Slamdance finalist Super Columbine Massacre RPG has been officially kicked from the festival due to mounting pressure from protesters and the loss of sponsorship, the game’s creator told Kotaku Thursday night.
This is the first time in the Slamdance Festival’s 13-year history that a game or film has been removed from the festival due to criticism or outside pressure. —Exclusive: Columbine Game Kicked From Competition (Kotaku)
I cited this game as an example in a paper I gave at the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education in November. My point was that the young audience that Holocaust educators want to reach has a different set of moral and aesthetic responses to games than the adults who don’t have much to say beyond dropping their jaws. The Holocaust deniers and other promoters of hate and violence already have their issue-oriented games out there. While I think it’s exaggerating to suggest that a Jew-bashing game is going to have much impact (those games, like the Christian-themed evangelical games typically have poor production values and won’t really attract the interest of someone who doesn’t already share the world view that the game is trying to promote). There is enough social commentary embedded within this particular RPG that I think it moves beyond cynical exploitation, and really attempts to use a popular medium in an effective way.
The designer, Danny Ledonne, speaks eloquently and thoughtfully about his creation (in this article and elsewhere on Kotaku).
Update, Jan 6: Ian Bogost offers a good overview of the Slandance controversy. It looks like it wasn’t external pressure from advertisers after all, but one person’s concern about what MIGHT happen if the game were to be part of the show.
I teach plenty of safe classics, but I also teach books that contain disturbing and threatening ideas. I find it amazingly hypocritical that Slamdance (an indie film festival, founded to protest commercialism at Sundance) would override the artistic decisions of the panel that agreed to let the Columbine game into the competition.