Festival Sponsors Force Super Columbine Game Out of Competition

January 5, 2007 -
The ultra-controversial Super Columbine Massacre RPG has been dropped from the upcoming Slamdance Festival's independent games competition.

According to Kotaku, festival sponsors threatened to pull out unless SCMRPG was removed from the roster of games under consideration for a Slamdance award:
In a last minute phone call Thursday evening, Slamdance president and co-founder Peter Baxter, told game developer Danny Ledonne that he regards his decision to remove the game from the festival as "deeply flawed," but necessary to the festival's survival.

Ledonne told Kotaku editor Brian Crecente:
I don't want to paint them as the villain in this. I don't think the real issue is a couple of guys at Slamdance who decided to reject my game, it's the larger pressures placed on them... There are people in the gaming community who think I should protest. But I haven't decided what to do yet.

Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost of Persuasive Games commented:
If (Persuasive) made a game with a political opinion one of the Slamdance sponsors didn't like... would we have a place there? It's a concern.

UPDATE: Corporate sponsors listed on the Slamdance Festival's website include: Kodak, Dos Equis Beer, All Seasons Resorts, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey and Fiji Water.


Actually, The sponsers for the OScars weren't allowed to pull out under the agreement in there advertising contract. But your point is well taken regardless.

That still doesn't change the fact that the sponsers of slamdance are now violating ledonnes rights by removing his speech from the event. Regardless, My point was more about the passive nature of the industry then this specific case, as it's ultimatly up ledonne as to what he wants to do about it.

Either way my point is, the industry jsut sits by and allows outside influences carte blanch to attack it, lie about it, defame it, and more, while rarely if ever striking back.

It needs to stop. THen maybe this kinda crap wouldn't happen.

It seems kind of bass-ackwards for the sponsors to fund something like that competition and then demand that a certain entry be disqualified because it's too offensive or whatever. It's perfectly reasonable to point out the hypocrisy of such an action. They sponsored the event as it was but suddenly threatened to withdraw their support just because of that game, a game which exemplifies everything that the event itself stands for? What a riot.

Maybe the event organizers could have had one of those "the content of this event does not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsors" disclaimers or whatever so the corporate tightwads wouldn't get their panties in a bunch over it.

"There are standing civil and firstamendment rigths laws that Ledonne could use to put pressure on the sponsers to allow his game into the event."

Are you for real? First Amendment right? Seriously, find me this in the U.S. Code because as an attorney...its news to me. I'll say it again...slow. The 1st Amendment does not apply here. At all.

"Use the law, and bring legal action against anyone who lies or defames the industry in any way. Win or lose, the threat of lawsuits will be enough to back off the Mainstream media, potlicians, and critics."

Hilarious. People complaining about censorship wanting to sue other people to stop them from talking.

I think some of you need a cold splash of reality in the face. A dipshit little award ceremony banning some tasteless game is not a harbinger of the end of the Republic. They can allow or not allow anyone game they want. The fact that some of you are ready to use the law and government to force the issue speaks volumes. That cuts both ways, you know.

Honestly, the amount of pseudo-legal bullshit in this thread and at Kotaku astounds me.

How is this game tasteless.

@ Brokenscope

I don't think the game is tasteless. I haven't played it, but I think it looks like fun and I don't think that this game should've been thrown out. Just because it's about the Columbine Massacre doesn't mean it's bad. I think it's probably a good game and it should be allowed to contend for an award. No game should ever be thrown out because of violent content, or storyline. I think this sucks and should never be allowed to happen in the future. These people have to stop listening to anti-game activists and realize that their lies suck.

Good for the sponsors. No, really, good for them. Welcome to the free market and stuff.

This isn't censorship, this is about whoever is paying the bills getting to decide how their (and their stockholders') money is spent. Don't like it? Sponsor the event yourself. Or go start your own event to show off SCMRPG or whatever. And while you're at it, boycott whichever companies pulled the plug. The free market is a two-way street, after all. ;)

Umm, I know you mean well, but you can't sue somebody because they don't want to give you their money for something they don't want to support. No matter how absurd their reason for it is.

