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TomFulp
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Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 11:58 AM Reply

Over the years, a number of highly offensive games and movies have been published on Newgrounds and despite the hatemail and being dropped by just about every ad company in existence, we held firm on a policy of anti-censorship. Today, however, I pulled a reversal on that policy and maybe it was a huge mistake or maybe it was the right thing to do, I'm sure there will be a variety of opinions on the matter.

It's not like we don't already slip on the censorship policy. We've removed racist and homophobic stuff (moreso than YouTube I would say) and we remove shovelware games built off common templates with zero passion.

This game, however, had a certain level of artfulness and craftsmanship to it. There was a visual and technical quality that revealed a serious level of effort and passion. It also had a political message I personally agree with; a statement on gun control and the problem of gun violence in the US. It attempted to demonstrate how things can play out differently with changes in our gun laws. It made you feel and it made you think.

It did so, however, in the context of the Sandy Hook massacre, recreating the event and putting you in the role of the shooter.

Newgrounds has faced harsh criticism in the past for standing firm on not censoring distasteful material, namely games about school shootings. All I can say is that this game took things to a new level in terms of the age of the victims and the realism of the terror they faced on that day.

I was personally contacted by Sandy Hook parents and they expressed their understanding of what the game was attempting to communicate, but also expressed the sadness and horror it made them feel, and their desire to have it removed. Today I'm choosing respect for the Sandy Hook parents over respect for NG's censorship policies.

Either decision on this matter puts a knot in my stomach. I'm of course interested in hearing thoughts on the matter, especially from artists on the site.


This is the game JohnnyUtah and I have been working on.

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zalzane
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:06 PM Reply

thank god, the guy who made that game is a huge narcissistic shithead who gets off when people get mad at his game.

itll be fun to see how he reacts

Wegra
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:08 PM Reply

Did I miss something?


I have a penis

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Manly-Chicken
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:09 PM Reply

Never played it.
I feel horrible for asking, but could I get an external link just to see what the game was like/if it was worth being censored?


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ChazDude
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:10 PM Reply

I don't recall seeing anything related to the Sandy Hook massacre...


I tell you what, for a 15 year old you have some sweet talent - deckheadtottie

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TomFulp
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:11 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:09 PM, Manly-Chicken wrote: Never played it.
I feel horrible for asking, but could I get an external link just to see what the game was like/if it was worth being censored?

PiGPEN has a website so he could post it there. Rather than soak up a ton of attention and traffic before removing it, I opted to just remove it.


This is the game JohnnyUtah and I have been working on.

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ZJ
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:12 PM Reply

I've talked about this in more private places, but I'll repeat some of it here. I think you've opened up floodgates, Tom. I understand your concerns about this game, but I feel like you're allowing for various groups of people to want various forms of content removed in the future and they'll be more justified in their request since this was taken down.

And let me put this bluntly: Who will bring more views to this website? PiGPEN or those angry parents? Can modern NG really afford to piss off its content creators?

I dunno. It's a rough spot. I feel for you Tom.


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WooleyWorld
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:12 PM Reply

Something something inch take a mile...


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Bosa
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:14 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 11:58 AM, TomFulp wrote: Today I'm choosing respect for the Sandy Hook parents over respect for NG's censorship policies.

I am glad you chose to do that. It proves that there is at least somebody with a heart on this site.


Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength

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Crimsonskies455
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:15 PM Reply

There wasn't much else you could do. I would do the same thing, and respect the parent's request. Censorship is a tough cookie since each individual has a different opinion on what shouldn't and should be censored.

Tvox
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:15 PM Reply

Although I disagreed with the intended message, the game was thought provoking and as far as the art went, pretty well made. Even so, there is a time and place for these sorts of games and this wasn't it. I think you made the right decision.

SinclairStrange
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:16 PM Reply

Not actually having played the game I can't judge personally if it should be pulled or not. But seeing things from the parents point of view I think it was a best thing. Can't imagine how upset the parents are having such a tragedy happen to them so in that way it's the best thing to do.

All honesty, if you felt it was right, then it's the right thing to do. People should respect the decision. :)

Just me two cents worth.

Manly-Chicken
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:17 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:11 PM, TomFulp wrote:
At 11/18/13 12:09 PM, Manly-Chicken wrote: Never played it.
I feel horrible for asking, but could I get an external link just to see what the game was like/if it was worth being censored?
PiGPEN has a website so he could post it there. Rather than soak up a ton of attention and traffic before removing it, I opted to just remove it.

