The Six Day Surprise

The Six Day Surprise

Someday videogames may be ready to take on subjects like the Battle of Fallujah, but that day isn't here yet.

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Ah video game developers, why must you try so hard to create realistic and emotive, yet at the core, nihilistic mediums? Or is the fault of the gamers for their lack of empathy hidden behind genuine curiosity to live through these 6 days in the boots and gears of an American soldier?

Documentaries about the War in Iraq are available in dove, and it's certainly a good thing someone decided to create an interactive medium to show what happened during these tragic moments. But what happened when this interactive medium only show the enemies as just blood thirsty villains hell bent on taking your lives, what happen when this "documentary" only shows one side of the history: it only alienates the real victims of the War in Iraq: the Iraqi Joe (or should I say, Achmed ) who had to take arms to defend his/her family, of course, that's not and never will be told. Because at the end of the day, they are just the "them", the enemies hellbent on destroying the American dream and hate "us" for our "freedom and democracies" right?

Videogames are NOT ready to take on such subjects, because at the core, they are just here to entertain us with the action, pretty rpg explosions and equally pretty air strikes. There is no meaningful dialogue to be held when bullets are flying past your skulls. And unless Tamte was planning to pull off the cinematic prowess of the MGS series to push forward his point rather than pretty w/e he has planned to show the horrors of war which is usually pretty considering all the pretty maneuvers used for explosions and such, I really doubt a straight forward action game will do much.

At least 50 Cent: Blood in the Sands knew it was a game, and not trying to have 50 Cent curb stomping generic brown/Arab guy #5345 for the sake of democracy and freeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooooooooooooom!

Malygris:
"Every form of media has grown by producing content about current events, content that's powerful because it's relevant," Atomic Games CEO Peter Tamte said last week. "Movies, music and TV have helped people make sense of the complex issues of our times."

I see your mature, level-headed, "games can be important and adult" quote, and raise you idiotic marketing drivel:

Anthony Crouts, VP of Marketing, Konami:
We're not trying to make social commentary. We're not pro-war. We're not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience. At the end of the day, it's just a game.

I saw that quote every time I read about this. Every single time, there's Konami assuring everyone "This will be fun! Not controversial! Promise." As if "Making Fallujah Fun!" and "Not Controversial" are somehow not at odds with one another. Seems like a bit of a disconnect between the developer and the publisher.

Is it only time that makes these things acceptable?

We have endless games about World War Two, as well as various others about all sorts of wars from the past in which millions of people died.

I doubt we would be discussing this in this manner if the events had happened ten or more years ago.

There is an ever increasing number of films, TV shows, documentaries and books about the current Iraq conflict. There will be games about it, just a question of when.

Andy_Panthro:
Is it only time that makes these things acceptable?

We have endless games about World War Two, as well as various others about all sorts of wars from the past in which millions of people died.

I doubt we would be discussing this in this manner if the events had happened ten or more years ago.

There is an ever increasing number of films, TV shows, documentaries and books about the current Iraq conflict. There will be games about it, just a question of when.

One of the key things about WWII, that is brought up often as to why it is such a popular real-war for games, is its seemingly clear-cut nature. Nazis/Fascists bad, Allies good. When they kill me, they are evil, and when I kill them, I am righteous. Otherwise, games have to go to great fictional length to make up their own unambiguously evil opponent.

Every war since has been increasingly less clear-cut, so I don't believe it is just a matter of time before the Iraq war is a perfectly acceptable videogame fodder, the same way we're not making very many games about the Serb/Croat conflicts.

(I'm being intentionally hyperbolic about never, because that was my gut reaction, but don't get me wrong... at some level I do think that some other factors, in addition to an increasing amount of time, will contribute to society eventually being blase about the whole thing. Time itself won't be sufficient.)

Malygris:
A videogame that accurately echoed the real thing would be a hellishly un-fun experience that nobody in his right mind would buy, let alone play, as anything more than a curiosity, not exactly the sort of game that's likely to set the charts on fire.

I am unconvinced of this argument, although this is not the first place I've seen it. There are many examples of things in games that qualify as "un-fun", yet gamers still do them.
We grind for rare drops in WoW, wait weeks for a skill to finish training in EVE, and play Ninja Gaiden on Hard mode.

Even the "excessively realistic" aspect of this argument falls flat to my ears. I don't think I'm the only one who found blowing off heads, or slapping exploding slave collars around the necks of fellow humans in Fallout 3 to be quite enjoyable. Ok, the supermutants and scorpions the size of my Toyota broke down the realism a little. But it could happen.

