Warring Factions: Six Days In Fallujah Controversy

By John Walker on April 8th, 2009 at 11:46 am.

Ban this sick filth.

Oh videogames, when will you ever learn that you’re not supposed to be about things? Your restrictions are thus: jumping on mushrooms, hitting a ball, and racing. But not racing to anywhere or from anything. Will you please control yourselves?

Six Days In Fallujah is Konami’s gaming interpretation of the gruesome 2004 battle in which 38 US troops, and 1200 insurgents were killed. Made by Atomic Games, most recently known for the Close Combat games, it’s a squad-based tactical third-person game, designed to recreate the atmosphere and experiences of the soldiers who fought there four and a half years ago. Please welcome The Daily Mail.

Working with soldiers who fought in the conflict, Atomic are at pains to express their intention to make a game that’s informative as well as entertaining. Atomic President, Peter Tamte, told the LA Times,

“For us, the challenge was how do you present the horrors of war in a game that is also entertaining, but also gives people insight into a historical situation in a way that only a video game can provide? Our goal is to give people that insight, of what it’s like to be a Marine during that event, what it’s like to be a civilian in the city and what it’s like to be an insurgent.”

His comments were accompanied by those of Mike Ergo, a 26 year old former soldier who had fought in Fallujah, now studying at Berkeley,

“Video games can communicate the intensity and the gravity of war to an audience who wouldn’t necessarily be watching the History Channel or reading about this in the classroom. In an age when everyone’s always online or playing games, people’s imaginations aren’t what they were, sadly. For this group, books may not convey the same level of intensity and chaos of war that a game can.”

A dozen marines from the battle are interviewed during the game, their comments appearing throughout the action. It would appear Atomic either genuinely want to tell their stories, or genuinely want to appear like they do. Importantly, they’re also stating they want to make a game that’s entertaining to play, rather than waving the worthy stick too wildly. Of course, others are not so happy.

There’s no intentions to take sides here. I’ve really not considered my own thoughts on this game, and whether it’s appropriate. It’s much more interesting at this stage to report how others are reacting. But the Daily Mail makes it hard to remain balanced when they open their report with utter nonsense.

Immediately describing it as a “survival horror” game, they then going on to announce which platforms the game will be coming out for, despite none being given by the developers. It’s not an auspicious start.

“But a highly-decorated British Army colonel and the father of a lance corporal killed in action in Iraq have slammed the game – and called for it to be banned.”

There’s an important thing to note here. Reg Keys didn’t find out about this game when he was browsing the gaming news sites last night. He was likely called by the paper because they had his number on file as someone who’s kid had died. A kid who died in 2003, a year before the battle in question. Keys goes on to make an interesting point,

“It’s entirely possible that Muslim families will buy the game, and for them it may prove particularly harrowing.”

Sadly he then goes on to add,

“Even worse, it could end up in the hands of a fanatical young Muslim and incite him to consider some form of retaliation or retribution. He could use it to get worked up and want to really ‘finish the game’.”

Keys’ comments are understandable for a man whose son died. Which then of course asks the question, is there a real reason to challenge the existence of this game? The Mail also got comments from former Col. Tim Collins OBE, who also condemned the existence of the game, mainly for being “too soon”.

“It’s much too soon to start making video games about a war that’s still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history. ‘It’s particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game.”

Where he reads this flippancy is slightly mysterious, unless he believes that gaming as a medium is flippant. An interesting perspective. But the “too soon” asks more useful questions.

The Call of Duty and Medal of Honour Second World War games have always gone to great lengths to include historical accuracy, alongside blowing shit up. And while many complain about the ubiquity of WW2 gaming, the papers rarely get involved due to its being “crass”. Vietnam is also apparently acceptable gaming fodder, with no mainstream reaction to the horrendously awful recent Shellshock 2, and its Vietnam-vs-zombies storyline. Is there an appropriate length of time before a global event or battle becomes acceptable for gaming material? We are now becoming swamped by Iraq War movies, books and television programmes. But there’s just something about gaming that causes many to declare it unacceptable. It’s the word “entertainment”. A word that people can conveniently forget when it comes to films, books and television, where of course were they not entertaining, they’d certainly never have been funded nor made. Still, gaming is different – but is it too different? And what about those many soldiers who have asked to have their stories told by this game? Let us know your perspective.

