215: Cease Fire: A Look at Virtual Jihadi

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I suppose the real question here is: what constitutes appropriate use of the videogame medium?

A horror game is far more horrific if it demands the player commit actions that would otherwise be horrifyingly difficult due to moral concerns. In much the same way a war game can make a greater anti-war statement through the use of player controlled actions that are thoroughly unscrupulous.

Of course the old horse of "videogames are games; games are for children" will always be beaten until it can be effectively removed. This behaviour ties into our desire to make others feel the same as we do; make people follow our scruples because we are "right", and anything else is demonstrably "wrong".

Open dialogue between those who hold opposing viewpoints is primarily redundant due to the very nature of opinions. Any advances towards quieting one side invariably stem from arbitrary powers above either group.

In the case of Virtual Jihadi, the arbitrary powers were aligned with the opponents of anything seemingly anti-American and thus it was shut down, albeit temporarily. All this perversion of free speech served to do was disillusion the proponents of freedom of expression.

Whether Virtual Jihadi or America's Army were manufactured by propagandists for the sole purpose of inspiring hatred is irrelevant; the impact of propaganda is restricted by who is exposed to it, and how seriously they take it. People who play America's Army are already apple-pie sustained, flag-saluting true Americans and thus the potential of the game as a tool of influence is crippled; it simply reaffirms national pride in the hearts of patriots. A similar situation exists with Virtual Jihadi in that those who play it are somewhat more sceptical of their government than their gun toting cousins whose faith in the 6th amendment is insurmountable.

The fact of the matter is that consumers have the power to play what games they like, and ignore those they don't. But, as I said earlier, people will always want to filter every medium of art, entertainment and news to suit their own ideals and constrict access to anything that contradicts their notion of "proper behaviour".

m_jim:

Chipperz:

jh322:
*snip*

I think you've hit the nail on the head. All the way through Call of Duty 4, my mates became increasingly fond of the phrase "fuckin' towel heads" and "stupid terrorists" and, to my shame, I thought nothing of it. This terrifies me more than I'd like to claim...

It's worth pointing out not only that all Bilal did was add a storyline to an Al Qaeda game, but also that said Al Qaeda game was made by switching the skins on the American and Iraqi soldiers in an American game.

So, to recap...

Made by a Western Developer, about stereotypical US marines killing stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" = fine.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, about stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = wrong.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, rewritten by a Middle Eastern artist, about developed Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = offensive.

That argument completely divorces the situation from any context, though. The goal of American Marines is to kill people who are trying to destabilize the region without harming the civilian population. The goal of the Iraqi/Al Qaeda terrorists is to use violence and intimidation against the civilian population to instigate conflict and incite resentment against American troops. Look at the news about the suicide bombings that go on in Iraq, routinely killing 50 or more civilians. Setting aside the misguided American intentions in Iraq, can you really argue that suicide bombers and the like are not "the bad guys" (or at least the greater evil) in this conflict?

EDIT: I do support the designer's right to free speech. If that "freedom" doesn't protect offensive speech, then it isn't really freedom.

Once again, that's my point, take the following two game storyines;

Quest for Saddam - An American's brother is killed in Iraq in a checkpoint bombing. The young US patriot, incensed at the death of a beloved sibling, joins the army and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of troops. Over the course of his first tour in Iraq, they kill hundreds (thousands? depends on the difficulty) of Iraqi troops and eventually confronts and kills Saddam Hussein in his palace.

Hunt for Bush (the version that isn't porn) - An Iraqi's brother is killed in Iraq when a US missile hits a house. The young Iraqi patriot, incensed at the death of his beloved sibling, joins Al Qaeda and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of freedom fighters. Over the course of a few months in Iraq, they kill hundreds/thousands of US troops and eventually confronts and kills President Bush while he's visiting the troops.

The games have virtually the same storyline, probably take place in the same locations... Hell, they're exactly the same game, just with the skins switched. In the games, neither side kills civilians, which is apparently important for the second one when you can mow down hundreds of the things in games like GTA and Saint's Row.

Are you really going to tell me that the second story is offensive?

I think I have become jaded by war... I am certainly spotting a certain trend in my gaming.

RED ALERT 3 - I loved playing the Soviets (who get to conquer all of Europe and then America). I liked playing as the Allies only because A) I was clearly a British officer defending my homeland against a vastly more powerful aggressor, and B) I get to kill the dumbass Yanks who'd rather get themselves and all of Europe wiped out than ask a "Commie" for help.

BATTLEFIELD 1943 - I am not happy if I'm not Japanese. Both sides have the same gear, same vehicles, same everything. Differences are purely cosmetic. I still don't like playing as the Americans.

KILLZONE 2 - The ISA are the bad guys as far as I'm concerned. You can claim the Helghast are nazis led by a Hitler wannabie, or a bunch of evil murderous terrorists, but in Killzone 2 they are DEFENDING THEIR HOMEWORLD against an aggressor who is suspiciously quick to tout the words we've all heard before... words like "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Words like "Evil Dictator [Visari]", words like "we fight for truth and justice." Christ, you might as well have Colonel Templar handing out apple pie.

The point is, Americans are ALWAYS the bad guy in my eyes. Always. Even in Battlefield, where I know full well the motives of both sides, I cannot sympathise with them. I'd rather play as the Nazis than the Americans.

