Commentary

Konami's War Game Kill Makes Little Sense

Today, Konami announced that it was dropping one of the most controversial titles of the year -- Atomic Games' FPS take on the Iraq War, titled "Six Days in Fallujah." The game was announced earlier this month, and immediately touched off a controversy of Hot Coffee-esque proportions, only to be cancelled today, with a Konomi rep telling Asashi "After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and email, we decided several days ago not to sell it."

The main complaint leveled against the game was that it would cheapen the sacrifices of the Marines who died in the Battle of Fallujah, and that Atomic Games would not depict the battle in an appropriately respectful fashion. This complaint got significantly louder after a developer implied that real, live Iraqi insurgents had been consulted during the development process.

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Overall, I think it's pretty unfortunate that the title got nixed by controversy. Wars have been the subject of video games for as long as there have been video games. World War II games are still top-sellers, and for the most part their treatments of the conflicts in question are no more respectful or disrespectful than "Six Days in Fallujah"'s likely would have been. As for consulting with the insurgents, even games about World War II have crossed over and depicted the other side's viewpoint in the conflict -- Relic's "Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts" put players in control of soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany as part of the single player campaign, and depicted some of those soldiers sympathetically.

The film industry has definitely delved into the Iraq War for dramatic material with movies like "Lions for Lambs" and "In The Valley of Elah," and HBO's "Generation Kill" followed a marine recon company in the early days of the conflict. Although those films were, for the most part, box office flops and received mixed reviews, there was very little suggestion that they shouldn't have been made at all. There's no reason why games should be treated any differently.

5 comments about "Konami's War Game Kill Makes Little Sense".
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  1. Lauren Laronda from Chive Media Group, April 27, 2009 at 5:05 p.m.

    I like this allusion to the film industry. It seems that there is less controversy surrounding the film industry for its production of media related to politically sensitive events as compared to the gaming world. I suppose it's related to time sensitivity (As you mentioned, World War II games have been a part of the industry for a long time)? Or maybe level of engagement, as with video games, the user is obviously more involved?

  2. David Queamante from UM/Identity, April 27, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.

    Well, I'm afraid this indicates that the country is just not ready to (1) see games as a mature form of entertainment, and (2) ready to deal with the current conflicts in a way that's not painted in the primary colors of the last administration.

  3. John Fredette from Alcatel-Lucent, April 27, 2009 at 5:49 p.m.

    I have very mixed feelings about this but I must come down on what might be called the side of sensitivity and good taste. The lives lost and forever changed in the war in Iraq are very much fresh for the people involved. A game cannot take the position that it is making an appropriate statement about those sacrifices. It is a GAME about killing.

    I abhor the extortionist and completely un-American suppression tactics of the far Right. But in this case, sensitivity to the recent casualties and all they affect trumps the freedom of speech for a GAME. When video gaming takes on a form that allows it to be a part of substantitive dialog on a serious topic then the subject can be opened for discussion.

    For now, as far as I can tell, it is all about wreaking havoc and destruction. Surely there are enough other topics out there to cover. Someone should have considered the reaction before going forward with the project.

  4. Josh Lovison from Josh Lovison Consulting, April 27, 2009 at 6:53 p.m.

    This news really saddened me. I think this could have been something really interesting.

    I just finished watching the mini-series Band of Brothers, which was essentially a docu-drama of Easy Company in WWII. Throughout the film, I kept thinking how the combat scenes were much less hard-hitting than some war games I'd played in the past. The war games that take a realistic approach give a new appreciation for the dangers and rigors of war. In a film, the main character always lives until the end. The danger is there, with the deaths of accessory characters, but the emphasis is on the survival. In a game, storming an elevated machine gun position can end up in many repeated play throughs from dying because you hadn't crouched far enough down, or weren't fast enough, or just had bad luck. War in a video game is MUCH more dangerous to the audience than war depicted in a film.

    The fact that they interviewed insurgents just goes to further back up that they were attempting to offer as realistic and fact-checked a representation of the conflict as possible. If they were a documentary crew, they'd be nominated for awards. But because games are still seen as a "lesser" medium, they had their project canceled.

    I'd have much rather seen people "playing" a game that did it's best to accurately depict what's going on in a current war than a futuristic "superhuman" shooter like Quake.

  5. Christopher Koh from 1-2-1VIEW, April 27, 2009 at 10:10 p.m.

    The problem with games is that it is of course market driven. Poor reviews are almost certainly going to kill a project before it gets very far. And while gamers have many tiers and levels of sophistication, given the huge majority of demographics of younger audiences playing, I'm certain they are out for a simple point-and-shoot-to-win formula, seeking simplicity of formula for an FPS for greater entertainment.

    Having said that, it is true that there is no reason that a game content cannot contain artisitic or literary merit and convey deeper messages to audiences who indeed CAN appreciate it.

    The quests for truth have often unveiled that wars are not fought in colours of sheer black and white nor good versus evil. Oftentime, people who fight these wars are simply doing a job, albeit the job is smiting the enemy. Like employees of any company, they will perform their job if they can, but not necessarily share the visions of their leaders. As heinious a villain the Nazi army was made out to be, I believe that many german soldiers during the war were equally fatigued by the fighting and sickened by the atrocities that had to be carried out. Equally importantly, they too were brothers, fathers and sons, regardless of the overall agenda of the war.

    All in all, I believe that games - and especially FPS format games - can provide a powerful, immersive-yet-subtle medium in conveying an in-depth portrayal of the greater picture of the struggles of war; both in terms of physical and emotional hardship.

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