Terror in Littleton: How a tragedy shaped a nation

Part 1
This timeline delves into a variety of uncomfortable and sensitive topics, such as school violence, mental illness, suicide, and abuse. reader discretion is advised.
“I want to leave a lasting impression on this world.”

-Eric Harris

“This is what we always wanted to do! This is awesome!”

-Dylan Klebold


April 20th, 1999

Littleton, Colorado (CNN)

At least two heavily armed young men committed a bomb and gun attack at an affluent Denver high school, killing untold numbers of students, faculty, and first responders. Sheriff John Stone said that “hundreds” of fatalities were likely. Local hospitals are reported to be “overflowing” with patients treated for shrapnel, gunshot, and burn injuries. It was not clear how many sustained multiple forms of injury.

The incident at Columbine High School apparently began around lunchtime, when an improvised explosive device detonated in the cafeteria, raking the hundreds of students gathered by shrapnel and flames. Eye witnesses describe two teens dressed in all black firing upon teens and adults alike, throwing “grenade-like” explosives. Police responding to the scene were also recipients of gunfire, early reports suggesting that some officers may have been casualties in the gun battles with the two suspects.

Injured students were led out of the school in disorganized groups as first responders struggled to cope with the chaotic scene. National Guard units and bomb defusal technicians were called to the scene and a shelter in place order was issued amid unconfirmed reports that additional bombs were planted in the Denver area. It was reported that a section of the school housing the science wing had also caught fire[3], though it was unclear as to whether this was the work of an additional explosive.


April 21st, 1999

Littleton, Colorado (CNN)

Authorities on Wednesday morning identified Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, as the orchestrators of Tuesday’s bombing and shooting spree. The pair killed an estimated 260 in an unprecedented act of violence in American schools. Over 300 were injured and still undergoing treatment in local hospitals.

The two teenage terrorists were found dead in the hallways of the science wing of the school from self inflicted gunshot wounds after setting fires in the area. Investigators said that undetonated explosives still remained inside the building and around the killers’ bodies, and would have to be removed before the bodies could be moved.

A motive has not been established for the killings, but witnesses describe the pair as having been laughing, one student having reported that “they said they wanted revenge, that they wanted to kill everyone”.


The bombs did not collapse the school as Eric and Dylan apparently wished, but the damage was bad enough. With two bombs consisting of two 20 pound tanks of propane, two 5 gallon gas cans filled with homemade napalm jelly, and seasoned with bullets, nails, broken glass, BB pellets, and other miscellaneous material, the cafeteria bombs killed an estimated 231, many of whom succumbed to their injuries instead of dying outright. Firing on the injured crowd from Rebel Hill, Eric and Dylan briefly exchanged fire with responding deputies, killing one, before retreating into the school to go classroom to classroom, shooting students and teachers through windows and doors, lighting fires[3] and laughing as they went. Engaging police one final time, the pair turned the weapons on themselves, bringing the number felled by gunfire, including themselves, to 38, bringing the final death toll of the Columbine Massacre to 269.


As bad as the carnage was, it could have been worse. The pair had also placed bombs in each of their cars, rigged to explode roughly half an hour after the main bombs in the cafeteria had detonated, which had failed to go off. Had they gone off, it’s likely that dozens more would have been killed and injured, and the police response delayed even further.

As the bodies began to cool and the fires extinguished at Columbine High School, and the lightning bolt shock started to wear off, the country was thrown into a maelstrom of grief, fear, and fury, as authorities struggled to explain the attack that, as President Clinton would say, “pierced the soul” of the nation. How could two boys from decent, middle class families, kill almost three hundred of their peers, some of whom were their friends, in such a shocking manner?

-Salon, Columbine Five Years Later[4]

[1] This is based off a CNN article made on the day of the attack: https://archive.is/hCcuW
[2] https://archive.is/sNhiI
[3] This is based off allegations made by police that Eric and Dylan turned on gas outlets in the science wing, presumably to start a fire. https://extras.denverpost.com/news/col0623.htm
[4] Based on this article: https://www.salon.com/2004/04/20/columbine_anniversary/
With that shocking first post completed, I want to give thanks to posters on this website who've made threads about this POD before and whose content helped me in writing and developing this timeline:

My upload schedule at this moment is planned to be weekly. If anyone has any comments, concerns, or even ideas, then by all means do not hesitate to come forward.