The only reason I can think of is this; it is not because I am somehow 'racist' against the Americans, it's because I am so disgusted at how they behave in reality. I grew up believing our World War Veterans were heroes because they were fighting to PROTECT us. America is not 'Protecting' anything but the oil industry by invading the middle east. Political propaganda, spread through videogames, is very eager to teach us all that America is the shining light of honesty and virtue, and would never, EVER harm anyone unless they absolutely deserved it.

I'd hope everyone reading this is skeptical enough to believe, as I do, that this is a truly rediculous concept. It is only in games such as Resistance 2 - a game where around 80% of America's population is either dead, or has suffered a fate far worse than death, can I finally sympathise enough to one to play as them. I always play the Good Guys. The Good Guys aren't the aggressors, and they don't believe in pre-emptive strikes.

Chipperz:

m_jim:

Chipperz:

jh322:
*snip*

I think you've hit the nail on the head. All the way through Call of Duty 4, my mates became increasingly fond of the phrase "fuckin' towel heads" and "stupid terrorists" and, to my shame, I thought nothing of it. This terrifies me more than I'd like to claim...

It's worth pointing out not only that all Bilal did was add a storyline to an Al Qaeda game, but also that said Al Qaeda game was made by switching the skins on the American and Iraqi soldiers in an American game.

So, to recap...

Made by a Western Developer, about stereotypical US marines killing stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" = fine.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, about stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = wrong.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, rewritten by a Middle Eastern artist, about developed Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = offensive.

That argument completely divorces the situation from any context, though. The goal of American Marines is to kill people who are trying to destabilize the region without harming the civilian population. The goal of the Iraqi/Al Qaeda terrorists is to use violence and intimidation against the civilian population to instigate conflict and incite resentment against American troops. Look at the news about the suicide bombings that go on in Iraq, routinely killing 50 or more civilians. Setting aside the misguided American intentions in Iraq, can you really argue that suicide bombers and the like are not "the bad guys" (or at least the greater evil) in this conflict?

EDIT: I do support the designer's right to free speech. If that "freedom" doesn't protect offensive speech, then it isn't really freedom.

Once again, that's my point, take the following two game storyines;

Quest for Saddam - An American's brother is killed in Iraq in a checkpoint bombing. The young US patriot, incensed at the death of a beloved sibling, joins the army and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of troops. Over the course of his first tour in Iraq, they kill hundreds (thousands? depends on the difficulty) of Iraqi troops and eventually confronts and kills Saddam Hussein in his palace.

Hunt for Bush (the version that isn't porn) - An Iraqi's brother is killed in Iraq when a US missile hits a house. The young Iraqi patriot, incensed at the death of his beloved sibling, joins Al Qaeda and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of freedom fighters. Over the course of a few months in Iraq, they kill hundreds/thousands of US troops and eventually confronts and kills President Bush while he's visiting the troops.

The games have virtually the same storyline, probably take place in the same locations... Hell, they're exactly the same game, just with the skins switched. In the games, neither side kills civilians, which is apparently important for the second one when you can mow down hundreds of the things in games like GTA and Saint's Row.

Are you really going to tell me that the second story is offensive?

I think we're barking up different trees. Neither Chipperz or myself (I believe) were saying that the troops (American, British) should not be in Afghanistan or Iraq. What we were saying is that videogames are one of the mediums that contribute to all people from those nations often being seen as involved in some sort of terrorism or another, when that simply isn't the case. These are different arguments, yes the soldiers in that region do have, in my opinion, a noble goal. But that's sort of irrelevant, here. Like I said in my original post, I think the message in this game is to ignore the messages in games. That's not a "BUSH IS BAD!" or "SOLDIERS GO HOME!" statement. Think about the target audience: this game was, I imagine, designed to be provocative, so it's obviously not going to make anybody think about blowing up the president, former or current.

I absolutely believe in freedom of speech. There's such thing as being tasteless, but that is not a reason for censorship.

I even think games like CoD4 are tasteless...but I've also been deployed to the Middle East, and I refuse to play stuff like that. Just because I don't like a game doesn't mean it shouldn't exist, though.

I thought Assassin's Creed and the Metal Gear Solid series already taught us this, or maybe that's just me.

Wonderful article Kate, and it sparked a surprisingly (for internet standards) intelligent and calm discussion =)

I hope you write for The Escapist more often!

m_jim:

Getting back to the game, Bilal is doing his people no favor. American soldiers don't want to kill civilians. They try not to do it. It is very sad that his brother was killed, but putting forth a piece of art that seems to glorify slaughtering American soldiers, who are fighting and dying to protect Iraqi civilians, sends a bad message. It reinforces the stereotype of Middle Easterners as blood-thirsty savages.

I think you missed the point I took from the game. People find there own meaning in art. It's not about trying to see things from an Al Qieda perspective.

You will have played hundreds of FPSs shooting Japs, Germans, miscelaneous Arab people. Probably didn't give it a second thought as they are the bad guys and its just a game. In this game the American troops are still "just the bad guys" and it is only a game but now you feel uncomfortable because you can relate to the model you are shooting at.

Its no longer "just a bad guy", you know its an american serviceman, earning a wage, probably doing what he feels is best, patriotic, has friends, his buddies care about him, wife and child at home etc.

