Google Shoot View judged too confrontational

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Google Shoot View, an online computer game developed by a Dutch marketing agency, has been taken offline. The game, which is a combination of first-person shooter and Google Street View, raised a storm of controversy over the last few days. People felt - quite literally - under attack.

The game is pretty simple; the player is dropped into a random Google Street View location and given a M4A1 assault rifle to shoot people with. The player explores the location from behind the gunsight. In contrast to many other first-person shooters (FPS), this game doesn't feature any blood, guts and gore. The player can't move and can only aim and fire.

Pool Worldwide, the Amsterdam agency behind the game, says it was developed as an experiment. Creative director Erwin Kleinjan: "Someone came up with the idea and we thought it was pretty funny. When it was finally finished and launched, it was clear that it had created a certain effect and response; the online debate is pretty fierce."

Liège and Florence
Response to the game has been pretty mixed, ranging from "pretty cool" to "that is creepy, running around the world shooting real people. This seems to have gone too far." Others simply responded with Ctrl-Alt-Delete. It is clear that some people felt literally attacked; Google Street View does after all, show real people in real situations. Evidently, some find the notion of putting a person in a real location and letting them open fire (digitally) on innocent bystanders to be extremely confrontational.

It is even more confrontational in a week that has seen it happen twice in real life: a far-right extremist opened fire on Senegalese immigrants in the Italian city of Florence and killed two people before committing suicide and a gunman killed six and injured more than 120 in the Belgian city of Liège on Tuesday afternoon. He too committed suicide.

The shooting incidents were enough to spur Google to action: The US company sent Pool Worldwide an email stating that the game “does not conform to the terms of use and access to the game will be blocked."

Apart from a heated debate, the game has also, much to the satisfaction of Kleinjan, generated a lot of publicity. “We’re always making things for ourselves and for our clients. They vary widely; we can go from controversial to extremely cute and back again. Internet is multi-facetted. And Shoot View has added to the debate. The response from the USA has been extremely tense and extreme, but they live in a society that is very different from ours.”

Pool Worldwide can’t do anything about Google’s decision to block access to Street View and has no intention of challenging the move: “It’s their platform and I believe they can do exactly what they want with it,” says Kleinjan. There won’t be a follow-up: “We’ve gotten everything out of Street View that we can.”