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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Victims outrage at gunman game
A web-based computer game inspired by the activities of Northern Ireland's paramilitary groups has outraged victims organisations.

The Hooded Gunman, a virtual game where players register as republicans or loyalists, is attracting thousands of hits a day from as far afield as Australia and America.

The Hooded Gunman web page
The website says it is the only online game about NI Troubles

The aim of the game is to collect as much money as possible by creating a paramilitary empire built on drug dealing, prostitution, counterfeiting and killing your enemies.

Players also have to avoid police officers who can offer them bonuses for becoming informers.

The game's introduction states: "We created this game to make people laugh and have fun and hopefully unite in our differences in our online community, after all, in Northern Ireland we have such beautiful cultural diversities."

However, Alan McBride who lost his wife and father-in-law in an IRA bomb in 1993 is furious.

"It does attempt to glorify it (violence) in some senses and it is absolutely appalling," he said.

"Given all the good things that have happened recently in Northern Ireland, and we were moving away from that, I think this game is just silly."

Its creator says it does not glorify paramilitaries

The game offers players the chance to "get rid of all your frustrations in this online game about Northern Ireland terrorism".

One recent winner bagged 1,000 in the game and there is also the opportunity to buy accessories, such as hoodies, beanies, keyrings or mugs.

Ulster Unionist Derek Hussey said it was "tasteless and insensitive".

"There is nothing glamorous or playful about paramilitarism in Northern Ireland," he said.

"At a time when many victims are coming to terms with the new dispensation and politicians are trying to draw a line under the past, this type of nonsense does not help."

But the game's creator, Newtownabbey-born Warren Dowey, said the intention was to bring about awareness of the plight of people in Northern Ireland, but never to cause offence.

'Lost lives'

"I was developing a game for a company in France and during my research, I realised there were loads of games about the Mafia but none about the Troubles," he said.

"I don't want to take away from the fact that many people lost their lives to violence but I just wanted to highlight what I felt was the ridiculousness of it.

"The game does not glorify the paramilitaries by any sense, in fact it portrays them as drug dealers, and peddlers of alcohol and prostitution.

"There are no civilians within the game."

He said a recent study into terror victims pointed out that re-living their plight was very effective in combating post traumatic stress.

But Mr McBride, who works at the Wave trauma centre, said: "I actually work with victims... helping victims to talk about their experiences, but I can't see at all how this game can attempt to do that in any way.

"I think it is much more therapeutic for people to be involved in story-telling projects or other ways of actually dealing with the past."

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