Every German or Japanese soldier you ever shot in COD/MoH/etc. could fit the above description. Its a small minority who will go off to die for no reason, particularly against a better equiped, better trained, more numerous force. You may do it from incorrect information but you won't decide lightly. As it is you (Im not pointing fingers) are desensitised by the number of nazis/Japs/Iraqis you've shot, seen shot in the movies, heard news reports about etc.

At the end of the day its a game, if the controls are tight, the AI is good, the physics works and its "immersive" I'll play. I don't care who my imaginary gun is pointed at. No one dies when I shoot a nazi/alien/puppy/priest/allied serviceman/child in game. Its fantasy.

Chipperz:

Once again, that's my point, take the following two game storyines;

Quest for Saddam - An American's brother is killed in Iraq in a checkpoint bombing. The young US patriot, incensed at the death of a beloved sibling, joins the army and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of troops. Over the course of his first tour in Iraq, they kill hundreds (thousands? depends on the difficulty) of Iraqi troops and eventually confronts and kills Saddam Hussein in his palace.

Hunt for Bush (the version that isn't porn) - An Iraqi's brother is killed in Iraq when a US missile hits a house. The young Iraqi patriot, incensed at the death of his beloved sibling, joins Al Qaeda and excels himself, being given command of a small unit of freedom fighters. Over the course of a few months in Iraq, they kill hundreds/thousands of US troops and eventually confronts and kills President Bush while he's visiting the troops.

The games have virtually the same storyline, probably take place in the same locations... Hell, they're exactly the same game, just with the skins switched. In the games, neither side kills civilians, which is apparently important for the second one when you can mow down hundreds of the things in games like GTA and Saint's Row.

Are you really going to tell me that the second story is offensive?

I would say yes, it is offensive, but I would also say that the first is nothing more than disgustingly crass Gulf War-era propaganda. I find them both detestable, appealing to the lowest common denominator of humanity, but I find the second moreso because it involves the killing of my countrymen, just as I'm sure an Iraqi would think less of the first game.

bjj hero:

You will have played hundreds of FPSs shooting Japs, Germans, miscelaneous Arab people. Probably didn't give it a second thought as they are the bad guys and its just a game. In this game the American troops are still "just the bad guys" and it is only a game but now you feel uncomfortable because you can relate to the model you are shooting at.

Its no longer "just a bad guy", you know its an american serviceman, earning a wage, probably doing what he feels is best, patriotic, has friends, his buddies care about him, wife and child at home etc.

Every German or Japanese soldier you ever shot in COD/MoH/etc. could fit the above description. Its a small minority who will go off to die for no reason, particularly against a better equiped, better trained, more numerous force. You may do it from incorrect information but you won't decide lightly. As it is you (Im not pointing fingers) are desensitised by the number of nazis/Japs/Iraqis you've shot, seen shot in the movies, heard news reports about etc.

At the end of the day its a game, if the controls are tight, the AI is good, the physics works and its "immersive" I'll play. I don't care who my imaginary gun is pointed at. No one dies when I shoot a nazi/alien/puppy/priest/allied serviceman/child in game. Its fantasy.

Maybe I didn't explain my feelings well. I have several Middle Eastern/Muslim friends. They have all told me that after 9/11, they have had to fight an uphill battle against being associated with extremists who wish only to kill Americans. These are fine, upstanding, level-headed people who are probably a good representation of most people from that part of the world. When this game designer, Bilal, came bearing a grudge for the death of his brother and made a game about killing American servicemen, that hurt the perception of Middle Eastern/Muslim people in the eyes of Americans.
As for being desensitized against game violence, I have to say that I put down Killzone after feeling very uncomfortable playing as the ISA. As Wargamer pointed out earlier, they are unquestioningly the aggressors. They invade another planet and proceed to slaughter the local population. At least with Call of Duty games, the argument could be made that you were fighting a war of self-defense and self-preservation against a more unambiguously evil aggressor.

m_jim:

Maybe I didn't explain my feelings well. I have several Middle Eastern/Muslim friends. They have all told me that after 9/11, they have had to fight an uphill battle against being associated with extremists who wish only to kill Americans. These are fine, upstanding, level-headed people who are probably a good representation of most people from that part of the world. When this game designer, Bilal, came bearing a grudge for the death of his brother and made a game about killing American servicemen, that hurt the perception of Middle Eastern/Muslim people in the eyes of Americans.
As for being desensitized against game violence, I have to say that I put down Killzone after feeling very uncomfortable playing as the ISA. As Wargamer pointed out earlier, they are unquestioningly the aggressors. They invade another planet and proceed to slaughter the local population. At least with Call of Duty games, the argument could be made that you were fighting a war of self-defense and self-preservation against a more unambiguously evil aggressor.

My father is Iranian, I have an Iranian name and a middle eastern complexion. I do understand what its like. I don't think the actions of this one man are going to swing a nation. There are those who have bought into all of the propaganda, media hype and fox news hysteria and do think that everyone of muslim/middle eastern descent is out to slaughter them and their children.

This game won't change their minds, but they were made up already. Others tend to understand that people are individuals and not generic media bad guys. People need to grasp that people are individuals, no matter what faith or nationality and vary wildly. Shooting an Iraqi/Russian/Japanese pointing a gun at you is good and has been done thousands of times. Shooting an American pointing a gun at you is bad and controversial.