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100 Comments »

  1. Jeremy says:

    How entertaining would it be to be a rogue soldier murdering civilians? Or torturing innocent people? A general calculating acceptable “collateral damage”?

    I can accept massacre for sure, but be certain that in any war, the opponent would never hesitate to turn the table the other way. Also, had this battle involved someone other than Americans, I’m guessing this wouldn’t be that much of a controversy.

  2. Down Rodeo says:

    I remember playing CoD 2 and being rather affected by it. Obviously being the main player you rack up quite a kill count but many of your squadmates die as well… At which point, you keep moving. You have to go on. And some of it was just not nice, like fighting up close, running out of ammunition in your clip, and beating the enemy to death – some of the noises they made on death were not pleasant at all. Certain bits of that still give me shivers. And, of course, the beach landings…

    If one game from a few years ago can make me appreciate that war is actually an horrible thing and make me find it very distasteful then perhaps this has the same potential. I dunno. It’s perhaps a matter of “wait-and-see”.

  3. Bonedancer says:

    Black Mamba: “… where was their outrage over Generation Kill (a fine piece of TV) when it came out ?”

    Since it isn’t being broadcast on the BBC, they don’t give a shit. If it was on at midnight on BBC4 and laden with warnings and disclaimers it would be “BAN THIS SICK FILTH” time again.

  4. TeeJay says:

    I wonder if it will include stuff like this:

    U.S. Won’t Let Men Flee Fallujah
    Saturday, November 13, 2004

    FALLUJAH, Iraq — Hundreds of men trying to flee the assault on Fallujah have been turned back by U.S. troops following orders to allow only women, children and the elderly to leave.

    The military says it has received reports warning that insurgents will drop their weapons and mingle with refugees to avoid being killed or captured by advancing American troops.

    As it believes many of Fallujah’s men are guerrilla fighters, it has instructed U.S. troops to turn back all males aged 15 to 55.

    “We assume they’ll go home and just wait out the storm or find a place that’s safe,” one 1st Cavalry Division officer, who declined to be named, said Thursday.

    Army Col. Michael Formica, who leads forces isolating Fallujah, admits the rule sounds “callous.” But he insists it’s is key to the mission’s success.

    “Tell them ‘Stay in your houses, stay away from windows and stay off the roof and you’ll live through Fallujah,’” Formica, of the 1st Cavalry Division’s (search) 2nd Brigade, told his battalion commanders in a radio conference call Wednesday night.

  5. MrFake says:

    @jalf: Yeah, that’s pretty gruesome seeing so many deaths on even the opposing side. Isn’t it bad enough just seeing one death on any side? Any media is going to have to approach war from some point of view, and no point of view is going to seem any less outrageous when dealing with non-fiction.

  6. Bobsy says:

    If it wasn’t for all this controversy we’d probably talking about something which (to me) is even more exciting: the prospect of a mainstream “documentary” game. I want to play this now just for that aspect.

  7. Jochen Scheisse says:

    It will also most certainly not include the US shelling the city with a mixture of HE and White Phosphorous, so called “shake n’ bake”. Which was uncovered by Italian RAI in a documentary. The US military denied at first, but then realized that they had printed an extensive article about the tactic in some Army magazine months before the documentary.

    Let me say it again. This here is paid for by the CIA amongst others. It relies heavily on support and cooperation of the Department of Defense. They will tell the American side of the story, the Army side of the story, and they will make marines look good, because the Department of Defense wants people to join up. THIS WILL BE PROPAGANDA.

  8. PC Monster says:

    I’d like to see the Daily Mail’s take on a game that revels in the killing of low-rent, unscrupulous, exploitative, sensationalist, tabloid journalists who do nothing but promote fear and conflict.

    The ‘moral outrage’ mob are the enemy of rationality and considered opinion – and papers like the Daily Mail their training grounds. Burn ‘em all down, I say.

