Hands-On: Editor Goes Postal

A long weekend in the desert with the makers of the new shooter Postal gives new meaning to the words "women and children first."

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Imagine waking up in your front yard one day standing with a large gun and no clue about what's going on in the world around you? All you want to do is kill and kill as cruelly as possible.

Postal looks to answer that hypothetical question.

With their violent themes, and what consequences those themes may have on those who play them, games have accumulated a bit of controversy recently. Congress talked about banning software and the gaming industry came out and made a rating system. Whereas other games fit into the PG category, Postal, the new game from Running with Scissors (RWS), was built for the Mature (capital M) crowd. RWS looks like it may have produced the game to make gamers' blood boil - as well as the blood of non-gamers who might not be able to accept its violent themes.

Postal is about fire, carnage, and death. Why? RWS people say that's what people want and with over 100,000 people downloading the beta demo from its web site, it certainly looks like the need is there.

Over the weekend, I traveled to the Tucson, Arizona, home of Running With Scissors for the Postal launch party to discover what makes these folks tick. I talked to the Postal crew and attempted to find out what makes these seemingly normal people conceptualize a game like Postal.

During the initial welcome meeting, the team talked about its experiences so far with the game. The one level that it got a great deal of feedback on was the ostrich level, when the player goes to an ostrich farm and slaughters them - and anyone else around. Riedel chuckled, "We didn't know what type of sounds an ostrich would make if you set one on fire. After several experiments, we think we got it right." E3 reactions for the ostrich level were "positive" as well. When the team was showing off the game - and killing everything in sight - people only got depressed when ostriches were being killed.

When I asked Mike Riedel, product manager for Postal, and Vince Desi, RWS's business manager, what each of them liked most about the completed game, they both responded quickly.

Riedel said that his favorite part was the parade. Basically the team needed a large group of innocent people that would be fun to kill. The idea of killing a parade band seemed like a natural. If you don't kill all of them though, they'll come after you and try to assault you with whatever instrument they have.

Desi answered that he loved killing the protesters in the game. RWS knows that it has stirred up the devil's cauldron of controversy so it's expecting protest. The RWS offices, in fact, were placed into the game itself. Angry protesters protesting against the game are placed in the vicinity as targets. Protesters and parade bands may want to double check before going into Tucson…just in case.

On Saturday morning, our group traveled to a pistol shooting range to see how many holes we could put through Postal boxes. We met the shooting instructors who informed us that guns must always be pointed down towards the target. If guns were pointed back into the lobby, well, they would make sure our participation in the events would end very quickly.

Luckily everyone was too tired and juiced up on Sunny-D to attempt to turn their weapons toward each other. When we got around to shooting, I had a choice of which firearm I was to use. Since the revolver didn't look as testosterone induced, I started with a .9 mm semi-automatic and then went on to a .40 mm Ruger. I'm beginning to like guns.

With all the controversy about the game, I asked what was the best hate mail RSW had received so far. The team was pretty proud of the postmaster general's letter pleading with the developers not to release the game (it was placed in a pretty nice case, too).

But the one letter that seemed the strangest was from a guy in Australia that placed an actual curse on the company. The author said that he had ties to the Aussie government and would have the game banned. In a strange turn of events, the game was banned in Australia. No one knows if the author of the curse man had any influence in the banning. The game was almost banned in the UK as well, but after taking out some of the females-in-pain audio tracks, the proposed ban was lifted.

After playing around with the game and meeting the team (really, these guys could get their names in the "senseless violence" world encyclopedia no problem), I got to ask the one question I'd been dying all weekend to ask: "Do you have rap sheets on all the criminal offenses that your team has?" Desi responded, "Do you mean felonies or misdemeanors?"

When I nodded and said both, Desi and Riedel smiled and said, "No comment."

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