Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech Massacre

June 27, 2008 -

When you read that someone is planning a game based on Virginia Tech, you can't help but cringe.

But game designer - and Virginia Tech alum - Manveer Heir seems committed to using the video game medium to tastefully and respectfully tell the tale of the aftermath of the April, 2007 rampage.

Heir, whose day job involves game developments for Raven Software, writes:

To make a video game based around these events is difficult and delicate... Bereavement in Blacksburg centers around the concept of loss and grief, and how people cope with it. The game takes place on April 17th, 2007, the day after the shootings...

 

You can use the phone to call your girlfriend... You can use your computer and see e-mails from the administration, as well as condolences from friends. You can watch TV or listen to music to escape... You can turn to bottles of alcohol to drown your sorrows. Or you can just leave the room and venture to other parts of campus and find other interactions. The choices are yours and they affect the way your character progresses through the game.

 

Internally, the game keeps a “grief score”. You start at zero, and positive influencing interactions will increase this score and negative influencing actions will decrease it... Ultimately, there should be multiple paths to end the game, just as there are in life. One can move through all the stages of grief, or become stuck... In the end, the game is one of choices and how these choices ultimately affect how we deal with grief.

On the other hand, not everyone appreciates what Heir is trying to do. At College On The Record, a writer who goes by "Technical Brilliance" harshly criticizes the project, referring to Heir as a "poor, misguided fool":

What are you thinking, man? I hope this design document stays in production limbo. A lot of my friends were personally affected by this atrocity, and I don't think they'd appreciate a game mocking their grief. 

GP: Readers, what do you think?


Comments

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Okay, we can make Call of Duty games about Pearl Harbor, but not explore the depths of Virginia Tech?  Aren't they one in the same?

We as a society worry too much.  Make the game, get it out there, and see how people respond to it.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

As someone who had friends on campus during the Northern Illinois University shootings (thankfully, none of them were hurt), I feel that this proposed game could be a great healing tool

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I think those of you worrying about wether or not this game will be boring are somewhat missing the point. This isn't a game being made with that in mind at all. This is meant to be more....of a simulation than a 'game' per se.

I also would equate this somewhat to a perfromance art peice. Not all art is meant to make you feel good, some of it is meant evoke much diffrent feelings. This game is meant to grasp at that sort of concept and try and make it though a new medium.

Will it be well accepted? Probably not. Infact I'd imagine regardless of if this were made properly to the vision of it's idea that people will hate it for quite a long time. Much in the same way certian books and artworks were hated/banned. But eventualy our society will recognise it for what it was and see it as an important stepping stone towards opening up videogames as an art form.

I really do hope this ends up being made. It could be quite important indeed.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Wait, you mean you guys *haven't* played as Cho Seung-Hui by now?

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

If I'm reading the concept correctly, the game will bascially allow outsiders to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of V-Tech after what happened the day before. I like it.

I'm just worried that it might be about as fun as watching paint dry.

 

Video "game"

I personaly really think we need a new term for Video games or something. When you say game, you imply something done for amusement. Something like this could be very intresting and very well done, but as soon as you say "Video game" people jump all over you.

If you cannot best a man in argument, all is not lost. You can still call him vile names.

Re: Video "game"

Electronic Entertainment, Entertainment Software, etc have been attempted in the past. Unfortunately none have stuck.

We will simply have to take the title Video Game and try to change its meaning in the mainstream. No matter what you call it, when you finally show someone a game, they will say, "Oh! A video game."

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

It'd be an interesting project if there was a game behind it. After a major tragedy (preferrably a fictional one), you have to get on with your life and do your day to day work but you have to balance it with grief management.

Say you have to attend university, deliver the mail or enforce the law, having a low output of grief could lead to limited options; a cop who didn't express his grief or suppressed it with booze or drugs may end up pidgeonholed into a violent reaction to a minor crime, a speding driver gets hauled out of the car & given a 'rodney king special' whilst the cop is screaming "Take that terrorist!" but if you've expressed your grief in a healthy way you can avoid more needless suffering.

