Terrorism and Game Design: Gamer Fined $50,000 For Mapping Montreal Metro

Montreal Berri-UQAM metro station - Counter Strike - Global Offensive - Level Designer Fined 50,000

Montreal Berri-UQAM metro station – Counter Strike – Global Offensive – Level Designer Fined 50,000 (Source: YouTube screenshot)

When popular games are released to the public, quite often a level generator is also released, so that enthusiastic and creative gamers can design their own levels and share them with the world. This is nothing new; it’s been going on for, well, decades, and is most common among FPS (first-person shooter) games.

As games move ever closer to photorealism however, level designers now have the opportunity to re-create real-world places with ever increasing detail and accuracy. Many gamers can recount times they’ve entered a simulation of places familiar to them such as boroughs of New York City or the Budapest underground metro, with eery accuracy made ever the more terrifying by some post-apocalyptic or terror-inducing military lockdown situation.

This was the idea that gamer-turned-level-designer Diego Liatis and his friends had when they began creating a fun level that was accurately mapped to Montreal’s Berri-UQAM metro station for the insanely popular game Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

However… the Société de transport de Montreal got wind of this and became worried that the level will cause panic among Metro users presumably because it garantees would-be terrorists a handy guide to the underground system. The transport agency is now threatening legal action and a $50,000 fine if the custom level gets released to the public.

Is this fair? Popular Science reports:

“Liatis told Le Journal de Montreal that he asked for permission to create and release the map to the public, was denied, then went ahead and did it anyway, figuring it was a public place and his right to do so.”

Denis, a programmer on the project, described the situation as “ridiculous” and said that terrorists who want to learn the details of the station’s layout can just go there and ride around on the subway, like he did.

The level’s creators rightly point out how they made the metro stop in the first place: by going down there and looking around. No one is being stopped from doing that, and the game doesn’t reveal some secret important information that could be detrimental to the public. If the transit authorities think it does, they’re just demonstrating that they don’t understand what goes into making a level like this: simple observation.”

If this goes to trial, it will open up a can of worms for copyright infringement, artistic creation, public rights, liability and risk.

If somebody takes photographs of a public place and paste them up online, or yes, even build a 3D model of such a place, why should they be held liable for giving would-be evil-doers convenient access to plotting terrorism? Especially when services like  Microsoft Photosynth and Google Streetview exist? It seems like a double standard if ever I heard one; an example of bullying the little guy because Montreal’s transport authority know they have no leg to stand on if they try to take this issue to big companies.

But why is this an issue at all? Has there been any link between terrorism occurring and game level design? Not to my knowledge. I, like many, am sick of games and gamers being the target of criticism, controversy, censorship and punishment just because real-life simulations happens to contain violence and military situations.

If anything, an accurate simulation of how to survive in a real place in the event of a terrorist situation should be praised. Why? Because it allows members of the general public the chance to practice how to survive and keep their wits about them if such a situation were ever to occur.

Realistic simulations of real life places under attack may therefore actually save lives in the event of terrorism, not endanger them.


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Categories: Business, Science, Technology

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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