I think this game helps highlight that shooting someone dead is taking a life, society just happens to think some lived have more value than others based on nationality:

m_jim:

I would say yes, it is offensive, but I would also say that the first is nothing more than disgustingly crass Gulf War-era propaganda. I find them both detestable, appealing to the lowest common denominator of humanity, but I find the second moreso because it involves the killing of my countrymen*, just as I'm sure an Iraqi would think less of the first game.

*highlighted for effect*

If people understood that killing and moving the south vietnamese from there ancesteral home into concentration camps wouldn't win hearts and minds maybe less of them would have joined the VC during Vietnam. You don't have to agree with the other side but understanding what motivates them rather than turning it into good vs evil, freedom vs terror, will help towards finding a resolution. Thats really what we all want, to be able to get on with our lives, look after our families and not worry about some douchebag playing with explosives or some soldier kicking our door in.

If my brothers house what hit by a bomb I'd be pissed. I wouldn't be blowing myself up but I wouldn't be welcoming the allies in with open arms either. If making a game helps him to deal with his issues he's dealt with it a lot better than many would. A war on home soil is personal to him, its not shooting faceless Iraqis or Germans, thats what this game tries to show. It humanises the recepticals for your bullets.

Another look at the American Government's 'Say whatever you want about other people but if anyone dares question our integrity silence him!'

Same of the Fallujah game..

Fascinating topic, it's a shame that a response like this to a work that radically reverses the usual perspective of games (indeed, most warfare based fiction) seems inevitable. In an increasingly secularised world, we don't seem to have transcending a black and white view of morality, and still seem to need an oppressive force of evil to ally against. Nazism, Communism, terrorism all saw the common populace turned against them. Just look at the demonisation of any alleged Communist sympathisers. I thought this kind of treatment was dying out, but sadly it still seems to have life left in it.

At least free speech won in the end, although the prominent figures involved in stifling the game on the grounds of apparently trumped-up charges is disturbing. Perhaps the reaction to a similar game set further in the past may have provoked less of a response, but I'm sure it would have had less of an impact and little immediate relevance. The interactive element of games like this certainly gives its detractors ammo to argue against it, so perhaps the game was too bold a move for this time before more mainstream, morally subversive games come out (I agree with some other posters than COD has far from realised it's potential in that regard).

Ah well, progress was made, consciences prodded and a bureaucrat and intolerant views of some of the American populace was shown up. The outcome seems to have been good, and hopefully could open the way for mainstream games to explore previously unexplored sides of warfare.

Wargamer:
The Good Guys aren't the aggressors, and they don't believe in pre-emptive strikes.

Discarding any connection to Iraq / Afghanistan for a moment: so you believe the good guys should wait until they already have a mouthful of broken teeth before they actually consider doing anything?

Hi everybody, this is Kate. I've been really impressed with everyone's comments on my article, and it brought up some things I learned while researching this article. I've put up some of these thoughts at Pixelsocks.com. I hope you enjoy them!

Evil Tim:

Wargamer:
The Good Guys aren't the aggressors, and they don't believe in pre-emptive strikes.

Discarding any connection to Iraq / Afghanistan for a moment: so you believe the good guys should wait until they already have a mouthful of broken teeth before they actually consider doing anything?

Well, yes - good guys do not, as a rule, kill people because they MIGHT do something wrong. They have to, you know, do something wrong first.

Wargamer:
Well, yes - good guys do not, as a rule, kill people because they MIGHT do something wrong. They have to, you know, do something wrong first.

I'm very glad people with more practical morals than you are in charge of the world. If someone's following them with a knife, good guys don't wait to have their throat cut before they actually consider doing something.

I also find it more than a little amusing that you consider Imperial Japan a worthy choice under this system of morality, since they are famous for launching a massive preemptive strike on an American port in a war over oil, since the Americans had just cut off their supply due to Japan's empire-building in Asia. Hypocritical much?

Evil Tim:

Wargamer:
Well, yes - good guys do not, as a rule, kill people because they MIGHT do something wrong. They have to, you know, do something wrong first.

I'm very glad people with more practical morals than you are in charge of the world. If someone's following them with a knife, good guys don't wait to have their throat cut before they actually consider doing something.

Actually, they do.

The British didn't invade Germany because they "might be bad". Hell, they had reason to - Germany was flaunting treaties put in place for the very purpose of stopping her starting World War Two.

However, World War Two arguably started BECAUSE of those punishing limitations, and because people like YOU were in charge of Germany - people who believe the ends justify the means.

They don't. Part of being the good guy is biting the bullet and saying "Yes, we could shoot these bastards NOW, but if we do that we are no better than them. As long as there is a chance for them to see sense, we must give them that chance."

I also find it more than a little amusing that you consider Imperial Japan a worthy choice under this system of morality, since they are famous for launching a massive preemptive strike on an American port in a war over oil, since the Americans had just cut off their supply due to Japan's empire-building in Asia. Hypocritical much?

Hypocritical of the Yanks, who as always were busy playing World Police, and didn't like the idea of anyone else being bigger or better than they were.

Besides, as I have said, a part of my hatred of American factions is their foreign policy, irrespective of who the in-game opposition is. If Battlefield was, say, British vs Japanese or Australians vs Japanese, I wouldn't play as the Japs.

katiegreen:
Hi everybody, this is Kate. I've been really impressed with everyone's comments on my article, and it brought up some things I learned while researching this article. I've put up some of these thoughts at Pixelsocks.com. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks for that extra analysis; it was nice to know I wasn't totally off the mark :)

(also, pixelsocks just ate two hours of my evening. damn you.)

