Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Be Men, Not Destroyers

Kieron Gillen | 27 Feb 2007 07:00
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They don't. The game then proceeds into a more combat-orientated RPG, where the boys tool up with weaponry from the trunk of their car and move through the school, confronting groups of student stereotypes - Preppy Girl, Nerdy Girl, Black Boy, Jock Boy. No one has any real chance against the boys' automatic weaponry. Most don't even fight back. As you work through the school, you experience various narrative vignettes, some purely fictional but directly illustrating events leading up to the attack, others actual occurrences in the school. For an example of the former, Eric reminisces about his telephone confession to the 20-something Brenda Parker he was dating that he's actually a teenage boy. For the latter, they fire shots at police from school library window, before the final double-suicide. After a sequence of Eric's fantasies - from idyllic ones of Antipodean islands away from the "fuckheads" to ones of mass death and violence - the scene fades to black. Fade up on tiny pixelated corpses. The cartoon image swaps for real photos of the two boys, lying in the library with gaping head wounds.

You presume it's over. In fact, the second half opens. The game restarts, and we're in Hell. The Doom music strikes up. The Hell they're stuck in is populated by the cast of that iconic, violent game, which now you're stuck in a proper fight with. Exploring, you eventually discover an island of lost souls equally damned - from Mario to Ronald Regan to John Lennon to Confucius - and finally hook up with existentialist philosopher Nietzsche, who in exchange for a copy of Ecce Homo, gives a little lecture of how their actions fit entirely into his philosophy of the Genius. Heading on, you meet and beat Satan, who then accepts a tasty Devil Cake and shows the pair what's happening back on Earth.

That seems terribly confusing.
Yeah, it is a bit. SCMRPG is nothing but confusing. It's got many problems, but the key one is it's trying to say so many different things simultaneously.

So what's the point, then?
The game's points can be divided into two rough categories. First is the documentary-styled recapitulation of the events of the day and Ledonne's portraits of the two killer's motivations. The second is a satire on the events of the day and the mass of hypocrisies and knee-jerk reactions surrounding it, as well as a more general satire on videogames.

The first part is arguably the most successful. Fundamentally, what happens in the actual game is what actually happened in the day. If you complete SCMPRG, you will know more about the events and the personalities of Harris and Klebold than you would have if you hadn't played, in a more memorable way than the average dry news report. It is well researched, with much dialogue lifted from actual records. Not that it's a pure documentary; there's a lot of convincing fiction filling the gaps in an attempt to answer the key question almost all art surrounding Columbine asks: "Why?" That is, why would some kids want to do this? Ledonne, at school in Colorado at a similar period, uses the evidence to create his take.

The satire in the game is obvious, even in the title, recalling all things Mario and the classic age of Nintendo RPGs, of which its graphics are strongly reminiscent. What could be more videogame than defeating hundreds of people in combat? By its existence, it asks the question, Why is playing one sort of killer acceptable and the other beyond the pale? What's the difference between American's Army and Under Ash? That it's an obvious hypocrisy doesn't make it any less poignant, but Ledonne covers his bases a little by avoiding glorifying the actual killings themselves.

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