Maen Striit Massacre

Some folks in Vancouver are all in a tizzy over a new online game featuring a shooting rampage on their transit system.  Developed and posted by a construction worker, the first person shooter is a construction worker caught up in transit delays. Vancouver’s transit system recently had two lengthy delays in one week, so that’s realistic, but the character’s goal is to get to the cheque cashing store before it closes. That goal establishes the game as fantasy – those places are open 24 hours.

Apart from the usual concerns about the promotion of violence, various talking heads have suggested that the game is a political or artistic statement. The creator’s “Letter to the Citizens of Vancouver” suggests the former:

Main Street Station – and the prolonged renovations (which have essentially turned it into a glorified bus-stop for the better part of a year) is a perfect metaphor for self-serving un-creative management of cities, back-door dealings in kushy government contracts – and the extreme frustrations this kind of bullshit causes for ordinary citizens. People are provoked by SkyTrain malfunctions because something much deeper is being stirred. If we were generally thriving, secure and happy – the occasional delay would be no problem. The reality is, we’re not. We’re living day to day, under constant financial and time pressure. One missed paycheck from ruin, in most cases. We’re fed-up with city life. We’re sensing a real injustice. An increasingly large divide between OUR opinions and needs – and those of the people who govern us.

He also acknowledges that the game is deliberately provocative, the publicity is great for the business he is trying to launch, and that while this game was quick and crudely made, he’s hoping it draws some attention to a better game he spent two years developing.

As the game is online, it’s beyond the jurisdiction of the provincial classification boards. Transit police are investigating, but it’s unlikely any laws are being broken. Translink asked the media to stop promoting the game by playing clips, and the president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association stated:

The portrayal of construction workers in this video clip as violent individuals is highly inappropriate and does not reflect at all the professionalism of the construction industry.

I’m glad that’s cleared up. Although it’s worth noting that in a sample of 216 murderers, the most common occupation was labourer, at 28%, followed by service workers (17%) and students and the unemployed (13% for each). Other occupations were in the single digits. 

I’m never happy with the promotion of violence to solve problems, but it’s clear the game is satire. The crudely drawn platform includes critiques of consumerism (a poster says “Buy More Shit!”) and a sign resembling the federal government’s Economic Action Plan billboards (“Wasting of Tax Dollars in Progress!”). There’s also a banner stating “Arbeit Macht ARBEIT,” a reference to “Arbeit macht frei” (work makes you free), a slogan posted at several WWII concentration camps. 

Screen Capture from http://msm.wildmanindustrie.netdna-cdn.com/
Screen Capture from http://msm.wildmanindustrie.netdna-cdn.com/

The game’s creator denies that the game promotes violence, and a child right’s advocate agrees, noting that while the effects of violent video games on behaviour are uncertain, if we are really worried about reducing violence we should address the known causes:

What is clear is that there are links between adversity in children’s lives and later violence. In extraordinarily large numbers around the globe, children are victims of maltreatment. They are living in families in which they are exposed to intimate partner violence, to sexual and physical abuse, to severe neglect or rejection. They are raised in communities where street violence, gang violence, civil strife, or war, are their daily reality. And there is a notable absence of family supports or mental health facilities. These circumstances of rearing are more predictive of violence than is the playing of violent video games.

The game’s creator wants a better world too: 

In this day and age … with the technology we have available … there is NO GOOD GOD DAMNED REASON that ANYONE should be worried about having shelter and food – REGARDLESS of whether they are working. I can hear the onslaught of clever justifications coming … and I don’t care. The gap in theoretical efficiency and quality, given our resources – and what we’re accomplishing – is absurd. It’s pathetic.
A city should provide basic amenities to EVERYONE, no questions asked. This lip-service and grandiose bluster about “ending homelessness by 2020” is ridiculous. This could have been solved in the 60’s, or earlier.

Meanwhile, Translink has accomplished some censorship. Their lawyers sent a letter to the hosting company, claiming infringement of copyrights. The creator cannot afford a lawyer, so game is now known as Maen Striit Massacre, it takes place in a SK-itrain station, and what might have been a Translink map has been removed. I believe this is known as shooting the messenger.  

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