Yesterday, it was announced that developer Void Interactive had parted ways with its publisher Team17 – the two companies were working together on Ready or Not, an FPS game where players take control of SWAT police "called to defuse hostile and confronting situations."
This followed backlash after a developer spoke flippantly of the planned inclusion of a school shooter level in the early-access game – a sensitive issue for many, particularly in America where school shootings are unfortunately commonplace. In the game's Subreddit, someone asked, "Should Ready or Not have a school shooting mission?" To which a developer responded, "You better believe it's gonna."
Early this morning, Void Interactive released a statement clarifying some of the details surrounding the school level. "There is no easy way to address this issue without creating strong emotional responses from one group or another, but we will do our best," the statement begins. "We are dedicated to promoting a level of authenticity and realism in our video game, Ready or Not, that carries with it difficult subject matter."
"'School' is not just a part of the fabric of Ready or Not's story, it is part of the fabric of thousands of people's stories worldwide," it continues. "It is a look at an uncomfortable reality that has become all too common, and we hope that we can play some small part in honoring those who have been impacted by these real world tragedies with a portrayal that does not trivialize their experiences."
It seems the company is not backing down and will go ahead with the level. While video games often allow players to engage in morally dubious acts such as murder and theft, it's a different matter when a developer aims to replicate a specific real-life situation, especially when they involve the death of children.
The backlash to the handling of the school level is reminiscent of the frequent criticism leveled against Six Days In Fallujah, a video game where players will play as US soldiers clearing buildings in a procedurally generated Iraq. While video games can and should deal with challenging subjects – as all art should – it's important for developers to recognise when their work could cause more harm than good.
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