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.