Also while this shouldn't need to be said, I'd like to make it clear that I do not condone the actions of the Columbine gunman or think school violence is justified. This timeline is not intended to be a shallow, edgy, tasteless misery fest (although it will get dark in tone) and any life lost to mass violence is horrific.

So now that that's established, ask away.
Yeah. And I am afraid that this not end to permanent changes on American gun laws or culture. Even if Clinton enacts even harsher gun laws, next GOP president is going to repeal them immediately.

If anything, the bar for what constitutes a school shooting in the imagination of the deranged has been set even higher, school bombings are going to be more commonplace.
Pop culture that isn’t hyper-sanitized “age-appropriate” shit will die a painful death due to helicopter parents and the government massively overreacting on everything EXCEPT gun control.
Pop culture that isn’t hyper-sanitized “age-appropriate” shit will die a painful death due to helicopter parents and the government massively overreacting on everything EXCEPT gun control.
Sometimes I just don’t get the logic.
You want to prevent school shootings…by making guns more accessible to students and school personnel? And they actually to expect this to work out?
Because of TTL's Columbine, I'm guessing Clinton and the Democrats are going to try and get the Second Amendment repealed.
Not sure. The majority of the casualties in TTL Columbine was from the bombs, and the Republicans are going to pounce on that and ignore the role guns played.
Glad to see some interest and engagement coming in. If anyone has questions about anything very specific (such as a certain franchise, or politician, or anything) feel free to ask me. As I said before I'm maintaining a weekly upload schedule, so for now no update. Just a quick reply for some of the below comments:

Yeah. And I am afraid that this not end to permanent changes on American gun laws or culture. Even if Clinton enacts even harsher gun laws, next GOP president is going to repeal them immediately.

If anything, the bar for what constitutes a school shooting in the imagination of the deranged has been set even higher, school bombings are going to be more commonplace.

Pop culture that isn’t hyper-sanitized “age-appropriate” shit will die a painful death due to helicopter parents and the government massively overreacting on everything EXCEPT gun control.

Because of TTL's Columbine, I'm guessing Clinton and the Democrats are going to try and get the Second Amendment repealed.

Not sure. The majority of the casualties in TTL Columbine was from the bombs, and the Republicans are going to pounce on that and ignore the role guns played.

Some updates will be out of chronological order and focus on a singular topic instead of going on a linear timeline, so there will be updates that cover some of the points mentioned here, such as gun control and pop culture. This is also going to be a timeline that's unusual in that it has a focus on criminology instead of just history, so there will be coverage on copycats and even other rampage killers. Thanks again for all your comments.
Part 2, Immediate Aftermath

-Denver Post, April 23rd 1999


-Denver Post, April 26th


-Denver Post, May 2nd


Senators today are poised to hold a hearing on the entertainment industry’s marketing of violence to minors following the devastating assault on Columbine High School. The scope of the hearings are planned to include film, music, and video game mediums. Representatives from the entertainment industry have by and large declined invitations to attend, calling the hearings “political theater”.

Their attitudes may be justified by lawmakers’ harsh words in recent days. In remarks delivered a week prior, Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., suggested that violence in video games influenced violence and aggression in youths.

“[Juveniles] are able to hook into the Internet and play video games that are extraordinarily violent,” he said, describing the effect of video games further as“caus[ing] the blood pressure to rise and the adrenaline level to go up, games that cause people to be killed and the players to die themselves. It is a very intense experience.”[3]

Lt. Col. David Grossman, a psychology professor from West Point and author of the book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” concurred, adding his own assessment.

"We're seeing bombs, seeing kids clear an entire building, and seeing them laugh and cheer and mock. That's out of video games. Through all those variables, we can see the M.O., the fingerprints, the basic script straight from the video game to the reality,” said Grossman.[4]

Shock rocker Marilyn Manson and the bands Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM have also faced direct scrutiny, having been named by Sessions in his comments. Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has led a direct effort in pressuring Interscope Records to stop distributing Manson’s work. At least a twenty Senators have co-signed a letter to this effect. [5]

-MTV.com, May 4th


Families of some of the dead and injured students and faculty have gathered to join in on a class action lawsuit targeting the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, friends of the pair who procured firearms and ammunition for them, the Jefferson County School District, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The lawsuits allege that the JCSD and JCSO failed to do enough to prevent the bomb and gun attack which claimed 269 lives.

