April 27, 2009

Six Days In Fallujah

Konami recently announced an upcoming video game called "Six Days In Fallujah," which chronicled one of the most heated battles in the current operations in Iraq. After getting heat from a number of sources (veteran's groups, families of soldiers, and probably miscilaneous people from the internet), the game has been cancelled. This has led to somewhat heated discussions, though bizarrely not nearly so heated as dicussions about which video game console is the best, about the appropriateness of the game, war games generally, and whether there's a proper place for interactive software to cover real world events in a similar manner to other media. Any thoughts?

Here's my post from the above discussion:

"For me, the "too soon" argument isn't about being too emotionally close to the events. Well, at least, that's not really the point. The point is that we've had more than enough time to settle the history on WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and (perhaps) the first Gulf War. What I mean is that we can pretty much all agree that the Germans were on the "wrong" side of the war in a pretty extreme sense and few would be offended by the portrayal of Germans as the villains of a game. Similarly, Vietnam has been determined to be a morally questionable war, and most representations in modern media reflect that.

The current operations in Iraq, however, a much less settled. It'd be far too easy to fall into caricatures; to represent the U.S. characters as unambiguously morally correct and the people they fight as unambiguously evil, and all the things that come with current caricatures of Islamic peoples. And no, I'm not talking about "political correctness," which is its own caricature, I'm talking about producing reflections on war that are of real social value. The tendency to produce the shallow, simplistic works that I described earlier in this paragraph don't add anything to our understanding of conflict, war, or the specific events of our history. They're produced as entertainment; as propaganda to make one side of a conflict feel superior to the other and justified in their actions. These aren't sober reflections on history but tools to further agendas which are still all too current and relevant. They're also, frequently, crass attempts to cash in on the emotions, patriotism, and sometimes jingoism that follow international conflict.

There is definitely value in using interactive software as a tool to explore history. From what I've seen, however, this is not the product to help interactive software shed its "games" label for something perhaps more respectable."

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