BenPerez's Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)
| [November 5, 2008 12:35:54 PM]
| I had to ask though, ‘Why an RPG’? As far as I know, Eric and Dylan were not RPG players, and while the media certainly has a habit of stereotyping the games industry, I don’t think anyone mistook Doom for a title from the Final Fantasy series. And, if as I suspect, the hook of SCMRPG is not its game but the commentary, every decision should be make with that consideration in mind. What sort of audience is the author trying to reach, and what sort of audience does a 2D RPG appeal to? Anyone who already thinks Doom encouraged Eric and Dylan to go on a shooting spree probably won’t be interested in playing SCMRPG, much less convinced to reconsider the issue. By the same token, are more rational non-hobbyists going to go through the trouble of hunting down and installing this game? Probably not. Self-acclaimed gamers are much more likely to play SCMRPG, but gamers are also much more likely to think that Doom didn’t set the shooters off. So while there may be some value in exploring what Eric and Dylan’s psyche, there isn’t much the game suggests that gamers aren’t likely to already believe. Thus, I’m left wondering who exactly this game was meant for.
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| [November 5, 2008 12:35:43 PM]
| I’m not sure what to think about SCMRPG anymore.
After finally sneaking through the school to plant the bombs, there was a brief interlude in which Eric and Dylan prepare in the park. The conversation they have, while slightly disturbing, offered some insight into how the two may have rationalized their actions. In their minds, murder was justified not only because they had been antagonized by their peers, but also because each shooter had adopted a philosophy that might be – with considerable manipulation – considered existentialism. This theme is... addressed? in some fashion at the end of the game, but more on that later.
After their chat in the park, the boys suit up and start shooting. The combat itself is bland, uninteresting, and tedious. I found myself avoiding ‘combat’ with students and teachers because it was so flat; one might make the argument that this feature is suppose to characterize the helplessness of the shooter’s victims, but it does little to invoke my empathy and instead is mostly just frustratingly slow. The cut-scenes that are played at certain locations, however, are far more interesting, and made me want to press on in spite of the monotony. Like the cut-scene that played in the basement of Eric’s house, these expositions are the sort of content I expect from a game with a title like SCMRPG. Each interlude offers touching stories from the daily lives of Eric and Dylan, juxtaposed with poignant and appropriate quotes such literary classics as T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The experience of transitioning from senseless, absurd violence to intimate personal moment and back again is, frankly, amazingly executed, in so I am pained to say that everything after the deaths of Eric and Dylan is confusing and inappropriate.
And when I say inappropriate, please understand that I do not mean offensive. For my own purposes, I do not subscribe to the idea of political correctness. No topic should be subject to censorship simply because the possibility exists that the content may be objectionable. It is up to the author or creator to justify offensive material as relevant to the purpose of the piece, and that purpose should foster positive thought and discussion.
No, when I say inappropriate, I mean simply that the ‘Hell’ portion of the game simply didn’t serve to enhance the meaning of the first half, and, if anything, it detracted from it with absurdity, slapstick jokes, and throw-back references (which is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for the absurd, only that this wasn’t it). Nothing about the second half of the game helped to further my understanding of Eric and Dylan. I don’t see why it was relevant to include an island montage of game pop culture, or make reference to Satan from South Park. And while I think I would love any other game in which I get to wander Hades and talk to Nietzsche on the subject of existentialism and spirituality, this game was simply not the time or the place to include such content. It’s also apparent that the author or authors of the game were promulgating agnosticism or atheism, which I personally have no qualms with – as I subscribe to the latter of the two doctrines – but it feels as though that current detracts from the purpose of the game as I understood it to be in the first chapter. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can appreciate where the authors may have been going with the second half of the game, but that the tone and subject of the first half is insoluble with the content of the second half. In fact, I would be willing to wager that at one point in the development process, the end of the first half was the end of the game, particularly considering the way in which the chapter closes with a tribute to the victims and to Eric and Dylan.
This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Nov 5th, 2008 at 12:37:37.
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| [November 5, 2008 12:35:20 PM]
| I have to confess that I am not interested in talking about the ‘ethics’ of directing Eric and Dylan in SCMRPG as they shoot their way through Columbine, because I think we can all agree that it’s unsettling – and that’s very clearly a deliberate decision made on the part of the author. Now, I’ve yet to finish the game, but it should be apparent from the title alone that SCMRPG is a satire, and not an invitation to revel in the violence. It remains to be seen, then, whether the caricature is relevant to the message being delivered or whether it is simply an investment in shock value. My experience so far suggests that there may yet be some merit to the game’s audacity.
The game starts in Eric’s house and unfolds in typical RPG fashion, down to the last detail; menus, sounds, dialogue boxes and most noticeably, the game’s sprite art are reminiscent of some classic SNES games. Dylan calls Eric and the two talk about their plans for the day. From here the player is free to explore the house, which is mostly a chance to examine the things in Eric’s life. There is the obligatory copy of Marilyn Manson’s album and a copy of Doom. Interacting with the pizza box or the TV in the starts some interesting cut-scenes which examine an excerpt of a real video the shooters produced before the murders and an expository flashback explaining the planning that went in to the massacre, respectively. Both of these features were particularly outstanding inasmuch as they were able to capture some of the boys’ humanity even while limited to pixilated graphics. For example, the flashback scene explains a bit about how Eric and Dylan prepared for the shootings, but it also serves to show that they were very real people with real problems and a day-to-day life, and not simply killers that appeared for a moment on that fateful day, only to disappear again.
That praise being said, let me say that the level following the house in which I had to guide Eric and Dylan to the cafeteria to plant the bombs was one of the most frustrating moments I’ve had in recent memory. I spent close to twenty minutes trying to get past this section of the game, which is disappointing not only because I consider myself a gamer and as such, should be able to overcome what seems like a simple obstacle, but also because it only served to impede my progression through the game. If I wanted engaging gameplay, I would probably not first turn to SCMRPG. The point of the game, as I understand it so far, it to provide me with a vehicle for understanding who these two men were and why they did what they did. I do not want to spend nearly half an hour trying to sneak past cameras and students, particularly considering there is no checkpoints – if you get caught on the way back to the parking lot, you start over outside the building and have to repeat the whole process.
Please, in the future, make the game secondary to the story.
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