In 2009, developers Atomic Games and publishers Konami announced Six Days In Fallujah, a third-person shooter based on a real battle five years prior in the then-ongoing Iraq War. This proved controversial for several reasons, enough that Konami soon dropped the game and Atomic eventually scrapped it. Well, it's coming back. Kinda. An "all-new" Six Days In Fallujah was announced today, now an FPS and being both made and published by different companies. Huh. Trailer's below.
As before, the game is based on part of the 2004's Second Battle Of Fallujah, with today's announcement saying it "recreates true stories of Marines, Soldiers, and Iraqi civilians who fought Al Qaeda". It says players will "lead a fireteam through real-life encounters enabled by unique technology that simulates the uncertainty and tactics of urban combat."
It adds, "Over 100 Marines, Soldiers, and Iraqi civilians who were present during the Second Battle for Fallujah have shared their personal stories, photographs, and video recordings with the development team." As well as these shaping the game, they say some will be present as documentary interiews.
This time SDIF is being published by Victura, the new company of former Atomic CEO Peter Tamte - so there's a connection. The developers now are Highware Games, a studio with several former Bungie folks including composer Marty O'Donnell and designer Jaime Griesemer. It is quite strange to see this return like this after so many years. The SDIF website has a page titled simply WHY.
It says that "just because this war was controversial doesn't mean it wasn't filled with remarkable stories of sacrifice and courage. It has, however, stopped many of these stories from being told." It goes on to essentially blame the original's death on people who "believe video games shouldn't tackle real-life events" and who think "video games seem more like toys than a medium capable of communicating something insightful."
Tabloid media like the Daily Mail and Fox News sure did stir controversy, suggesting that this was an insult to the memories of soldiers who died. I imagine that's a large part of why Konami dropped it. On the flipside, it was controversial to others for making a video game about the aggressors in a still-ongoing war which had used misinformation, jingoism, and Islamophobia to justify invasion, murder, torture, and war crimes. And some criticism wasn't doubt in video games as a medium as much as doubt in this specific game.
For all the talk of authenticity, a demo shown to press did not create that impression. My former Shacknews colleague Nick Breckon (hi Nick!) reported seeing soldiers who rained explosives like Rambo and shrugged off bullets by regenerating in cover like Marcus Fenix. If this was an important story to tell, the demo didn't seem to be doing so in a way that didn't suggest the war was also cool. It certainly didn't help that Konami tried to deflect controversy by saying "At the end of the day, it's just a game." Konami dropped the game three weeks later.
For what it's worth, ye olde SDIF dev Nathan Cheever shared his experiences of working on it in 2018. He thought the game was misunderstood by the media. He went on to become the lead world designer of Mafia 3, a game which didn't shy away from the racism faced by a Black veteran returning from the Vietnam War.
I know that video games can handle complex and sensitive real-life events. I am sceptical that this particular one will pull it off.
Six Days In Fallujah is due to launch in 2021 on PC and consoles. Maybe for real this time.