I contend that Six Days in Fallujah has the potential to be both a good game and an informative and thought provoking exploration of the actual events. Atomic certainly seems to be working for that, based on the input and guidance from soldiers that served in the battle. I will hazard a guess that the vast majority of those who responded with outrage and admonishment are people who neither play nor understand modern video games, and thus their objections to the game should be largely irrelevant to the publisher, as they wouldn't be buying copies anyway.

The Jack Thompsons' of the world may shake their fists and toot their horns, but I believe the core gaming community is ready for Six Days in Fallujah, even if it is uncomfortably realistic.

Geoffrey42:

One of the key things about WWII, that is brought up often as to why it is such a popular real-war for games, is its seemingly clear-cut nature. Nazis/Fascists bad, Allies good.

I agree in general terms, but the allies weren't exactly shining beacons of light in WW2, we did our fair share of bombing cities, Dresden being one example. Our bad actions get swept under the carpet because of how bad the nazis were.

War is always very complicated, and history is written by the victor.

Andy_Panthro:
I agree in general terms, but the allies weren't exactly shining beacons of light in WW2, we did our fair share of bombing cities, Dresden being one example. Our bad actions get swept under the carpet because of how bad the nazis were.

War is always very complicated, and history is written by the victor.

Behavior in war is rarely ever justifiable from all sides, but at the very least it's easy to point at the person with the righteous cause. (Forgive me if I sound like WWII was simple, or that it was clear cut. I don't mean that. I just mean it's easier to treat it that way, and even in other media, it's difficult to find a sympathetic portrayal of your average German foot soldier, because the WWII perspective is singular)

++ to your second bit, and gives me a new thought: maybe more recent wars have been harder to polish because of the lack of definitive victories. From the US perspective, I'd be hard-pressed to call Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, or Iraq "wins". At least the Cold "War" was a "win", and it certainly has provided a great backdrop for videogames/Tom Clancy's Career. Freakin' commie pinkos.

@Geoffrey42:

I think I can agree with that, perhaps without the "commie pinkos" bit though! (the UK I guess has a slightly different perspective)

Geoffrey42:

Malygris:
"Every form of media has grown by producing content about current events, content that's powerful because it's relevant," Atomic Games CEO Peter Tamte said last week. "Movies, music and TV have helped people make sense of the complex issues of our times."

I see your mature, level-headed, "games can be important and adult" quote, and raise you idiotic marketing drivel:

Anthony Crouts, VP of Marketing, Konami:
We're not trying to make social commentary. We're not pro-war. We're not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience. At the end of the day, it's just a game.

I saw that quote every time I read about this. Every single time, there's Konami assuring everyone "This will be fun! Not controversial! Promise." As if "Making Fallujah Fun!" and "Not Controversial" are somehow not at odds with one another. Seems like a bit of a disconnect between the developer and the publisher.

This pretty much sums it up for me. If anything, the way this game was marketed made it more controversial. Imagine if Saving Private Ryan was marketed like a popcorn movie - people would be horrified. Konami's insistence that Six Days was "just a game" provoked people more than it assuaged their doubts.

It's spectacular hypocrisy to say that you can't base a game in a present-day war but you can base it in 'old' ones. Did I imagine Battlefield: Vietnam, for example? There were still plenty of Vietnam veterans about when that was released, just as there are still a few WWII veterans. And if we're trying to make moral judgements here, it's important not to forget that the average Wehrmacht stubble-hopper had nothing at all to do with the excesses of the Nazis in general, which is why at the end of the war we didn't end up with war crimes tribunals lasting into the next century. A lot of the guys we cheerfully gun down in Medal of Honour or whatever were conscripts who got the nice choice of joining the Army, or getting shot by their 'own side'.

Where was the moral outcry against Blackhawk Down? It's based solidly on real events in a theatre of war that's still active and topical, and as much as it tried to keep to the facts, it was an entertainment, guns, explosions and bravado movie. Indeed Call of Duty 4 not only drops you into something that looks a hell of a lot like Iraq, it nukes the place to add a bit of spice to the proceedings.