Wargamer:
I think I have become jaded by war... I am certainly spotting a certain trend in my gaming.

RED ALERT 3 - I loved playing the Soviets (who get to conquer all of Europe and then America). I liked playing as the Allies only because A) I was clearly a British officer defending my homeland against a vastly more powerful aggressor, and B) I get to kill the dumbass Yanks who'd rather get themselves and all of Europe wiped out than ask a "Commie" for help.

BATTLEFIELD 1943 - I am not happy if I'm not Japanese. Both sides have the same gear, same vehicles, same everything. Differences are purely cosmetic. I still don't like playing as the Americans.

KILLZONE 2 - The ISA are the bad guys as far as I'm concerned. You can claim the Helghast are nazis led by a Hitler wannabie, or a bunch of evil murderous terrorists, but in Killzone 2 they are DEFENDING THEIR HOMEWORLD against an aggressor who is suspiciously quick to tout the words we've all heard before... words like "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Words like "Evil Dictator [Visari]", words like "we fight for truth and justice." Christ, you might as well have Colonel Templar handing out apple pie.

The point is, Americans are ALWAYS the bad guy in my eyes. Always. Even in Battlefield, where I know full well the motives of both sides, I cannot sympathise with them. I'd rather play as the Nazis than the Americans.

The only reason I can think of is this; it is not because I am somehow 'racist' against the Americans, it's because I am so disgusted at how they behave in reality. I grew up believing our World War Veterans were heroes because they were fighting to PROTECT us. America is not 'Protecting' anything but the oil industry by invading the middle east. Political propaganda, spread through videogames, is very eager to teach us all that America is the shining light of honesty and virtue, and would never, EVER harm anyone unless they absolutely deserved it.

I'd hope everyone reading this is skeptical enough to believe, as I do, that this is a truly rediculous concept. It is only in games such as Resistance 2 - a game where around 80% of America's population is either dead, or has suffered a fate far worse than death, can I finally sympathise enough to one to play as them. I always play the Good Guys. The Good Guys aren't the aggressors, and they don't believe in pre-emptive strikes.

Yep..I mean we had the AUDACITY to help out the british defeat the Germans during WW1 and WW2 that..well there was the "police action" in Korea after that.Then Vietnam. That was fun.

Oh and Americans wanted to help out in Mogadishu..because the Muslims were SO GREAT at distributing food to the hundreds of thousands malnourished and dying right? Of course Pres.Clinton was too busy to notice the Taliban who were mad because..well Americans are just infidels right? We allow our women to dress how they want to..and we have Christians here too...

We only attack AFTER we are provoked. Case in point..the Lend-Lease weapons that the United States supplied to the british during WW2.

France couldn't win in Vietnam..about the only thing you could do to "win" is to nuke it off the face of the planet,but that'll probably harm some fish or a monkey so immediately hot-air Al Gore support is launched and any thoughts about eradicating the "commies" is off the table unless you can use pinpoint conventional weapons.

We went after Saddam(and killed him and his sons) and we have this crazy notion called Democracy and Freedom.. Iran has democracy,but they don't have freedom. You can go anywhere in the USA and say "I don't like Obama"..you can do the same in Iran..walk around saying "I dont like Obama"

Forget the past election with the "there were black men blocking the doors to the voting station"..

Look at Afghanistan. Sure it's a messed up country what with the great work the Muslim religion has done..but they had their 2nd election...and the polling places stayed open another hour despite the fact that armed militants could storm the area and kill everyone and burn the boxes that the votes were placed in.

The ones you refer to as "The Good Guys" are not. America does not impose it's religion on anyone. Blame Christianity/Catholicism/Islam/*your religion of choice here*..It was around LONG before there was a United States of America.

Holy crap, lots of hate for Americans in this thread. But hey, thanks for painting us all with one broad brush, guys, we appreciate it.

As for the Night of the Bush Capture or whatever, well, I'm not worried about that game, it's probably horrible, and noteworthy only for its controversial subject matter.

Also, Call of Duty 4 *never* endorsed the term "ragheads" or any other slur. You played a guy (well, two guys) who was trying to prevent brutal acts of mass murder. Some dudes would get in your way to stop you from doing that, so you'd shoot them. You didn't do it because of their ethnicity, but because of their cause (which, as you might recall, involved mass murder) and the fact they're trying to kill you anyway. If you didn't "get" that from the game then frankly that says more about you than CoD4. I swear, it's like I played a completely different game from some of you people...

akmarksman:

Oh and Americans wanted to help out in Mogadishu..because the Muslims were SO GREAT at distributing food to the hundreds of thousands malnourished and dying right? Of course Pres.Clinton was too busy to notice the Taliban who were mad because..well Americans are just infidels right? We allow our women to dress how they want to..and we have Christians here too...

There was no mention of that when you were arming them against the Russians. Didn't care how they treated the women, as long as they didn't go commie. Check Rambo 3 where they're the fucking good guys.

akmarksman:

We only attack AFTER we are provoked. Case in point..the Lend-Lease weapons that the United States supplied to the british during WW2.

