The controversy following Atomic Games’ FPS based off of the Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq has made Konami think twice about publishing the game under its label according to Japanese newspaper, Asahi, MCV reports. Development on the game hasn’t officially ended, however, and Atomic Games has yet to issue their own response to the news as well as answer questions regarding the future of the title.
On a more personal note, was it too soon or is this another case of where games have run into the transparent wall separating them from the respectability that film and books enjoy?
Matt Peckham from PC World puts the whole situation into perspective in his blog by saying that games should be able to tackle the same subjects that film and books have exposed the world to, a point that I also agree with but one which will continue to be challenged by the general perception that games are forced to live under.
It’s not a new problem, nor is the first time that someone has attempted to portray the events in Iraq via the gaming medium.
Kuma\War, by Kuma Reality Games, continues to offer freeware episodes based off of real-world military ops. When released in 2004, the first mission it offered focused on Uday and Qusay’s final stand. To this date, over eighty missions are available and the updated version, Kuma\War 2 is available. It is also no stranger to controversy.
I haven’t been to Fallujah, nor do I know anyone that has served in that particular battle. All I do know is that Atomic Games haven’t either, but that they have reportedly brought in specialists that have been there, that know the story and have been working with them in order to avoid the pitfalls of portraying the conflict as anything other than the harrowing chapter that it was for everyone involved…to literally go beyond the headlines and add to the body of knowledge written by returning veterans or portrayed within the latest documentary.
But because it is defined as a game, should it be punished for attempting a mature discussion on the subject, or is that same maturity only reserved for those aspects of our imagination that have already been tested by the crucible of time and debate? The lessons of the past should clear the way to exploring the potential behind new forms of artistic expression, but the controversy only demonstrates that starting from the bottom is the only lesson worth paying attention to.
It isn’t impossible to have Syriana, Jarhead, and Three Kings share the same channel. If a film like Lions for Lambs can be made, or Red Corner when we were told to be afraid of the Chinese justice system, then what makes exploring a mature subject without the veneer of fiction within the gaming medium so much more wrong?
The responses from veterans opposed to the title are filled with concern and the points they make are valid ones. I’m not debating their feelings on the matter. But there is also the choice that can be made in whether or not to support the title when, or if, it is ever released. With as much condemnation as the game has received, it is as if it has become an anathema to even exist as an idea.
Or perhaps it is the commercial validation that a Konami can give to such a title that has generated much of the ill will aimed against it. Free mods such as Insurgency for Half Life 2 divide players into teams of terrorists and Marines as they fight across maps inspired by Iraqi locales. Does its relatively low profile excuse it from the same paintbrush? Because it flies below the retail radar, that makes it “safe”?
If the controversy and the ensuing decision by Konami have proven anything thus far, it is that games have a long way to go in the public consciousness before they can be “allowed” to explore serious subject matter in the same way that their peers have. I’m not saying that every game should be as serious…there should always be room for Sam & Max.
But once the day comes when a game can freely throw off the fictional clothes that it may have been forced to wear and decide to converse with its players as an adult, I hope I’ll be there to learn something new alongside everyone else.