Mercenaries Invade the Arcade: Blackwater Video Game Triggers Rage
September 9, 2011
Guy Adams / The Independent & Lee Ferran / ABC News
In a move that has outraged the families of hundreds of wounded and murdered civilians, a software developer is launching the "first-person shoot-em-up" in which players adopt the persona of Blackwater mercenaries. The videogame follows a licensing agreement with company founder Erik Prince. Blackwater (renamed Xe Services following a string of controversies) stands accused of more than 200 shootings in Iraq, including the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad, in 2007.
Blackwater Video Game Triggers Rage
Iraq mercenaries' boss triggers rage with Blackwater video game
Guy Adams / The Independent
LONDON (September 8, 2011) -- You've heard about the scandals; now re-live them from the comfort of your sofa. That's the big idea behind Blackwater, a new video game named after the shadowy US security company accused of some of the worst rights violations of the Iraq war.
In a move that has outraged representatives of the trigger-happy firm's victims, a software developer called 505 Games will shortly launch the "first-person shoot-em-up" in which players adopt the persona of mercenaries protecting UN officials in what reviewers have called "a hostile north-African territory."
It was produced under license from Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder and former Navy Seal who stepped down from day-to-day management of the firm two years ago, having gained more than $1 billion in contracts from the Bush administration.
"[Players] are going to be shooting, moving and communicating through very difficult, unknown, uncertain situations," Prince told USA Today's gaming correspondent. "And they are going to be active." The game's release marks the first effort by Mr Prince to leverage the Blackwater name. He wants to license the firm's brand for use on a variety of products, including high-end travel gear.
All of which prompts disbelief from critics of the company, which was renamed Xe Services following a string of controversies which culminated in the killing of 17 civilians in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, in 2007. They have long accused it of abuses, noting that employees were responsible for more than 200 shootings in Iraq.
Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic Congresswoman and prominent critic of Blackwater, told The Independent that the game was "appalling."
"Blackwater is a company of mercenaries who have operated in a way that compromises the safety, reputation, and lives of Americans and Iraqis, and whose employees have been guilty of killings," she said.
"The notion of playing a game in which they are the hero is wrong on almost every level."
If Mr Prince had not emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US, he too would now be facing prosecution, the Congresswoman said. "His company has caused the death of innocent people without any accountability. It is inconceivable and appalling that a video game should celebrate his tough-guy image."
Susan Burke, a lawyer based in Washington who has represented the families of Blackwater's victims, said that the decision to release the game was "terribly offensive."
A UK-based spokesman for 505 Games said: "The video game is a fictional action first-person shooter, without any political agenda, and is being published to let gamers experience the challenging missions Blackwater operatives have experienced."
'Blackwater' Videogame Courts Controversy,
Lawmaker and Critic Call Game 'Terribly Offensive'
Lee Ferran / ABC News
(June 10, 2011) -- A lawyer representing the families of Iraqi citizens killed by contractors from Blackwater Worldwide said a new videogame inspired by the company and bearing its name is "terribly offensive" and never should have been made.
"Innocent people have been killed by this company. Imagine yourself as a mother or father of someone who has been killed, and now it's a videogame?" attorney Susan Burke told ABC News today. Burke was lead counsel for the dozens of victims and family members affected by a deadly shooting by Blackwater employees in Iraq that left 17 civilians dead and many more wounded in 2007. Blackwater settled out of court with the families in a civil suit, but the employees involved in the shooting still could face criminal charges relating to their actions that day.
"It's terribly offensive... It's staggering that anyone would use their name for a game," Burke said.
Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a longtime critic of Blackwater, agreed and said she believed it was "counter-productive to glorify a company like that."
"In my view, Blackwater should represent to Americans something that we need to get away from, not a company or an idea that should be embraced in part of entertainment," she said. "Blackwater in most places around the world is a dirty name… It's absolutely terribly offensive and inappropriate."
Ian Howe, president of 505 Games which plans to release "Blackwater" in the fall, said in the game's press announcement his company was "proud" to work with Blackwater.
"The Blackwater team is comprised of an amazing group of individuals and we're proud to work with them to create a video game that showcases their talent and courage," he said in 505 Games' release.
In the game, which 505 Games said was "developed in conjunction with former members of the Blackwater team," players assume the lead role in a Blackwater operation to protect a fictional North African town, "battling dangerous warlords and fighting back two opposing militia forces."
Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and ex-U.S. Navy SEAL, made a rare public statement in the same release to say the game "will give players a chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation."
In 2007, Prince was called before Congress to answer to allegations against his company stemming out of the nearly 200 shooting incidents in which the company was involved in the two previous years while providing protective services for U.S. officials in Iraq.
As scandals continued to dog the North Carolina-based company, two years later, Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to Xe Services and Prince resigned. He has since moved to the United Arab Emirates where he has been reportedly linked to other security firms.
Though many videogames are made every year based on the U.S. military, which has admitted the accidental killing of civilians several times, Burke said basing a game on Blackwater is in particularly bad taste because "the Blackwater people do it for profit... There's a difference between a mercenary and a soldier."
While the game has garned the attention of media outlets for the Blackwater connection, the game itself steers well clear of the events that put Blackwater in Congressional crosshairs.
After playing a demonstration portion of the game, a blogger for the videogame site Kotaku.com reported, "at no point was I required to fire at any innocent civilians, or commit any other atrocities."
Representatives from 505 Games declined to comment for this report.
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