The suit against the JCSO is centered around an affidavit for a search warrant of the Harris residence drafted over a year prior to the slaughter at Columbine High School.[6] The draft affidavit concerns allegations that Harris had posted threats towards another student at Columbine, alongside detailed instructions on how to make pipe bombs and accounts of nighttime vandalism.

-Denver Post, May 10th


Teens and young adults identifying with the goth subculture or as computer geeks have reportedly been targeted in the weeks following April’s deadly attack at Columbine High School. Teens report violence, name calling, and arbitrary punishment by faculty and authorities, including expulsion, suspension, arrest, and detention. Several self professed computer geeks In Florida were allegedly hauled before school administrators and questioned by police after it had been reported they had operated a website for their video game exploits.

Jacob Leigh, a goth who lives in Denver, says the persecution has become pervasive. “I can’t go to school anymore, there’s just too many people pushing me around. I’ve had garbage thrown at me, chewed gum and apple cores, there was even a condom full of piss that I got splashed with. People walk up to me and ask me if I’m going to bomb the school. It’s frustrating.”

Alexandra Tristan says the discrimination exists outside of schools too. “I was banned from the Pizza Hut here for wearing all black,” she says. “They told me to leave or they’d call the police.”

Teens are not insulated from the backlash inside their own homes, either. Hundreds of stories abound of teens facing scrutiny from their parents, some alleging that parents have thrown away their black clothes or posters for their favorite bands. Some parents are accused of confiscating video games and taking computer privileges from teens that have otherwise enjoyed them.

“I’m being treated like I’m five instead of as seventeen,” wrote one online comment, bemoaning their CDs being confiscated and their parents searching their room.

Other incidents have been more serious in nature. Some teens report having been seriously assaulted by fellow classmates. One boy in Boulder, Colorado, is reported to be in critical condition after having been attacked by four other students. [7]

Gay, special needs, and other self described “misfit” teens have also described an increase in harassment. Gays in particular have been singled out after early reports suggested that the Columbine killers were gay lovers, with figures such as Rev Jerry Falwell amplifying those claims.

-Rocky Mountain News, May 20th


Schools as far away as Texas to Maine have shuttered their doors out of an abundance of caution after having been inundated with bomb and gun threats. Experts and long time school administrators have gone on to state the current wave of threats has far exceeded anything they’ve ever see, labeling it “unprecedented”. Police and educators have coordinated their efforts to investigate and prosecute any and all who issue such threats and have warned that lawbreakers may face felony charges and up to five years in prison.

Up to eight hundred[8] current and former students have already been arrested and charged with making terroristic threats alongside a wave of suspensions and expulsions indented to stem the tide of terror. The ACLU has been swamped with calls as students and parents are afraid that authorities have over-corrected. Tens of thousands of schools have unilaterally banned trench coats, dusters, and all black outfits, causing hundreds of students to chafe under suspensions and expulsions. Others have faced arrests and detention by police based on dubious evidence, such as one sixteen year old in Washington state arrested and later released after an alleged threat uttered at a party that it was later discovered he did not attend.

Students report being fearful to go to school, contributing to markedly lower attendance rates across the country.

-Washington Post, May 26th


Lawmakers in Congress Wednesday evening passed a much debated bill into law today that updates the law for juvenile offenses and includes federal funding grants for school safety initiatives, such as school resource officers and metal detectors, among a host of other regulations. The Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999[9] – or the Juvenile Offender Act of 1999 – has been touted as a major bipartisan achievement in the wake of the deadly Columbine massacre that left hundreds dead.

The bill is not without its critics, however, with the ACLU calling it a “public policy nightmare”. ACLU Legislative Counsel Rachel King was especially critical of an amendment in the bill providing for the prosecution of juveniles up to 14 years old as adults and housing them in adult prisons. “Its proponents claim its cruel treatment of children is necessary to prevent crime,” she said. “Unfortunately, the joke will be not only on them, but on all Americans when the hardened criminals this legislation will inevitably produce return to society.”[10]

The bill also has provisions that critics have denounced as feeding into culture war issues. One amendment, for example, mandates government funding for religious services that provide services for juvenile offenders. Another provides funding grants intended to go towards schools that adopt school uniform policies. Members of the entertainment industry have criticized amendments that funnel funding into scientific studies surrounding violence in the media as “scapegoating”.

