DUBBED 'the most violent video game in virtual reality', it's not surprising that Blood Trail has earned itself a controversial reputation.
Now the gory game, which has no age restriction for buyers, has been linked to video game-obsessed teen Jacob Talbot-Lummis, 16, who blasted his school friend in the face with a shotgun.
Baby-faced Talbot-Lummis – who has now been jailed for 24 years – lay in wait in a bush for his victim, 15, as he walked to school before "calmly" taking aim from less than 5ft away.
The victim was left with "devastating and life-changing" injuries and is "partially paralysed" from the horror attack, which took place near Ipswich on September 7 last year.
The teenager used his grandad’s double-barrelled Beretta shotgun to shoot his victim, after greeting him by saying “hola amigo”.
A court heard Talbot-Lummis was addicted to "hyper-realistic" computer games featuring sadistic torture and had been watching them online from the age of nine.
Judge Martyn Levett said the youngster had played Blood Trail the day before he shot the boy and ruled that video games were “a factor” in the onset of his “violent fantasies”.
But Blood Trail's co-creator Doug Gerber, from Los Angeles, has insisted that critics who think his gory virtual reality game promotes violence have not “educated themselves”.
Speaking to The Sun, Mr Gerber, 37, said the makers “don’t really intend” for “young children” to play the game and insisted it is the responsibility of parents to “regulate” their kids.
Here, we take a closer look at the macabre game which Talbot-Lummis "adored".
'The most violent game in VR'
Blood Trail centres around a contract killer massacring a cult using an arsenal of weapons including shotguns, AR-10 rifles, pistols, pipes, corkscrews and knives.
The game involves wearing a virtual reality headset for a more "realistic" experience.
In one video of the game, armed members of the cult – referred to by one reviewer as "crack addicts" – approach the player who points the gun at their head and shoots at close range, causing vivid blood spatters and injuries.
Victims land on the floor in contorted positions, or writhe around in pain. The player then has the option to continue to beat them or shoot them further times.
Players have a “main hand” – used to hold and shoot your gun – and an “off-hand” for walking, reloading and stabilising weapons, and “holding your crack pipe”.
Describing the game on gaming site Steam, the caption reads: "You are Wendigo, a hard-hearted contract killer tasked with annihilating a fanatical cult. With your trusted arsenal at the ready, experience what has been called 'The most violent game in VR'."
It does not have an age rating for players, as official PEGI ratings are only mandatory for games sold in shops.
Mr Gerber said: “The game is unrated, as it is an independent game. It’s just a technical matter. If the game becomes distributed wider it will probably receive a formal rating at that point.
We don't really intend for young children to play the game
“We don’t really intend for young children to play the game, but it is up to parents to regulate what their children play.”
When asked if the game should have had an age rating, he said: “I have no other comment on it – but studies have shown that video games do not promote violence.”
Mr Gerber co-founded Electrovore Games, the developer of Blood Trail, with his Silicon Valley-based business partner Caleb Pennypacker.
On his Facebook page in 2018, Mr Gerber proudly declared that his game includes the “world's first hit of crack from a virtual crack pipe”.
He added: “This is how you recover from injuries in our new game Blood Trail.”
Mr Gerber previously boasted on his Facebook page that a news story about a terrorist compound in New Mexico was a "big inspiration" for the game.
Cops found a stash of guns, 11 emaciated children and the remains of a missing three-year-old boy.
In a Facebook post three years ago, Mr Gerber said: “The recent news about the extremist compound in New Mexico where children were being trained for school shootings has been a big inspiration for us in our VR game Blood Trail.
“You will be able to visit a huge, expansive version of this place, designed to house a large number of people. If you haven't been following this story in the news, it's insane!”
He also posted on Facebook about adding “dismemberment” on the game and in a 2019 interview he said he wanted to introduce “more drugs” and “more guns”.
Mr Pennypacker said in an interview that the game was inspired by the horror film genre, adding that it “felt right” to bring a “cinematic horror experience” to the video game platform.
'This game will help fulfil all my darkest fantasies'
According to Jack Bird, from gaming PC retailer Titan Ice, Blood Trail is currently only in early access. This means that, while you can still technically buy the game, it is still in early development and considered unfinished, so may have bugs or incomplete features.
It is currently is rated as "Mostly Positive" with 1,223 reviews on Steam, a video game digital distribution service.
When Blood Trail came out, fans were quick to comment on how gory it is – while one remarked on its impressive "rag doll physics" in relation to how bodies react to being shot.
One gamer chillingly commented on a YouTube clip of Blood Trail: "This game is going to help fulfil my darkest fantasies."
Another added: "The skull deformation from the shotgun blasts is actually extremely realistic."
One reviewer asked if VR had "gone too far", answering his own question with "possibly… I don't know if this is just too much" as he blew off the side of a man's face with an AK47 that bore a striking resemblance to the replica once held by Talbot-Lummis as a youngster.
The skull deformation from the shotgun blasts in Blood Trail is actually extremely realistic
Disturbingly on Reddit, several user comments suggest some don't feel the game goes far enough.
One read: "Shooting somebody in the foot three times and having them die breaks immersion… I want to see them fall to the floor and try to run away and die of blood loss, or have them squirming in pain begging to have their misshapen heads blown off."
Another added: "I'm so annoyed that so many people seem to hate on this game because it's 'too gory'. I don't know if I'm a psychopath but in my opinion there is no such thing as a game being 'too gory'.
"I wanna be able to do everything, what a human could do to another human being without limits… damage all body parts from skin to flesh, bones and organs."
Video games responsible for real-world violence?
Dozens of violent crimes, including mass shootings in the US, have been linked to the sick perpetrators' gaming habits.
Several studies in the 2000s linked the graphic games to a rise in youth aggression, though this has since been disputed.
The American Psychology Association published a report in which Dr Craig Anderson summarised: "In the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts.
"Longer-term effects are likely to be longer lasting as well, as the player learns and practices new aggression-related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise."
In February 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 people at his former school with an AR-15 assault rife on Valentine's Day.
In the wake of the attack, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin said that a "culture of death that is being celebrated" by violent video games.
He is believed to have been referring to the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which reward players for wounding or killing virtual characters.
He said: "There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them.
"They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life."
According to Governor Bevin, society needs to have "an honest question about what value" violent video games add to society.
Violent video games celebrate the slaughtering of people
Pals of Plymouth killer Jake Davison, who gunned down five victims including his mum and a three-year-old in August, claimed he was playing violent shooter games like Call of Duty from the age of five.
One told The Sunday People: "It was just a matter of time until he was going to blow up."
However, Dr Richard Wilson OBE, CEO of games industry trade association TIGA, urged caution about blaming video games for real-world violence.
He told The Sun: "There is a huge variety of video games; there are many different genres and video games can be creative, educational, entertaining and improve well-being. Video games can be a force for good.
"Adult rated games should only be sold to adults, and should only be played by adults.
"The best way to minimise the danger of school shootings is to make sure pupils, children and teenagers cannot get hold of guns."
Last year a huge survey of 21,000 youngsters around the world found that games – even those considered violent – do not lead to violence or aggression.
Experts trawled through data collected during dozens of studies into the possible link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour, and found no significant evidence that games are a trigger for real-life violence.
“For decades, people have wondered if playing violent video games would have a long-term impact on aggression among players,” Professor Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, who led the study, told The Times.
"We found that, overall, the long-term relationship between playing aggressive games and players’ aggressive behaviour was very small and largely explained by poor practices in some studies rather than ‘real’ effects.
"For those studies with the best controlled methods, the effects of playing aggressive games were statistically indistinguishable from no effect at all."
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