The people getting offended by 6 Days are almost certainly not the servicemen who were involved there. One of the earliest games I remember, Gunship, was a simulation of flying the AH64 Apache designed by a US Army Major who had done it, and wanted other people to see what it was like, and we know Fallujah vets were involved in the design of 6 days. No, the people complaining are the usual suspects who complain about everything from Action Man dolls and GI Joe comics, to the A-team. They're the people who complain if someone gets shot in a movie or game and doesn't show the effects of it realistically because it 'hides the consequences of violence'- and then in the next breath, complain about any more realistic depiction because it 'glamourises violence'. Over here in the UK, their most recent manifestation has been amongst teachers trying to ban the Forces from making school visits in case they 'brainwash' kids into wanting to join up- as well as those who whined that Sky TV's series following Ross Kemp embedded in Afghanistan was 'exploiting' the troops for entertainment purposes. The same troops who now regard Mr Kemp as practically one of their own and who were desperate that the real story of what they were doing should come out.

There's no reason for the games industry to let itself continue to be pushed into this ridiculous 'just for kids' ghetto in this day and age, with so many players in the 20-40 age bracket. We're adults, and we have our own minds, thank you very much. If you want the objectionable face of gaming, it's far more likely to be found in one of Rockstar's controversy-baiting crime sims than in something like 6 days.

Majere613:
It's spectacular hypocrisy to say that you can't base a game in a present-day war but you can base it in 'old' ones. Did I imagine Battlefield: Vietnam, for example? There were still plenty of Vietnam veterans about when that was released, just as there are still a few WWII veterans. And if we're trying to make moral judgements here, it's important not to forget that the average Wehrmacht stubble-hopper had nothing at all to do with the excesses of the Nazis in general, which is why at the end of the war we didn't end up with war crimes tribunals lasting into the next century. A lot of the guys we cheerfully gun down in Medal of Honour or whatever were conscripts who got the nice choice of joining the Army, or getting shot by their 'own side'.

Where was the moral outcry against Blackhawk Down? It's based solidly on real events in a theatre of war that's still active and topical, and as much as it tried to keep to the facts, it was an entertainment, guns, explosions and bravado movie. Indeed Call of Duty 4 not only drops you into something that looks a hell of a lot like Iraq, it nukes the place to add a bit of spice to the proceedings.

The people getting offended by 6 Days are almost certainly not the servicemen who were involved there. One of the earliest games I remember, Gunship, was a simulation of flying the AH64 Apache designed by a US Army Major who had done it, and wanted other people to see what it was like, and we know Fallujah vets were involved in the design of 6 days. No, the people complaining are the usual suspects who complain about everything from Action Man dolls and GI Joe comics, to the A-team. They're the people who complain if someone gets shot in a movie or game and doesn't show the effects of it realistically because it 'hides the consequences of violence'- and then in the next breath, complain about any more realistic depiction because it 'glamourises violence'. Over here in the UK, their most recent manifestation has been amongst teachers trying to ban the Forces from making school visits in case they 'brainwash' kids into wanting to join up- as well as those who whined that Sky TV's series following Ross Kemp embedded in Afghanistan was 'exploiting' the troops for entertainment purposes. The same troops who now regard Mr Kemp as practically one of their own and who were desperate that the real story of what they were doing should come out.

There's no reason for the games industry to let itself continue to be pushed into this ridiculous 'just for kids' ghetto in this day and age, with so many players in the 20-40 age bracket. We're adults, and we have our own minds, thank you very much. If you want the objectionable face of gaming, it's far more likely to be found in one of Rockstar's controversy-baiting crime sims than in something like 6 days.

So, what the Vets against the game, and families of fallen soldiers against the game? Screw them, right? And less we forget, families of fallen Iraqis soldiers/insurgents, screw them as well, screw them for being born in this God forsaken land, and dying to protect their homes, oh double screw them.

You seem to forget that the industry is not limited to lego games and such. There is still ARMA 1/2, and Operation Flashpoint of satisfy your e-bloodlust of pixelated foreign soldiers.

The War ain't over, put some games on the shelves in 10-20 years, not now.

Geoffrey42:

Malygris:
"Every form of media has grown by producing content about current events, content that's powerful because it's relevant," Atomic Games CEO Peter Tamte said last week. "Movies, music and TV have helped people make sense of the complex issues of our times."

I see your mature, level-headed, "games can be important and adult" quote, and raise you idiotic marketing drivel:

Anthony Crouts, VP of Marketing, Konami:
We're not trying to make social commentary. We're not pro-war. We're not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience. At the end of the day, it's just a game.

I saw that quote every time I read about this. Every single time, there's Konami assuring everyone "This will be fun! Not controversial! Promise." As if "Making Fallujah Fun!" and "Not Controversial" are somehow not at odds with one another. Seems like a bit of a disconnect between the developer and the publisher.

That only tells me that Konami had no idea wtf Atomic was up to, outside of the game's name.