-Washington Post, July 28th, 1999

[1] OTL
[2] They proceeded with the convention IOTL, but considered canceling it (https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaki...canceling-the-annual-meeting/?sh=71bcd8b72dda)
[3] His OTL remarks. (https://web.archive.org/web/2019020...ns-guns-columbine_us_5894d54de4b0c1284f25dd10)
[4] Another OTL comment, just with the date moved forward. (https://extras.denverpost.com/news/shot0611a.htm)
[5] OTL it was only ten. (https://web.archive.org/web/2012041...com/news/articles/513971/19990504/index.jhtml)
[6] IOTL the draft affidavit was not disclosed until a year after the massacre.
[7] All too plausible, as Brian Deneke and Sophie Lancaster can attest
[8] More than double the OTL total on this date: https://www.edweek.org/leadership/arrests-top350-in-threats-bomb-scares/1999/05
[9] This is a very real law that was nearly enacted by Congress OTL, and failed only due to disputes over gun control. I encourage readers to take a look at the actual bill, which will be referred back to at other points in the TL. You can find it here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/106th-congress/house-bill/1501
[10] https://www.aclu.org/press-releases...ill-cruel-hoax-americas-children-and-families
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Part 3, Local impact + misc

Jefferson County School Superintendent Jane Hammond today announced that the site of April’s bombing and shooting attack would be demolished and a new school will be built in a new area on the same property. The announcement comes in the wake of an inspection that determined that the school faced structural damage as a result of the bombing, with calculated repairs estimated to be in the tens of millions, money that the district currently lacks[2].

Students will be allowed to gather their belongings tomorrow prior to the demolition.

-Denver Post, June 1st, 1999


With reports emerging that Eric Harris had been prescribed Luvox a year prior to the massacre at Columbine, critics of antidepressant and anti-psychotic medications have taken the opportunity to paint a broad brush of the entire industry, contending that the pills marketed by the industry come with detrimental health effects worse than the disorders they’re intended to treat.

''It's a tremendous mistake to subdue the behavior of children instead of tending to their needs,'' Dr. Peter R. Breggin, director of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, said in an interview. ''We're drugging them into submission rather than identifying and meeting the genuine needs of the family, the school and the community. It's wrong in principle.''[4]

Multiple families of the victims of Columbine have issued lawsuits against Pfizer alleging damages. In response to the controversy, Luvox, Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil have been withdrawn from the market, leading to concern among psychiatrists that children and young adults may not get the help they need for the disorders they have. Many of them fear that the saturation of negative media coverage may lead to parents refusing to medicate kids who may need it and create more problems down the line.

-New York Times, August 25th, 1999


The two leading entrepreneurs behind the Microsoft Corporation have tendered their resignations today in a surprise move following the recent findings of fact against the tech giant in an antitrust lawsuit by the federal government[5]. The court concluded that Microsoft had, in fact, established a monopoly and had taken steps to crush competitors in the marketplace to preserve that monopoly. The final judgment in the case has yet to be decided.

Gates faced intense public criticism earlier in the year after a four year old video made to promote Windows 95 was leaked, in which Gates, donning a black trenchcoat while wielding a shotgun, graphically shoots several enemies in the hit video game Doom, while the subtitle “Who do you want to execute today?” is appears under a blood splattered Microsoft logo[6]. With Doom having been a magnet for controversy after it was revealed that the Columbine gunman extensively played the game, critics of violence in media and video games especially have excoriated Gates for the advertisement. Small protests have occurred near Microsoft headquarters, and sources say Gates had been inundated with death threats.

-Washington Post, November 8th, 1999


December 21st, 2000


The man who sold the semiautomatic handgun used in the massacre at Columbine has been given 18 years in prison for the offense. It was the maximum penalty that could be prosecuted under the law. Mark Manes, 22, was also served a concurrent sentence for possession of a sawed off shotgun. Presiding Judge Henry Nieto said that the sentence needed to deliver a message after the “tidal wave” of horror suffered by the victims.