It does sound like the stress meter in Indigo Prophecy which worked really well as a gameplay element even if it was a bit too easy to keep low.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

This game sounds like it would be fucking terrible and boring as hell.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I think ayone who goes by the pseudonym 'Technical Brilliance' has no right to an opinion. Guy sounds way too annoyingly smug. That being said, I'm for games as a medium to express emotion and relate to our society as it is now. Real life events have been put into movies/books and if video games hope to move forward as a medium, and not stay as just toys in the view of the media and the people who criticize them who have no real understanding of them, they need to same liberties and the same lack of restriction afforded to more traditional media types.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Really good idea and with the right intention.

 

Although it might be helpful to ask people who did go though the trouma and grief after the V-Tech or Collumbine shootings and also have their input.

 

Because to do a game like this, you will need to know what the people went though and the perfect research for that is to talk to people who went though the Collumbine and V-Tech experience and grief, and hopefully find a way in the game where their grief might not go away, but they can still live on in their daily lives without the grief affecting them too much.

 

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

The first videogame based on a school shooting was initially met with outright disgust.  The third may be met with cautious hope.  The fifth will be met with acceptance.  The tenth will be met with indifference.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Exactly

It's a road we have to walk at some point or another, and it's never going to be an easy one, and no-one is ever going to come up with a formula that lives up to everyones' sensibilities, nor should they have to. The Basketball Diaries met strong opposition in some places, so did Jerry Springer the Musical, you can never please everyone, but that doesn't mean that controversial stuff shouldn't exist. It challenges us, both intellectually and socially, and without it, you get nothing but stagnation.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Hoo boy...I agree with DavCube.  This strikes me as a waste of time.  I simply don't think it would achieve anything he's trying to do with it, no matter how well-intentioned those goals might be.  This really reminds me of those cheesy, utterly ineffectual after-school specials about drugs, or even those godawful school assemblies where some shmuck in a t-shirt comes up on stage, asks how everyone is doing, and then performs some self-authored rap song about how booze and pre-marital sex are bad and by abstaining you can be cool like him.  It's just not going to reach anyone in the thought-provoking, introspective way that some of the people here seem to hope it might.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Personally, I think that this is a worthwhile effort even if it isn't quite successful...

Someone attempting to do something meaningful and different with a video game can only help to move the medium forward, even if it takes someone else to make the ideas a workable reality.

The grief system, if it works out, could even be incoporated by a smart developer into a larger project. For example, say an RPG in which a main character dies midway through the game. Such a system of choosing how your character deals with grieving over this death could effect both the journey and the final outcome of the game.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

So instead of Cloud going vegie on us we could have made him into a drunk. That would have been awesome. Maybe we could have help him not to be so annoying.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I'm inclined to think it's a horrible idea. A big part of games is voyeurism to me, escapism. This sounds more along the lines of edutainment. Somehow the notion of a "grief meter" just makes me cringe.  What do you suppose the shooter would've had to say about something like that?  Think maybe he'd think it immortalizes him??  Life's too short for simulated grief, especially becase most of us end up with the real mccoy at one point or another.

 

"Even if it was online gaming that somehow inspired him to kill his parents, he must have realised at some point that they wouldn't drop any good loot." - GP member, Doomsong

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

To a certain degree I agree with you, however, as this article shows, there are still people out there so crippled with grief over what happened at V-Tech and even Columbine, that even the mention of it in a Computer format creates todal waves of spite and anger without any knowledge of the game itself. People do need how to learn to grieve, especially in incidents like this.

Done properly, the game may help, done improperly and it could harm the entire 'serious video games' genre, it's a tightrope, but it's one we have to walk at some point.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

After what that one kid pulled, who could blame them?

-kurisu7885

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Agreed, unfortunately that is both the blessing and the curse of the Internet. People who are born with the right of Freedom of Expression tend to lose sight of how precious that gift is, or how eager some people are to take it away. It becomes an excuse rather than a Right, and in doing so, it is put in danger.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

This looks kinda good on paper, creating a game that can show just what the full-blown effect that events like these can create, but it sounds like something that should just be a sort of documentary for some other matter, not a video game.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be made for the sake of the victims, i'm saying it shouldn't be made because i think it would be, at least somewhat, a waste of his own time.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

The only thing I would hope is that there is some oversight by qualified grief counselors or psychologists to make sure the simulation would be healthy for anyone who might use the program who may also have been directly traumatized by the events.  Having witnessed another traumatizing event firsthand myself, I can understand that there is the potential danger of perpetuating trauma rather than relieving it when re-enacting even the grieving process. While I'm sure Manveer Heir is doing his best to be sensitive and careful in his planning, a project like this should require professional guidance in developing the therapeutic value.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

We see it in other mediums all the time, so why not video games?

