OLD MURAKUMO DOME, MARS–A concerned parents' group is blaming a tragic shooting in the Martian Colonies on "excessive and reprehensible video-game violence."
Parents Against Robot-On-Robot Violence (PARORV) is calling for a ban on the giant-robot-themed PlayStation 2 game "Armored Core 2," which the group claims inspired a 17-year-old giant robot's Feb. 22 slaying of 13 giant robots and himself.
According to Martian authorities, the young assailant was obsessed with the violent game.
"From what we've seen, this appears to be a case of a giant robot who, through excessive exposure to giant-robot-battle video-game scenarios, lost the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality," PARORV spokeswoman Marianna Cutchek said.
The giant robot, a heavily armored high-end Zio Matrix AC, became addicted to the video game over the past year. Described by neighbors as "quiet" and "sullen," he played "Armored Core 2" for upwards of nine Martian hours a day, avoiding contact with other giant robots his own age and becoming progressively more withdrawn.
Despite the presence of warning signs, no one could have anticipated what happened at 3:12 p.m. Martian Standard Time, when the robot, armed to the teeth with the latest in giant-robot assault-weapons technology, entered the Old Murakumo Dome, a remnant of the first terraforming. Upon entering, the troubled young robot opened fire on a random crowd of giant robots before turning his continuous-fire high-energy weapon on himself.
Witnesses said the robot, who was experiencing failing grades in the Arena and was said to be several thousand credits in debt, appeared to be under "great strain" at the time of the multiple robocide. The robot, one witness said, displayed an "almost mechanical lack of emotion" during the four-and-a-half-minute shooting spree, gunning down his fellow robots, as well as several fortified laser-gun stations and a number of unmanned drones, with "inhuman" precision.
"He was like a machine, programmed to kill without hesitation or remorse," said DTD-35667C, a 44-year-old robot injured in the attack.
Forensic experts investigating the grisly mass murder still have no explanation for the mental breakdown of the robot. However, they stressed that the assailant's "piloting skills were very impressive," noting that the superior stability of the rogue AC's quadrupedal leg units, which do not require a pilot to maintain a stationary firing stance when using cannon-based weaponry, was a factor in the carnage.
The precision with which the shootings were carried out has caused some to charge that the PlayStation 2 game, from which the enraged robot is believed to have gained his expert marksmanship, is to blame.
"There's no way this robot could have learned that much about the effective attack patterns for dual shoulder-mounted plasma cannons on his own," said XJC-46398B, bereaved mother of one of the victims. "He had practice, either in the split-screen versus mode or in one of more than 30 separate solo mission levels."
An anonymous acquaintance said he noticed changes in the giant robot's behavior in the days leading up to the tragedy.
"He kept talking about how he was going to 'liberate Mars from the tyranny of the ruthless corporations,'" the robot said. "Sometimes, after school, he'd go down to Malea Base and just fire off round after round of ammo, picking off unmanned Disorder Units, just like in the game. It was almost as if he had managed to convince himself that he was a character in the game himself."
Sony, maker of the PlayStation 2, denied culpability.
"You can't blame something like this on a game," Sony spokesman Mitsuko Yamaguchi said. "Sure, it's easy to point the finger at a convenient scapegoat, but what about the real questions: Where did this robot acquire enough credits to outfit his AC with such heavy hardware in the first place? Why didn't the AC's high-AP head unit's onboard computer facilities receive counseling before it was too late? And, of course, any time a robot goes berserk, it has to be asked: Where were the manufacturers?"
The tragedy has prompted many within the giant-robot community to call for increased regulation of fighting-robot-themed video games. It is the latest in a string of controversies for the embattled entertainment industry, which is reeling from charges that the popular TV show BattleBots, in which remote-controlled robot fighters battle "to the death" in an arena-like setting, glamorizes robot-on-robot violence.