Dawson College shooting game pulled offline

Toronto Sun
September 19, 2010
By Jessica Murphy (QMI Agency)

The creator of the controversial Dawson College shooting game has pulled it offline.

"After thinking this over for a while I feel that the existence of the game is hurting a family that doesn't deserve it," the developer, who identifies himself as Virtuaman, said in a message on hosting site Newgrounds.com.

"Game or not, it has reached the family and they are of course upset. I hope in removing the game from the net I help them get over the game and the pain it has caused them."

The graphic video game, dubbed Dawson College Massacre, allowed users to recreate gunman Kimveer Gill's deadly 2006 rampage and sparked a heated online debate Wednesday about art, free speech and good taste.

Dawson College Massacre video gameMontreal police also tried to persuade the U.S.-based gaming site where Virtuaman first published the creation to delete the program.

It was posted a few days before the fourth anniversary of the day that Gill shot and killed student Anastasia DeSousa and wounded 19 others at the sprawling downtown campus.

When news of the game broke earlier this week, Virtuaman defended his violent creation and compared himself to a storyteller.

In an email interview with QMI Agency, he said he created the game because he was concerned about school shootings and has no plans to remove it.

"I believe that I depicted the events in the least offensive way possible, believe it or not."

The animator drew the ire of Dawson College students, some of whom ripped into him on the website's comments section.

But it seems it was the family's grief that finally sparked a change of heart.

"I just want to say sorry to the victims (sic) family, I hope you can move on and put this behind yourselves," he wrote.


'Despicable' game based on Dawson College shooting

National Post
By Tom Blackwell
September 16, 2010

A homemade computer game that tries to recreate Montreal's Dawson College shooting -- putting the player in the role of killer Kimveer Gill -- has been roundly condemned as highly offensive, while also turning the spotlight on an unsettling virtual world.

The game's anonymous developer said he was sorry if he offended anyone, but offered a rambling defence of Dawson College Massacre!in online postings, at one point saying he was fascinated by school-shooting perpetrators.

One student, Anastasia DeSousa, was killed in the Sept. 13, 2006 rampage, and 19 others were injured, as Gill made his way through the college's buildings, firing repeatedly. Gill himself had admitted to being a fan of a similar game inspired by the Columbine shooting.

The Dawson game's impact would have been different had it not been identified with the tragedy, said Hayder Kadhim, 21, a former Dawson student who was shot three times in the incident and still has bullet fragments lodged in his head and neck.

"This specific game is about a shooter that is well known ... It touches many more people than just game lovers," he said in an interview. "The fact it is so subjective makes it so disrespectful and despicable."

Mr. Kadhim also castigated the news media for publicizing the affair, while all but ignoring the plight of the shooting's real-life victims, and positive developments like the music he wrote to help get over the trauma.

"Because these stories are given so much attention, so much coverage, that unfortunately is what ignites the killers," he said. "The goal is to get the attention ... and they're getting the attention they wanted."

The game invites players to "take the role of Kimveer Gill and storm Dawson College with your favourite rifle! Kill those students and kill any cops you can!"

As students represented graphically are hit, blood spurts from their digital bodies. At the end, the Gill character turns the gun on his own head, the result obscured with pixilation.

The college's students' union called police when it discovered the game, posted originally on at least four differing gaming web sites, and urged the sites to take it down, said Nadia Kanji, a union spokeswoman.

"I think it's really disturbing and pretty sad that someone needed to recreate the events," she said.

A spokesman for the Montreal police said the force looked into the development and decided not to investigate because there was no evidence of a crime having taken place. Officers did, however, urge a U.S.-based Internet-service provider that hosted the game to remove it, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

The game creator, indentified on the Newgrounds web site and others as Virtuaman, said he is sorry if he hurt anyone's feelings, but offers various justifications for what he did.

"I am not quite sure why I made it, I have been studying these school shooters a long time now and I just see how people want to just push the whole subject under the rug," he writes.

"I don't want to say I am 100% sympathetic with killers like this because obviously what they've done is pretty sick. But you can most DEFINITELY see the path they took which lead them to commit such a crime."

Sites like those hosting the Dawson College entry offer up scores of shooting games, not all of them with the standard bad-guy targets, like zombies and terrorists.

"It might be .... bad taste, but isn't shooting a gun on the BackStreet Boys bad taste as well for a video game?" wrote one defender of Virtuaman on the Newgrounds web site. "We fight for freedom of speech. This is where it gets."