War Games

Semi-random thoughts on Konami’s decision not to publish “Six Days in Fallujah”

– This writer can’t think of any other time when an entertainment company has pulled a controversial release before the public has had a chance to make an independent judgment.

For example, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was accused of being an anti-Semitic film well before the movie was released. But the movie was released, and people ( a lot of people) had a chance to buy a ticket and make up their own minds about Gibson’s portrayal of the Gospels.

Sun photographer Gabriel Acosta mentioned “Collateral Damage,” the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that had its release delayed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That out of the way, there’s a probably a good chance that some game publisher with a stomach for the controversy will pick up “Six Days in Fallujah.” Instead of being just another video game, the title is now a news item. Gamers will want to play a game that now has the appeal of being forbidden and entertainment reporters in need of a story will have an excuse to write an article about “Six Days in Fallujah” and what the game means in the context of American society and the history of warfare.

If Konami’s announcement wasn’t a publicity stunt, it might as well have been.

– It’s understandable that families of those slain in combat do not want to see video games made about actual conflicts, and video games still have a long way to go before that changes. Today’s games are much more complicated than “Galaga,” but it’s doubtful that many people who do not play games have any idea that titles like “Fallout 3″ or “Bioshock” force players to make tactical decisions that also have moral consequences within the game’s storyline.

Maybe “Six Days in Fallujah” will prove to use technology to convey a “war is hell” message, or give Marines a chance to tell their combat stories from Iraq. Military histories and war movies already do this, but people watching “Saving Private Ryan” don’t push a button on their remote control to fire Tom Hanks’ submachine gun. People who didn’t grow up playing video games are still likely to view “Six Days in Fallujah” and other video games as war porn, not as a narrative idiom.

– War-themed video games have often mirrored contemporary conflicts, and “Six Days in Fallujah” is not the first time an Iraq War scenario has been rendered in polygons. The Kuma’War series includes several scenarios derived from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The series debuted in February 2004 with a simulation of the mission that led to the deaths of Saddam Hussein’s sons.

Another example of a game that reflects the post 9/11 world is Command & Conquer Generals, a 2003 strategy game that let gamers play as or against three factions: the United States, China and the al Qaeda-like Global Liberation Army, which employed suicide tactics and poison weapons.

Cold War-era game designers sought to reflect geopolitics well before game technology allowed realistic graphics. Who hasn’t played “Missile Command?”