Video game maker Sega of America Inc. said yesterday it will withdraw its game Night Trap from sale and re-release it in revised form.
The move came after lawmakers decried the game, which includes video footage of hooded men grabbing a flimsily dressed young women in a bathroom, then attaching a blood-sucking device to her neck.
Sega said it hadn't decided what to change in the game but that it hoped to make people see Night Trap as a parody of low-budget vampire films from the 1950s. "Maybe not everyone is perceiving what we intended them to perceive," said Sega spokesman Richard Brudvik-Lindner.
Sega's actions affect only versions of the game sold for its Sega Genesis video game player units. The game in its current form will remain available for so-called 3DO video players that are coming on the market. That version of the game is controlled by a California company called Digital Pictures Inc., not Sega.
Sega said it hoped its move would simplify efforts by the $6 billion-a-year industry to devise a nationwide rating system that would alert purchasers to violence and sex in the games, which are using real actors and video footage to achieve new levels of realism. Once that system is in place -- plans call for implementation by December -- Sega will release the game in its new form.
Sega, which implemented its own rating system earlier this year, yesterday said it would work to educate parents on what the ratings mean and to display ratings in ads. Such an approach would address congressional calls last month for action against ads that lawmakers contend leave out ratings in an effort to mislead buyers.
Sega had earlier refused to alter Night Trap, saying it was appropriate entertainment for adults. But it changed its mind after critics seized on the game as proof that the industry contributes to a climate of violence. The abduction scene was played in a congressional hearing room and countless times on television news. The game, which has sold 150,000-plus copies in its Sega version, was withdrawn by Toys R Us Inc. and Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby Shops Inc.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), one of the industry's strongest critics, yesterday praised the pending rating system and Sega's decision on Night Trap. He called them "small victories along the path to less violent videos and hopefully a less violent society."
Tom Zito, president of Digital Pictures, said his company had received no consumer complaints about Night Trap. It has sold about 20,000 3DO versions.
"Consumers are very, very intelligent and have the ability to make decisions about what they want to buy," Zito said. "I don't think this stuff should really come about because some guys on Capitol Hill start ruffling their feathers."
In a letter to Lieberman, Sega of America President Thomas Kalinske said that Sega was unable to alter bloody features in another game that has drawn fire, Mortal Kombat. Though the game operates on Sega machines, he said, its content is controlled by another company, Acclaim Entertainment Inc.