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    Feb 21st, 2010 at 23:39:24     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    Traveling south of the parking lot, I reached a cliff that overlooked the city. To the far right stood Dylan solemnly watching civilization. When Eric nears, the two have a conversation about the atrocity they are about to commit, and how it couldn't be any other way, and how it must be done. Afterwards, the two distribute the weapons in the duffle bags and wait for the bombs to explode. However, a hitch appears in the plan as the bombs fail to detonate and Eric and Dylan are forced to proceed with their objective by starting the massive slaughter themselves. Thus the player begins to massacre the entire Columbine student body.
    "Speaking of which, we've got to arm ourselves to the fucking teeth and kill as many shitheads as we can today," claims Dylan right before the duo split the armory in the bags. Inside the duffle bags are a parade of various illegal weaponry and firearms, in which how they managed to establish such an arsenal of destruction without someone noticing is beyond me. Inside is sawed off shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, a parade of knives, Co2 bombs, napalm bombs, pipe bombs, small propane bombs, the works. The player really has to question, what was the intent of the developer by showing us every single weapon used in the boy's operation? Surely for simplistic gameplay purposes a few armaments would have sufficed, but instead the player is equipped as a one man army. Why did the developer feel it necessary to add this element? For realism? For authenticity? Was the developer just trying to get the message across that this massacre was indeed horrific? Whatever the case, I believe the term "overkill" is rather appropriate in describing the boy's weapon selection. A few pistols would have certainly been good enough in the face of unarmed schoolchildren. To be angry enough to wage a full on war against a public high school must really mean the boys were either extremely psychotic, or traumatically bullied by the student body. Either way, it is a curious addition to the game.
    Stemming off of the boy's weapon load out, comes the confrontations that occur soon afterwards. After the bombs fail to explode the boys decide to continue carrying out their mission by starting to massacre the student body themselves. The battle system is that of a traditional RPG, in which the player must run into one of the unsuspecting students and trigger a battle sequence. Once the battle has begun, the player is granted a menu from which to decide a plan of attack. The player can either use a melee attack, or use one of their guns to attack the opposition. The melee attack is nowhere near as effective as the duo's arsenal, so naturally the player will probably lean on the side of, no pun intended, sticking to their guns. What's so puzzling about this battle system is the difficulty, or rather lack thereof. Due to the powerful damage Eric's and Dylan's weapons cause, the "enemy" usually doesn't even have a chance to counterattack. In fact, even if you don't kill them on the first turn by resorting to a melee attack, aside from the "Jock" enemy, the opposition doesn't even retaliate. Even more astounding is the inclusion of an "auto play" option, in which the battle plays itself out by the boys typically resorting to their armory to finish off the "enemy" in one turn. The triviality of this combat system is perplexing. Why add it if it's not even worthy of a challenge? Sure, in reality the students probably ran for their lives instead of staging a fight, but couldn't the developer have inserted a fleeing mechanic for the AI in the game? After all, a normal human being wouldn't just stand around as they are being gunned down to a bloody pulp. Although part of the "joy" of the battle system would be lost if your opponents just kept fleeing, at least it would have made more sense authentically in recreating the massacre. Nevertheless, shrugging aside this aspect of the battle protocol, it wasn't very much fun gameplay wise when your opponents were so easily mowed down by your tools of terror. What I believe was the game developers intent, was to show how cruel and horrifying it was for the victims of the massacre. As Super Columbine Massacre RPG! illustrated, the opposition to Eric's and Dylan's rampage stood little to no chance against the power of the duo's masochistic arsenal. Perhaps all they could do was stand in fear as they witnessed their lives flash right before their eyes.
