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The real battle in the Senate on the day of the hearing, however, was not between the proponents and opponents of restrictions on video games but between Sega and Nintendo. It did not take long for the bitterness between the two video game giants to bubble to the surface and soon Washington's finest were watching Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln and Sega of America vice-president Bill White Jr. engaged in their own verbal equivalent of Mortal Kombat.
Lincoln used Nintendo's earlier decision to force Acclaim to remove the gore from the Super NES version of Mortal Kombat as a stick to beat its commercial rival with. He said Nintendo had lost money by sanitizing its version of Mortal Kombat and had even received angry letters and telephone calls from children demanding the violence before proudly adding that Night Trap would "never appear on a Nintendo system", ignoring how the lack of a CD drive meant the Super NES was technologically incapable of handling such a game.
White countered that Sega had an older audience demographic to Nintendo, a claim echoing the underlying message of his company's "Sega does what Nintendon't" advertising campaign: Sega is for cool teens, Nintendo is for children.
He added that Sega had already introduced age ratings on its games voluntarily and that it wanted other companies to adopt its system.
Lincoln stuck the knife in. He dismissed Sega's age ratings system as a panic measure introduced when the controversy about Night Trap started and refuted White's assertions that the video game industry was now catering for adults rather than children.
White started listing the violent games available on the Super NES and showed the Senators a Nintendo light gun. Lincoln described Night Trap as "outrageous".
White defended it by pointing out that the player has to try and stop the vampires only to get slapped down by Lieberman who interjected: "You're going to have to go a long way to convince me that that game has any moral value." Lieberman watched the pair tearing chunks out of each other with amazement.
Nintendo and Sega weren't the only people in the games business divided by the controversy. The game developers who worked on Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were also divided over how to react to the row their creations had started.
"I felt like we were being attacked by a bunch of people who were mostly ignorant of what they were attacking," said Tobias. "Watching the news coverage at the time, you'd think that Mortal Kombat was created by some evil corporation. Anyone who knew me or Ed personally knew that our intentions weren't anything other than ensuring our players were having fun."
Rob Fulop, who had designed Night Trap while it was still part of Hasbro's NEMO project, found the experience harder. "The scandal was kind of silly and it was also deeply embarrassing because friends of mine, my parents, and my girlfriend didn't really get games. All they knew was a game that I had made was on TV and Captain Kangaroo said it was bad for kids," he said. "I fell out with my girlfriend because I thought it was completely bullshit."
But while he thought the inquiry was nonsense, after nearly 15 years of game making, Fulop had begun to worry about the message video games were sending out to children. "I grew up in a generation where you watched TV, that's all we did. TV was basically 30-minute stories and always had a happy ending. Whatever the problem, in half an hour the problem was worked out," said Fulop.
"You tell that story to kids 20 million times and they grow up believing everything will work out. That was my generation. You believed everything would work out because of TV. Now think of video games -- the message is no matter what you do you always lose. You never ever, ever, ever, ever win. Once in a million you win, but most of the time you never win. Unless you can find the cheat, so what does that teach you? I think that's created a whole different culture -- a very fatalistic 'what's the point?' attitude. It's a personal philosophy, I don't know if it's true or not."