Night Trap Controversy

Night Trap SegaCDGratuitously violent with sexual overtones? Lots of sexual aggression? And the object of the game is to be violent, attack and murder provocatively dressed women by hooking them by the neck and drilling them? It’s so violent, sexist, racist and homophobic that it’s questionably not even suitable for adults? The game ratings don’t go far enough? Should be taken off the market? Wow! This must be the worst game ever!! What game is this? Somebody tell me please!

Oh wait… it’s Night Trap for the Sega CD.

Released in 1992, Night Trap was a new type of game that used Full Motion Video where you flipped between room cameras as a story plays out. The player has access to the home security monitors and traps that are in nearly every room of the Martin’s home. Soon, it’s discovered that the Martins are vampires and responsible for some missing girls that stayed there before during a slumber party. Now some new girls are spending the night and one of them named Kelly is an undercover operative for S.C.A.T. (Sega Control Attack Team) – I guess S.H.I.T was too obvious. The objective is to protect the girls from the Vampiric Augers by springing traps laid throughout the house.

Wait a minute… The object is to protect the girls? But according to the Congressional Hearing I thought you were supposed to murder them by drilling their scantily dressed necks? No? Well, at least it’s gratuitously violent, right?

Not really.

nighttrap-20While it’s true that the girls will get killed if you fail to trap the Augers, the violence level is so low as to put it in the category of a cheesy movie thriller. In fact, there’s probably less violence than even that. The only scene that was shown at the 1993 Congressional hearings was the “Nightgown Scene”. Here they chose to play what happens if you fail to save Lisa (who’s wearing a nightgown). She gets caught by an Auger as they use their hook to grab her by the neck while a drill spins. She screams as they drag her into a secret trap wall and is presumably killed… off screen. What the Congressional hearing didn’t show was that at this point the player loses and gets chastised by the S.C.A.T. commander for not saving the girl. Game over. But they made it seem as though the entire objective of the game was to make things like this happen on purpose and that the player is somehow rewarded for it.

They even went so far as to take the opening scene out of context. Eugene Provenzo from the University of Miami (professor of who-the-hell-knows) described the S.C.A.T. commander as “a fascist military type” – which is a weird description given that there’s nothing particularly fascist about him at all, and quotes the team commander as saying, “If you don’t have the brains or the guts for this assignment, give control to someone who does.” He then paraphrases the Commander as saying, “If you’re not man enough to do this, forget it, you know – you don’t deserve to play this game”. He spun it to imply that he was saying you need to be “man enough” to murder the girls, which was the opposite of what he was saying.

Then Marilyn Droz from the National Coalition of Television Violence pipes up with, “so obviously it’s not directed for the other half of the population”. Nice try, but the game never says “man enough” and so never excludes the other half of the population.

Clearly, neither Marilyn Droz nor Eugene Provenzo have ever played the game.

Nighttrap_mcd_us_rerelease_frontcoverDespite implementing a rating system after Sega received complaints about the game (and rating it M for Mature, ages 17+), Senators Joe Lieberman, Herbert Kohl and Nintendo representative, Howard Lincoln continued to make statements about the game’s content being “shameful”, “sick” and “disgusting”. Howard Lincoln even went on to say that, “Night Trap will NEVER appear on a Nintendo console”. Talk about Nintendo throwing Sega under the bus.

Clearly, none of these people have played the game either.

In response to the classic “we must protect the children” claim from the Senators, the Sega representative, Bill White claimed that 60% of Sega CD players were adults and that they were simply filling an older market. Howard Lincoln disputed this as false but I find it very believable that Sega had an older audience demographically than Nintendo because it advertised to a more mature audience and typically had more mature games than Nintendo did, like an uncensored version of Mortal Kombat with all the blood of the arcade version while the Super Nintendo replace the blood with “sweat”.

mk_genesis_snesOf course, by the time Mortal Kombat II came out in 1994 and the controversy died down, Nintendo put the blood back in. Hypocrites. But that’s another story.

Then there were the “sexist” and “violence towards women” claims.

Most of this seems to be around the idea that the victims are all or mostly women. That’s not actually true. Many of the victims of the Augers are from S.C.A.T. who are mostly men. And you’re not even penalized for not saving them. All of the 95 Augers that are trapped are presumably men. The main villains are a mix (3 men and 2 women). Even the guests include a boy amongst the 5 girls that you need to protect. Maybe it’s the “nightgown” that’s sexist or… maybe the dummies that are screaming these claims don’t know what they’re talking about.

What about “racist” or “homophobic”?

Well, there’s a black guy. But there’s nothing weird about that. As for “homophobic”, well… There’s no mention of anything gay in the game. Or is that what makes it homophobic? The lack of a gay guy? Or a lesbian? Should one of the girls kissed the other? Would that have been more sexist then? I don’t know. My head hurts. Seems to me that they really didn’t have a case to make so they just shouted “bigots!” to shut up their opponents. Or they’re lying.

And that’s what really burns me up about the whole controversy – The lying, the ignorance, the unsubstantiated claims and the hyperbole.

In the end, it was a lot of screaming about nothing and those mouthpieces involved got to feel important. The video game industry continued to use rating systems and eventually developed the ESRB and PEGI. The gaming demographics continued to grow older and the market continued to produce game content that catered to the older audience. Games like “Doom”, the “Grand Theft Auto” series and “Call of Duty” continued to be scorned despite being clearly rated for mature audiences. And “racist”, “homophobic” and “sexist” claims get screamed from time to time but for the most part those yahoos are silenced pretty quickly.

anita_everything_is_sexistOh wait… Ugh! Where’s the Tylenol?


I'm a Computer and Networking Engineer, Electronics Hobbyist and all around nerd. I draw when I get the chance but never got around to taking lessons for it. I'm also an amateur collector (Video Games & Comic Books mostly) and enjoy long walks on the beach. Just kidding… The beach sucks. I don’t particularly hate Windows but I like Internet Explorer about as much as I like hippies. I hate hippies.

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