The Active Shooter Controversy, and Whether Steam's Removal was Justified

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Active Shooter, an FPS that enables players to shoot school kids and cops, has been removed from Steam. Is such a decision justified?

I really don’t care for first person shooter games (cue angry comments). Usually, that’s just because I don’t find them engaging enough. Although in Active Shooter‘s case, it’s because of a little thing called, ‘I don’t like the idea of using kids for target practise’.

Active Shooter Controversy
This is tasteless. And that’s saying it lightly. – Source; WPEC

Yes, Active Shooter and is apparently a FPS that simulates a school shooting and… wait… WHAT?!
A game that simulates a school shooting? Are you serious? Okay, okay, okay, hold up – we’re going too fast here! Let’s try this again.
takes a deep breath

Controversial game of the year?

Active Shooter recently popped up in the Steam store, and was set to be released on June 6, 2018. Now, the game allowed you to play as either a SWAT team member OR as the Shooter – with plans for a civilian survival mode to be added later on.
Originally, the game was meant to be just your standard SWAT simulator in the vein of SWAT3 Close Quarters Battle, Call of Duty and the Battlefield series.

Active Shooter Controversy
Agreed – Source: WBKW

As you’d expect, there was a LOT of outrage from parents, law enforcement and activists. The general consensus is that the game is disgusting and trying to profit off tragedy.
The huge backlash prompted an investigation by Valve Corp. – the company that owns Steam – followed by the subsequent removal of the game. The game’s developer Revived Games and publisher ACID were also booted from the Steam platform.
They released a statement to The Guardian, which reads:
“We have removed the developer Revived Games and publisher ACID from Steam. This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc] Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team’.”
Okay, so this Berdyev person has apparently got a history of Steam TOS violations. These include copyright infringement, customer abuse and review manipulation, among other things. Valve uncovered this fact and banned him…again. So end of story, right?
sigh. No, not yet.

Anton Makarevskiy: Valve got the wrong guy?

Apparently Valve Corp. got the wrong dude. Yep. According to an article on PCMag.comActive Shooter was developed by one Anton Makarevskiy.
Makarevskiy is a 21 year old amateur game developer from Moscow who seems to be in need of a serious reality check. He was apparently caught off guard by the controversy that the game garnered, citing the many similar games on Steam, such as the Counter-Strike franchise, which is just as violent and feature a choice of counter terrorist or terrorist roles for gameplay.
He and Berdyev are buddies who met through a game called ARMA and became friends. This is also how Berdyev ended up named by Valve. Apparently there are sanctions on Russia so financial transfers are difficult between Russia and the United States. Berdyev was allowing Makarevskiy to use his US bank accounts to receive payments.

Defending Active Shooter

active shooter controversy
Hmm. Source: Pinterest.

Now, Makarevskiy’s argument is that, while the game allows the player to (as the shooter) kill innocent civilians, children are not depicted and the game was age-restricted to adults only. But this is just completely missing the point.
Berdyev isn’t much better saying: “There’s nothing about glorifying violence, nothing promoting it. It’s literally about just having fun. Other games like Counter–Strike have terrorists. It’s the same idea just to give it more gameplay.”
I take issue with Berdyev’s statement for a couple of reasons.
First off, violence is glorified in violent games – that’s how they function. You can’t talk about not glorifying violence when you literally score points by killing people.
Secondly, this game’s design as a FPS game that simulates a school shooting is just insensitive. The responses to the backlash that the game received only serve to reinforce that sense of insensitivity. This is, in my mind, the point that both of these individuals seem to have missed.
Makarevskiy’s defence is that he’s unfamiliar with US current events. If that is true (which I highly doubt it is), you’d think he would have done some research before making a game of this nature.

The Reaction to Valve’s Decision

When Valve announced that they’d removed the game, its developer and publisher from the Steam platform, there was an immediate response. It was, perhaps surprisingly, mixed. Some people praised the move, believing Valve was right in their actions.
Yet some people were highly displeased with Active Shooter‘s removal. The argument used was that the developer should be allowed to make whatever he wants as long as it doesn’t violate the Terms of Service. Valve are yet to confirm if it did or not.
The other argument is that the public should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to purchase a game.

Final Thoughts

This is probably one of the most insensitively marketed games I’ve seen online in a while. The backlash was well-deserved and should’ve been expected.
Active Shooter feels like a cash grab game. It seems like it was designed to profit off of outrage marketing. It also seems to be designed to cause controversy – even if the developer states otherwise.
While I don’t agree with them, I do understand the arguments defending the game’s existence and why it shouldn’t be banned. Freedom of expression – the right to make anything one feels like making as long as it doesn’t offend anyone or violate a company’s ToS – is important.
However, although Valve didn’t address whether Active Shooter violated Steam’s ToS or not, they are a private company and are free to act at their own discretion. If they want to ban the developer and publisher of Active Shooter they are allowed to do so.
I’m not necessarily opposed to claims that people should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to purchase a product. But Valve are a business. If Active Shooter is tarnishing the company with negative press, they are justified in removing it.
The bottom line though is that, whatever the arguments, there is something inherently insensitive about Active Shooter – particularly given recent events. The justifications can start and end there.
What are your thoughts on this situation? Do you agree or disagree with me? I’d love to know what you think, so, as always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter and let me know. As for me, well, I’m going to go and find something more pleasant to write about.
If you want more gaming-related stuff then check out this piece on what to expect in your first Dungeons and Dragons session, and this one on the trailer for Fallout 76.

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