Loeb loads `Shooter’

Playwright Aaron Loeb is what you might call multitasking. He has a 16-month-old daughter, Talitha Jane; he just moved from Oakland to Berkeley; he’s readying his play First Person Shooter for its world premiere Saturday at the SF Playhouse; he has a short play in the Best of PlayGround festival coming up; and he’s just finished another commissioned play, Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party!

“It’s a lot, I know,” Loeb says with a laugh. “It’s really kind of silly.”

Foremost on Loeb’s mind is Shooter, a play that deals with issues of violence and video games in the wake of a Columbine-like incident.

Loeb actually works in the video game industry –_ he’s the COO of Planet Moon Studios, developer of video games — and he remembers after Columbine, the rush to blame violence in games and movies.

“Looking back, it’s terrible that that’s what we were talking about at the time,” Loeb says. “Nobody was talking about the parents or the kids except in basic terms. We as a culture try to nail down a simple, easy explanation of something so unexplainable, so unspeakable.”

What Loeb wanted to accomplish with First Person Shooter (the title refers to the type of video game in which you see the action through the shooter’s eyes, gun in hands and all) was to explore both sides of the violence in video games debate: those who say the games ruin children and those who say they don’t.

“I also wanted to humanize both sides and explore the need for human connection in the face of tragedy rather than finding the easy sound byte that makes it easier for us all to look away.”
We’ve heard similar types of conversations recently in the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech. That gunman did not play video games, but there are still commonalities.

“There’s a similarly dehumanizing national conversation we’re having,” Loeb says. “I’ve seen it in the reaction of the parents: Please stop showing (the shooter) every 30 seconds and talk about my kid!

“I can’t imagine what it must be like for them. And we as a nation want to get through it quickly so we can go back to talking about Anna Nicole.”

First Person Shooter Saturday, May 5 at the SF Playhouse, 533 Sutter St., San Francisco. The show continues through June 9. Tickets are $36. Call (415) 677-9596 or visit www.ticketweb.com.

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