The inevitable outrage against Konami's Six Days in Fallujah, an game in development based on the 2004 battle against insurgents in the Iraqi city, has already begun.
Announced yesterday, Six Days in Fallujah will be a realistic "survival horror" game based on the real-life battle of Fallujah that puts players in the role of a U.S. Marine fighting to clear the city of Iraqi insurgents. The game is being developed by Atomic Games with the assistance of numerous veterans of the conflict and will present the battle in a more realistic light than usual, offering "insight" into the reality of war both through the game itself and in interviews with Marines who took part in the conflict that will be interspersed throughout.
But that sort of documentary approach isn't adequate for some observers, who are calling the game "crass and tasteless," according to a report by the Daily Mail. Reg Keys, whose son Thomas was a Royal Marine killed in Iraq in 2003, said the game "glorified" the war in Iraq and showed "very poor judgment and bad taste."
"It is particularly crass when you consider what actually happened in Fallujah. These horrific events should be confined to the annuls of history, not trivialized and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out, over and over again, for ever more," he said. "It's entirely possible that Muslim families will buy the game, and for them it may prove particularly harrowing. 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'."
"I will be calling for this game to be banned, if not worldwide then certainly in the UK," he added.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the Stop the War Coalition, albeit for very different reasons. "The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war," spokeswoman Tansy Hoskins told TechRadar. "It is estimated that up to 1,000 civilians died in the bombardment and house to house raids carried out by invading troops. So many people were killed in Fallujah that the town's football stadium had to be turned into a cemetery to cope with all the dead bodies."
"There is nothing to celebrate in the death of people resisting an unjust and bloody occupation," she continued. "To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalize on the death and injury of thousands is sick. There will never be a time when it is appropriate for people to 'play' at committing atrocities. The massacre in Fallujah should be remembered with shame and horror, not glamorized and glossed over for entertainment."
But of course the truth is that there is an appropriate time to "play at committing atrocities," as evidenced by the plethora of games based on the Second World War and other conflicts that have resulted in far greater loss of life than the war in Iraq. The problem with Six Days in Fallujah, according to Tim Collins, a former colonel in the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, is simply its proximity to the ongoing conflict.
"It's much too soon to start making videogames about a war that's still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history," he said. "It's particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game."
But at least one former member of the military has expressed support for the game. Andy McNab, an ex-Special Air Service commando and author of Bravo Two Zero, said the cultural attitude toward videogames in the U.S. is considerably different than in the U.K., adding that in the U.S., "Everybody has been watching it on the news for the last seven years."
He also pointed out that other forms of entertainment have been used to tell stories about the war almost since it began, without suffering this kind of backlash. "In America a 90 year old and a 12 year old will know what happened at Fallujah," he said. "It's on the TV, there are books about it... so the game is a natural extension to that... it is folklore. The only difference being that it is presented in a different medium."
"The media has used the war as entertainment anyway," he said. "The hypocrisy is in the fact that when the media wants a 'shock horror' story they will focus on something like this."
How the game's documentary styling will actually hold up is unknown; despite all the recriminations about what it will and will not do, Six Days in Fallujah is still in development and is only tentatively slated for release sometime in 2010.