Except with Iraq... You were quite brutal with Cuba as well, the CIA would still be openly making assassination attempts today if they'd been more successful with Fidel. I could go on.

akmarksman:

We went after Saddam(and killed him and his sons) and we have this crazy notion called Democracy and Freedom.. Iran has democracy,but they don't have freedom. You can go anywhere in the USA and say "I don't like Obama"..you can do the same in Iran..walk around saying "I dont like Obama"

I've said in an earlier post. Iran was moving towards this until the Americans and the Brits arranged for a democratically ellected, popular government to be replaced with a dictatorship who crushed opposition. Why? Because he wanted to nationalise the Iranian oil company and charge a reasonable amount for oil instead of practically giving it to the west.

Can't have that, a fair deal and socialism... obviously something had to be done. He was deposed. A puppet Shar was put in. Eventually the population became pissed off with a puppet, despot, leader and the reaction was the Islamic fundamentalist government we see today. Score one for the good guys...

akmarksman:

Look at Afghanistan. Sure it's a messed up country what with the great work the Muslim religion has done..but they had their 2nd election...and the polling places stayed open another hour despite the fact that armed militants could storm the area and kill everyone and burn the boxes that the votes were placed in.

All the regulators agree that the election is corrupt rife with intimidation, threats and forgery. Most of the women cant vote as they need to be escorted by a male family member who gave permission and there is a shortage of female poling staff. Half the "politicians" are warlords, selling heroin and guilty of war crimes. Then look at the legislation they are passing: Its ok to starve your wife if she refuses sex. Do you think if the women had any power this would go through without challenge?

Democracy in action. Wonderful.

akmarksman:

The ones you refer to as "The Good Guys" are not. America does not impose it's religion on anyone. Blame Christianity/Catholicism/Islam/*your religion of choice here*..It was around LONG before there was a United States of America.

Religion, no. But America does have a habit of pushing in and forcing, or trying to force, democracy and capitalism on other countries. Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq; Vietnam was about fighting Communism, ideology vs ideology.

War gamer is jaded in hating the Americans, its what all the cool kids do. I've lived there, I like the people.

Having said that American foreign policy often stinks. Its part of being a super power, the British Empire did some horrifc stuff. I just wish the US had the good sense to read history and learn from it.

All this occupying force stuff needs rethinking, it doesn't seem to work. The local population will resent occupying soldiers. With the best will in the world soldiers use violence to push their agenda and although they support the native government only the most nieve would think that Allied interests aren't placed above the natives. This is before we start talking about civilian deaths. Occupation has to be a fixed, short duration or it will lose support and allow trouble makers to paint themselves and their selfish motives as patriotic.

I really don't think this is much to worry about. It's a good idea to present the war from an Iraqi citizens point of view, and if anyone actually tries to blow up the president, the going to fail.

Wow. Simply amazing. If anything, I am thankful that this game has forced people to open up and seriously talk about the way we think about the world and what ramifications it has on our perspective. Blurring the line between right and wrong makes us question what we are really doing...

Wall of text attacks you for 9001 damage.

Escapist:
Consider the case of The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi, a game mod created by Iraqi-born American artist Wafaa Bilal to emphasize the plight of Iraqi civilians during the American invasion and occupation. The player's avatar is Bilal himself. In the game, as in real life, Bilal's brother, an Iraqi civilian, becomes "collateral damage" in an American airstrike. Departing from reality, virtual Bilal is so overcome by grief that he joins Al-Qaeda, trains as a suicide bomber and works his way past American forces to kill President Bush.

The way he presents the situation, you'd think Al-Qaeda is somehow not part of the reason why Iraq is in the state it's in. Al-Qaeda, and all similiar groups and factions, are the cause of Iraq's instability and violence. They don't even recognize a concept like collateral damage. Furthermore, while there are no doubt people who join terrorist groups because of revenge, most are just waging religious war against infidels (in this case the US & co).

Escapist:
Irrespective of any possible connection between videogame and real life violence, Bilal is concerned that videogames teach us something more insidious: hatred. "[V]ideo games are one of the technologies being used to foster and teach hate. I am especially concerned by the ones created by the US military, which are intended to brainwash and influence young minds ... the U.S. Army's own free on-line game is equal to the Night of Bush Capturing in its propaganda motives."

Promoting the Army as a career is not "brainwashing." I also fail to see how America's Army is "fostering and teaching hatred." He says it's equal to Night of Bush Capturing, but does not explain why. So his comparison is meaningless.

Escapist:
Can we deal with games that feature the assassination of a sitting president, however unpopular? Can we deal with games that ask us to question the government, or even other games? Can we deal with games with which we disagree?

Presidents have a long history of dying in movies, which have also questioned various governments to no end, and there are surely a lot of movies that a lot of people disagree with. There is no compelling reason to treat video games any differently than movies.

Chipperz:
Made by a Western Developer, about stereotypical US marines killing stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" = fine.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, about stereotypical Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = wrong.
Made by a Western Developer, changed by Middle Eastern group, rewritten by a Middle Eastern artist, about developed Iraqi "terrorists" killing stereotypical US marines = offensive.

You say that as if Islamic terrorists have a moral leg to stand on, and are therefore comparable to US Marines. They're not. As a rule, the US military is morally in the right (in Iraq). The terrorists have no redeeming qualities.

