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.