A game pitched as a “school shooting simulation” has been ditched from Steam’s online store ahead of release. The title had been criticized by parents of real-life school shooting victims, and an online petition opposing its launch had attracted more than 180,000 signatures. Steam’s owner, Valve, said it had dropped the game because its developer had a history of bad behavior. But the individual named has denied involvement.
Active Shooter came to prominence after the BBC revealed that an anti-gun violence charity had described it as “appalling” last week. CNN subsequently reported that the families of two students killed in February’s high school attack in Parkland, Florida had described the game as being “despicable” and “horrific”. It also drew the ire of Florida’s senior senator Bill Nelson, who called it “inexcusable”, adding that the developer should be “ashamed”.
Other US officials had also expressed concern. Valve subsequently emailed the media to say it had taken action ahead of Active Shooter’s scheduled 6 June release. “This developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall when he was operating as ‘[bc]Interactive’ and ‘Elusive Team’,” said Valve in a statement. “Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation.
“His subsequent return under new business names was a fact that came to light as we investigated the controversy around his upcoming title. We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve. “The broader conversation about Steam’s content policies is one that we’ll be addressing soon.” The BBC contacted Active Shooter’s publisher for a reaction at an email address it had provided for press enquiries.
A person identifying himself as Arthur Belkin sent a brief reply. “Ata is my good friend, but past games I’ve created are mine. I’m still waiting for Steam’s reply regarding the whole topic.” He also provided a Twitter account address for Mr Berdyev. The publisher has denied Mr Berdyev was Active Shooter’s developer and declined to comment further pending the publication of an interview given to PC Mag.