A video game recently posted to a gaming website invites players to walk in the footsteps of Kimveer Gill and go on a shooting rampage at Dawson College.
Gill is the gunman who strode into Dawson in 2006 and opened fire, killing one student and injuring 19 others before killing himself. It was the most recent of the three school shootings that have occurred in Montreal since 1989.
“Dawson College Massacre” was posted online on Sept. 8, a few days before Sept. 13, the four-year anniversary of Gill’s shooting spree.
The game’s style is very basic, comparable graphically and in terms of game-play to early video flash games, and begins with Gill’s biography and photos of himself he had posted online. Then, the game begins on de Maisonneuve Boulevard, where Gill’s shooting rampage also began at 12:50 p.m. The players must aim at and shoot student characters while moving into the school and avoiding the aim of police officers. When the player is shot by police, the Gill character commits suicide against a red background.
The website where it was posted, Newgrounds.com, hosts flash games and animations designed by site members. Virtuaman, the creator of DCM, published five other games on the site, including “Skunk Launch Cannon” and “Cyber Mini-Putt.” Little information is posted in their biography, but it is indicated that the account has been active since Nov. 2009.
The hyped-up description of the game would seem to glorify Gill’s actions: “Take the role of Kimveer Gill and storm Dawson college with your favorite rifle,” it reads. “Kill those students and kill any cops you can! Be careful, those cops are quick on the scene and see you, get in that school and kill everyone before the cops have the chance to ruin your plan!”
However, another video game author thinks that Virtuaman isn’t trying to glorify the Dawson shootings.
“I do not believe Virtuaman’s intentions were malicious at all,” said Danny Ledonne in an email. “Like many young people, this game designer wanted to understand something foreign to him and chose the medium of games to do this.”
Ledonne himself caused an uproar when he created a 2005 game called Super Columbine Massacre RPG. Players re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting, when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at their high school. Ledonne’s intentions had been to explore bullying and understand the path the boys chose. “Games are a sophisticated and still poorly-understood medium, so how to communicate an idea – or investigate a social issue – is difficult to understand with games.”
A private message questioning their intentions to Virtuaman through Newgrounds went unanswered as of press time. But someone under that name posted a statement to Ledonne’s website on Sept. 11 saying, “I am not quite sure why I made [the game].” Upon having studied school shootings, and seeing that they happen again and again, the writer noted that “hiding from the problem does not make it go away. The only way anyone will learn about these events and what causes them is if the story is shown to them in front of their eyes.”
Reviewers had mixed reactions to the game: Wetalo, supposedly a current Dawson student, admonished: “Seriously man, this game isn’t “art,’ it’s assholeism. Shock value no longer makes entertainment.” Another reviewer assigned the game a score of 10: “Yes, people are going to hate this, but what form of art doesn’t have its detractors?”
Whether gamers or the larger public view DCM as a lesson in how a nice kid becomes a cold-blooded killer or as an inappropriate, glorified electronic killing spree remains to be seen.
But Virtuaman, who claimed to be Canadian, apparently meant no harm, according to posts on Ledonne’s website: “In the end I hope the game doesn’t ruin anyone’s day. I never made it with the intention of hurting anyone.”