The authenticity will be there, no question. I trust Atomic will put out an excellent product. Someone will have the balls to publish it and people will buy it. People like me. Konami passed. This is their right. I'll still buy their stuff, too.

I just picked up a science fiction novel called The Forever War. It was written in the early seventies by a Vietnam veteran and is considered to be a contemporary of Starship Troopers (the novel being much more controversial and containing none of the cheeseball antics of the movies).

The author struggled to get the book published because the plot was a science fiction abstraction of the Vietnam War -- publishers would read it and agree it was good, but declare the author insane for thinking he could publish such a thing. It's funny because the content is so veiled that without the preface, few readers today would make the connection with Vietnam. But back then the book's angle was clear. And to publishers it seemed way too risky to publish a science fiction book that dealt with Vietnam -- not too dissimilar to the attitude towards games dealing with mature and touchy subjects. The view is that an immature medium is trying to make a quick buck off of real life strife.

But I predict, like The Forever War, Six Days will end up being published -- probably by the little guy with nothing to lose rather than the big guys with an image to protect. Granted Six Days is not an abstraction, it's something closer to a historical recreation, but I have a feeling the same effect will take place as time distances us from its release: we'll wonder why something like this was so controversial in the first place.

And yes, Tamte appears ignorant to the fact that his game about a recent military conflict would produce a hubbub, but it seems to be the only way he's going to publish the game -- by acting like there is no problem with it. If Tamte were to agree that the game might be offensive he would be admitting defeat, wouldn't he? I think he has solid ground to stand on by having apparently consulted with some of the Marines (and insurgents) involved in the fighting in Fallujah. By and by, Atomic seems to be producing a historical account using established methods of *hopefully* unbiased research. I think we'll all be keeping an eye on this one.

Malygris:
Someday videogames may be ready to take on subjects like the Battle of Fallujah, but that day isn't here yet.

As you wrote in the article, the problem is with the company, not the medium of games. Ok, so any controversial game will draw a greater moral panic than an equivalent film or book, but controversial games are still made and still explore sensitive subjects. This one got shelved because Konami is primarily a business, not an artists' collective, and cares more about appealling to demographics than exploring the issues.

The parallels with film are clear: the larger the film production, the less controversial its studio wants it to be. Michael Moore will never get the budget that Michael Bay does on every picture, because he explores controversial topics, and controversial topics are financially risky. This effect is compounded in games because a top-tier video game takes more people, time and money to produce than a top-tier film (I think). Books stand at the other end of the spectrum, requiring a relatively similar investment of effort and money regardless of whether they are top-sellers or vanity publishing efforts. It's not surprising book authors are freer to be controversial (to swear freely, for example) than film makers, who are in turn freer than game developers.

So maybe big game development companies may be ready to take on issues like the Battle of Fallujah one day, but I doubt it. In any case, videogames are quite capable of it right now, especially small-scale games that don't require a multi-million-dollar budget and thousands of hours' work to produce.

Majere613:
Where was the moral outcry against Blackhawk Down? It's based solidly on real events in a theatre of war that's still active and topical, and as much as it tried to keep to the facts, it was an entertainment, guns, explosions and bravado movie. Indeed Call of Duty 4 not only drops you into something that looks a hell of a lot like Iraq, it nukes the place to add a bit of spice to the proceedings.

I'm sorry, did we play the same Blackhawk Down? I played a game loosely set in the same environment/timeframe as the movie/book/war. What game did you play?

And per CoD4, they had the good sense to fictionalize their setting, to make themselves acceptably mainstream. They saw the bullet, and dodged it.

"Eliminate principle and greed and what do you have left? Stupidity."

Oh good lord.

No, you're right. People should never take chances on anything.

I'm really disappointed by this. Ever since I heard about this game, I've looked forward to it. Whhy? Well, for starters, it just sounded amazing. I mean, a realistic war game, meant to simulate the raw emotion and terror of an ambush? Sure!

But perhaps more importantly, I just want to get even a PALE IMITATION of what our soldiers have been going through. I look up to soldiers, and I want to join their ranks some day- thanks to NJROTC, I'm already working on that, to some extent. However, I want to see what they went through. Even if this game isn't anywhere near the real deal, the real horror and mind-crushing fear of actual combat, I want to at least gain some idea of what those brave men fought through for all our sakes. I think we owe ourselves and our veterans a duty to at least try and understand what they've gone through- what they've sacrificed- on our behalf, and since I doubt Hollywood will step up to the plate, I think videogames are the perfect medium.

 

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