When a tragedy or major event occurs, you can bet on a few key things happening. People will grieve. The newsreel will spin. Twitter will blow up. The Onion will satirise. The blogosphere will write. And, of course, thanks to the blessings of accessible game development: someone will make a game.
Unfortunately, recent happenings with Chris Dorner are no exception. In real life, Dorner was wanted for murder after developing a violent campaign against the LAPD, ultimately prompting a large manhunt that ended with Dorner holed up in a burning cabin while officers tried to kill or smoke him out. Dorner's charred body was found and ID'd at the scene.
And now, of course, those events have been made into a video game. The video above depicts Chris Dorner's Last Stand, a video game first linked to in a Reddit thread frequented by posters from the popular message board 4Chan, posted with the YouTube description "4chan can make better games in 10 hours than EA can make in a year."
The game is a fictionalised version of former police officer Chris Dorner's last moments: you have to gun down what seems like an endless number of cops while picking up KFC buckets for health while a song by Gangsta Rap booms in the background.
The game depicting this scenario is far from classy, that much is obvious. Hell, you might even call it insensitive. It's not, however, surprising. Chris Dorner's Last Stand joins the ranks of games like this one depicting the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and the infamous Super Columbine Massacre RPG. More overtly, it's similar to games like Kindergarden Killer — that is, games that depict sensitive subjects offensively.
What would compel a person to make a game like this? Back when we got tipped about the Sandy Hook game which allowed you to play as Adam Lanza, I reached out to its creator, a man that goes by the online handle "LiveCort."
The 37-year-old Canadian was going around multiple websites in an attempt to get the word out on his game — including Kotaku, but also other development websites such as indieDB. Most of these websites banned him as soon as they saw what the game was about, and now it appears his development blog has been taken down.
On his development blog, he was constantly using the word "edgy" to describe the game, to the point that it seemed like the game was a flippant attempt to poke a hornet's next. I asked him about his intentions, but LiveCort only said one thing:
"I want people to play my game out of curiosity, then be pleasantly surprised."
Far from a satisfying answer, right?
Danny Ledonne, the creator of Super Columbine Massacre RPG, was more forthcoming:
"I have and will continue to create media my entire life. Some of it will be controversial. Most of it won't. It will be viewed by people who do wonderful things with their lives. It will be viewed by people who basically just get by. Unfortunately, my work will also be viewed by people who do something awful. Responsible use and literacy of media is very important - because like school shootings, media is not going away."
As for Chris Dorner's Last Stand — well, it's made by people from 4Chan. That's a group that is well-known for its baiting and audacity, certainly no stranger to being purposefully offensive. Sometimes for laughs, sometimes for political reasons.
Trying to find a justification for the existence of these games can feel pointless. There might not be any. Perhaps they're an explicit attempt to elicit a reaction from the public. It could be kids just screwing around. Some might even pull the art card, claiming that good art is never afraid to offend or put people out of their comfort zones.
What's unfortunate is that these developers don't take advantage of the medium's inherent strengths to explore nuanced and therefore 'worthwhile' depictions of sensitive subjects. It's unlikely that a Chris Dorner game — regardless of what it was or who made it — would ever be well-received simply due to the nature of the subject-matter. Such would also be the case with Sandy Hook and the Columbine massacre, I'm guessing.
Games like Chris Dorner's Last Stand will never be widely accepted or considered tasteful. But that doesn't mean they can't be valuable when exploring complex, perhaps uncomfortable subjects. These games might not be good or all that useful, but that doesn't mean future games that tackle sensitive subjects can't be.
Games allow for a level of complexity that other media do not, and there is absolutely no reason that a game couldn't explore a tragic event with the same nuance as a news report or a documentary.
But for the time being, just like clockwork, anything something awful happens, there will be someone making a game out of it. To provoke, to insult, and maybe, hopefully, one day, to try to do something more.