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Tuesday, January 02, 2007
This is the sixth in a series of Slamdance Finalist reviews.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG! (SCMRPG) is Danny Ledonne's attempt to explore the 1999 Columbine High School massacre with a video game. In his artist's statement, Ledonne writes that he "wanted to make something that mattered" and that he "wasn’t willing to put months of scant free time into an easily forgotten adventure set in a mythical realm of dragons or spaceships." You can read his statement in full if you wish (and I would recommend that you do), but I'll distill one point from it for the purpose of this review: he was apparently aiming high with SCMRPG.

What Ledonne has given us is a full walk through the morning of the shooting, but one in which we are doing the walking as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. You start out in Harris' bedroom with a wake-up-call from Harris' mother. Then you head to the basement to gather your gear (picking up duffle bags and propane bombs). At that point, Klebold joins you in the basement, and you move through most of the game controlling both boys as a team.

I see the game as being comprised of three distinct "acts." During the first act, the goal is to gather the gear, drive to school, and plant bombs in the cafeteria without getting caught. This act plays much like an adventure game---you pick up necessary items, bring them to prescribed locations, and avoid run-ins with hall monitors and security cameras. None of the standard role-playing game (RPG) elements, such as experience points, are prominent during the first act.

I would say that this first part of the game is the most successful in terms of emotional power. There's something quite disturbing and moving about carrying out these preparatory actions yourself. I've watched a movie that explores Columbine (Elephant, 2003, d. Gus Van Sant), but it didn't snag me in the same way. Just hitting the spacebar to pick up those duffle bags in Harris' basement---there was an inescapable feeling that I was doing it. The sadness, loneliness, despair, and fatalism of those preparatory activities could not be ignored. Perhaps nothing could really put us inside Harris' head on his final morning, but SCMRPG sure comes close.

Read the full review at Arthouse Games.

Name: Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
Developer: Danny Ledonne
Category: RPG
Type: Freeware
Size: 27 MB


Anonymous mgroves said at 1/01/2007 07:01:00 PM:  
The graphics, gameplay, and sound in this game are downright terrible. Don't look to this game expecting Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

However, the *experience* of the game (except the ridiculous Hell level) really made me think about things. Too often we are quick to put people in a bucket marked "evil" and forget them. Hitler, Saddam, these two kids. "Evil" certainly applies, but everyone has reasons, everyone has motives, and everyone's actions make sense to themselves at one point.

This game is a must "play", but I use the term "play" loosely.
Anonymous The Arsecast Host said at 1/01/2007 10:17:00 PM:  
I sometimes get the feeling that you could make a game about twatting planes into the New York skyline. But as long as you dressed it up in psychological guffery and other nonsensical language, people would believe it was a genuinely important statement on the event, rather than a tacky and insensitive lump of crap.
Anonymous FireSword said at 1/02/2007 08:10:00 AM:  
I agree with arsecast..
this is just crap-shit..

uhm.. maybe i misunderstanded her
words.. oh who cares.. this game
is a pile of crap..

By my point of view it's not with
games or thinking that u can shape
the world.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 1/02/2007 05:51:00 PM:  
I, too, agree with the arsecast host. Of course playing as notorious, real-life killers will evoke an emotional response (so would playing as a Nazi concentration camp guard, for that matter). But that doesn't mean the author is brilliant or the game has worth. More likely, it's a cheap and easy thrill that plays on our morbid curiosity.

Watching a snuff video or looking at photos of car accident fatalities would likely also evoke an emotional response -- as would actually seeing someone die in a gruesome fashion. These things are deeply upsetting to most people, for obvious reasons.

The question is, why go there? Yes, there is plenty of evil and ugliness in the world. Always has been. What's gained by fetishizing it?

Out of all the ways I could spend my time, playing a game about the Columbine massacre is not one I would choose.