There's no good excuse for horrifying video game


WASHINGTON -- The sorority girl is primping in front of the bathroom mirror.

She is wearing a white shortie nightgown and nothing else.

Her hair is very blond.

The tiles of the bathroom are white and gleaming.

Three black monster men crash into the bathroom.

The sorority girl screams.

There is loud, pulsing music.

The black monster men wrestle the blond sorority girl into submission.

One black monster man carries a metal hook that drains blood.

The music is very loud.

The black monster men have already murdered several other semi-nude sorority girls.

Some are hanging from meat hooks.

One is hanging upside down in a cabinet. Her blood drips into a bottle.

The black monster man in the bathroom grabs the blond sorority girl with the hook.

The hook tightens around the blond sorority girl's neck.

A drilling sound can be heard.

The girl screams.

The black monster men drag the blond sorority girl away.

The music is very loud.

The video game comes to an end.

And there was not a sound in the Senate hearing room as the video monitor was turned off.

Even on Capitol Hill there are times when nobody can think of anything to say.

This video "game" is called "Night Trap." It is distributed by Sega of America.

Sega of America thinks because it sticks a warning label on "Night Trap" saying it is for consumers 17 and older -- and Sega did this only after public outcry -- that "Night Trap" is OK.

"Night Trap" is not OK.

And it has little to do with whether it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that violent videos lead to violence by children.

"Night Trap" is simply repellent garbage.

"Night Trap" is not a cartoon. It uses real actors. And one point of "Night Trap" is to make the overt violence and covert sexuality look very, very real.

Sega of America is delighted to make money from "Night Trap."

"The adult market today wants something more than just playing 'Pac Man,' " sniffed William White, vice president of marketing and communications for Sega, last week.

Currently, the only law regarding video games is one that prohibits them from having moving parts that can be swallowed by children under the age of 3. But some senators think content laws may be needed.

The video industry, which made $5.1 billion in profits last year, does not think content laws are needed.

And Sega's White appeared before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Government Affairs committee yesterday to defend "Night Trap" and other violent "games."

He pointed out that "Night Trap" is labeled for adults and, besides, the blond sorority girl in the negligee is only hooked and dragged off by the black monster men if the game player loses the game.

"If you are a good player," White testified, "you keep the woman from that."

"And if you're a bad player?" Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, asked.

"The woman gets attacked," White said.

I do not know how much Sega of America pays William White.

But it is too much.

Howard Lincoln, senior vice present of Nintendo of America, told the senators that Nintendo refuses to carry "Night Trap."

And while Nintendo does have violence on some of its games and it, too, now endorses a ratings system, it admits that ratings alone are not enough.

"A rating system is no substitute for corporate responsibility," Lincoln said.

The senators made clear they were against censorship. But they also made clear that something must happen, and soon.

"I hope you walk away from here with one thought," Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin said to the members of the video industry. "If you don't do something about this, we will."

But while we are handing out criticism, let us not forget this:

Even when its content is known in advance, "Night Trap" sells very, very well.

And if "Night Trap" is just plain garbage, what does that make the people who buy it?

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