ReverseEngineered:
This is where the problem lies. By generalizing the concept down to "us" and "them", games encourage this type of thinking about foreign entities. Without developing the nuances of the other side, we're unable to distinguish the difference between "foreign" and "bad guy" -- under this generalization, they are one and the same.

No, I really don't think anyone is going to think that generic terrorists in Military Shooter VII represent all foreigners everywhere, or even that they represent all the people in that particular country.

By not showing both sides of the story, games like Call of Duty and America's Army encourage blind slaughter of entire nationalities by stereotyping them as "the enemy".

Really? I don't recall Call of Duty 4 even having any civilians, except in at least one pre-scripted spot where you can save one. I also don't recall CoD 4 making no distinction between civilians and hostiles, and encouraging you to blindly slaughter everyone because everyone is an enemy. I am also not aware of America's Army doing anything like that.

Even if this simplification is merely part of making the game, the player takes in this mindset while playing it, and without some external rationalization that distinguishes between the game-specific stereotype and the real world, this mindset is what the player adopts in general.

This might possibly apply to small children, but that's as far as it goes.

littlerob:
It's certainly not a very mature or fair way to go about things. American (or western in general) games can freely portray Iraquis and Afghanis as 'bad guys' and go about their merry ways shooting and killing them with reckless abandon. Why shouldn't there be a game from the opposite perspective?

The opposite perspective isn't really true. There is a world of difference between terrorists and the US military and how they conduct their business. Portraying some Afghanis and Iraqis as bad guys is just realism, since some of them are bad guys. There are two wars going on. In what military shooter do you kill people at random with reckless abandon, anyway? I can't think of one.

Are people so close-mided that they can't see the other side's point of view in a war?

The other side's point of view being "infidels suck, let's kill them." I can "see" what their point of view is, but I hope you aren't seriously expecting me to sympathize with it.

ReverseEngineered:
What really concerns me are those people who are up in arms about this art display. They are so blinded by their prejudices that they don't realize the hypocrisy of their concerns. Yes, we shouldn't be encouraging people to kill the President, but we shouldn't be encouraging them to kill Muslims either. For some reason America has accepted that people from the Middle East are hedonists and terrorists, that they are enemies who want to kill us, and that we must protect ourselves by killing them first. The people who are against the former but excuse the latter are guilty of as much racism and prejudice as anyone.

At what point has the US government, or the US military, adopted the policy of killing all Middle-Easterners, or all Muslims? Or designating them all as enemies? Who is encouraging people to kill all Muslims? And how did this suddenly become a racial issue? Did something happen while I blinked?

not a zaar:
This situation is a very interesting reflection on the attitude in America. On the one had we have Call of Duty 4, which is one of the most insanely popular games in recent memory. This game glorifies killing Arabs and Communists without a thought, and hardly anybody bats an eye at children playing it. On the other hand Virtual Jihadi is demonized. I don't agree with the message in Virtual Jihadi (in fact I detest it) but there is a huge double standard here.

I've played through CoD 4 twice (that's probably two times more than most people here), and I do not recall the game ever glorifying the killing of Arabs and Communists. There is no double standard unless you are a nihilist who thinks there is no such thing as morality, or right and wrong, and that everything is meaningless.

Wargamer:
They don't. Part of being the good guy is biting the bullet and saying "Yes, we could shoot these bastards NOW, but if we do that we are no better than them. As long as there is a chance for them to see sense, we must give them that chance."

Wait, what? Self-defense is now morally wrong? Taking pre-emptive action to prevent something bad from happening is now morally wrong?

Hypocritical of the Yanks, who as always were busy playing World Police, and didn't like the idea of anyone else being bigger or better than they were.

I'm sure the Rape of Nanking had nothing to do with it at all, or the various acts of hostility towards the US, or Japan's alliance with Nazi Germany.

It's amusing how people in this thread, on a gaming forum, are talking like Jack Thompson by portraying military shooters as games where you gleefully mow down men, women and children at random because they're all just filthy raghead terrorists, while the game stresses that all foreigners are to be feared and then promptly murdered. Where, exactly, can I find games like this?

ReverseEngineered:
Kate, I'm glad you brought this story out into the open for people to see. I wasn't aware of Balil's plight before this article and it makes it clear how the cliched response to controversy in all forms of artistic media undermines any attempt at rational thought.

I think Balil's game makes a very good point -- as I said in my previous post, we're happy to blindly kill some generic enemy -- but the American focus on Middle Eastern cultures as the generic enemy leads to a stereotyping that is by no means healthy.

Since we're surrounded by these stereotypes in the media every day, we often don't realize how these stereotypes become part of our consciousness. Reality quickly sits in when you see it from the other side -- the thought of Iraqis killing Americans makes us painfully aware of how terrible the things are that we are simulating.

What really concerns me are those people who are up in arms about this art display. They are so blinded by their prejudices that they don't realize the hypocrisy of their concerns. Yes, we shouldn't be encouraging people to kill the President, but we shouldn't be encouraging them to kill Muslims either. For some reason America has accepted that people from the Middle East are hedonists and terrorists, that they are enemies who want to kill us, and that we must protect ourselves by killing them first. The people who are against the former but excuse the latter are guilty of as much racism and prejudice as anyone.