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

If I read this correctly, players are awarded "grief" points. That's tasteless, even if it wasn't intended to be. I can't help thinking that maybe a documentary would be a more fitting method of conveying the designer's message. Videogames have had enough links to this tragedy.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

As others have pointed out, it seems clear these are more "emotional grief level of the player", rather than "points for causing grief".

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

To my mind, it helps people learn how to deal with grief. Alcohol might reduce your grief for the short term, but not only will that grief return when you sober up, but if you keep doing it, you now have to things to deal with rather than one.

Using that, you can present the message that, in this case, Alcohol isn't the way to deal with loss, and if that message can change the life of even one person who has suffered a loss, then the game has paid for itself in my opinion.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

As some have said, this seems to be more inline of Sanity meters imployed in games such as Indigo Prophecy and Eternal Darkness.  In these cases, the attribute "greif" is assigned a quantative value.  I worry that you concern is an interpretation of this as "Points for greiving", which I feel is far more literal and casual than the designer would intend.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

My understanding of the "grief points" is that it is something to keep track of where you are in the stages of grief. Nothing wrong with that. The goal would be to move through the stages of grief until you reach acceptance. Then you can move on.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

It's still the idea that grief has been quantified into videogame points.

Let's take example of "madness points" in horror games. Is it the player whose sanity becomes maladjusted? No. He's detached from the horror. You might make him jump with genuine fear occasionally but other than that, it's merely a resource to keep track of.

The same with grief points. The player is detached from any real grief and it has been boiled down to resource management.

"Dude, I totally reached Acceptance last night, how about you?"

"Nah, I'm still on Denial. Maybe I should download a game faq."

Is it real acceptance or is it merely the game telling you "this is how you should feel".

If you want to make a statement about any massacre, try evoking real emotions in the audience instead of just keeping a scorecard.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I finally was able to read the whole thing.

He wants to keep the greif counter hidden from the player so that what you describe would be less likely to happen.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

You mean imagined links right?

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I just have to say that no matter how well done this game is it will undoubtedly receive tons of criticism, and there wil definitely be people offended by the very idea without even trying the game.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Unfortunately, that will simply have to happen for a while before anyone does take these sort of games seriously. It is part of the growing pains.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

This game will be great.  It will show that games can deal with adult themes.  Hopefully it won't suck like the Super Massacre RPG.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

The SCM RPG was actually pretty good for being made with an old version of RPG Maker, in my opinion.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I'd love to see this made in all honesty. I don't think it's the sort of game I'd play really but if this medium is to start being seen as an art form things like this need to come into exsistance. Games that arn't just about completing the level or running ahead of the others playing.

If this became a real project, I'd be behind it 100%.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Hm... sounds kinda like a dating sim game minus the dating.

If this creator is really aiming for the goals he states, this could be great.  All it has to do is not be made for the sake of money like a certain other school shooting RPG that shall remain nameless was, and it could be a landmark in the evolution of games.

As for Technical Brilliance, I think that, just this once, I'd like to indulge my inner fanboy and respond to him by quoting Largo from Megatokyo (as scary and ironic a choice it may be):

"Video games are a conduit for the soul.  They expand our lives, channel our imagination, test our skillz.  Games exist as a channel for the boundless energy of people all over the world.  It is a medium you are incapable of understanding."

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

So it's like an adventure game based on dealing with the emotional aftermath?

Sounds interesting actually. A kind of self-reflection.

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

This was a response to a game design challenge, not an actual plan to be implemented. Here's the list of all entries:

http://fullbright.blogspot.com/2008/05/call-to-arms-2008.html

I don't think there's any plans to implement anything on that page. It's a theoretical challenge, for designers to challenge themselves.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Now ot just wait for the one who didn't even let the bodies cool first to weigh in on this.