Well if you thought it was offensive then it has to be really offensive.
I say it's ok that you did.
NG has a policy against offensive material already.


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thekillzar
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:18 PM Reply

I think you did the right thing. There was an incident like this years ago where some guy made an RPG based off of the Columbine High school massacre and generated a ton of controversy because people couldn't see the point it was trying to make (and also because they were justifiably upset over it). It attempted to portray the killers in a new light by getting players to see it from their perspective, but that's really tough to look at when some of the audience were personally affected by the people responsible for the tragedy.

Artistic integrity is not enough to protect the game from being taken down. It's something a little too touchy since the victims in this event were very young children. It doesn't matter how you can choose to see it, it's sad and extremely inappropriate. There's no trying to see it from the killer's view. They were kids, they didn't deserve to die.

That's how I think about it, so I'm not sure what the other perspective on it looks like. I support your decision Tom.


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RobertClock
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:18 PM Reply

Understandable, but disappointing decision.

I see this as a very slippery slope.


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Fim
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:20 PM Reply

I can't believe people are giving you shit for this Tom, it sounds like you made the right call, although I can't say that with 100% confidence since I'm not familiar with the game you're referring to.

I guess sometimes you need to draw the line between what is harmless, immature, or childish and what is malicious, tasteless and offensive. My sympathy is completely with the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, who are undoubtedly going through hell right now. It's the least you can do for them to remove a silly game that is causing them heartache.


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Knights
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:20 PM Reply

While I understand and respect your decision Tom, I think you should have kept the game on the site regardless of the feelings of the parties involved. While I have not played this game and therefore have no reference to how terrible it is, this isn't the first time a flash based on a national travesty has been submitted and passed onto the flash portal (Columbine, Oklahoma City, Virginia Tech, etc.).

This also must not be the first time the respected parties directly affected by these said flashes have contacted you directly about their disapproval or sadness revolving around, so I don't know why in this regard you decided to take down the game instead of keeping it up (maybe it's because you're a family man and had an emotional understanding to the parties involved and their families).

The point is, that even though it may have been a terrible flash that felt like a punch to the gut and made you not only feel uncomfortable, or even incredibly sad or depressed that games like this can be based on real life events and how messed up the world is, I personally think that's part of what art should do. Art should make us think of the consequences of things, and although I haven't played the game myself, I can see that this game was trying to establish a message with clear issues that may or may not have been addressed fully in this country and because of this results like Sandy Hook happened and we're all regretting not dealing with the issues in the first place.

Whether you enjoy the flash or not, or whether you find it tasteful or distasteful or not is irrelevant. What is is the fact that it was so emotional that it made yo want to censor it in the first place, and I think that speaks enough for itself.


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Jojo55
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:21 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 11:58 AM, TomFulp wrote: I was personally contacted by Sandy Hook parents and they expressed their understanding of what the game was attempting to communicate, but also expressed the sadness and horror it made them feel, and their desire to have it removed. Today I'm choosing respect for the Sandy Hook parents over respect for NG's censorship policies.

Personally, although some people are offended, I wouldn't have removed it if it really had effort put into it. I don't think it's a matter of having or not having respect for someone, but respecting people's work and letting them post something controversial. If it were a piece of shit made for the sake of being offensive, then sure, I'd have removed it. But I see nothing wrong otherwise. Perhaps a better, more fair course of action would have been to let the creator decide for himself to remove it, by directing any concerns to him/her?


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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:22 PM Reply

I, for one, am glad that the parents no longer have to live with the pain of a flash animation being posted on Newgrounds instead of the author's website

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:22 PM Reply

Sometimes you have to lay low to avert your demise.
Sometimes you have to stand tall to prevent your destruction.

The call was yours to make. I respect it.

Zachary
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:24 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:12 PM, ZJ wrote: I've talked about this in more private places, but I'll repeat some of it here. I think you've opened up floodgates, Tom. I understand your concerns about this game, but I feel like you're allowing for various groups of people to want various forms of content removed in the future and they'll be more justified in their request since this was taken down.

And let me put this bluntly: Who will bring more views to this website? PiGPEN or those angry parents? Can modern NG really afford to piss off its content creators?

I dunno. It's a rough spot. I feel for you Tom.

I see your point, but it is also possible that this game could drive away other artists from the site.

