Shooting up Boston with an Assault Rifle

For a brief stretch of time this weekend, internet pedestrians had a brand-new procrastination tool angrier even than Angry Birds. Google Shoot View, cobbled together by the Amsterdam-based PR firm Pool Worldwide PR, allowed users to stroll through the Google street view of any town of their choosing, firing away with an assault rifle at the flattened, static images of cars, buildings, people, plants, and so on. In what comes as absolutely no surprise at all, the site has since been squashed big-time by a highly offended Google, ostensibly for service terms violation.

Before that happened though, I stumbled across it yesterday afternoon, startling myself half out of my chair when a click of my mouse unleashed a burst of gunfire on Tremont Ave. It was just… uncomfortable, and I wasn’t the only one to think so. Here’s a quick rundown of what even the avid tech and gamer-friendly sites called it:

“Disturbing” —

“Off putting” and “Weird” — Gizmodo

“Scariest” “Creepiest” and “Bizarre” — VentureBeat

“Unsettling” “Uncomfortable” — Mashable

“Psychotic” — Gawker

The weird thing is that this was widely reviled by everyone as really, really uncomfortable, despite the fact that it was way less violent than even the perfectly acceptable Call of Duty and Modern Warfare type games. There was no blood, no dying, literally zero reaction to the digital bullets coming out. The whole thing was sound effects and a picture of a machine gun, on Google street view. So why was it so disturbing?

A couple comments here and there suggested the tool could be a handy way to desensitize people on the concept of shooting up unarmed civilians. A few others suggested it could push a dangerous few over the edge. I don’t think it was either of those though. The question is: Does anybody really want to play Call of Duty on their neighbor’s porch or out in front of their favorite restaurant? No, we don’t, because it’d be really really really disturbing and awkward. Those are your stomping grounds, not the fictionalized or at least set-somewhere-else of other games. Here in Boston, mock-shooting up Tremont or Mass Ave is absolutely no fun, no matter how frustrated you are with holiday shopping lines.