V-tech rampage was just an atrocity and a mockery, and the kid who made it, his attitude just screwed up most people's view of gamers even more, notl iek he cared.

 

This seems like it could be an important tool ot help people cope with what happened.

-kurisu7885

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I think this, if pulled off correctly, could be something great for video games.  What we call video games today are really just simulations, and simulations can be used to experience things you can't or couldn't in real life.

It's funny that the mainstream reaction of anything being made into a "video game" is that the material being presented will be mocked or cheapened.  I wouldn't think that this would happen in any other medium.  Perhaps I'm not remembering correctly, but no one got up-in-arms when Spielberg made Schindler's List.  We're okay with films, books, paintings, songs, and graphic novels being used as tools to examine our tragedies, but games aren't just seen as outside art, their seen as outside of media, as just a toy.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

There are plenty of people trying to achieve that. But don't expect it to find these games on the shelves of Wal-mart or Gamestop. At least for another 10 years or so.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I wrote this on their comment box:

I think the misguided fool was the one who wrote this pseudo-article. The game is not about the violence of the shootings (is not an action game where you kill innocent people), is more like a graphic adventure where the player dicides the events on it.

I really think a game like this is not impossible, but what I also think is because some dumb people (like you), this game will have a hard time to see the light.

I really hope this game becomes reality so you can STFU.

For some people should not be allowed to use an internet connection to write bu1lsh1t...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

I think this is a great idea. The idiot complaining is probably thinking it is another V-Tech Rampage game.

We need more games that deal with more emotions than excitement, happiness etc. Games that make you feel sad, genuinely mad, would go a long way.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

Why do we need games with a greater range of emotion? There are plenty of games that deal with loss/tragedy, and the aftermath of that loss. Games that come to mind are Bioshock, Mass Effect, FF7 (bleh...), HL2: ep 2, Indigo Prophecy, Xenogears... it's a pretty long list.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

No, there are plenty of game that touch on it. There are very few who deal with it in a meaningful manner. None of the games you listed deal with grief in a substantial way. Did any of them even depict all the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) as more then a passing theme? I know it is not the core theme in any of them. At best grief and dealing with the grief is underlining force for the plot's progression and not a major focus. As far as games go usually the only aspects of grief that are depicted are Anger, Depression, and Acceptance and even then are depicted in shallow superficial ways. As an excuse for the action (you killed my wife and daughter, now lets spend 40 hr killing everyone else because of it (max pain)), not the primary driving force (the bullet time effect and "John Woo" stylized action sequences) I look forward to a game that takes on meaningful issues and primary factors rather then just plot devices. Lets hope this game actually does it.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

(Dang it. I forgot that this site need html tags. Here is a readable version)

No, there are plenty of game that touch on it. There are very few who deal with it in a meaningful manner. None of the games you listed deal with grief in a substantial way. Did any of them even depict all the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) as more then a passing theme? I know it is not the core theme in any of them.

At best grief and dealing with the grief is underlining force for the plot's progression and not a major focus. As far as games go usually the only aspects of grief that are depicted are Anger, Depression, and Acceptance and even then are depicted in shallow superficial ways. As an excuse for the action (you killed my wife and daughter, now lets spend 40 hr killing everyone else because of it (max pain)), not the primary driving force (the bullet time effect and "John Woo" stylized action sequences)

I look forward to a game that takes on meaningful issues and primary factors rather then just plot devices. Lets hope this game actually does it.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

An ambitious project, probably one that would have to be done as a vanity project, rather than a mainstream release.

I like the ideas presented.  The idea of an internal "grief score" or other things could lend itslef to some interesting gameplay moments.  I'm reminded of the brief demo for Indigo Prophecy that had all the actions you could take in the diner.

The trick would be in offering branching gameplay.

 

That being stated, I would be interested in it, but I don't know how far it could go, save a small, independent release.

Re: Designer Plans Game Based on Aftermath of Virginia Tech

It sounds an interesting idea, and may help people with dealing with grief in other situations if done correctly.

 
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