Violent designs

Assault rifles, Taliban soldiers and bloody corpses. No, it’s not a scene from Afghanistan, just Auburn resident Jesse Petrilla’s latest video game invention: Quest for Al Qaeda—Hunt for Bin Laden.

It’s the latest game in an endeavor that had an inauspicious beginning. Petrilla’s first violence-based game got him expelled from Del Oro High School.

In May 1999, then-sophomore Petrilla got in trouble for something that began as his senior class project. Named after the campus, Del Oro High was a shooter game that Petrilla described as being similar to Dune and Duke Nukem. The objective was to take the school back from Nazi invaders by any means necessary.

Trouble arose when Petrilla’s friend brought the game to school. Authorities quickly learned of the game’s disturbing content, in which the hero must leave campus and return with firearms needed to kill the enemy. Incidentally, the discovery came within weeks of the shootings at Columbine.

“They just wanted to make an example out of me,” Petrilla said.

The resilient teen continued to follow his dream of becoming a computer game designer. He made a second game, Pirate’s Plunder, in which the player journeys through villages, plundering along the way. While not as controversial as his first brainchild, Pirate’s Plunder seemed to be a safe step in the right direction.

Petrilla’s latest masterpiece is a no-holds-barred tribute to his first invention, albeit with a setting where Americans are more accepting of gratuitous violence. In Quest for Al Qaeda, a soldier is dropped into the heart of enemy territory. The player uses dynamite, knives and an M-16 to fight against Kalashnikov-wielding Taliban soldiers.

“My goal is to work for George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars,” said Petrilla, whose buzz cut and straight posture give him the air of a Marine.

Petrilla, currently a freshman at American River College, has all the encouragement he needs: “My mom says that I have a bright future.”