When Slamdance first announced they were pulling Super Columbine Massacre RPG from consideration in their independent game competition, Slamdance president Peter Baxter cited both advertiser impact and moral considerations as the reasons. Now, a new official statement on the Slamdance site has come up with a new excuse for the removal -- potential legal fees.
Take it away slamdance.com/games: "Specifically with the subject matter of Super Columbine Massacre Role Playing Game Slamdance does not have the resources to defend any drawn out civil action that our legal council has stated can easily arise from publicly showing it." The statement doesn't cite any specific legal threats made against the game or the competition, but we can easily foresee some frivolous Jack-Thompson-esque lawsuit that would indeed cost Slamdance a pretty penny to defend.
But wait. The site also mentions that "the organization annually takes on legal matters in support of the independent artists." Indeed, in 2001, Slamdance stood up to legal threats from Artisan Entertainment and hosted a surprise showing of controversial documentary "Brooklyn Babylon." We find it hard that Slamdance had the resources to stand up to a distinct, stated legal threat from a major independent movie studio like Artisan but doesn't have the resources to handle vague, potential legal threat over Super Columbine Massacre RPG.
Besides subject matter concerns, a Business Week article cites Baxter as saying that "organizers were reluctant to expose Slamdance to possible legal issues over music in the game." As far as we can tell, the SNES-style, bleep-and-bloop MIDI versions of popular songs from Nirvana, Marilyn Manson and other early-'90s favorites in the game are all well within the bounds of fair use. If Slamdance has to worry about legal culpability for giving exposure to these songs, sites like MIDI Database should be quaking in their boots.
It seems to us that Baxter is just trying to come up with a convenient excuse for a hypocritical decision to duck away from defending a controversial game in the same way he would defend a controversial movie. But, as we all know, games are just kid's stuff, so really, who can blame him?