An indie game developed by a man from Sydney, Australia is getting national attention this week because of its controversial subject matter: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that happened almost a year ago in Newtown, Connecticut. Politicians, journalists, parents of victims, Connecticut state officials, and even the National Rifle Association have weighed in on the game, "The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary."
The Flash-based game was developed by Ryan Jake Lambourn, who describes himself in an audio recording that accompanies the game, as a U.S. expatriate from Houston who now resides in Sydney, Australia. The message of his game seems to be that guns laws in the United States need to change. He points to laws enacted in Australia after the fatal 1996 shooting of 35 people at a popular tourist destination that have brought gun-related murders down in the country.
"Here we are a year after the Sandy Hook shootings in which 26 people were killed, 20 of which were first-graders, and absolutely nothing positive has come out of it," Lambourn said in the recording. "I'm someone who rarely follows the news, so these updates have been a constant reminder of just how commonplace mass shootings and school shootings have become."
Whether his intentions are good or not, his vehicle for the message of gun control isn't appreciated by anyone in Newtown, Connecticut. Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra went so far as to say that she has contacted the FBI about the game and urged an investigation.
"I'm just horrified," Llodra told the CT Post. "I just don't understand, frankly, why anyone would think that the horrible tragedy that took place here in Sandy Hook would have any entertainment value. It just breaks my heart."
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., slammed the developer of the game:
"I find the exploitation of this unspeakable tragedy is just shocking," Blumenthal told Hearst. "From what I've heard and what's been shown to me, it's absolutely abhorrent. My hope is that it will be voluntarily taken down because it's offensive and hurtful."
Gun control advocacy group the Newtown Action Alliance says that the only good to come from this game is that gun rights supporters and gun control advocates have found some common ground in loathing the game:
"The only positive that can possibly come from this is if the repulsive reactions that it causes serve as common ground for extreme gun-rights people to instead of pointing out how something so vile is protected under the Constitution, or looking the other way, they join the masses in condemning it," said Dave Ackert, a spokesman for the Newtown Action Alliance. "Same goes for the NRA leadership, all of their A-rated lawmakers, executives and board members at gun manufacturers, gaming and other entertainment companies."
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy described the game as sickening.
"Sickening. To make a game about the murder of 20 children and their six teachers is absolutely sickening," U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. "I hope the very disturbed person who could think of something like this sees the cruelty of what he's done and stops it."
The NRA called the game "reprehensible," but said that it wouldn't comment further because it didn't want to draw any more attention to "this despicable excuse for a human being."
On his Twitter feed, Lambourn listed off all the different groups that don't like him or his game:
the liberals dont like me because i've disrespected the dead.— PiGPEN (@googumproduce) November 20, 2013
the conservatives dont like me because of the gun control message.— PiGPEN (@googumproduce) November 20, 2013
the conspiracy theorists dont like me because it risks informing people of what happened.— PiGPEN (@googumproduce) November 20, 2013
and the trolls dont like me because it wasnt edgy enough.— PiGPEN (@googumproduce) November 20, 2013
We will have more on this story as it develops.