It took Valve Software just under a week to pull the controversial independent video game Active Shooter from its Steam digital storefront. But as school shooting survivors and victims groups celebrate the game’s apparent demise, they might want to read the fine print.
Valve, in its statement announcing the decision, indicated the move had less to do with the game’s offensive premise (which let players opt to be either the killer or the SWAT team tasked with neutralizing the situation in a school or office shooting) and more with the history of the person who made the game.
“This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc]Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team,'” the company said in a statement. “Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation. His subsequent return under new business names was a fact that came to light as we investigated the controversy around his upcoming title. We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve.”
As for the game’s content, the publisher punted that conversation down the road.
“The broader conversation about Steam’s content policies is one that we’ll be addressing soon,” read Valve’s statement.
Active Shooter was originally set to go on sale June 6. As word spread about it, so did outrage, particularly among parents of students who were killed in shootings in Parkland, Fla. and other areas.
“It’s disgusting that Valve Corp. is trying to profit from the glamorization of tragedies affecting our schools across the country,” Ryan Petty, father of slain 14-year-old Alaina, wrote on Facebook. “Keeping our kids safe is a real issue affecting our communities and is in no way a ‘game.’”
Attention spans are short in the video game world, but whether Valve will actually address the content of the game is uncertain. Valve didn’t respond promptly to initial questions about the game, ignoring all requests for comment.
E3, the video game industry’s annual trade show, kicks off in about a week and a half. That would have been a solid week of big new titles saturating people’s timelines and news feeds. By the end of E3, it’s possible people will have largely forgotten about Active Shooter. And that would take pressure off of Valve and Steam from having to address the situation in any sort of timely fashion.
Video games are protected under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011. And while some can be hyper-violent, few developers push this far beyond the line of good taste.
In the days following the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, President Donald Trump suggested he believed video games were, in part, to blame and “something” needed to be done about them.
To date, no scientific study has proven that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively, but the National Rifle Association and politicians often point to the industry when there is a tragic event. A March meeting between Trump and the industry was light on actual game makers and stacked with industry opponents.