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New Zealand banned a mass shooting game as a "terrorist publication"

New Zealand authorities have banned a mass shooting FPS which draws inspiration from the terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch this March, declaring The Shitposter a “terrorist publication”. Chief censor David Shanks called it “a product created for and marketed to white supremacists who are interested in supporting and celebrating white extremist attacks.”

We’d so far ignored this the game because it’s a tedious attempt by developers 2Genderz Productions to profit from controversy. It’s a familiar one too, I say having received too many e-mails from the creator of their first game. They tried to get coverage for that by adopting stances from ‘it’s parody’ and ‘actually this is opposing neo-Nazis’ to ‘hello I’m a concerned citizen writing to you about a scandalous video game have you seen this scandal?’ Tedious.

The Shitposter is a first-person shooter where an “internet prankster” named Brenton Torrent (the man charged with the Christchurch killings is Brenton Tarrant) who’s banned from “JooTube” then livestreams a mass shooting, egged on by racists in chat. The game has a number of other racist, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi jokes, references, and memes, all the way down to its price being $14.88.

It is now an offence to share, host, or download the game in New Zealand, the Office of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) announced on Thursday. It was banned alongside the alleged manifesto of a German shooter who wore a headcam when attacking a synagogue to livestream it on Twitch.

Shanks said he’d previously ignored a tedious edgy game of this sort because “I did not see any point in giving the producers of this game the attention that they were seeking by classifying it.” He’d thought it best if people just avoid giving it attention.

“This has now changed,” Shanks continued. “The game producers appear intent on producing a ‘family’ of white extremist games, and they have established a revenue stream, with customers from New Zealand and from around the world able to purchase the games from the producer’s website. I could not ignore this game given the very real concerns around this latest game that were raised with me. Having assessed it now it is clear that this game promotes and celebrates white extremist mass murder. The games producers will try to dress their work up as satire but this game is no joke.”

New Zealand’s free speech laws extend “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” and the OFLC ruling says this “crosses the line.”

In a surprise bit of amateur games criticism, the OFLC say The Shitposter has “no particular artistic merit” and little “value as a game”, calling it out for “limited playability and crude rendering”. What it is, they say, is “a trivialisation and promotion of contemporary real-world terrorist violence and an outright endorsement of racist beliefs that is meant to appeal to those who likely already share those beliefs or are vulnerable to them.”

The OFLC claim they don’t censor materials readily but with this there is a “high likelihood of significant, real injuries to the public good arising directly from the publication’s continued availability.” They’re worried about its impact on people affected by Christchurch killings, on Muslims and migrants targeted by white supremacists, and on those who might find it encouraging.

2Genderz Productions responded to the ruling in a public statement, saying “We have only skimmed over it, but it appears to have been written by an individual suffering from severe autism.” Their blog posts are written under the racist fake name “Noseberg Shekelschmidt Oyveystein.”

I am unsurprised by tedious controversy around 2Genderz games. We were on the receiving end of several attempts to provoke us with their first game, Jesus Strikes Back: Judgment Day. The e-mails we received demonstrated how pathetic games like this are, desperately trying to start an outrage to profit from a counter-backlash.

The first e-mails about Jesus Strikes Back presented it as “a parody” with playable characters including Jesus Christ, Adolf Hilter, and Donald Trump, and a plot about liberating the world from “radical socialists” and “radical terrorists from the planet Akbar”. We didn’t post about the game because that’s tedious edgy tosh trying to stir controversy.

One month later, the marketing tried a new approach. Rather than rely on the game being itself sufficiently controversial, it presented a stance. The e-mail titled “Using Gaming to DESTROY the alt-right Movement” was also predictable and boring:

“We are using the gaming platform to directly combat the alt-right extremist ideology and shame neo-nazi, fascist, trumpanzee, racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, pro-patriarchy SCUM.

“We will counter the GamerGate virgin hermits who recruit impressionable young minds to the extreme right through the only language they understand: the art of video games.”

The next apparent attempt to have us post about the game was mock-concern. We received an e-mail, titled “Trump supporters are developing and funding extremist alt-right video game”, four times over four days from a new address which shared several distinct markers with the address used before:

“Users of the anonymous internet messaging board 8chan and the subreddit r/the_donald (home of trump supporters and known for promoting racism and extremist views in the past) are building and financing an alt-right video game, which sees Jesus, Putin, Trump and Hitler having to kill leftists, Muslims, non-whites, feminists, LGBT, illegal immigrants, ‘abortion doctors’ .. basically everyone opposed to the alt-right. Members of the 8chan community are praising the work and some are even pledging funding towards its development.”

In case it weren’t obvious enough that this was an attempt to get a rise, the same e-mail account was later reused for marketing and sent us the game’s launch press release.

The final e-mail I received from Jesus Strikes Back crowed about having caused outrage, been banned from PayPal, and had these woes reported on by games blogs. It was signed from “J. Goebells”.

I’d have continued ignoring these games had it not become international news. For New Zealand, The Shitposter was a step too far. Whether the developers think it’s all just an edgy joke or not doesn’t much matter when it’s satisfying a culture which has sheltered, nourished, and celebrated racists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and mass murderers. New Zealand’s authorities believe banning it will help protect their citizens. I don’t doubt it’ll also introduce the game to more people only too happy to pay $14.88 to own the libs.

Emoji in header image is copyright 2019 Twitter, Inc and other contributors, licensed under CC-BY 4.0.

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Alice O'Connor

News Editor

When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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