-Denver Post, November 13th 1999


Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone has been forced out of office following a recall election campaign. The recall effort centered around a draft affidavit for a search warrant of the Harris household that had not been acted upon prior to the Columbine massacre, as well as a perceived lack of transparency surrounding details of the case. Stone had made a controversial decision last December to allow a private screening of tapes Harris and Klebold had made of themselves ranting about their motives.[10] The tapes have been highly sought after since their existence was disclosed, but critics say the screening was inappropriate.

Stone is due to be replaced by Golden Police Chief Russ Cook. [11]

-Denver Post, June 15th 2000


Philip Duran and Robyn Anderson[12] were sentenced today for their part in providing weapons and ammunition to the deadly pair at Columbine. Duran, like his fellow partner in crime Mark Manes, was handed the maximum sentence of 18 years despite profuse apologies to the victims and their families. Anderson for her part received a 4 year sentence for making a straw purchase, avoiding a maximum of ten years.

“I don’t think she got enough time,” remarked a former Columbine student.

-Denver Post, June 24th, 2000


Following the JCSO turning over copies of the Columbine “Basement Tapes” to the Columbine Review Commission[13], the Commission would ultimately hand copies of the tapes over to the media for review, being released shortly thereafter. Families of the victims as well as some forensic psychologists were fiercely critical of the decision, arguing it puts community safety at risk and potentially re-victimizes those harmed by the tragedy.

The tapes include over three hours worth of material, much of which consists of the pair ranting about those who wronged them, groups of people they despise, and details of their plans to kill “at least 250” people. The tapes have not been broadcast in their entirety, having been edited to protect those named by the killers and to condense the materiel for a TV audience. Local stations in Denver have refused to broadcast any footage out of respect for those victimized.

-Washington Post, January 14th, 2001

[1] There was debate about this OTL, but around the 20 year anniversary (https://archive.is/vFaRn). Sandy Hook and Robb elementary were torn down after the massacres at those locations.
[2] They had a budget shortfall OTL: https://extras.denverpost.com/news/shot0505a.htm
[3] Luvox was actually pulled from the market in 2002 in response to OTL lawsuits: https://www.brownandcrouppen.com/blog/luvox/
[4] https://archive.is/RD4RL
[5] Gates and Ballmer considered quitting OTL: https://web.archive.org/web/2016122...er-egos/91b267b0-858c-4d4e-a4bd-48f22e015f70/
[6] Yes, this is a real video:
[7] Pretty much the same as OTL: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act
[8] He received six years IOTL. (https://extras.denverpost.com/news/shot1113.htm)
[9] The effort failed OTL (https://extras.denverpost.com/news/shot0203.htm), but Stone would decline to run for reelection.
[10] OTL
[11] His OTL successor
[12] Duran received 4 and a half years OTL, while Robyn Anderson was never charged. (https://extras.denverpost.com/news/col0624.htm)
[13] The Sheriff’s Office refused OTL and the tapes were later destroyed despite a court order for their release. (https://extras.denverpost.com/news/col1025.htm)
After this update I'm going to break with doing updates in a linear fashion and I'm going to post updates that cover certain topics. If there's anything in particular anyone would like me to post a chapter on first (like gun control or zero tolerance) then make your voice heard and in a week I will post it or do my best to. Otherwise I will select topics based on my own personal preference.
Part 4, "Me and my gun" (gun and weapon controls)
“Go ahead and change gun laws — how do you think we got ours?”

-Eric Harris


Debate has raged in the Senate over whether to include gun restrictions in an upcoming bill centered around combating and preventing juvenile crime. The bill had been in the works for two years prior to its rush to the floor in the wake of Columbine, but the hotly contested proposals in favor of closing the gun show loophole has caused it to stall.

-CNN, May 14th 1999


-CNN, May 18th

It was a moment that left many, as President Clinton said later, “deeply disappointed”. Setting a trend that would persist long after Columbine, after days of debate and attempts at forging a compromise, Senate Republicans would ultimately excise most of the legislation relating to guns from the larger juvenile crime bill. Many were left perplexed at how little progress could be made despite a groundswell of support for tighter restrictions on firearms. While many simply blamed firearms lobbyists, three factors help explain the impasse on guns.

First and foremost, Columbine was a bombing, with guns as secondary tools of killing. As long as the majority of victims were felled by explosives, blaming guns seemed like a hollow politicking. After all, many argued, would it not make as much sense to blame propane manufacturers?