Furthermore, it's the promoters own damn fault for either not telling the sponsors what they were in for, or not putting a clause in the contract preventing them from pulling out like this. Or, at the very least, for not finding enough sponsors/funds to be able to afford to tell picky sponsors to screw off.

Suing or blaming sponsors over this would only serve to exhibit the same personal responsibility deficiency syndrome which infects the think-of-the-children cultists...


IT's logic like yours that allows politicians to think the can keep trying the same failed bill over and over again regardless of how often it fails.

There are standing civil and firstamendment rigths laws that Ledonne could use to put pressure on the sponsers to allow his game into the event.

It's been standing practice for many years, if sponsers could pull out of an event due to disagreement with the content of something, BrokeBAck Mountain would have never won the Oscar cause I know, multiple members of the various sponsers for the events had issues with it.

Agree with my or not, thats your right, but the time for playing nice ended months and months ago. The industry has 2 choices if they want to end this debate once and for all.

1. Take this case to the SCOTUS and win, thus ending the battle permanantly.

2. Use the law, and bring legal action against anyone who lies or defames the industry in any way. Win or lose, the threat of lawsuits will be enough to back off the Mainstream media, potlicians, and critics.

The time for playing nice ended quite some time ago. It's time to either play mean or don't play at all.

Hopefully, whoever replaces Doug in the ESA has some balls. I'm tired of the industry being completely inactive against it's oppenents. No more Mr. Nice guy.

Lets make them PAY!


1A and other civil rights cut both ways. Whoever is (or was) sponsoring the event has a First Amendment right to not "say" whatever it is in the free speech it is which offends them. Forcing them to do otherwise via the courts would be compelled speech, which is just as dangerous as censorship. If we could force sponsors to promote our speech, what is there to stop someone else from forcing us to promote theirs? Should, say, Jack Thompson be able to cry "censorship" and force game developers to help him promote his message?

Likewise, it would be a violation of 4A to seize their assets to promote something against their will.

As for Brokeback Mountain, the Oscars, et al, erm, it was well within any and every sponsors rights to not advertise there. The reason those with problems with the subject matter chose to do so anyway wasn't some sort of law. It's because ad spots during the awards show are just too damn lucrative. That, and, shunning fans of one of the biggest movies of the year (and cinema in general) would lose more business than pissing off a handful of religious zealots.


I guess my perception for the past 2 years has been /. is a bit left. Then again my that my perception so who knows, I could be selectively ignoring threads subconsciously.

I think the mod system is a good idea, except at times it tends to enforce group think, to an extent. Then again in the last 5 weeks I have gotten mod points 3 times, so the system must be breaking down.


Yay for slashdot.


I would disagree that slashdot tends to be 'left'..... I think it wants to be, and there is a group who consider themselves 'true' slashdot people instead of 'right wing trolls'.. I have a feeling the 'right' side thinks about the same, and any discussion I watch seem to be both side butting heads.

Outside that, yeah, gotta agree on the basic sequence. It is actually an example of why I miss the LJ-threaded gamepolitics discussions. Sure they had thier problems, but they behaved MUCH better then slashdot and were honeslty really intersting.

@Jabrwock and Jythie

When it comes to games on slashdot. Zonk posts something, the "Games are shit these days" people come out of the word work and all intelligent discussion gets modded down, then after a few hours the optimists start filtering in, more mod points get used to improve the page, someone posts and a copy paste or a disucssion about GNAA starts up.

Slash tends to be left, so you see more people who have a complete aversion to any kind of violence then blah blah blah..... you guys know how it goes.

To clearly state the issue at hand here, it is my understanding that supposed free speech (Rights) have been trumped by corporate pressure. I believe a careful examination of this is in order. The Slamdance is a private, corporate event organized and run by a corporate entity and promulgating certain "contest" rules, so to speak. The fact that the other corporate financial sponsors of this event have considered withdrawing THEIR money, is an exercise in their right to direct their support AND to affiliate (Right to Associate Freely is Constitutional too) with those groups and events of their choosing. The game maker has ALREADY exercised his free speech and is distributing his RPG. Please, someone clarify where exactly the supposed free speech rights of anyone is being squelched. I do despise corporate America in general and I do support Free Speech Rights WITHOUT reserve, but in this case, I am having trouble clearly understanding the alleged nature of these rights.

