Why Blackwater Game Creators Want to Avoid Controversy

Speaking to the Associated Press, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Zombie Studios lead designer Richard Dormer talk about why their upcoming Kinect game based on the controversial security firm has decided to steer clear of blood, killing civilians, swearing, and moral dilemmas.

The game, simply titled Blackwater, is being developed by Zombie Studios and published by 505 Games and makes heavy use of the motion-sensing capabilities of Kinect. Both the company's founder and the development lead on the game said that they wanted to steer clear of any controversy, instead focusing on creating an arcade style shooter that could be played by a wider audience.

Blackwater is best known for providing security in hotspots around the world such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It was in that former theater of operation that the company drew criticism from members of Congress and the news media after a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 people. That case was thrown out but is heading back to an appeals court for further scrutiny.

But Prince, who retained the rights to create properties based on his former company when he sold it last year, says that controversy or realism are not the core points of this new game:

"It's a game," Erik Prince, the company's founder told the AP. "This is not a training device. This is not a simulator. We're not doing this to teach folks how to conduct military operations in an urban terrain. That's not it at all. This is more along the lines of kids running around their neighborhood playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians."

Prince has made sure to steer clear of any controversies contrived or imagined by critics; the game is set in a fictional West African country, and follows a made-up team of Blackwater operatives who are in charge of providing security for aid workers and foreign dignitaries. The big bad foozle of the game is a fictional despot named General Limbano.

While the game is in no way intended to repair the reputation of the security firm that he sold off last year, Prince acknowledges that some people will never accept Blackwater:

"I think anyone who sticks their neck out in life will be attacked in some quarters for doing it," said Prince. "I'm fully comfortable with that. Some people are not always going to like Blackwater, but there are many millions of people that do like Blackwater. I'm not out to rehabilitate an image. We're out to provide a good experience and enjoyable game."

Lead designer Richard Dormer acknowledged that they went out of their way to avoid creating further controversy by reducing violent content from the game such as blood and the ability to shoot civilians, though he admits he wanted it in the game at first:

"I waged strongly for the possibility of shooting civilians because I thought it could tell the story well," said Dormer. "In the end, we didn't need there to be any more controversy. It seemed beside the point of the game. It was a much bigger risk to jeopardize everything else involved, especially with what happened with `Six Days in Fallaujah.'"

The game, which is set for release October 25, has been rated "TEEN" by the ESRB. Despite that, it does contain headshots and mild language. Prince points out that this was the rating they wanted because it allowed for a wider audience to play and enjoy the game.

"We didn't want this to be restricted to adults," said Prince. "We wanted to dial the violence down so that kids could play it in the same way that they go outside throw snowballs at each other or whatever. We wanted to be able to spread the game to that demographic. Frankly, I also wanted something that I'd be comfortable with my own boys playing."

You can learn more about the game at blackwatergame.com.

Source: SF Gate

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  1. 0
    eston says:

    It seems really silly to put so much effort into avoiding controversy when the name itself is ultimately a big source of it. There's a reason Blackwater is no longer called Blackwater.

    And honestly, if these are the hoops they feel they have to jump through just to mitigate the name, why not keep all these features in the game (since, you know, gamers LIKE that stuff) and call it something else? It's obviously not intended to be an accurate portrayal, so why is it so important to use the name Blackwater?

  2. 0
    MechaCrash says:

    The game isn't controversial because of what you're actually doing. It's controversial because it's about Blackwater. The only way to avoid the controversy is to not make a game about them.

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