Video game enabling pipeline attacks draws fire

By JOHN FLESHER AP Environmental Writer TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A video game developed by a Michigan State University assistant professor supports “eco-terrorism” by enabling players to zap imaginary oil pipelines with lightning bolts, an industry group said Wednesday, although the designer countered that it’s not meant to incite violence. “Thunderbird Strike” is based on an indigenous cultural figure called a thunderbird, said Elizabeth LaPensee, who led the project. It traces the bird’s path through areas of Canada and Michigan where oil production and transport have inspired protests. Players can earn points by firing lightning at snakelike pipelines, trucks and other oil industry structures. It can be downloaded from a website that says players will protect the earth “with searing lightning against the snake that threatens to swallow the lands and waters whole.” It may be just a game, but could lead to disaster if even one user is inspired to vandalize an actual pipeline, said Toby Mack, president of Energy Builders, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for builders of energy infrastructure. “We call on Michigan State University to pull the plug immediately on this taxpayer-funded political campaign and reject any so-called educational program designed to encourage eco-terrorism or other bad behavior,” Mack said. The game’s website previously said it had been developed “in affiliation with” the university’s Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab. The wording was changed Wednesday night to read, “With gratitude to Michigan State University.”