The allegation that free speech rights are being squelched is not supported by a deeper understanding of the facts of this matter. Corporations have the right to associate freely, to sponsor freely and to speak freely. The CORPORATION running this event is out to make a profit. The game maker has been successfully distributing his game. Whose speech is being threatened here? The corporate sponsors are being villified for exercising their right to direct THEIR property (money) in a manner in which they so choose in order to maximize the benefit to their shareholders. Perhaps someone can point to the exact individual and which exact Rights of his (or hers) that are being trampled. Then we can all send an email to that person telling him (or her) that a lawsuit is in order to collect damages.

"The allegation that free speech rights are being squelched is not supported by a deeper understanding of the facts of this matter. Corporations have the right to associate freely, to sponsor freely and to speak freely. The CORPORATION running this event is out to make a profit. The game maker has been successfully distributing his game. Whose speech is being threatened here? The corporate sponsors are being villified for exercising their right to direct THEIR property (money) in a manner in which they so choose in order to maximize the benefit to their shareholders. Perhaps someone can point to the exact individual and which exact Rights of his (or hers) that are being trampled. Then we can all send an email to that person telling him (or her) that a lawsuit is in order to collect damages."

The problem here is not a violation of free speech rights. No one ever said that (that I read). The problem is that Slamdance is a festival celebrating Games/Movies/Entertainment that is considered "underground", even more Indie than Indie if you will.
The problem is that these corporations are providing funding to a festival which celebrates independent media that focuses on issues that may be uncomfortable...they know this, but as soon as SCMRPG is mentioned they threaten to pull funding? WTF is that about?

While agree they should not have done, these companies are responsible to the their stockholders. Sadly the mob has incredible power. I can just imagine a smear campaign now. "Our competitor supported and awards show that game a columbine simulator top awards."

Joe public is going to see columbine simulator and just go brain dead at that point.

This issue is conflicting for me. I think a company should do what is right for its survival in the market place, but I don't think that they should refuse to support uncomfortable issues, ones that need to be looked at.

@blah blah blah.

Taste only comes into play if the game is supposed to be fun. Super is a game in the same sense Saving Private Ryan is a movie. It is meant to explore a terrible event and examine it. It is not meant to be entertainment, at least not in the normal way.

Err...what's the big deal? Private organization decides not to let tasteless game into one of its competitions. Let's get off the high-horse talk about "first amendment" and "censorship" as if this issue is even remotely equal to any sort of government action. Get real.


That there is. I find it interesting how the slashdot discussion differs from GP discussions on this game. Ok, I tend to find the differnces on any crossposted topic from here and there intersting. SD tends to be far more negative twards game issues....

[...] Kotaku is reporting, and Water Cooler Games confirming, that Super Columbine RPG, accepted as a finalist for the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition, has been pulled from the copetition by festival organizers under pressure from sponsors. Apparently this is a first for any film or game that has been accepted to Slamdance. Oddly, the game was actively courted by Slamdance before submissions were due. See the comments at GamePolitics.com, too. [...]

GP should publish a list of the sponsors that made the threat. That information is also newsworthy. Yeah, sure I suppose I could go research it myself, but it wouldn't send the same impactful message to the them. "We are watching you too."

Do we know which of the sponsors actually threatened to pull?

Now, THAT is blatant discimination. It also invalidates the entire awards, since who else was missed out because it didn't suit the sponsors?

Kodak may make artistic tools[cameras and film] but they just showed they don't understand art at all.

I think a proper response from the gaming community would be to organize a boycott on all the sponsors for the event. Well atleast make an attempt to figure out who were the ones threatening to pull out.

The only problem is I feel 10-15% of the actual gaming community has any sense of poilitically what is happening around the industry they love and support.

There's a lively discussion on Slashdot about it.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Festival Sponsors Force Super Columbine Game Out of Competition...


Not that I am surprised... thanks to our persistent media which still compares every single school shooting to Columbine, most people are still too sensitive over the subject to want to view it in any form of media. The fact that it is a video game makes it even more controversial.