  9. Sagan says:

    Sometimes it’s OK to say “It’s just a game.” Just like it’s OK to say “It’s just a movie” or “It’s just a book.”
    My initial gut reaction to this announcement was also “too soon,” but in the end it’s just a game. Nothing to get too upset about. I’ll play it if it’s good.
    As for this controversy? It’s just the Daily Mail. That newspaper clearly has no idea what it’s talking about. Had RPS posted this story, that would have been a reason to get outraged.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I’m not sure what we all expect war to be. I can imagine it looks a lot different from the comfort of my couch, and I can imagine it is much easier to play moral hedge keeper from my couch as well. The only propaganda we’ll be hearing in relation to this game is that America is the Great Satan and war should never be used, not ever, because our world is so obviously perfect.

  11. Tworak says:

    Can I play as a defender of Fallujah? If so, I am so fucking in!

  12. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Jeremy, the next time I see a sympathic but directionless kid get the “YOU’RE A SOLDIER NOW” speech from some war hero in a blockbuster movie coproduced by the DoD (like Transformers), I’ll keep in mind that the only kind of propaganda comes from those dirty people who think we shouldn’t be involved in war on the other side of the globe.

  13. Radiant says:

    “For us, the challenge was how do you present the horrors of war…”
    Well for a start you move to a town you know very little about then kill everyone on your street, when your done, you kill everyone on the next street across and then the next one across from that.
    Repeat till you win.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I don’t think purposefully misinterpreting and sensationalizing my post is a very effective way to have a conversation.

  15. Steelfist says:

    Reg Keys isn’t the colonel. That Col. Tim Collins.

  16. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Yeah, that’s what I thought when I was pretty sure you were answering to my assumption the game will be propaganda with painting me as someone who would see the USA as some fable figure of evil and any form of conflict as deplorable.

  17. Funky Badger says:

    Making games of atrocities and war-crimes isn’t cool.

    Also, I’m now concerned for Keith Vaz’s health – where is his invaluable contribution to the debate, is he well?

  18. Wow says:

    Quit whining. The ‘propaganda’ comments on here are hilarious.

    Finally, someone making a game regarding something relevant to our time, and not rehashing the same old WWII normandy formula.

    I’m glad this is coming out.

  19. Skurmedel says:

    I don’t think they are. I think this game might have serious issues with bias. Their target market is probably the US so I don’t think it will be very critical, in any way, of the war. Regardless on what “side” I’m on I like depictions of reality as “true” as possible.

  20. Jeremy says:

    My initial comment wasn’t even directed to you Jochen, just a general statement.

  21. Radiant says:

    And what does General Statement have to say on the issue?
    I can’t see his post bloody comments system.

  22. Radiant says:

    /disingenuous

  23. Impossibly Daft says:

    “Also, I’m now concerned for Keith Vaz’s health – where is his invaluable contribution to the debate, is he well?”

    I’m sure Keith Vaz will make a contribution when someone makes a contribution to Keith Vaz.

  24. Funky Badger says:

    ID: that’s very good. *golf-clap*

  25. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Okay, Jeremy, but as I was the only one who actually called this game a propaganda tool, who actually used the word propaganda, it’s maybe understandable why I felt adressed by you.

  26. Muzman says:

    Their backing away from the game having serious undercurrents and being ‘entertainment’ is fairly pathetic.
    I suppose they know the truth though. A ‘realistic’ war game is something no one wants to play: “You move/aim/reload too slow! It’s not fun™!”. The best we can hope for is some sensible subtext (the horrors of the real war as subtext is pretty funny when you think about it) like COD4 managed to do a little of.

  27. Serondal says:

    Funky Badger says
    “Making games of atrocities and war-crimes isn’t cool.”

    I don’t think the battle in question is a war crime or anything, it was a battle faught between two forces. Certainly a lot of civilians lost their lives but that doen’t make it a war crime. No one is making a game about killing Jewish people from the POV of the Nazis (as far as I know, I do know someone made a game where you get to shoot JFK so you never ever know!)

    I think the game could bring reality to a lot of kids in our country that think just because the war is over there that it isn’t important to them. They need to see how brutal and horrible it is. When they realize that the character they are playing might as well be them maybe it will get through to their mind washed brains :(

    Anyone here feel bad when you’re playing as terrorist on Counter Strike?

