But that didn't keep the wolves from circling.
Maybe it was the use of live-action video, maybe gaming had just finally reached critical mass or maybe the wind just happened to be blowing in the right direction one cold morning in 1992. Whatever the reason, Night Trap caused enough hysteria to get the government involved. In joint Senate Judiciary and Government Affairs Committee hearings on videogame violence, governmental experts were quick to claim Night Trap was "ultra-violent" and "offensive to women"; they also accused it of "promoting child abuse." Major newspapers across the U.S. carried this alarming message as far as it would go, and it wasn't long before stores like Toys 'R' Us and F.A.O. Schwarz stopped selling the game altogether.
Even my beloved Nintendo was quick to sell out fellow developers: Nintendo of America insisted Night Trap would never appear on a Nintendo console. Sega and the creators of Night Trap blamed Nintendo for the hearings and accused them of using lobbyists to launch a wave of damaging controversy against their competitors. While Nintendo and the senators denied this, to me the transcripts tell quite a clear tale: In the middle of full-scale console war Nintendo got involved in the hearings to score a cheap victory.
Those hearings weren't looking for the truth. In fact, the makers were told they were "out of order" when they stood up and offered to speak in defense of their game. The bemused developers asked one of the senators afterward if he'd even played the game, but were told, "I don't need to; this is filth."
Richard Perrin lives in Sheffield, England, working as the designer and producer for independent game developer Studio Trophis. He also works as a freelance videogame journalist and maintains a blog about interactive storytelling called Locked Door Puzzle. He's partial to a quality vodka.