School shooting game Active Shooter appears on Steam, draws widespread condemnation

UK-based charity Infer Trust is calling on Valve to prevent the Steam release of Active Shooter, a game described as "a dynamic SWAT simulator in which dynamic roles are offered to players"—either as a member of the police, or as the titular "active shooter." The game is portrayed as an asymmetrical shooter grounded in real-world elements like realistic AI and settings, thematically similar to the Homeland Security-made shooting simulator we reported on earlier this year. But the trailer, which includes gameplay clips of murders in classrooms and hallways, leaves no doubt as to what it's really all about. 

"There have been 22 school shootings in the US since the beginning of this year," an Infer Trust representative told the BBC. "It is horrendous. Why would anybody think it's a good idea to market something violent like that, and be completely insensitive to the deaths of so many children? We're appalled that the game is being marketed." 

Similar reactions are plentiful on the Steam forums as well. Some posters support the game—perhaps ironically, perhaps not—but the majority express strong opposition to its release. The publisher, Acid, responded to complaints in a "clarification" post saying that "this game does not promote any sort of violence, especially any sort of a mass shooting." 

"Originally when this game started its course of the development, I have planned on having SWAT only based gameplayer. Then I thought about adding more gameplay to it by adding additional roles: of the shooter and the civilian. While I can see people's anger and why this might be a bad idea for the game, I still feel like this topic should be left alone," they wrote. "As I mentioned in steam discussion forums, there are games like Hatred, Postal, Carmageddon and etc., which are even worst compared to Active Shooter and literally focus on mass shootings/killings of people."

Acid, which has previously released games including White Power: Pure Voltage and Tyde Pod Challenge (the objectionable titles seemingly have little to do with the content of the games), said that the role of the shooter may be removed from the game prior to release, although there's no indication yet that will actually happen. 

The game's presence on Steam highlights (again) the flaws of Steam Direct, which effectively enables anyone with $100 to put up just about any game they like. But if it seems like Valve simply isn't watching, that isn't the case, as evidenced by the recent furor over games with sexual content: Valve walked back last week's threat to remove a number of such games, but they remain subject to review and may have to be edited to comply with Steam guidelines. The implication that this could get a pass while games like HuniePot are over the line reinforces the belief that Valve's curation of Steam isn't absent, but utterly capricious.

I've emailed Valve to ask if Active Shooter will be subject to a review process similar to that being applied to games with sexual content (and if not, why not?), and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.