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Ticking off the heartland from Falls

Bucks County Courier Times

Seated in a chair in his Falls mobile home, Josh Bend seemed sincere when he told me he was sorry for mind-messing with the people of Oklahoma City.

Bend managed to tick off residents last week when his Internet creation, "Oklahoma City Escapades," became the subject of widespread news reports.

The online game spoofs the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people in April 1995.

Players obtain money to finance the bombing, meet accomplice Terry Nichols in a bar, rob a guy in an alley for more cash, buy bombs, rent a Ryder truck and head downtown to commit mass murder.

Savvy players who successfully navigate the game are rewarded with crude graphics of mastermind Timothy McVeigh parking the Ryder truck and blowing up the Murrah Building.

Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" plays as the building tumbles down. Bend wrote in his credits, "Long Live McVeigh!" though he said that was just to annoy the media, which he said had pestered him last week for a quote, which he wouldn't give them.

"About 30 or 40 media outlets had the story," said Bend, 19. "I had a friend in Australia tell me he saw it on the news out there, and he's in Sydney."

Bend, who works part-time fixing computers, said he created the game in August and posted it on the game and flash movie host Web site, Newgrounds.

"It was just to get attention," he said. "I'm interested in crime. I was reading about McVeigh, so I made up the game."

When it got no attention, he said he forgot about it.

"Now it's back to bite me," he said.

An Oklahoma City TV station discovered the game and went out on the street asking locals for their reaction.

"Oklahoma City Residents Shocked By Bombing Video," a headline on the station's Web site reported.

If there are hard feelings, Bend said he blames the TV station, which aggressively played the story.

"They went out to the [bombing] memorial, where people were grieving. They were holding screen shots of my game and shoving them in their faces. I thought that was cruel. They tried to make me out to be some sort of evil villain or some sort of incarnation of McVeigh," Bend said.

He won't remove the game from the Web site. He can't, he said. His agreement with Newgrounds makes it impossible, he said.

"It's out of my hands trying to get the game off the Web site. They're keeping the game up because it's increasing their hits and their popularity," he said.

Bend said Newgrounds likes games that cause a splash.

At my request, Bend contacted the Newgrounds Webmaster, Tom Fulp, for comment. Fulp had a one-word response: "Nah."

Bend was 10 in 1995 and said he vaguely recalls the Murrah Building bombing.

I showed him perhaps the most famous picture snapped that day. It's of Oklahoma City firefighter Chris Fields cradling baby Baylee Almon's lifeless body in his arms. Baylee had celebrated her first birthday the day before.

"I do have some sympathy for them," Bend said, looking at the picture. "But it really was just a joke."

Maybe it was the power of that picture, or just a pang of guilt, but Bend suddenly called up the credits and removed "Long Live McVeigh!"

"There," he told me. "The words are gone."

Maybe he should e-mail Baylee Almon's photo to Webmaster Tom "Nah" Fulp and convince him to do the right thing and take down the stupid game. An apology to the people of Oklahoma City wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Mullane's opinion column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

February 10, 2005 4:51 AM

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