    Something else I also noticed about the "enemies" roaming the parking lot was their names. Depending on their appearance, the children running around the school parking lot were granted titles based on the groups they belonged to. For instance, there was the "Goody Goody Girl," the "Jock," the "Nerdy Girl," the "Popular girl," the "Church girl," etc. Unsurprisingly, out of all these "enemy types" the only one that actually managed to fight back was the "Jock." Curiously though, he only managed to do minimal damage to Eric and Dylan, showing that even the mighty athletes didn't stand a chance against our "protagonists." Again, it becomes rather odd on why the developer decided to implement this enemy class system into the game, when any other generic name for the schoolchildren would have sufficed. This classification of stereotypical teens certainly brings up a plethora of questions. Could teens simply be classified so easily based upon their likes, looks, and interests? Not to mention the fact I didn't even notice one non-Caucasian walking around the parking lot, it hardly seemed fair for the developer to do so. Although I obviously never attended Columbine High School, I find it hard to believe that the teenagers attending the public school could be so easily categorized into these stereotypes. Civilized society is certainly well aware of the fact that people can be both physically and mentally fit instead of one or the other. Also, as I believe to have some sense of truth, did the developer implement these stereotypes so as to exemplify the kind of "shitheads" the boys believed they needed to wage war against? In the boy's eyes, were these the kind of people who were the source of all of society's problems? In Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, it seems that every aspect of the game's mechanics involved some sort of representation to the real life massacre. From the weapon selection, to the classification of enemies, Super Columbine seems rich with meaningful symbolism, for better or for worse.
    Although it's hard to call the RPG "fun," it does certainly bring a lot of questions to mind about the creation of responsible games, the amount of influence the media can hold over a person, etc. Even though Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is classified as a game, I would say that I was more morally challenged rather than intellectually or skillfully, both by contemplating Eric's and Dylan's actions as well as the ones I myself executed. If it was the developers intent to educate, rather than entertain, than I believe it's safe to presume mission accomplished.

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    Feb 20th, 2010 at 23:45:45     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    I began the game where I last left off, in Eric's basement. Having finished accumulating supplies and exploring the room, I managed to make my way upstairs and headed south towards the house's exit. Once the player exits the house we are granted a cutscene in which we are shown the two boys driving to school and listening to music from the industrial rock group KMFDM. At the school the player is finally granted some real gameplay, in which the player has to traverse a sea of students and security cameras to reach the lunchroom. Once there the player is charged with planting two propane tanks under two lunch tables and prepare to set them off. Before I had played my second playthrough of Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, I had checked out someone else's' gamelog about the game, and it was thanks to their heads up that I knew to walk under the cameras throughout the school's hallways, so thanks to whoever they were. Still, I did manage to fail quite a few times when trying to reach the cafeteria due to careless mistakes while thinking that traversing through this segment of the game would be a cake walk. Finally though, I had managed to make it to the lunchroom, but I had trouble finding the second table unto which I was supposed to plant the second makeshift bomb. After having to look up the answer online, I was finally able to realize that there were two separate sets of vending machines, rather I had thought I was supposed to plant them both on the far left side of the cafeteria. Finally, after many fruitless attempts, I was able to complete the objective and was instructed by Dylan to retread back to the car and gear up for the mission ahead. Once making my way back outside to the parking lot, I took the duffle bags from the trunk. This is where my second playthrough ended.
    "Don't you pussy out on me. This is our finest fucking hour," Dylan cries if the player attempts to get back into the car the two boys rode in on. Although initially I was just exploring around the parking lot, I happened to press the action command while facing the car door just to see what would happen, and this small excerpt popped up. It left me thinking on why the developer included this small statement into the gameplay, even though it wasn't necessary in the slightest. I decided to analyze the context of the quotes, and asked myself " would Eric really be a pussy if he up and left at that moment?" "Would this massacre they were about to commit truly be their 'finest fucking hour'"?