The second factor to consider were the actions of the NRA in the aftermath of the tragedy. Rather than press ahead with their plans to hold the annual convention that year, due to take place in Denver, the choice was made to cancel the event. This allowed a lot of negative attention that would’ve otherwise been directed towards gun rights groups like the NRA to be dispersed to other easy targets.

Thirdly, legislators on both sides of the aisle were focused on passing the Juvenile Offender Act of 1999 above all else, and wanted the process done as expediently as possible. With many of their constituents pressuring their elected officials to do something, the decision was made to sacrifice the gun control amendments to the bill as a way of getting it passed without a lengthy, drawn out debate over gun rights that would’ve put the rest of the bill in jeopardy.

All three combined to produce a uniquely missed opportunity for increased legislation concerning firearms...

-Salon, A Look Back on the Fight for Gun Control, October 10th, 2017


After the Times Square Bombing[3] earlier this year claimed 19 lives and inflicted 56 grievous injuries, murmurs in Washington over whether or not to introduce new regulation on the sale and distribution of propane has largely fizzed out. Propane has been used in several deadly attacks, including the devastating bombing at Columbine that killed over two hundred, and has been the cause of accidental explosions globally.

Propane is highly popular with the American public and is often used for heating and grilling. The propane industry rakes in billions annually in commercial sales, making any attempt at restricting its use practically a non-starter, despite warnings from counter-terror experts on the ease of which it can be used for an explosive device.

Proposals in the past have included setting limits on the number of propane tanks one can buy, reducing the size of propane tanks to be sold, setting up a licensing or permit system for purchases, and tracking sales via database. All have been rejected as too burdensome for the average consumer, and lobbyists for the propane industry have stalled regulation on the federal level.

“Public safety is important, but we cannot tank our economy and deprive consumers of a much desired product because of a handful of bad actors,” Said House Minority leader John Boehner. “What the American people need is better protection from those who wish us harm.”

Regulations on the state level exist, but are few and far between. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are currently exploring a permitting law in the wake of the Times Square attack. South Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah currently are the only states with laws on licensing and keeping records on the sale of propane.[4]

-New York Times, October 10th, 2010.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/2008051...0/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/05/14/gun.control/
[2] Some may think this turn of events unlikely, but as late as 2013 ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key ingredient in Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb, was still largely unregulated for purchase in the US, and as far as I was able to discover this is still the case. (https://archive.is/rNdeR)
[3] Failed OTL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Times_Square_car_bombing_attempt The use of propane as an explosive is the same as OTL.
[4] Based on SC’s regulation of ammonium nitrate: (http://archive.boston.com/news/nati...in_2_states_fertilizer_mostly_goes_untracked/)
After this update I'm going to break with doing updates in a linear fashion and I'm going to post updates that cover certain topics. If there's anything in particular anyone would like me to post a chapter on first (like gun control or zero tolerance) then make your voice heard and in a week I will post it or do my best to. Otherwise I will select topics based on my own personal preference.
What interests me is how future teen rampagers and school shooters ITTL end up executing their plans, if at all, given the heightened vigilance and legislation. Does the added heat make them back down, or potentially the notion that they will never be able to equal or top what Eric and Dylan did? Or do they find some diabolically ingenious way of bypassing the surveillance? What outlet might Bobby Steinhauser's or Cho Seung Hui's rage find ITTL?

Excellent thread, please keep it going for as long as you can.
What interests me is how future teen rampagers and school shooters ITTL end up executing their plans, if at all, given the heightened vigilance and legislation. Does the added heat make them back down, or potentially the notion that they will never be able to equal or top what Eric and Dylan did? Or do they find some diabolically ingenious way of bypassing the surveillance? What outlet might Bobby Steinhauser's or Cho Seung Hui's rage find ITTL?

Excellent thread, please keep it going for as long as you can.

Thank you. I do have something special planned for rampage killers that did succeed in committing their attacks OTL, as well as others who were prevented from doing so. I even have a particular idea for how I was going to write about Cho. I'll likely post that after some of the more wide ranging topics have been covered though. I appreciate the interest and hope that the next updates I have planned are as well received.
Part 5, "Don't hate the game, hate the player" (Video games)
“It’s MY fault! Not my parents, not my brothers, not my friends, not my favorite bands, not computer games, not the media. IT is MINE! Go shut the fuck up!”