I understand why Slamdance pulled it from the competition, as sad as it is, they can't operate without funding.


We're screwed no matter what. Your average Joe very quickly falls into the black and white scenario. So instead of supporting a serious look at an important issue that gets ignored because it's too touchy, you get accused of being a bloodthirsty sicko who enjoys tormenting the memories of the victims.

I don't blame the Slamdance organizers. Follow the money. I'm pissed off that some of the sponsors (Kodak, Dos Equis Beer, All Seasons Resorts, Michael Collins Irish Whiskey and Fiji Water) decided that THEY were the real judges as to what was "art" and what wasn't...

Slamdance is willing to treat video games as equivalent to films, which means that producers who tackle difficult issues should be celebrated. I guess the sponsors are too busy listening to soccer moms who have no place at an independant film festival in the first place.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Here's what I sent to each of the sponsors:

I'm very dissapointed that you pressured the Slamdance film festival to remove Super Columbine Massacre RPG from it's list of independant video games up for consideration. Independant artists who tackle uncomfortable issues should be celebrated, and not shunned. By bowing to pressure from the public, you are allowing the mob to decide what is art and what isn't. If that is the case, why bother sponsoring the festival at all? You should be ashamed that you let the uninformed majority dictate to independant artists what issues cannot be talked about. By doing so, you've shown independant artists everywhere that if the mob doesn't agree, then the film/game shouldn't be made. Slamdance has acknowledged that video games are capable of tackling serious issues, just like film and literature. Why can't you?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I just like that 2 of the sponsers are alcohol companies. Obviously they are the moral high ground.


Very nice. I really hope at least a few respond and GP can post them ^_^

well, at minimal, I guess I know a handfull of companies that I will be rather unlikliy to bother buying from again.

Tsk, tsk, I don't blame the Slamdance people, but those sponsers, not cool, not cool at all.

Lol @ censorcrats

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How do I put this without sounding so "anti-video games" over this...

We understand he should have a right for this game to be in the festival and there is apprent hypocristy with "elephant?" being allowed still. (Never heard of elephant.)

But complaining about this....just kinda flashed a point of view in my head that further proves Jack's delusions of us voilent killers/criminals.

Which I know we aren't. But BSing about this might kinda send the message that we want to see gore and voilence I know some do but not in a sick way.

I dunno...

I know we are complaining about how stupid this is and first admendment rights etc etc.....but uh....becareful how you word things I suppose....

I think I popped my mind. x_x

"How many non-gamers actually know about Slamdance? "
If you've been to Sundance, You know about Slamdance. They advertise the heck out of it during Sundance (Cause as I understand it, the events are close or usually overlap with Sundance). It's billed as the Underground version of Sundance. I went to a bunch of shorts they were putting on once during Sundance Week.

WTF? Were the sponsers actually threatned with boycotts if they allowed the game in the competition? How many non-gamers actually know about Slamdance? Why have Americans gotten into the attitude that any speech they don't like should be censored?

This is completely unacceptable, Ledonne should not stand for this at all.


No, that's Danny LeDonne at left, the news anchor at the top and Mike Strobel at bottom right, some dummy from Toronto (I think) who they got to argue with LeDonne. Don't worry, he made enough of the types of comments you mentioned without JT there.

On a brighter note, a bunch of us wrote and ripped him, and his response, at least to me, was surprisingly defeatist...

yes, Hayabusa is right. It is Mike Strobel... from this article:


Now that really annoys me.

Compare SCMRPG with the criticly acclaimed Elephant - in which you follow about a boring bunch of annoying kids for 50 minutes until they all get shot.

SCMRPG actually explored the reason why the killers did what they did, and the emotional impact their actions left. Out of the two, it was the game that made me think about high school shootings the most. Yet Elephant was allowed at the Cans film festival and SCMRPG isnt allowed at Slamdance.

BTW - is that Jack Thompson in the screenshot? What obviously biased, ill informed and quite possibly biogeted comments did he have to add to to the dialog?

This is why the industry needs to be more aggressive in it's actions.

By being so passive as it has, it allows crap like this to happen. If I were ledonne, Protest would be the last thing on my list of actons. Lawsuit would be number on with a BULLET!