On the flip side, I saw this image posted by pigpen and I completely disagree with what the woman who sent Tom that message had to say.

She made a claim that it was a "how to guide for future shooters". That statement is just ridiculous. The game should be removed in an act of respect for the parents, but not because it is a "how to guide for future shooters" (which is certainly is not).

I feel like whenever a shooting happens, video games are the go-to target for the media. Her saying that it was an instruction game for shooters is absolutely absurd.

Just wanted to point that out. While I do feel that the game had a message and was very artistic, I agree that the specifics should have been removed from it.


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Sequenced
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:24 PM Reply

People getting offended and asking admins to remove content from the internet is completely insane. Those folks should just unplug if they keep finding things that insult them.

I'm not gonna say whether it was the right thing to do or not, but I really wish people would stop getting offended from what they see online.


lel

rainheart666787
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:25 PM Reply

Completely agree with your decision.

There is a limit where artistic merit meets aggressive intent. why choose such a matter for a game in the first place? it is beyond me.

Good call for taking it down.

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:25 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 11:58 AM, TomFulp wrote:

I think most of the community will understand; this was not an easy decision for you. At least the Sandy Hook parents did not berate you and the NG community; perhaps those parents will be interested in working with NG to produce content they would be comfortable with in the future.


Last one in is the first one out.

ZJ
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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:27 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:20 PM, Fim wrote: My sympathy is completely with the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, who are undoubtedly going through hell right now. It's the least you can do for them to remove a silly game that is causing them heartache.

Okay, I'm gonna stop you there. Where was Tom when his "silly game" called Pico's School was released in 1999? That could have just as easily pissed off parents of the Columbine massacre that happened THAT YEAR. Sure it didn't call out Columbine by name, but it wouldn't take a genius to associate the game with the shooting tragedy. Plus, in terms of quality, that game was pretty advanced for that time in terms of realism, just as this game is for this time.

It's not as simple as it appears. There's decent reasons to get mad at Tom for taking down a game that had effort put into it and wasn't breaking serious rules.


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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:28 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:25 PM, Ryndarin wrote: perhaps those parents will be interested in working with NG to produce content they would be comfortable with in the future.

If this flash wasn't on NG they probably would have never known of NG's existence, of course they aren't going to contribute anything.

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:29 PM Reply

I never post here, but I usually read your updates.

I don't think this is "opening floodgates," we have to consider WHO was complaining here. The parents of these children, the people who are still suffering. It's not like you bent to some organization trying to flex its muscles, these are people whose motives you could trust.

Don't rip your conscious out on this, it was the right thing. Those people have gone through enough.

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:30 PM Reply

At 11/18/13 12:27 PM, ZJ wrote:
At 11/18/13 12:20 PM, Fim wrote: My sympathy is completely with the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, who are undoubtedly going through hell right now. It's the least you can do for them to remove a silly game that is causing them heartache.
Okay, I'm gonna stop you there. Where was Tom when his "silly game" called Pico's School was released in 1999? That could have just as easily pissed off parents of the Columbine massacre that happened THAT YEAR. Sure it didn't call out Columbine by name, but it wouldn't take a genius to associate the game with the shooting tragedy. Plus, in terms of quality, that game was pretty advanced for that time in terms of realism, just as this game is for this time.

It's not as simple as it appears. There's decent reasons to get mad at Tom for taking down a game that had effort put into it and wasn't breaking serious rules.

i doubt tom made pico's school with the sole purpose of pissing off people emotionally involved in columbine.

pigpen has explicitly said that he made the sandy hook and vtech shooting games to make people upset.

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:31 PM Reply

Follow your gut Tom, its hard to make any website friendly for every user that visits it. Newgrounds has been known for being edgy at times. I have found offensive material on this site, and I have loved it at times. But what people don't realize is you're taking all the risks hosting such content. Personally, legally, and financially. So its really rough to make a decision when you have so many factors surrounding it.

One thing that people should also keep in mind, is that Tom has a family himself. If his websites hosts offensive school shooting content. People could label his child as a terrorist or something.

Even if you decide to clean up your site a little, someone, somewhere will gladly give the content a new home.

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Response to Censorship Nov. 18th, 2013 @ 12:32 PM Reply

I think it might be a good thing but I'm not into the guns thing, guns don't kill people, people kill people as cows kill more people than sharks each year. For the homophobic and racist content I find that normal but I hope that it's not only in one way, I bet that if you took the decision you had your ideas and I hope they were good.