That Time The Postal Service Sued The Developers Of Postal

That Time The Postal Service Sued The Developers of Postal

If people remember 1997's overhead shooter Postal for anything, it's the controversies that always seemed to surrounded it. Postal was at the heart of a huge debate over violent video games in the '90s. The game might look quaint in 2016, but at the time, it was raising lots questions about whether the increasingly realistic depictions of violence in video games were responsible for real-life violence.

The game's title was itself a reference to the term "going postal", in which a disgruntled worker inflicts acts of violence at their work place. There were several unfortunate incidents by postal workers in the '90s, so you can imagine why the United States Postal Service might take issue. As a result, they sued the developers of Postal, trying to prevent them from selling it.

Yes, that actually happened.

The lawsuit was filed in May 1997, months before Postal was even released.

Per a GameSpot story at the time:

RWS [Postal developer Running With Scissors] has stated that the lead character of the action/strategy psychological thriller has no identifiable occupation. RWS spokesman Vince Desi said, "this is a word in common usage employed as the title of a game which has nothing whatever to do with the United States Post Office. We're a small company and this is just an attempt to pressure us." RWS also noted that the Jan/Feb issue of "Postal Life" magazine acknowledged the increasing use of the word "postal" in everyday vernacular.

Running With Scissors founder Vince Desi reportedly has the letter from then USPS postmaster general Marvin Runyon on his wall.

In part, the letter said:

All of us at the Postal Service have a sense of humor, but there is nothing funny about your game 'Postal,' It is in very poor taste, and is an erroneous and unfair portrayal of the nation's postal employees. [...] I believe you owe the men and women of the Postal Service an apology, and hope you will have enough common sense to discontinue the 'Postal Game.'

Runyon left the USPS one year later, and passed away in 2004. The lawsuit between the USPS and Running With Scissors, however, went on for years.

In a 2002 interview with Tuscon Weekly, Desi revealed some of the arguments being used in the ongoing case to discredit his company:

"At one point, they had a counterclaim where they said the post office might go into video games," said Desi. "That's how absurd it got."

The lawsuit was eventually settled in June 2003, six years after it began, and two months after the release of Postal 2.

UCSON, Ariz., June 25 /PRNewswire/ — Six years after the United States Postal Service (USPS) sued the makers of the notorious video game POSTAL and its ultra-controversial sequel, POSTAL 2, game developer Running With Scissors has been informed by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board of the U.S. Department of Commerce that the USPS's opposition case had been dismissed with prejudice.

"We're pleased with the ruling," said Vince Desi, Running With Scissors' battle-hardened CEO, "although everyone involved knows we never should have had to fight this frivolous lawsuit in the first place. Our game is funny. Theirs is sick."

Running With Scissors was not the only group to be infamously sued by the USPS. The Postal Service, a musical side project of Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and DJ Jimmy "DNTEL" Tamborello, also tangled with them. The group picked their name after composing tracks through the mail — literally using the USPS to send ideas back and forth. The USPS eventually decided to drop the suit and start working with the band.

Something tells me that will never happen with Postal.


Comments

    I kind of wish they'd won. It's the first time the movie was better than the game it was based on, and it's an Uwe Boll movie.

      The reviews seem to disagree with you.

        You would appear to be correct.

        I find that movie reviewers are more open to marking a film way down than game reviewers are, though. You have to be basically unplayable to get below 45% on Metacritic, whereas a film reviewer will have no qualms about slapping a half-star rating on a technically watchable but ultimately pointless film.

        I don't personally recommend either the game or the movie experience. Clearly there are enough people who disagree with me to have funded the development of 2 game sequels.

          Fair point, I guess a parallel for unplayable games with regards to films would be those that were produced purely for money and not for any artistic purpose. I haven't seen it so I can't say whether this is concurrent with the Postal film, but some producer company probably bought the rights off of the hype of the game and was quick to make a film that would sell. So I guess in that regard, it may be worth the cynical ratings or being slapper with a half-star.

          Last edited 15/03/16 2:23 pm

      Can't tell if that's praise for the movie or criticism of the game.

        I'm reading it as criticism of both. Backhanded praise if you want it. :)

          Ooh, the rarely sighted double-backhand. Tough move to pull off.

        It's a little of both without being a recommendation for either the game or the movie.

    Postal 2 was great and the expansion pack for it was even better

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