Captain Kangaroo lobbies for labels



WASHINGTON (AP)—A screaming sorority sister beset by bloodsucking attackers; a fight ending with the removal of the head and spine of the loser. These video game images must be kept from children through parental warnings, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., flanked by Captain Kangaroo and other children’s advocates, said that while these and similar video games are protected as free speech, they are too violent to be played by children.

‘‘Few parents would buy these games for their kids if they really knew what was in them,’‘ Lieberman said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Sega of America Inc., one of the nation’s largest video game distributors, said it is already keeping violent games away from children and younger teen-agers. Sega Vice President Bill White said, ‘‘The adult market today wants something more than just playing Pac Man.’‘

Apparently, they’re getting it.

Lieberman showed reporters segments of two video games, ‘‘Mortal Kombat’‘ and ‘‘Night Trap.’‘

Mortal Kombat features two martial-arts warriors pounding away at each other amid much spattering of blood. The game instructs a player to ‘‘finish’‘ a downed opponent. The choices for murder include ripping the heart out of the victim or removing, in one blow, the victim’s head and spinal column.

In Night Trap, the goal is to prevent a gang of black-hooded killers from capturing scantily clad sorority sisters and using a neck drill device to drain their blood. The software for the game includes images from scenes filmed with real actors. In the scene played at the news conference, the attackers get their screaming victim and attach the blood-draining device to her neck with a high-pitched drilling noise.

‘‘We’re not talking ‘Pac Man’ or ‘Space Invaders’ anymore,‘’ Lieberman said. ‘‘We’re talking about video games that glorify violence and teach children to enjoy inflicting the most gruesome forms of cruelty imaginable.’‘

Lieberman said he would prefer that Congress ban such violent games but he said they are constitutionally protected.

Captain Kangaroo, also known as Bob Keeshan, said his initial reaction on seeing the videos was ‘‘disbelief—I just could not believe anybody could go that far.’‘ Keeshan said greed was the sole motive behind the games.

Lieberman quoted one industry estimate that Mortal Kombat would generate $100 million in business this Christmas season. He said more than three million copies of the game have already been sold. Sega said that games intended for mature audiences account for only 2 percent of sales.

The games cost between $40 and $80 but can be rented at video stores for a few dollars. They are also available in video arcades.

Sega, of Redwood City Calif., distributes both games. Nintendo, with its U.S. headquarters in Redmond, Wash., distributes a somewhat less violent version of Mortal Kombat.

Lieberman’s bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., would give the video game industry one year to produce ‘‘a credible, uniform system to warn parents.’‘ If the industry failed to produce its own system of ratings or warning labels, the bill would create an independent council to impose a warning system.

Sega says it already rates its games. A spokesperson for Nintendo did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Next week a Senate subcommittee chaired by Lieberman will hold hearings on the issue.