Iraq War Video Game: Appropriate?

By  |  Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 12:33 pm

fallujahQuick, think of a knee-jerk reaction: A game based on the war in Iraq, insightful culture or crass cash-in?

Okay, now let’s think about it a little bit.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Konami is preparing a video game based on the Iraq conflict, called Six Days in Fallujah, but it wasn’t the publisher’s idea. The concept comes from a group of U.S. Marines who survived the Second Battle of Fallujah, which occurred in 2004 and left 38 troopers and an estimated 1,200 insurgents dead. Raleigh, N.C.-based Atomic Games, a company with experience designing combat software for the military, will design the game.

The marines want their story to be told through video games, and that goes a long way towards legitimizing the game in my book. One marine named Mike Ergo tells the Times that video games “communicate the intensity and gravity of war” to people — young ones, likely — who aren’t learning about it on TV or in the classroom, and aren’t as tuned in to books. (Ergo says we live in an age where the imagination isn’t what it was.) Video games it is, then.

But does that mean games are the best medium for Six Days in Fallujah? Put aside the idea that video games are more of an entertainment platform than film and books, because that’s debatable; even watching Saving Private Ryan is entertainment on some level, an escape into another world. I’d also like to ignore the knee-jerk detractors, such as the veterans calling for a ban on the game because that’s just ridiculous.

The real issue that Atomic Games will face deals with the very nature of what games are. Like binary code, video games do not play well with gray area, and that’s where so much of real drama lies. Bioshock, hailed as a pillar of artistic game design, places its moral stock in a simple decision with clear-cut ramifications — kill the Little Sisters and steal their powers, or save them for a delayed reward. Mass Effect transforms your character into a Paragon or Renegade based on your actions, but there are no facets to the character’s personality. For game designers, moving beyond “good and bad” hasn’t been easy.

So Atomic Games has the unenviable challenge of portraying the gray areas of war. I hope they pull it off, but I won’t rush to judgment.

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    […] who could forget Six Days in Fallujah? The game’s source material came from U.S. Marines who survived a bloody battle, and wanted […]