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A Case to be Made for Night Trap!
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on July 09, 2003   |   Episode 30 (Show Archive)  


Senator Lieberman, seen here commanding his legion of clones to register to vote!
There is a case to be made for Night Trap, but nobody seems to be making it. So, I figured that if anybody was going to talk openly and honestly about this notorious title, it should be me. After all, I'm the one that gave the game a bad review, I'm not biased in favor of the game, so I can be as truthful about it as you get.

The problem is, Night Trap gets a bad rap. Even though it's been a decade since this big debate about video game violence, sexuality, and other perversions the Government wanted to keep us away from, and nothing has changed. We seem to apply a weird double standard, we love the memories of Mortal Kombat, yet seem to want to forget what Night Trap gave us.

I don't think anybody would argue that Night Trap is a high quality game, but the myths, rumors, and lies about this title seem to never go away, and nobody is around to set the record straight. Night Trap has a lot of problems, and is barely a game, let alone movie worth paying attention to, but it's not an ultra violent, hypersexual massacre, as some would have you believe.

"The origin of Night Trap" Tom Zito, president of Digital Pictures, explains in the January 1995 issue of Next Generation, "was

This Night Trap cover is much more risqu? than anything found in the game!
that I had been negotiating with Newline Cinema to do an interactive version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. We knew we wanted to do some sort of teenage-slasher-horror movie kind of game that would clearly appearl to the demographic we were after with an interactive TV system that we were developing. But at the last minute, the deal fell apart, so Night Trap was born."

Between 1987 and 1992 Night Trap looked for a home, while its cast members did everything they could to find work. The main star, child actor Dana Plato, famous for her role in Diff'rent Strokes, found herself in and out of legal trouble, with few quality movie parts, and battling drug addiction. The future for Night Trap was starting to look pretty bleak. It would take a company as desperate as Digital Pictures to save this game, a company like Sega of America.

After announcing the Americanized Sega CD, Sega of America was forced to make some rather tough decisions about what games to bring to the U.S., and which to leave in Japan. Much to the surprise of just about everybody, Sega opted to make all of their North America products here in the U.S., focusing on movie ports (Batman Returns, Jurassic Park) and fancy full motion video titles (Corpse Killer).

While this path would yield more recognizable names for the American audience, it was also a much more taxing task than anybody had realized. In the early days of the system Sega was frantic to find a nice balance of games, and needed games desperately for their launch.

Dana Plato, seen here posing for the E! True Hollywood Story cameras!
Enter Night Trap, a game that has been sitting on the shelf for a number of years, implements the expanded memory from the CD-ROM, and is has a very American look and feel to it. It's the title Sega had been looking for all along, they didn't have to shoot anything, only get it working on their CD system and let the money roll in. Surely Sega wasn't thinking it would become a blockbuster, but it would give them some much-needed time for their in house games to be finished.

As with most mediocre games, Night Trap would have gone unnoticed, completely ignored by gamers and the press alike, had it not been for Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn). By waging a war against video games, Senator Lieberman single handedly turned Night Trap into a Martyr for violent games everywhere.

"We're here today to talk about the nightmare before Christmas" contested Senator Lieberman on December 1st, 1993 at a senate press conference. "Not the movie, but - unfortunately - the violent video games". When talking about Night Trap, the Senator spoke out passionately against it, even going as far as pinpointing it as "contributing to the unacceptable level of violence in our society."

Somewhere between Senator Lieberman's comments, a biased and uninformed media, and people blowing things out of proportion, words like "rape" and "assault" were bandied around when describing Night Trap. Yet, the game was no more violent than anything you would see in a late night horror film from the 1960s. Yet, thanks in large part to Senator Joe, many advocates fought it as if it were hard-core pornography.

Mia Farrow would soon realize that there is nothing scarier than living with Woody Allen!
Back in 1994 Nintendo stated, "A game such as Night Trap will never be produced for a Nintendo system." Granted Nintendo never did venture into the full motion video genre, but this comment, like those from the Government, gave parents an excuse not to buy the Sega CD, and gave Big N the moral high ground.