  28. Jeremy says:

    You called it a propaganda tool and I said the only propaganda would be …… I never said you hate Americans or think war should never be waged, but we were talking propaganda, and let’s face it, most propaganda falls to the extremist portions of society. In terms of this game, nobody is going to up and join the military because of it, and if the DoD (apparently also an entertainment entity) thought for a second it would encourage increased enlistment, they are out of touch. However, there will be plenty of backlash and outcries against military action probably as a result of this game and articles that cry wolf such as the one already published. Hence my point.

  29. Serondal says:

    If anything if this game is realistic and honest it will only lower recruitment numbers in the US.

    I’m just waiting to see British and Canadians and French complain that it doesn’t show their side of story like they always do when WW2 games come out ; P Then again I have no idea if there were any British/Canadian/French units involved in this is battle or the support there of and there in lies the problem.

  30. Jochen Scheisse says:

    And that’s where I’m not so sure. The US military and the entertainment industry have worked together well for some decades, and it is actually believed that movies like Top Gun have increased enlistment. I understand that you do not consider that as much propaganda as extremist teachings, but the reason for that could also be that extremist propaganda is so much removed from our way of life that we are able to percieve it more clearly.

  31. Funky Badger says:

    Serondal: barricading a city, letting no-one out, dropping white-phosphor all over it?

    Also, are you sure about this: Certainly a lot of civilians lost their lives but that doen’t make it a war crime.

    It’s really your own standards and viewpoints that are important here, I wouldn’t feel comfortably playing the game – which isn’t to say anybody else shouldn’t.

    (Off this topic, but I think there is a debate to be had about where to draw the lines – concentration camps = clearly out but SAS killing men in their beds is okay, what’s the difference?)

  32. Serondal says:

    I see your point Funky Badger. In that light I would have to agree it could be considered a war crime and I’ve felt for a long time that people in charge should be held to account for the innocent lives these wars have cost, probably won’t ever happen :(

    I can certainly see why you don’t feel comfortable playing a game like this. What scares me is that I am and I don’t know why.

    (The difference between concentration camps vs SAS Killing men in their beds is probably that the SAS are killing enemy soliders at least in most games I’ve played I assume you’re talking about COD4 or something. Where as the concentration camps they’re killing people based soley on their religious believes. But I agree where do you draw the line? Games about Christians killing Muslims durning the crusade seem to be okay, but if we made a game about Muslims killing other’s people would probably freak out right? You have a very good point)

  33. MooseDrool says:

    hmmm… everyone in the city should have been out anyway. We dropped flyers from planes stating that we were coming into the city and all peple remaining in the city would be considered hostile. Everyone had their chance to leave.

  34. Tuor says:

    Er… hmm. Too soon? You mean while we still occupy and essentially run the country we invaded (puppet government notwithstanding)? Is that too soon? I guess your mileage may vary on that one.

  35. Klaus says:

    Even if there ever were a game -or anything- to genuinely make me feel uncomfortable or offend my morals (not likely), I’d defend it, barring it does not harm (according to my values) innocent people.

    In some other universe, I may have a problem with someone running some concentration camp simulation but I’m sure someone somewhere is offended by my bloody massacre of the police in Liberty City or my delight in finding ways to cleanse the wasteland of youth in Fallout 3.

    If I agree to ban this game or my hypothetical camp game, I’d feel I’d have to agree to stop my police/child slaughtering, any other defense of my ‘right’ to play games how I want feels hollow and disingenuous.

  36. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    @Down Rodeo: That’s interesting. I’ll be modifying my take on war shooters, I guess! (Well, a bit).
    @The Sombrero Kid: Sorry if I got them in the wrong order; I believe that The Platoon discourages a positive take on fighting wars, because it doesn’t let you sympathize with the main characters when they mete out violence. Whereas mainstream war movies (such as Black Hawk Down) are aimed at making you root for the protagonists’ killing of “enemies”.
    But the interesting discussion now centers around Jeremy: Jeremy, “propaganda” is not really the same as discussion, or speaking, or even advertising; it “presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission)” according to Wikipedia. And if American liberals practice it, what can be said of the previous administration (“We HAVE to invade, Iraq has WMDs! Really!”)?
    Finally, pacifists present their views, “hawks” present theirs. And wars are marketed by governments and the media, and opposed by other governments (I live in Sweden) and other TV stations. However, your claim that “nobody is going to up and join the military because of it” is strange; the US military even MADE a game to advertise enlisting a few years back; )

    PS: Finally, I can’t help but agree with Klaus

  37. pepper says:

    Wouldn’t it be time for us as user off the internet and avid gamers to put our minds together and make the most horrific, violent, offensive, and hurtful to right about anyone that lives game that exist? Or could possible exist?

