The game’s menu system is interesting in itself. Like most modern RPGs, each item has a short description about its uses or origins. In Super Columbine, however, the descriptions tend to sarcastically quip about Harris’s and Klebold’s lives and/or influences for the massacre. The Luvox medication’s description, for example, states, “[Harris’s] Luvox prescription prevented him from getting into the Marines, but that’s of little consequence at this point, right?” while the Doom game’s description reads, “You scored Doom for the PC. Let the desensitization to violence BEGIN!” Interestingly enough, the game allows the player to “equip” Doom and the Marilyn Manson CD as item accessories that boost the characters’ attack, defense, and accuracy stats. Later on in the game, the boys get all of their weaponry (the game lists every single weapon that they get, all of which the boys really used, included hunting knives, rifles, shotguns, and an assortment of homemade bombs).

    The battle system is similar to other RPGs from the 16-bit generation; the context in which the battles are set is what gives Super Columbine its unnerving quality. The battles mostly take against backdrops created from real pictures taken of Columbine High School. Enemies consist of other students (generic templates like the Nerd Boy/Girl, Preppy Boy/Girl, Jock, Cheerleader, and etc.). In battle, Harris and Dylan have access to all the guns and bombs the game listed, as well as a “Taunt” ability (“We’re gonna blow up the school anyway!!!”) that lowers their enemies’ stats and can paralyze them with fear, causing them to lose their turn in battle. The battles are inescapable; once you start, you have to win or die trying. When Harris and Dylan win one [by killing the student(s)], they shout, “Another victory for the Trench Coat Mafia!” The game reverts back to the regular game mode, where a bloody person lies on the floor in place of a formerly hyperactive sprite running frantically back and forth (there are no random battles in Super Columbine; battles are activated by touching an NPC).

    I feel that the items and the battles themselves are a not-so-subtle critique of the both the massacre and the media attention towards it. I can see how the sarcasm used in the items’ descriptions and the excessive violence can be construed as insensitive by the game’s detractors, especially those who are personally affected by the tragedy’s effects. At the moment, however, I think that the gameplay forcibly puts the player in the killers’ shoes not only to remind him or her of the tragedy but also to inspire thoughts about how the boys were treated, how the U.S. media reacted to it (including a scene with President Bill Clinton acknowledging the massacre as it occurred), and how people responded to it. Did they instantly demonize the boys? Did they try to look at the situation through the boys’ perspectives to try to understand what could have driven them to such abominable levels? Did they only accept what the media reported without researching and interpreting the facts for themselves? Do they know any other young people-at-risk whose cries for help are constantly trivialized and ignored? Personally, I think that I feel so horrified by the gameplay because it thrusts me into committing the violent acts while probing the boys at the same time; the game is an amalgam of psychological analysis and social criticism set against a gory real-life catastrophe. Whether I feel it is ethical for Super Columbine RPG Massacre! to reenact the catastrophe, however, is still to be determined.

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    Aug 14th, 2009 at 14:22:28     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    On April 20, 1999, two high school students’ meticulous planning resulted in what they believed would be their last blaze of glory: a gun massacre/suicide vengeance against the adolescent social mainstream cultures that shunned and ridiculed them. In the small town of Columbine, Colorado, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold achieved the notoriety they craved– they bombed their school, Columbine High School, randomly shooting students and faculty with firearms they purchased (under-aged). Six years later on April 20, 2005, the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! was released. The game is a recreation of the inspirations (the events in Harris’s and Klebold’s lives that pushed them over the edge, including being heavily bullied in school), planning, and execution of the massacre, all from the killers’ perspectives. It includes real-life photos of the school and the boys taken from the media’s coverage of the tragedy and from the internet, and the RPG incorporates some of the actual dialogue Harris and Klebold said from videos and documents the two created. The media itself has a role: broadcast news coverage is interpolated in parts of the RPG.

    I felt a nervous anticipation as I first booted up the game, due to its topic and basic premise. By playing this game, I would be re-enacting an actual disaster: I would directly control Harris and Klebold, and bring about the Columbine High School massacre, while experiencing flashbacks of their personal experiences, whether anguished or nonchalant, dull or disturbing. I can understand the why there are controversies about the game’s existence. Does the game enlightening those who slog through its eerie faithfulness to the Columbine horror, or does it trivialize the pain it caused?