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If you don't like it, host your own little games festival and heap all the prizes you want on it. Slamdance is well within their rights to reject Ledonne's game. The posters that believe this is some massive offense of the First Amendment need to do their homework and brush up on Economics 101. Specifically, how capitalism works.

I'm curious. If SCMRPG was allowed to remain in Slamdance, but did not win, would the same people whining today cry foul that it was some massive conspiracy against "controversial" games? Magic 8 ball says yes.

@ Brokenscope

Oh, by the way, I know you didn't mean it as a compliment a few weeks ago when you said that I am almost the reverse of Jack Thompson, but that was the best compliment I have ever received. Thanks a lot.
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Mattsworknameargue that it's wrong, but then please admit it's wrong on ALL Fronts07/29/2015 - 2:06am
MattsworknameTechnoGeek: It's actually NOT, but it is a method used all across the specturm. See Rush limbaugh, MSNBC, Shawn hannity, etc etc, how many compagns have been brought up to try and shut them down by going after there advertisers. It's fine if you wanna07/29/2015 - 2:05am
Mattsworknamediscussed, while not what I liked and not the methods I wanted to see used, were , in a sense, the effort of thsoe game consuming masses to hold what they felt was supposed to be there press accountable for what many of them felt was Betrayal07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAs we say, the gamers are dead article set of a firestorm among the game consuming populace, who, ideally, were the intended audiance for sites like Kotaku, Polygon, Et all. As such, the turn about on them and the attacking of them, via the metods07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAndrew: Thats kind fo the issue at hand, Accountable is a matter of context. For a media group, it means accountable to its reader. to a goverment, to it's voters and tax payer, to a company, to it's share holders.07/29/2015 - 2:02am
Andrew EisenAnd again, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published?07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - I disagree with your 9:12 and 9:16 comment. There are myriad ways to address content you don't like. And they're far easier to execute in the online space.07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Banning in the legal sense? Not that I'm aware but there have certainly been groups of gamers who have worked towards getting content they don't like removed.07/28/2015 - 11:45pm
DanJAlexander's editorial was and continues to be grossly misrepresented by her opponents. And if you don't like a site, you stop reading it - same as not watching a tv show. They get your first click, but not your second.07/28/2015 - 11:40pm
TechnogeekYes, because actively trying to convince advertisers to influence the editorial content of media is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, especially for a movement that's ostensibly about journalistic ethics.07/28/2015 - 11:02pm
Mattsworknameanother07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
Mattsworknameyou HAVE TO click on it. So they get the click revenue weather you like what it says or not. as such, the targeting of advertisers most likely seemed like a good course of action to those who wanted to hold those media groups accountable for one reason07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
MattsworknameBut, when you look at online media, it's completely different, with far more options, but far few ways to address issues that the consumers may have. In tv, you don't like what they show, you don't watch. But in order to see if you like something online07/28/2015 - 9:12pm
MattsworknameIn tv, and radio, ratings are how it works. your ratings determine how well you do and how much money you an charge.07/28/2015 - 9:02pm
Mattsworknameexpect to do so without someone wanting to hold you to task for it07/28/2015 - 9:00pm
MattsworknameMecha: I don't think anyone was asking for Editoral changes, what they wanted was to show those media groups that if they were gonna bash there own audiance, the audiance was not gonna take it sitting down. you can write what you want, but you can't07/28/2015 - 8:56pm
MattsworknameAndrew, Im asking as a practical question, Have gamers, as a group, ever asked for a game, or other item, to be banned. Im trying to see if theres any cases anyone else remembers cause I cant find or remember any.07/28/2015 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenAs mentioned, Gamasutra isn't a gaming site, it's a game industry site. I don't feel it's changed its focus at all. Also, I don't get the sense that the majority of the people who took issue with that one opinion piece were regular readers anyway.07/28/2015 - 8:43pm
MattsworknameDitto kotaku, Gawker, VOX, Polygon, ETC07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
MechaTama31So, between pulling a game from one chain of stores, and forcing editorial changes to a media source, only one of them strikes you as being on the edge of censorship, and it's the game one?07/28/2015 - 8:41pm

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