On the afternoon of Sept. 13, just after 12:40 p.m., a man dressed in black walked into Dawson’s atrium and went on a shooting rampage, injuring 19 students and killing one before getting shot in the arm by police and then offing himself. The shooter, Kimveer Gill, had an affinity for knives, goth culture and guns, like the Beretta CX4 semi-automatic rifle he used on the tragic day.
Gill, 25, often took to his online journal to post the sombre thoughts he had and was also a member of the VampireFreaks.com web group. “Work sucks… School sucks… Life sucks… What else can I say?” he said in one post. A caption under the last photo posted of Gill, wearing a black coat and holding a rifle, read “Ready for action.”
All this information was gathered in seconds using an elementary Google search. Alas, the Newgrounds.com user known as virtuaman thought it would be appropriate and useful to create a video game in which players assume the role of Gill and reenact the events. Virtuaman strived to “stay true to the reality of this event.” In his striving for accuracy, he must have forgotten about treating the subject matter with any form of decency and delicacy. He invites people to “Take the role of Kimveer Gill and storm Dawson College with your favorite rifle! Kill those students and kill any cops you can!”
A game similar to – and just as unnecessary as – Dawson College Massacre! was released about the Columbine shooting called Super Columbine Massacre RPG! Kimveer Gill was known to be a big fan of that game. Virtuaman cannot guarantee that his game will not influence a teen – or any other person – to repeat Gill’s actions. What’s more dangerous and irresponsible is copycats seeing this as their ticket to quick posthumous fame. By turning Gill into the video game’s hero, Virtuaman is telling people that they, too, can be crusading, gun-toting main characters in video games by emulating Gill.
Before users assume the role of Gill in the game, they are taken through a sequence placing and describing the events. The slide show includes quotes from Gill’s VampireFreaks page and can immediately be skipped, enabling users to get straight to the killing- not that sitting through the sequence and then getting to the killing would be any more appropriate or artistic.
In the game, players control a two-dimensional Gill in their quest to shoot as many students and cops as possible – there is even a counter to keep track of your kills in the bottom-right corner of the game screen. Gill did not kill any cops. Instead of making the game about a nameless gunman in a fictional town and university, Virtuaman exploits a landmark and devastating event in Canadian history to get extra hits on his web page. Incidentally, the game was also uploaded just days before the four-year anniversary of Dawson shooting last week.
In fact, the game fails to mention that the Montreal police force’s work that afternoon was exemplary. The game also fails to consider the actual lives that were lost and endangered on Sept. 13, 2006.
What’s most disturbing is Newgrounds users reviewing the game: of the 13 reviews on the website at the time of publication, only three gave the game a failing grade.
Creating a game about the shooting and calling it a learning experience is insensitive. When the game ends, “RIP Gill’ scrolls across the screen. When Denis Villeneuve and Michael Moore made films about the Polytechnique and Columbine shootings, both filmmakers acknowledged the severity of the crimes committed by the men they were exploring and extended their sympathies to all those involved in and affected by the tragedies.
Virtuaman’s “Sorry if you are offended in some way” disclaimer on his game’s web page just does not cut it.