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Students take cover behind a car at Montreal's Dawson College during an attack on Sept. 13, 2006. (RYAN REMIORZ/Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
Students take cover behind a car at Montreal's Dawson College during an attack on Sept. 13, 2006. (RYAN REMIORZ/Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Dawson shooting video game not illegal, police say Add to ...

Montreal police say they are powerless to take down an online video game where players act as the gunman in the 2006 shooting rampage at Montreal's Dawson College.

The flash animation game "Dawson College Massacre!" has created considerable controversy and prompted an online backlash against its creator and the sites hosting it.

A description of the game says the aim is to "storm Dawson College with your favourite rifle, and kill those students and kill any cops you can."

One website had already taken the game down by Wednesday afternoon but three others - all U.S.-based sites - hadn't.

An 18-year-old student, Anastasia De Sousa, was killed and 19 others were injured when Kimveer Gill opened fire at the downtown college and later killed himself.

Despite a complaint filed by Dawson's student union, police said Wednesday that there is no formal investigation into the game and there is little police can actually do.

The game doesn't technically contravene any laws, a police spokeswoman said.

What police have done is asked the U.S. sites to take down the game.

"But they have no obligation to do so because there is no infraction," said Marie-Elaine Ladouceur, a police spokeswoman.

The free game appeared online just before the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 13, 2006 shootings.

The introduction to the game draws heavily on photos and entries from an online journal Gill kept, whose contents were widely reported after the shootings. It also depicts other school shooters such as Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho and Finnish killer Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

In the game, players manoeuvre a shooter through a layout that resembles the atrium at Dawson College.

Students and police officers scream as they are shot and there's a burst of blood - the idea is to kill as many as possible before the authorities arrive. When police move in on the shooter and he's struck, he takes his own life.

Virtuaman, the online moniker of the game's Ontario-based creator, has stated that he did not mean to offend anyone with the game.

Reviews of the game at one online site are mixed, with some defending his right to create a game and commenting on the artistic merits of it.

"It's just a game. Just because it's based in reality doesn't mean that is a recreation of the said event," wrote one poster on Wednesday. "People have the freedom to make whatever they desire, even if their invention is sick and twisted. Don't like it? Don't play it. "

But those who lived through the rampage or know someone who did were clearly incensed.

"This tragedy has nothing funny and it's of such a bad taste, I can't even understand how someone would use this sad story as a game," wrote one bilingual poster.

Added another: "you're a sad little person. I hope you do not experience the horror of a school shooting. your insensitivity is incomprehensible."

Dawson College did not return calls seeking comment, nor did the Montreal police brotherhood.

But Dawson's student union filed a complaint with police after being notified of the game last week and has tried to reach web hosts to take the game down.

"Every time this event is glorified we are reminded of the communal struggle we endured, as well as how our community came together in our grief," the student union wrote.

"It is through this that we recognize that our ability to live together in peace and harmony is stronger than any attempt to destroy our world."

On Wednesday, the student union said it had faith the game would be removed.

"I watched the first 10 seconds of it and was rather disturbed so I didn't watch the rest - but I know what it's about," said Nadia Kanji, a member of the student-union executive.

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