    In questioning the first statement, I think it would be rather the opposite of Eric being a pussy if he had walked away from this makeshift operation. After all, isn't collapsing to peer pressure considered cowardly, an anti-virtue? Wouldn't it be more courageous to have walked away from carrying out a bloody revenge scheme? Or, on the other hand, was Dylan correct by calling Eric a pussy if he had walked away. Wouldn't it take courage to exact cold blooded murder upon those who had wronged you in life? However, the previous statement sounds more like the train of thought coming from a terrorist, and, in our Western culture at least, being branded a terrorist is not exactly something to cheer about. Rather, Western civilization views terrorism as cowardly, cruel, cold hearted, and other non-virtuous adjectives. On the other hand, how would these boys be viewed by, say, extreme Muslim radicals? Would the duo's actions be highly regarded by these extremists? This would lead in thought to Dylan's second statement, of the massacre being their "finest fucking hour." The American public truly didn't think this was the boy's finest hour, as thousands stood in shock and horror over seeing and hearing what the two boys had done. Still, how would the Muslim radicals view this moment? Many of their men carry out gory suicidal jihads, yet they are lauded by fellow like minded members as heroes to the people of Islam. Obviously, thought, they don't speak for all Muslims of the Arab world. Still, it's, if nothing else, food for thought.
    Something that had caught my attention when entering the school was the abundance of hall monitors and security cameras. Although it is well known that there were security cameras placed throughout the building on the day of the massacre, the excessive security the player has to tango through to get to the mess hall is relatively unbelievable. What was the designer's intent when adding this gameplay element to Super Columbine Massacre RPG!? Was it for purely creating a challenging experience for the player, or was there more? Could it be a critique of the excessive school security measures that swept the country after Columbine? After all, I encountered three cameras and multiple hall monitors just in the one corridor alone, yet they all seemed inept as to stopping me from carrying out my objective. I also find it rather amusing how I was able to waltz right into the school's front entrance while wearing a trench coat and carrying suspicious looking duffle bags without anyone giving two cents as to what I was doing. You would think somebody would have noticed and called a teacher, or taken some other course of action. Perhaps this was just outfitted for gameplay experience as well, or could it have been another critique on excessive school security? Whatever the case, it is at least something to think about, whether it was intended by the developer or not.

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    Feb 19th, 2010 at 23:59:17     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is, at the least, a rather interesting take on Columbine by the developer, Danny Ledonne. Based on the real life events of the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre, the game puts you in the shoes of Eric Harris, one of the killers, as he partners up with his friend Dylan Klebold to wreak havoc upon Columbine High School. Their motivation is revenge, as the two seniors feel that they are waging a war against those who have wronged and bullied them. The game begins as the "protagonist," Eric, wakes up on Tuesday April 20th to prepare for the forthcoming massacre. The beginning gameplay of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! mostly involves text based cutscenes as the player is introduced to how these two seniors arrived at this point in their life.
    A topic I would like to discuss is the games representation of war. Throughout the intro there is this underlying theme of war, rebellion, and revolution. The seniors, Eric and Dylan, continually refer to "waging a two-man war against everyone else." In the basement there is even a TV the player can "watch," and on it is a "excerpt" from Apocalypse Now. This excerpt contains the famous scene where Col. Kurtz iterates to Cpt. Willard, at this point Kurtz's prisoner, his views and opinions on war, humanity, and "the horror." As stated by Col. Kurtz, "It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror." This segment of the game seems to symbolically refer to the horror Eric and Dylan faced in their troubled, everyday lives through their various mental disorders as well as victimization to constant bullying. This "horror" also seems to be the boy's main motivation towards their soon to be rampage, or "war on humanity." The boys also make such statements as "War is War. And this is War," and "You all need to die. We need to die too," and "First of all, there is nothing that anyone could have done to prevent this." These statements were really sobering and gave the player a little insight into the teen's motivations and, possibly, a sense of sympathy. Still, it does not deter the player from questioning, was this "war" the boys raged really unavoidable? Did everyone need to die? And, most importantly, was it morally justified?
