Over on his blog, Coyote has a piece about the indie game Super Columbine Massacre RPG being pulled from Slamdance, a sort of “alternative indie game festival”.

Yes, the game is based on the appalling massacre at Columbine. The author’s espoused reason was to “provoke thought”. After reading Coyote’s description of the gameplay, the thoughts that come most readily to mind are likely to be disgust, incredulity, and dismay.

Certainly there is nothing in the game that would in any way explain what happened at Columbine, and the entire scenario is ridiculous. Whatever the author’s original intention may have been, the result is a messy patchwork of no particular merit.

It’s what comes after that’s interesting, mainly as an example of hypocrisy. Columbine was not originally entered for Slamdance; the organizers asked for it to be submitted.

I wonder if anybody there really looked at Columbine, given how poor it is, considered just as a game. My guess is, probably not. I agree with Coyote’s assessment that this was included for the publicity value.

That backfired. Some supporters of Slamdance pulled out, and suddenly the game was dropped from consideration. The reason given was “moral grounds”. How two-faced can they get? If they were so worried about “moral grounds”, why ask for the game at all?

Since Slamdance is an “alternative” affair, it’s only natural to want some publicity. However, this is not the way to obtain it, at least not in a positive way.

By going after a poorly-designed but controversial game, and then dropping it, Slamdance has lost credibility. I can see where some indie developers might think twice before submitting an entry, especially if the subject matter is highly controversial.

Then there is the matter of quality. By any reasonable measure, Columbine is sub-standard. Yet Slamdance specifically asked for the game. This calls into question the legitimacy of the project itself.

Alternative is one thing. “Any junk to get headlines” is another. Would indie designers want to be associated with that? Would the winning games be accorded any respect?

And finally, as Coyote points out, by pulling the game, Slamdance has set an unfortunate precedent. Any game disliked by backers of the festival could be dropped in the future.

Slamdance brought this on itself through stupidity and short-sightedness, and it hasn’t done any good for developers of alternative products. Perhaps it’s time for Slamdance to waltz out the door, and for someone else to take over the alternative game festival.miniscorp

Columbine Pulled on Coyote’s Blog