– Real-Life Mercenaries to Star in Blackwater, the Videogame (Wired, June 7, 2011):
Blackwater Worldwide, the real-life mercenary team linked to the killing of civilians and noncombatants in Iraq during U.S. operations there, will be the subject of a Kinect-supported videogame coming to the Xbox 360 later this year.
A news release called it “an intense, cinematic shooter experience,” set in a fictional North African town, in which players, as Blackwater operatives, battle two warlords’ factions to protect the city.
“This game and its immersive Kinect-based approach will give players the chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation,” Prince said in a statement issued by 505. The game was developed in conjunction with former Blackwater members “to ensure accuracy of moves, gestures and gameplay,” the 505 release said. “The game also features a selection of officially-licensed weapons for your soldier to choose from.”
The game may also be played using a standard controller.
Blackwater, renamed to Xe Services LLC, was contracted by the U.S. government to provide training and diplomatic security, most notably in the Middle East, for much of the last decade. Its presence alongside U.S. diplomatic and military personnel came under scrutiny after several incidents resulting in the deaths either of civilians or Blackwater employees themselves.
Its involvement in Iraq became enough of a controversy that the company renamed itself to Xe in the aftermath. Its employees were involved in shootings later found to be unjustified, including one in which 17 Iraqis were slain, prompting the government there to revoke Blackwater’s license to operate in the country. Both the U.S. State Department and the FBI called that incident a reckless use of force that killed innocents, but an FBI investigation could not conclusively prove Blackwater was responsible for all deaths. In another 2006 incident, a Blackwater employee was fired after he, allegedly drunk, shot and killed a security guard of the Iraqi vice president.
Though none of its employees have faced prosecution, Blackwater/Xe has been heavily criticized in Congressional hearings as a cost-ineffective private contractor whose uses of force have embarrassed and compromised U.S. diplomatic interests. Additionally, the leak of diplomatic documents by Wikileaks in October 2010 alleged Blackwater committed serious abuses while in Iraq, including killing civilians. The State Department dropped Blackwater as its main private security contractor in 2009.
Prince, who founded Blackwater in 1997, is no longer involved in Xe’s management or operations.
505 Games is no stranger to controversy; it is publishing Supremacy MMA a fighter/sports hybrid whose stylized violence and gritty, underground presentation of mixed martial arts has drawn criticism from some, saying it presents the sport in a poor light. Mixed martial arts is especially sensitive to depictions of violence and brutality, as they have been the basis for state-level legislation forbidding the sport.
Supremacy MMA also features, for the first time, female combatants in an MMA title, although they may not fight male characters.
Both Blackwater and Supremacy MMA are playable at E3 2011 in Los Angeles this week.