    One thing I found quite fascinating with the game was the gameplay itself, more specifically the inclusion of the game's introduction. Rather than dropping the player off at the school grounds and just set off guns blazing on the school children, the game designer felt the need to provide a bit of background onto why the boys did what they did. The designer accomplished this through a scripting of the boys final video, a flashback when pressing enter on the Blackjack pizza box, etc. These cutscenes seem to express to the player that these seniors were not just homicidal maniacs, but deeply troubled teenage boys looking for an escapism for their anger and hatred towards the oppressive society around them. Of course the gameplay doesn't flat out promote the seniors actions, but it does make the player ponder about such things as, if Eric and Dylan hadn't committed suicide , what should be their punishment? Due to their clear psychological disorders should the boys be granted leeway? Or, akin to the "eye for an eye" belief, should the boys be given capital punishment? Obviously society wouldn't want to establish a Kantian "universal rule" of vengeance, in which it would be okay to go on a rampage towards those who wronged you, but the boys didn't exactly seem to be cold hearted killers either, as Eric states "That's all. Sorry. Goodbye." Clearly there was some remorse in their actions. It is rather troubling over whether these boys should be treated as victims of circumstance, or rather as cold blooded killers
    Another topic I would like to discuss is the role of the media presented in this game. When rummaging through Eric's room the player finds a copy of Doom, in which the text box states "You scored 'Doom' for the PC. Let the desensitization to violence BEGIN!" When exploring the basement I also found a copy of a Marilyn Manson CD, where the text box also iterated "the lyrics are sure to inspire impulsive aggression and rage." The game clearly satirizes the media's dramatization of the influence the game Doom and the artist Marilyn Manson had on the two boys, but the player is left to question, what kind of role did this media have upon Eric and Dylan, if any? It was well known that the seniors were avid Doom players, were they really desensitized towards violence when playing the violent game? Never having played Doom, but experiencing multiple First Person Shooters (FPS) myself and never having gone on a rampage, I'm not a hundred percent sold on Dooms influence upon the duo. On the other hand , Ben DeVane and Kurt D. Squire's "The Meaning of Race and Violence in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" brings up an interesting point, which is "locally situated play practices were highly dependent on the social circumstances in which the play (and interview ) occurred." This excerpt refers to Honovi , a child who, when playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with a friend, would iterate about the more violent aspects of the gameplay, such as gunning down innocent civilians, drive byes, etc. However, interestingly, when playing alone, his game play would focus more about the fine tuning of cars and how it relates to his interests in real life. The cultural and social context which Honovi played GTA influenced his interpretation of the game. Thus we can question, how did Eric's and Dylan's cultural and social context affect their interpretation of Doom and Marilyn Manson? Due to their extreme psychological imbalance, were Doom and Marilyn Manson fuel to the fire of which led to the Columbine massacre? After all, the boys weren't in their right minds when they felt a sense of giddiness when carrying out their mission. In Doom it's okay to kill everything in sight, so maybe this mentality did permeate into the boys thought process of how to handle their current, miserable, situations in life. Whether the media truly did influence the boys decision to go on a rampage is uncertain, but it is at least something that shouldn't be overlooked.

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    Jan 17th, 2010 at 13:46:51     -    Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PC)

    After dealing with the drug dealers I rode back to the Johnson house to begin my next mission. This next mission entailed the quartet of CJ, Big Smoke, Sweet, and Ryder simply pulling through a Cluckin' Bell drive through to order some food. A topic I would like to focus on in this portion of my playthrough is the portrayal of Big Smoke. While all the other characters in the car order a meal deal, Big Smoke orders more than one. If he had only ordered, say, two meal deals there would be little to discuss, but stating that Big Smoke ordered "more than one" meal deal is a bit of an understatement. Ordering "two number nines, a number nine large, a number six with extra dip, a number seven, two number forty fives, one with cheese, and a large soda" it becomes evident that Big Smoke loves to eat. However, Big Smoke's obsession with food doesn't end there. Soon CJ (myself) and company find themselves involved in a drive-by and I am instructed to chase the opposing gang car. While I drive Sweet and Ryder grab their submachine guns and begin to assault the enemy automobile. Big Smoke on the other hand continues to revel in his meal as he eats without bothering to open fire on the attacking vehicle. All