A video game that simulated school shootings has been pulled before its release date after facing a colossal backlash.
"Active Shooter" encouraged players to open fire inside classrooms and auditoriums as a heavy metal soundtrack thumped in the background.
It was set to come out on June 6, but a Change.org petition calling for the release to be canceled had more than 100,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
"How can anyone sleep at night knowing that they are profiting from turning deadly school shootings into entertainment?" asked the petition started by a Seattle mother, Stephanie Robinett.
Marketing of the game came days after the 23rd U.S. school shooting of 2018, and amid another round of the emotionally charged debate over guns in America — led in part by student activists in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
"They're trying to profit off of it, and I think it's disgusting," Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, was killed after being shot 10 times at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said on Tuesday. "We are trying to prevent this from happening again, and they are encouraging it. It is despicable. It is vile."
The computer game was going to be released via the digital marketplace Steam, and was developed by Revived Games, which marketed it as a "dynamic SWAT simulator." It offered the option to play either the shooter or a SWAT team member.
Acid, the publisher of the game, addressed the controversy in a confusing blog post last week on Steam's forums, writing: "After receiving such high amount of critics and hate, I will more likely remove the shooters [sic] role in this game by the release, unless if it can be kept as it is right now."
The post is attributed to a developer named Arthur Belkin, who lists the Russian Federation as his home country.
But on Tuesday night, Valve Corporation, the owner of Steam, announced it had removed the game after an investigation, and found that the developer and publisher was actually "a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who had previously been removed last fall."
"Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material, and user review manipulation," Valve said. "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."
Many had called for the game to be pulled, including anti-gun activist Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Parkland shooting.
"Wow, this is amazing news!!!" he tweeted after learning it had been removed.
A disclaimer at the beginning of the game's demo had said it did not intend to glamorize violence.
The game's description also said players should "not take any of this seriously" and urged them to get help if they feel like hurting anyone.
But many critics had said that was not enough — including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who called the game "inexcusable" and tweeted, "Any company that develops a game like this in wake of such a horrific tragedy should be ashamed of itself."
This isn't the first video game to create such controversy. In 2011, another game, "School Shooter," which portrayed the Columbine school shooting that took place in 1999 in Colorado, was pulled after public outcry.