Late last night the offices of Los Angeles-based independent game studio Robotoki were stormed by the Los Angeles Police Department after a curious designer pressed the building's "panic" button, studio founder Robert Bowling told Polygon.
The 911 response ended in a tense showdown with a life-sized statue of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's Simon "Ghost" Riley, which the police mistook for a gunman.
Earlier today reports circulated that the studio had been the victim of a "swatting" prank, in which a third party tricks law enforcement authorities or emergency services by providing details of a made-up threat, triggering an emergency response dispatch to the target of the prank. Swatting pranks are not limited to 911 calls; swatters can spoof a victim's phone number, obtain and use a victim's personal information or hack phone and computer systems.
Bowling clarified that it wasn't a prank, but the mischievousness of an unnamed designer that brought the LAPD to his door.
"Our studio is equipped with a 'panic' alarm in case of an armed threat, which was installed yesterday," Bowling said. "One of our designers, who shall not be shamed, pressed it on his way out because apparently when boys find buttons that they are unsure of, their first instinct is to push it."
Bowling said the panic alarm was installed as a precaution to protect his team, "as game developers receive their fair share of death threats." He noted that Robotoki hasn't had any issues with threats, but it is something Bowling is familiar with from his days at Infinity Ward.
"So after pushing it, everyone went home for the day, leaving their lonely studio head to receive the assault of their actions," he added.
At 7:10 p.m. four officers arrived at the front of the building only to find that there was no way to get in from that side. As they moved around toward the back where Robotoki's entrance is located, the officers spotted Bowling's life-sized statue of Ghost standing at attention with his gun at the ready.
So they made entry.
"I was in my office when they arrived and saw them coming up our stairs, guns drawn," Bowling said. "They yelled for me to put my hands up and walk towards them slowly, then took me into custody and out of the studio until they cleared the rest of the rooms and floors."
Bowling said about 15 minutes later the officers emerged, laughing — they had mistaken Ghost for a real threat and had nearly taken him down. The photo above was taken from Robotoki's security cameras and shows the moment the cops approached Bowling's office.
Once they realized Bowling was neither a threat nor a hostage, discussion fell to Bowling's line of work and the ordeal ended with a round of video games using the office's NES controller table.
Bowling said there was no harm done and he was not fined for the false alarm. They chalked it up as a mistake, a miscommunication or misdirected prank.
"Until we reviewed the security footage and saw our designer's curiosity to be the cause."
Update: LAPD confirmed to Polygon that they did indeed respond to an alarm call at Robotoki with four police officers Thursday night.
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