-Eric Harris


iD Software has been a magnet for controversy ever since their 1993 hit video game Doom was released commercially. In the wake of the Columbine massacre, that controversy has erupted into a veritable crusade against violence in the media, with iD firmly in the crosshairs. Facing off against rows of security and police, protesters from family values groups organized to heckle the long haired game developers as they made way to their offices, preparing to work on their next anticipated title, Quake 3. But with pending litigation stemming from an earlier episode of school violence in Paducah, Kentucky, now combined with additional plaintiffs post-Columbine[2], the future of the company, let alone its future products, may hang in the balance.

“We intend to keep at it until these polluters stop poisoning our children.” said one protester, echoing the words of Senator Sam Brownback of Arkansas, who insinuated that violent media was akin to “cultural pollution”[3].

While it is not yet clear how serious the sentiment is, concerned parents and other advocates have seen some tentative successes in halting video game sales, as some retailers, for example WalMart, Target, and Best Buy, have pledged to temporarily cease distribution of R and M rated content pending an internal review. The companies denied bowing to external pressure, however, insisting that they were merely evaluating existing policies on ID requirements for the purchase of said content.

The ferocity of the activism has left some employees feeling unsafe, despite the added security. A source at iD who insisted on anonymity told reporters that activists had showed up to some developer’s homes to harass them, and that some employees had to change phone numbers and addresses after they were leaked and distributed. An unconfirmed report suggested that unidentified individuals may have vandalized Carmack’s Ferrari and that reports were being filed with the local police.

Co-founder John Carmack declined to comment for this article, directing reporters’ questions to publisher Activision, who also declined comment. John Romero, current head of Ion Storm and former lead developer at iD, also declined to comment.

-Dallas Morning News, June 14th, 1999


A controversial amendment in the Juvenile Offenders Act of 1999 – known as the Hyde Amendment[5] after representative Henry Hyde introduced it – has been struck down by the Supreme Court as an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment. The law prohibited the sale of media containing sexual and violent material to minors, with criminal penalties running up to $1,000 in fines for each violation.

The law faced fierce criticism from a wide range of figures and companies in the entertainment industry who accused the government of censorship, and was blocked from taking effect years earlier after lawsuits had been filed by the MPAA, RIAA, and IDSA. Many of them now feel vindicated by the Court’s decision, championing their respective industry’s First Amendment rights.

Politicians and family values action groups have not been deterred by the court’s rulings, however. Senator Hillary Clinton has declared her intent to introduce legislation into Congress that would penalize those who sell minors M rated video games.[6] States have also taken it upon themselves to begin drafting laws with similar language, with California and Illinois leading the charge.

-Washington Post, June 17th, 2005


Far from ending the years long culture war over violence in video games, the recent Supreme Court decision ruling that violent video games are in fact examples of protected free speech has only driven family values politicians and advocacy groups to take the fight against violent entertainment to a local level. Using municipal zoning laws to push out retail stores centered around video games and movies[7], anti-media advocates have been able to keep their local counties largely free of questionable content. The center of this campaign has been focused on the Gamestop corporation, which has had dozens of stores zoned out of local communities. A spokesperson for Gamestop has suggested the possibility of legal action.

“In the abrogation of leadership from the courts, it’s important for people to know they have avenues to protect their children from this vile material,” remarked Jack Thompson, an infamous anti-video game litigant.

Some big box retailers such as Walmart, Target, and others have quietly stopped stocking R rated movies and M rated video games in counties that have zoned other media retailers out of town. Walmart has denied any policy changes, while other retailers have declined to comment.

-AP, August 3rd, 2005

The interconnection of global communications which began emerging at the tail end of the 20th century and throughout the 21st enabled news stories to travel nearly the speed of light. It also made nascent moral panics explode and create global reach, such that when Columbine happened, many countries reacted with similar shock and fear, something not helped when several of them faced their own less deadly, but still serious, episodes of school violence.

Just as in the United States, a wide range of figures across the spectrum of society, including politicians, the news media, school administrators, criminal authorities, and concerned parent groups, would scapegoat goths, rock music, easy internet access, and violence in the entertainment industry. Unlike America, where video games are considered constitutionally protected free speech, other developed and emerging countries could censor as they please.

