Main Street Massacre video game set on Vancouver's SkyTrain

Some say the game is an acceptable expression of frustration; others say it is just a bad idea

CBC News Posted: Aug 13, 2014 8:36 AM PT Last Updated: Aug 14, 2014 6:51 AM PT

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A violent video game is using a Metro Vancouver transit hub as a backdrop for virtual murder and mayhem, and while some are troubled by the depiction, not everyone is outraged.

The game, Main Street Massacre, begins with a seemingly innocent introduction: The main character, Mack, is a construction worker who is frustrated after a long day at work.

He becomes annoyed with the crowded train, and fumes at system delays. Finally, he snaps and decides to vent his anger — with a gun.

The browser-based game's setting bears a fairly close resemblance to the SkyTrain and the actual Main Street Station. It uses the train's acceleration noises and depicts the station's platform, stairway and ticket machines.

A statement issued by Metro Vancouver Transit Police Wednesday says it is aware of the "disturbing" internet video game.

"We are in the process of reviewing this video to determine if any police related issues come to light," transit police said.

Jason Lee Elliott, who teaches game design at The Art institute of Vancouver, says the Main Street Massacre game isn't necessarily promoting violence. Elliott said he believes the game creator's work is more of an artistic piece.

"Through the experiences he's had on SkyTrain, he wanted to find a way that he could use his voice to express his frustrations of the situation of riding the SkyTrain every day. It just happened that games is his medium," Elliott said.   

After two prolonged, system-wide SkyTrain shutdowns during rush hour in the past month, it's a frustration many Vancouverites can relate to.

Game maker defends his work

Reached by CBC News Wednesday afternoon, game creator Alexi Wildman said that was exactly the point he was trying to make.

"It's a work of art. It's a political statement. It's provocative, it was designed to be," he said.

Wildman explained that like the character in the game he, too, is a Metro Vancouver construction worker, and that daily life can reach a boiling point for many in his industry.

"It's such a frustrating thing working in construction. The last thing we need at the end of the day is SkyTrain delays, a station that's halfway closed down for, like, six months."

To anyone expressing shock at the violence depicted in the game, Wildman counters there is real physical violence — actual beatings and fights — that happens at some work sites. The game is meant to express the pent-up rage he and others feel some days, not to encourage anyone to snap.

"I don't advocate doing that whatsoever," he said. "If someone's going to way that my game is going to be the cause of someone actually shooting up a SkyTrain station, committing acts of violence — that's not because of the game."

It's not the first time a Metro Vancouver location has been a backdrop for a violent game. Last year, a clip designed to be part of the popular video game Counter-Strike used Port Moody Secondary School as its model.

The demo clip depicts a gunman with an assault rifle inside the halls of the school.

In that case, Port Moody RCMP said the game was "ill-conceived" and contacted the developer, but said no laws were broken and the game maker posed no threat to staff or students at the school.

With files from the CBC's Farrah Merali
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