    Just to piss off everyone… Because we can and should? And, it will look like any game coming after is soft and sweet filled with candy and sunshine.

  38. x25killa says:

    I reckon the Daily Mail always seem to be on a crusade against games no matter what content the video game contains.

    Personally, I have never heard of this game nor it’s event until today. There are plenty other video games that use war as a setting, why not cause trouble with one of these eh?

    Daily Mail has got it’s facts wrong and decided to pick on a game for picking an event “too soon” or during the current war.

    I feel sorry for people who never played games in their lifes and decide to pick up the daily mail for information about video games.

    Learn your facts Daily Mail and piss off with you stupid crusade against video games. At the end of the day, they are an interactive medium for entertainment purposes.

  39. Funky Badger says:

    Serondal: There’s a bit in COD4 where the SAS-men execute some sleeping sailors (which is quite daring for an FPS, to be honest)…

  40. Sonic Goo says:

    I’m always frustrated by discussions like this since no one has seen the actual game in action, so all we’re doing is contributing to the hype around this game.

    We’ll only be able to say whether this game is either a cheap exploitative morally repugnant cynical cash-in, or meaningful social commentary on the dilemmas faced by those who decide to do a job where you’re forced to follow orders no matter what*, whenever the game is actually released. (*Maybe something in between, even?)

    As a side note, with regards to the accuracy of Call of Duty: I was excited to find that United Offensive had missions in Holland, after being shot down over Rotterdam. Imagine my surprise to find that there apparently are mountains in that area. Who knew?

  41. Serondal says:

    FPS games have had parts where you kill sleeping people for a long time. You kill sleepers in Metal Gear, I’m pretty sure you kill some in Splinter Cell. Oblivion you can murder people in their beds while they sleep for no reason. Fall out you GET A BONUS TO XP FOR KILLING PEOPLE WHILE THEY SLEEP! lol so this is nothing new

  42. pepper says:

    Remember thief, it was always fun leaving a sneaky massacre in your trail.

  43. Serondal says:

    How about Postal and Postal 2 ? I clearly remember walking into a dentist’s office, the nurse behind the counter opens the window that seperates me from her. She asks how she can help me, I place a disgusting cow head on the counter and walk out. Soon there after several people follow me out of the office throwing up blood. I feel nothing but glee at the thing I have just done. WHAT is wrong with me?

  44. Rath says:

    I also have a tendency to browse the Mail Online looking for stuff that I know is going to be in their “style” if you will, and the comments that go with them. I will never forget the Anne Diamond on gaming article. That was unremitting tosh, to the point where I even took issue with them naming one of their stock images “spoilt-kid.jpeg” – an image of two young kids playing Mario Kart 64, with the caption “Harmful: A Government-commissioned report says that video games can desensitise children to violence”.

    The interviews with the soldiers in my mind is not too dissimilar from the archived footage in Call Of Duty 2. I don’t know if I’ll be buying 6 Days In Fallujah, but I’ll wait until the reviews to make my mind up.

  45. Serondal says:

    Would it be to soon to make an HBO speical ALA Band of Brothers about these same soliders and show the same content in movie/video format? I’d love to see something like that personally.

  46. Thirith says:

    There is a difference between a game that’s primarily made to be enjoyed and a drama like Band of Brothers that isn’t just about shooting and killing. It’s possible that the game will be more than just a tastelessly themed FPS, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.

  47. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Shacknews have some impressions up based on a Konami press event. It doesn’t sound good.

  48. MeestaNob! says:

    It’s a fairly damning set of observations he makes on the game, and sadly what we expected of the game.

  49. Sabre says:

    Its the Daily Mail. It never has a balanced opinion about anything. Let alone video games that they never play before writing about anyway (anyone remember the “Ban these evil games!” headline?)

  50. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    It’s been dropped by Konami (via EG), citing a somewhat adverse reaction to the game. Fancy that.