through the mission CJ, Sweet, and Ryder attempt to convince Smoke to put down his food and start shooting, but by the time I complete the mission the trio are able to finish off the enemy before Big Smoke can act. It is probably safe to assume that this mission was intended only for comedic relief by Rockstar, but I find it important to analyze the character of Big Smoke as a stereotype. Portrayed as an African American who only loves to eat, it is probably safe to say that he fits into the category of a stereotype like the final piece in a puzzle. Even outside of Smoke being a stereotype, it was still troublesome for the player (me) as you are shown he cares more about stuffing his face then the well being of his comrades in arm. Is this derogatory representation of Smoke justified in any way? Of course a good book, film, or videogame always contains some form of comic relief to make the audience laugh a little, however, at the expense of strengthening the view of an African American as a glutton it is debatable whether the aforementioned mission was truly necessary to include in the game as it could arguably be promoting said stereotype. So, we could ask, was this scene moral to include in the game? A Utilitarian might argue that the mission spread a vast amount of pleasure throughout the various people playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas by making them laugh, as well as the fact it is only a game in which no one was truly hurt. But others, especially in the African American community, might argue that it is offensive to their race, ethnicity, and culture, and promotes an unfair and unwanted portrayal of an African American in the media. There is logical reasoning for both sides of the argument on the necessity of having this mission in the game, so the question of whether having "Drive-thru" included in the final release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas being suitably proper or not is, in my opinion at least, morally debatable.

    Following on our discussion of stereotypes the following mission again reveals another negative stereotype of African Americans. This mission involves Big Smoke and CJ "strapping up" by going to visit the home of someone called Emmet to grad a few guns. While driving over to the objective point I had personally expected Emmet to be your stereotypical shady arms dealer, but I was sorely proven wrong. Emmet is, to put it slightly, not the brightest tool in the shed. As soon as I am introduced to Emmet through a cutscene his character becomes quite clear. Accidently misfiring a pistol, Emmet becomes startled as he mistakenly believes that he is under fire from someone else nearby. Turning around, Emmet, while holding a gun to Big Smoke and CJ, questions the two and accidently mistakes CJ for Brian claiming "Aren't you Beverly Johnson's boy?" to which CJ replies "that's right," and Emmet retorts "Brian, say, uh, ain, ain't you dead?" CJ responds by stating "No Emmet, the other one, Carl." "Obsh, Sorry 'bout Beverly," Emmet finishes. This portrayal of Emmet as an uneducated, grown, African American is nothing short of a stereotype. It can also be said that his character, much like the previous mission, was included for comedic purposes only without trying to offend anyone. We, the player, can once again question Emmet's inclusion in GTA: San Andreas as justified, or unnecessary. Again, this scene was sure to pick up a few laughs and giggles by the player as it was meant to, but some members of the African American community would surely argue that the inclusion of Emmet in the game only promotes the inescapable stereotype of African Americans being uneducated, slow, and dimwitted. So, was the inclusion of Emmet justified for comedic relief? Or, was his presence merely a trigger for promoting such a derogatory viewing of the black community around the world wherever Grand Theft Auto is played? Logically, there is reasoning for both sides of the argument, so whether Emmet's inclusion in the game is morally ethical could be considered debatable.

    Finally, the last mission I managed to accomplish through my playthrough was "Drive-By." As the title of the next objective leaves little to the imagination, I found it rather obvious what my next task would entail. Simply put, the entire mission involved CJ (me) driving the quartet around Balla territory while continually gunning down Balla gang members. After killing all the gang members, the wanted level rose to two stars, meaning the police would send out more reinforcements than usual to arrest me. After frantically making my way to the next checkpoint the player was instructed to park the car into a spray shop to evade the police, and complete the objective by simply driving home. With this mission we are left to ask one gargantuan moral question, was our gunning down opposing gang members morally ethical? Using logic, our actions were really not justified in any sense. Seeing as how our lives were in absolutely zero danger, there appears to be little logical reasoning to support randomly hunting and gunning down Balla gang members when they provided no such incentive for us to do so. In short, this mission involved simply gunning down opposing gangsters for no logical reasoning, therefore our actions appear to be ethically immoral.

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