While Nintendo wouldn't allow Night Trap, they had no problem with Lethal Enforcers and a slightly revised version of Mortal Kombat. Yet, even without the blood and excessive gore, the Super NES port of Mortal Kombat was far more violent than anything in Digital Pictures' Night Trap.

Tom Zito offered that they "didn't want to show vampires actually plunging their fangs into people's necks and see blood going everywhere - we thought that would be going over the top even though it's the stuff you see in any two-bit vampire movie. So we came up with this ridiculous device, this thing with the drill because we didn't want to use guns and so here's a type of violence that, number one, is relatively mild, and number two is totally non-replicable. It's not a device that kids are going to find while rummaging through the garage and then bring inside the home to use on their little sister, I mean it's just not going to happen."

Night Trap was an equal opportunity employer, hiring hunky men and skinny women for unconvincing parts!
Looking back at the game, it's hard to imagine anybody being offended by it. The women are always covered up, most of the violence is only implied, and there's absolutely no foul language. By all standards, the game is pretty clean, how you'd imagine the Vatican would make a horror film. The only thing offensive about the game is the horrible, horrible acting.

At best, the battle over Night Trap is an uphill fight. Joseph Lieberman understands the same thing that Bob Dole, Joe Baca, and so many other politicians know. The children and young adults aren't the ones that vote, in effect, they have no barring what so ever about how the country is run. Yet, it's easy to get adults outraged about things they have no knowledge of. If there's one thing history has taught us, the unknown breeds hatred and intolerance.

You're average middle-aged man or woman doesn't play games, so it's easy to lie about these products to make them seem worse than they are. Had your everyday voter played Night Trap, they certainly would never have used a word like "rape" to describe the violence that does occur. Yet, since they probably won't ever play the game, it's easy to get your biased point across.

There are plenty of beautiful women in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but none of them are naked!
If you think this sick practice of Senators lying to voters about the issue of video games, I ask you to take into consideration a quote on Congressman Joe Baca's website. A quote about Tecmo's Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball in which in indicates that it "allows players to create female characters, with full control over breast size and the option to have the character appear topless."

"I really wish that we could ban [video games] constitutionally," proclaimed Senator Lieberman only months before openly settling for a rating system, the same system he complains about to this day. But there's nothing new there. For centuries governments have tried to censor art, be it music, movies, books, the theater, or paintings, when it comes to creative expression you better be ready to go into battle.

What the rating system has done, though, has legitimized video games, essentially giving the developers free reign over their content because they know there will be a warning if it's too much for kids or teenagers. In effect, what Joseph Lieberman didn't want to happen has come true in spades. Games like Grand Theft Auto III and Resident Evil aren't just popular, they are among the best selling games every year, and would not have been possible without the rating system.

We can only imagine what Senator Lieberman would have done had it been Grand Theft Auto III and not Night Trap!
Nintendo argued against the ratings because they didn't feel they were necessary. After all, Nintendo was already policing the games looking for inappropriate violence, sexual content, and adult themes. However, soon after the rating system was implemented, Nintendo reversed its stance, and allowed games like Mortal Kombat II to feature all the blood and fatalities originally found in the arcade classic.

But whether Night Trap brought the ratings by itself is irrelevant, the point is that of all the violent games in our history, Night Trap wasn't the culprit. The game is a lot of things, including a terrible waste of time, but it's not the demon child the Government and parent groups made it out to be. It's a game that will go down in history because of a fluke, an unlucky situation where it was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is a case to be made for Night Trap, it's one of the most misunderstood games in our short history. It managed to start a ratings war that is still going on, and became the butt of a whole lot of jokes. In the end, though, there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't care about Night Trap, because of the violence or some fictional rape scene made up by the overactive media, should not one of them. Just take my advice and ignore this game on its own merits.


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