In late December, Void Interactive, makers of upcoming tactics game Ready or Not, suddenly lost its publishing partner. While not directly confirmed at the time, speculation online heavily suggested the first-person shooter shake-up was due to a recent official exchange with fans, where one worker distastefully reiterated that the world “better believe” the game was “gonna” include a previously-announced school shooting level. And now, a few days after the furor that broke out over that story, the studio has released a more measured statement about its general approach and philosophy behind the game.
Out in early access, the highly-rated on Steam game Ready or Not puts you in the boots of an elite SWAT team that is sent in to diffuse high stake situations, like when someone is taken hostage. Presumably, a level where a school shooter terrorizes a classroom would fall under the game’s purview. Mechanically and even conceptually, it’s an idea that is fairly well-trod in video games, with military tactics games forming a genre onto their own. Games can make you play both sides of conflicts like these. Typically, however, video games depict or imply situations involving adults, not children. You might, for example, play a video game where you are tasked with robbing a bank—which will then require you to execute a careful plan that involves taking hostages.
Arguably the problem isn’t the subject matter per se, it’s a worry that this particular studio will be able to handle such a tricky subject with the grace that it requires given how flippant some devs working on the game have sounded recently. Media for Ready or Not also hasn’t inspired confidence for some. One trailer for the game shows all these of these elements: men bravely reaching down to save children, flashes of schoolroom desks, and a broken neon sign that reads ANAL.
And so, some people don’t quite trust that Void Interactive will handle the proposed subject mater delicately enough, which might explain why the developers put out a long statement on Christmas eve.
The cliff notes version is that the team acknowledges that the idea of a school shooting level will elicit strong responses, but they are trying their best to do right by the subject.
“Void Interactive has a clear commitment to deliver high quality, impactful content that other mainstream software developers may shy away from due to cultural conventions and norms,” the note reads.
It goes on to say that while they value feedback, the public won’t influence what they do. The studio will, however, honor “the work of dedicated law enforcement officers across the world and in no way intends to glorify cowardly criminal acts.”
We are dedicated to promoting a level of authenticity and realism in our video game, Ready or Not, that carries with it difficult subject matter. We understand that this requires a certain responsibility—to our fans and community, yes, but also to those who have been impacted by the traumatic events law enforcement all too often responds to. Rest assured, our aim is to handle all of Ready or Not’s content with the level of weight and respect that it warrants. We have recently had to remind certain team members of the required care in discussing this material now and on an on-going basis.
The note goes on to say that school is an important aspect of many of our day to day lives, which is why the game developer wants to try and honor those “who have been impacted by these real world tragedies with a portrayal that does not trivialize their experiences.”
According to the official game Steam page, Void Interactive has consulted with police globally to craft the game. In some of the largest school districts in the United States, there’s been a concentrated effort since the Black Lives Matter protests rolled out to cut police presences out of some schools. In one study involving 25 school shootings, crises of this nature weren’t resolved by an officer, but rather by general staff disarming the assailant—or by shooters deciding on their own to stop.