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School maps for FPS games - John C. Kirk — LiveJournal

May. 18th, 2007

12:22 am - School maps for FPS games

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Date:May 18th, 2007 09:28 am (UTC)
I did a bit more digging on the web last night, and I found a discussion about this case. I haven't read all of the comments, but the people in favour of the expulsion basically gave two reasons:

a) It's a pretty stupid thing to do right now, so he should have known that people would react badly. [Counter-argument: it takes a while to program a map like this, so he probably started it before the shootings at Virginia Tech; someone else claimed to be from his school, and said that the map was actually made 2-3 years ago.]

b) "You can't be too careful."

That latter point ties into my "coffee theory", as described here. In other words, the basic logic for kicking the guy out (or at least taking some form of disciplinary action) would be "There's a link between computer games and actual violence, so we want to stop you before you get that far." However, the question isn't "What proportion of crazed gunmen have previously made computer maps of their targets?" but rather "What proportion of people who make maps go on to carry out a shooting spree?" That's partly my motivation for this LJ post, since I want to offer a counter-example of people who make maps without killing anyone.

Granted, the school will have concerns about accountability, since if anything does go wrong then they'll have to get quizzed by the police and the media afterwards. However, imagine a discussion like this:

Reporter: "You say that you saw him drinking coffee one weekend?"
Teacher: "Yes, that's right."
Reporter: "But you didn't take any action against him?"
Teacher: "No, he wasn't breaking any school rules, and he was outside school at the time anyway."
Reporter: "But are you aware that several of the previous high school shooters had previously drunk coffee? Why didn't you stop him when you had the chance?"
Teacher: "But lots of people drink coffee and don't shoot people!"
Reporter: "Ah, so you were willing to take that risk, and now 50 people are dead. How can you sleep at night, you monster?!"

I remember some of the Calvin & Hobbes strips involved Calvin daydreaming about blowing up his school (e.g. with the aid of dinosaurs in F15s), and I do wonder how people would react to those comics nowadays.

Coming back to legitimate reasons for doing maps, there's a computer game version of the ICSF library (part of Imperial College London) on their website. The idea of that was to work out the best arrangement of bookshelves, by creating a room that you could wander around without having to do all the heavy lifting. I've done a basic RoomPlan program (2D) which I used for positioning furniture in my flat, and it's the same principle: just a high-tech version of graph paper.

Back when I was at primary school, my homework one day was to create a floor-plan of my bedroom. I don't think it had to be to scale, so the basic point was just to imagine what the room would look like if I was staring down at it from above. I think this was a useful skill to learn (which has helped me with things like cabling layouts at work), and I can see a map of your school (or any other familiar building) giving a similar benefit, since you can get an idea of whether it looks right. You don't necessarily need to do any shooting, you can just wander round and see whether all the walls and doors are in the right places.

When I did my bee simulation (during my MSc), I briefly considered using HalfLife as an engine for it. I decided against it, since high quality graphics weren't important and I didn't want people to have to spend money on an extra program before they could use mine, but I still thought it was worth documenting this in my report.

On a related note, if I ever get round to writing "Gently" (aka my program for testing whether you can get a sofa up a staircase), I'm intending to make that standalone too, but other people did suggest that I could do it via a game like HalfLife, and that would make it easier to generate custom maps (e.g. your building).
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Date:May 18th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
I completely understand your coffee argument, and I think it is probably valid. Which is why I understand, but don't agree with the decision.
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