    In other words, is it ethical for Super Columbine Massacre RPG! to depict the actual massacre because it really happened? Does the reality of the game’s storyline automatically make it unethical to be used for a videogame?

    As a gamer, I know that in order to beat Super Columbine I have to do what the plot requires. As a person with a conscience, however, I’m disturbed by the plot itself precisely because it recreates a true story, and if I want to experience the whole story I have to put myself in the boys’ shoes. As I delve more into the game, I hope to come to my own conclusions about its ethics.

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    Jul 27th, 2009 at 00:13:06     -    Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas (PS2)

    I have decided that I will not continue playing this game after finishing my game logs. I feel that stereotyping of Blacks to the degree that GTA: SA does is unwarranted. A few missions involving a certain character have heavily influenced my decision to avoid this game in the future.

    I just completed two missions with a character named Jeffrey, a.k.a. “O.G. Loc”. I activated the first mission through Big Smoke; he wanted me (C.J.) to drive him and Sweet to a prison to pick up the recently released Jeffrey. As I approached the prison, the game cuts to a scene where Jeff stands on the prison’s front steps, wearing jeans and no shirt. His torso is covered in tattoos, and he folds his arms together while cocking his entire upper body (head included) to one side in what would have been classic B-boy pose… if he hadn’t contorted his body so much (he looks like a fool who‘s trying way too hard. C.J. and friends rightfully laugh at him).

    C.J. and friends start talking to Jeff, who admonishes C.J. for not addressing him as O.G. Loc. During this conversation, Smoke says, “Eh, I thought you were going to a college! HA, HA, HA!” Smoke and his friends guffaw raucously.

    (RED FLAG NUMBER ONE! This goes beyond establishing the main characters‘ personalities. How does C.J. and friends mocking O.G. Loc for having college aspirations add to the story or the game‘s atmosphere?)

    While driving O.G. Loc to a Latino’s house (the offender’s name is Freddy) who apparently stole his rhymes, the characters have another convo. C.J. asks what Loc has planned now that he’s out of prison. Loc replies, “Mother fuckers trying to get me a job!”

    Big Smoke mutters, “Mother fuckers always trying to keep a player down.”

    (RED FLAG NUMBER TWO! So having a legit job is undesirable? While on one hand if the main characters value a criminal lifestyle, it would make sense that having a legit job would be shunned. However, coupled with the earlier disparaging remark about college, one can interpret the comment as Black people not valuing an education and the legit opportunities gained from obtaining one.)

    C.J. and O.G. Loc kill Freddy, and C.J. drops Loc off at his job at a burger fast food restaurant. In another mission, Loc asks C.J. to steal a D.J.’s van (after a mini-game where C.J. must prove his dancing abilities) so he can jumpstart his career as a rapper.

    (RED FLAG NUMBER THREE! Seriously, Loc has to be a rapper of all things? It isn’t enough for the game to glorify stereotypes of Black “thugs”, gangs, and hoods, but it also has to include a terrible “rapper” for comic relief. C.J. has to steal for this budding artist, too, a notion that supports another stereotype of rappers (and by association, hip hop) of being inherently immoral.)

    Frankly, I find it not only unethical, but offensive that the developers of GTA: SA chose to include such ideas as character aspects. They already created a game world based on the Black stereotypes that the (white) mainstream fears most, simultaneously playing into that same fear to allow gamers to vicariously live out any “hood” criminal fantasy they may think about. To include more stereotypes that are not vital to the characters or the game universe, like the “college” and “work” comments or the everyday conversations on the streets being almost entirely vulgar or pointless (at least in the beginning portions of the game) is not only unnecessary, but also disrespectful to Black culture and Black individuals. Using act utilitarianism confirms the unethical principles: would exploiting stereotypes for the purpose of entertainment make individuals happy? Perhaps in a different genre of entertainment (like comedy) if the stereotypes are cleverly employed, they can be effective. From what I’ve seen in GTA: SA, I don’t believe the stereotypes (mostly the random NPCs) are incorporated effectively.

    I must consider the possibility that the game’s characters grow and change as the storyline continues. As of now, though, I’m not interested in discovering those possibilities due to my belief that the game's characterizations of Blacks are unethical.

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