Blackwater game aims for fun, not controversy

October 4, 2011 By DERRIK J. LANG , AP Entertainment Writer
In this video game image released by 505 Games/Zombie Studios, a scene is shown from the game "Blackwater," based on the controversial North Carolina security firm. Blackwater is trading real battlefields for a virtual one with the upcoming release of "Blackwater," a first-person shooter for Xbox 360's Kinect motion-sensing system that will attempt to give players a feel of what it's like to be a private military contractor. (AP Photo/505 Games/Zombie Studios)

(AP) -- In the world of video games, realism reigns supreme, but the makers of a game based on the infamous private security firm Blackwater are intentionally steering clear of it.

There's no blood, the enemies are fictional and civilians can't be killed. With no in "Blackwater," it's simply a matter of shoot - or be shot.

"It's a game," said Erik Prince, the company's founder. "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 partnered with developer Zombie Studios and publisher 505 Games to create the game using .'s motion-sensing Kinect technology for the . The camera-based system detects players' movements as they dodge enemy fire, kick down doors and lunge across rooftops while shooting foes across virtual battlefields in a fictional North African country.

The game's protagonists are a team of made-up Blackwater operatives tasked with protecting and other dignitaries in a volatile nation overrun by a warlord named General Limbano. Along the way, the four-man team - with each member armed with a different type of weapon - must blast away the hordes of encroaching minions.

The game is Prince's first attempt to leverage Blackwater as a brand. After founding the company in 1997, the former NAVY Seal stepped away from daily operations in 2009 but retained licensing rights to the Blackwater name. The security firm, which is still in operation and is now called Xe Services, was sold to USTC Holdings last year.

Blackwater, which provided services to the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, drew criticism from and others after a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 people. Those accusations were thrown out after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence, but the case was resurrected this year by a federal appeals court.

The game, which is scheduled for release Oct. 25, isn't an attempt to convalesce Blackwater's reputation, according to Prince. He said his motivation was to ultimately create an active and engaging shooter that would make players' entire bodies sore instead of just their thumbs. Still, Prince recognizes not everyone will want to push the start button.

"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."

"Blackwater" isn't the first shoot-'em-up game to depict private military contractors or court controversy.

The 2008 cooperative third-person shooter "Army of Two" and its 2010 sequel from Electronic Arts Inc. focused on a pair of former Army Rangers carrying out missions for cash in such locales as Afghanistan, Iraq and China on behalf of a fictional .

Electronic Arts switched the name of virtual combatants in the multiplayer mode of the military shooter "Medal of Honor" from "Taliban" to "Opposing Force" after the game was banned from being sold at U.S. military bases in 2010.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" from Activision Blizzard Inc. included a skippable level when it was released in 2009 that cast gamers as an agent who infiltrates a Russian villain's inner circle to defeat him but ends up participating in a terrorist attack on an airport while acting as part of the villain's group.

Konami Corp. canceled plans in 2009 to publish "Six Days in Fallujah," a game re-enacting a 2004 battle in Iraq.

Zombie Studios lead designer Richard Dormer said the "Blackwater" developers hoped to avoid such resistance by reducing the game's violent content and emphasizing arcade-style competitive elements. Players can vie for the fastest time and biggest score. They can also shoot out hidden propaganda materials - but definitely not civilians - found within the game's levels.

"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.'"

While players are awarded extra points for shooting combatants in the head, the blood and profanity doesn't flow as freely in "Blackwater" as it does in mature-rated shooters like "Call of Duty." The teen-rated "Blackwater" includes "mild language" and "violence," according to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

"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 to that demographic. Frankly, I also wanted something that I'd be comfortable with my own boys playing."

Explore further: Leaked video game footage shows terrorist attack

More information:


Related Stories

Leaked video game footage shows terrorist attack

October 29, 2009

(AP) -- Footage leaked from "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" reveals that players of the upcoming video game can shoot innocent civilians in an airport in a realistic rendering of a terrorist attack.

Company pulls plug on 'Fallujah' video game

April 28, 2009

(AP) -- The publisher behind a video game based on one of the Iraq war's fiercest battles has pulled the plug on the title, called "Six Days in Fallujah."

'Call of Duty' sells $310M in N Amer, UK in 24 hrs

November 12, 2009

(AP) -- First-day sales of Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" broke records, raking in an estimated $310 million in North America and the United Kingdom alone.

Eager gamers line up for 'Modern Warfare 2'

November 10, 2009

(AP) -- Ryan Norwalk has cleared his schedule. The 26-year-old California State University student plans to spend Tuesday gunning down foes in "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," the highly anticipated first-person shooter ...

China's army develops 'online war game'

June 29, 2011

After setting up its own cyber-warfare team, China's military has now developed its first online war game aimed at improving combat skills and battle awareness, state press said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Startup Pi out to slice the charging cord

September 19, 2017

Silicon Valley youngster Pi on Monday claimed it had developed the world's first wireless charger that does away with cords or mats to charge devices.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2011
Now you too (and even your kids, according to the article) can kill with no repercussions for you any innocent civilian for "looking at you funny," get paid four times as much as a (current) military soldier while doing half the job in six times the comfort, and have your very own wheelbarrow in which to carry around your enormous testicles.
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 04, 2011
Is there a butt-vodka level? http://motherjone...-embassy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
Even makes gulags fun...
5 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
Disgusting, thieving, murdering, anti-American, scum which the republicons hope someday will help them end the United States so corporate dictators can impose hell on the real America.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.