Long before people were worrying about the violence in Grand Theft Auto or the nudity in Heavy Rain, they were holding Congressional hearings about a game called Night Trap.
Night Trap was an interactive movie video game, one that was presented through full motion video at a time when that was still a big deal. The player was a member of S.C.A.T., the Special Control Attack Team. For 25 minutes, your job was to watch as blood-sucking creatures known as Augers attempted to launch a sneak attack on five girls at a slumber party. Whenever an Auger approached a trap, the player had to click a button to capture the Auger.
It sounds pretty simple and it was.
It also sounds pretty stupid and again, it was.
Night Trap initially received some attention because it featured former Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato as one of the girls. Plato played Kelly, who was actually an undercover member of S.C.A.T. and who searched for clues while you were busy trapping Augers. Plato gave such an annoying performance that many gamers probably purposefully let a few Augers escape just so they could get the “bad” ending, with Kelly plunging into Hell.
However, even more than Dana Plato running around in a sports bra, it was a scene of one of the girls being stalked while wearing a nightgown that truly worried the moral guardians of 1993. At the Congressional hearings, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herb Kohl spent hours reviewing this scene and demanding to know whether it had any socially redeeming qualities. The hearings also focused on Mortal Kombat and the senators seemed to be far more offended by an actress in a nightgown than they were about Kano ripping his opponent’s still-beating heart out of his chest.
Night Trap seems tame today but, of course, it was also tame back in 1993. One reason why the “nightgown scene” got so much attention at the hearings is because it was the only scene in the entire game that could be considered the least bit racy. There’s no sex or nudity in Night Trap. For the most part, there’s also not any violence. Whatever actual blood sucking that happens in Night Trap happens off-camera. Probably the most intense scenes in the game involved Dana Plato scolding you if you let too many of the girls get captured. Since the only thing the player could do during the game was activate a trap by pushing a button at a certain moment, this game required not so much skill as just being able to keep track of time. Now, If you enjoyed just pushing a button over and over again, Night Trap might have some appeal but otherwise, this is a dull and poorly acted game. Not even as formidable a thespian as Dana Plato could liven things up.
Ironically, those Congressional hearings made Night Trap. If people still remember the game today, it’s because of those hearings. If you want to know how a boring game like Night Trap could get a special 25th anniversary edition, it was because of those hearings. There’s nothing like a moral panic to boot sales.