China took the most drastic step and banned video game consoles wholesale in 2000[8]. Brazil would ban multiple video games in 1999 after a shooting at a theater left three dead[9], and would add games like Counter-Strike, Halo, and Call of Duty to that list in later years. The UK’s BBFC and Australia’s ACB would refuse classification for several infamous video games, such as Manhunt, several installments of the Silent Hill franchise, and Postal 2, alongside a reclassification of other violent media into higher age brackets. Blood effects would be censored for most non-American audiences, including Japan, the EU, and others. Germany would be a unique case, censoring swastikas in games with Nazis as villains in addition to regional censorship.

All this alongside efforts in the United States would greatly affect the video game industry…

-Wired, “Gaming after Columbine”, June 17th, 2017

Audience member: So back in the 90’s and early 2000’s there was a massive effort to get games like Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and many others pulled from stores, banned, so how did Valve react to those efforts?

Gabe Newell: So we recognized with the success of earlier games like Doom and certainly our own titles that PC gaming was going to be a huge, really our main source of revenue. So we were really thinking of ways to cut out the middleman when it came to distribution. Carmack distributed shareware to promote his games and sort of bypass the publishers, and you saw with Gamestop that their online services were providing more money than their retail locations, so there was noise in our company about how to do that except more effectively. That’s part of how we really got the idea of the Steam network, so that instead of worrying about publisher fees or whether or not retailers were going to bow to public pressure to not stock our games, we would still be able to get our product to our audience. I think that was a big factor as to why so few of our games ended up affected by those crusades, and that was certainly a reason other highly successful companies in the business like Take Two Interactive came to us, asking if they could distribute their games on out platform. Before you knew it you had groups like Activision and Ubisoft approaching us too, and now we’re a multi-billion dollar name in the industry.

- Q&A with Gabe Newell, 2013

“At the time Microsoft was reeling from the anti-trust suit, Gates and Ballmer leaving, so as the company was splitting up the decision was made to start cutting costs and downsizing. Unfortunately, one of the projects that ended up canceled was one I was heavily involved with at the time, which was the game console idea. Not only were we going over budget, but video games were viewed as a toxic commodity at the time, especially with the controversy that surrounded Gates when that Doom ad resurfaced. All the concerns we had about competing with Sony flew out the window when consumers turned on the medium so hard. We had the rug pulled out from under us sometime in December of 1999, and just like that, the Xbox console was dust in the wind.”[10]

-Rick Thompson, Business Insider, November 12th, 2019

[1] Happened on a much smaller scale OTL.
[2] OTL:
[3] OTL: https://web.archive.org/web/2012020...tions/ismagazinearticle.cfm?ItemNumber=144264
[4] IOTL a similar judgment was made against the state of California in 2011: https://archive.is/n6cVU
[5] An amendment that was voted down in the OTL failed bill: https://www.congress.gov/amendment/106th-congress/house-amendment/182
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Entertainment_Protection_Act
[7] This is how Rudy Giuliani got porn banned from Times Square: https://archive.is/FuSvn
[8] OTL: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-...fter-more-than-a-decade-idUSBREA0606C20140107
[9] OTL: https://web.archive.org/web/20101203140923/http://www.gamespot.com/news/2447352.html
[10] The Xbox was close to being canceled OTL: https://web.archive.org/web/2021061...oral-history-of-an-american-video-game-empire
This update and the one preceding it is a bit of a broadstrokes view of a topic with a few specific points addressed, if anyone has specific questions that pertains to either of them (like for example if certain games are canceled or not), don't hesitate to ask. On that note if anyone wants me to come up with more details then ask that too. There's a good chance you have more knowledge about certain topics - like for instance your favorite franchise - then I would, so please let me know what you know before I do a deep dive on research.
What becomes of the Final Fantasy franchise? Also, will TTL ever see violent video games ever again?

I'll do a little digging to see if Final Fantasy would be affected but I don't think there's enough objectionable content in them to get them pulled from shelves or siginificantly altered. There could easily be butterflies in terms of writing or design that are incidental to the POD though.

I tried to make it clear in the update that violent video games are still around later on, although they will be more of a niche market. I also tried making it clear that non-American countries would ironically be more censorious since none of them have free speech protections like the US, so the end result is that any violent video games that are still released would have the biggest market in the US.