Through his game, Balil is trying to show us how our prejudices and stereotypes have created a double-standard for the acceptability of violence, and he does so using one of the worst purportrators -- war games. Those who think it's offensive or obscene imply that they disagree with his statements -- that they believe in those stereotypes and double-standards. We're in a sad situation when those in power are not only blinded by prejudice, but are willing to abuse their power to protect, maintain, and spread those prejudices.

God bless the USA. It needs it.

Agreed. You said everything i was going to say. Though i would like to add the idea of free speach anywere is a bit of a sham.

Wargamer:

Evil Tim:

Wargamer:
Well, yes - good guys do not, as a rule, kill people because they MIGHT do something wrong. They have to, you know, do something wrong first.

I'm very glad people with more practical morals than you are in charge of the world. If someone's following them with a knife, good guys don't wait to have their throat cut before they actually consider doing something.

Actually, they do.

The British didn't invade Germany because they "might be bad". Hell, they had reason to - Germany was flaunting treaties put in place for the very purpose of stopping her starting World War Two.

However, World War Two arguably started BECAUSE of those punishing limitations, and because people like YOU were in charge of Germany - people who believe the ends justify the means.

They don't. Part of being the good guy is biting the bullet and saying "Yes, we could shoot these bastards NOW, but if we do that we are no better than them. As long as there is a chance for them to see sense, we must give them that chance."

I also find it more than a little amusing that you consider Imperial Japan a worthy choice under this system of morality, since they are famous for launching a massive preemptive strike on an American port in a war over oil, since the Americans had just cut off their supply due to Japan's empire-building in Asia. Hypocritical much?

Hypocritical of the Yanks, who as always were busy playing World Police, and didn't like the idea of anyone else being bigger or better than they were.

Besides, as I have said, a part of my hatred of American factions is their foreign policy, irrespective of who the in-game opposition is. If Battlefield was, say, British vs Japanese or Australians vs Japanese, I wouldn't play as the Japs.

As a yank i am saddened by the fact i must agree with you and the fact that that is how everyone views us. Though i suppose it could be worse, i could be french.

And does anyone find the irony in the Americans cutting off Japan's oil and than Japan launching an attack on them?

The Rogue Wolf:
I honestly can't say I'm surprised in the least. This is an unfortunately typical mindset in many Americans today- "They're not people, they're terrorists!" Demonize the enemy, make them subhuman, believe that they are a relentless and implacable foe bent on your extermination, and then it's okay to hate them and destroy them.

Interesting to note this is exactly what the Japanese and Nazi's (and well anyone) does during war.

Most of the tactics used by our military were extremely popular during the Nazi era. Which is kind of funny in a sick sort of way.

Sir Roflpwn:

Wargamer:

Evil Tim:

Wargamer:
Well, yes - good guys do not, as a rule, kill people because they MIGHT do something wrong. They have to, you know, do something wrong first.

I'm very glad people with more practical morals than you are in charge of the world. If someone's following them with a knife, good guys don't wait to have their throat cut before they actually consider doing something.

Actually, they do.

The British didn't invade Germany because they "might be bad". Hell, they had reason to - Germany was flaunting treaties put in place for the very purpose of stopping her starting World War Two.

However, World War Two arguably started BECAUSE of those punishing limitations, and because people like YOU were in charge of Germany - people who believe the ends justify the means.

They don't. Part of being the good guy is biting the bullet and saying "Yes, we could shoot these bastards NOW, but if we do that we are no better than them. As long as there is a chance for them to see sense, we must give them that chance."

I also find it more than a little amusing that you consider Imperial Japan a worthy choice under this system of morality, since they are famous for launching a massive preemptive strike on an American port in a war over oil, since the Americans had just cut off their supply due to Japan's empire-building in Asia. Hypocritical much?

Hypocritical of the Yanks, who as always were busy playing World Police, and didn't like the idea of anyone else being bigger or better than they were.

Besides, as I have said, a part of my hatred of American factions is their foreign policy, irrespective of who the in-game opposition is. If Battlefield was, say, British vs Japanese or Australians vs Japanese, I wouldn't play as the Japs.

As a yank i am saddened by the fact i must agree with you and the fact that that is how everyone views us. Though i suppose it could be worse, i could be french.

And does anyone find the irony in the Americans cutting off Japan's oil and than Japan launching an attack on them?

I often remind people that the events at Pearl Harbor and the Rise of the Nazi's were both because of Allied powers. Which tends to get very negative responses.

Considering that Japan has absolutely no Oil generation to its name cutting off Oil to it is akin to (at the time) sending it back in time. I'm sure the US wouldn't react any differently if importers completely cut off oil production to us. However we'd glorify our response ;) and likely wouldn't nuke ourselves.

corbett_rw@yahoo.com:
Holy crap, lots of hate for Americans in this thread. But hey, thanks for painting us all with one broad brush, guys, we appreciate it.

Most people are just talking about conservatives. I don't really know nor do I care about Liberals but by design Conservative thought has to be very imposing and brutal because it is not open to change (hence the name conservative).

All people blanket process, our brains specialize in what is most relevant to us, which even comes down to race (even babies shown signs of racism its a biological thing, our close genetic relatives do it too). It is just the brain trying to simplify processes to make life easier and pleasant for the entire host.

I wouldn't think too poorly of it, when folks say something stupid I tend to give them a little bit of leeway because I assume it is just a processing error.

I say more power to the bugger. There are more than two sides in a conflict and sometimes we need to have a good harsh look at other points of view in order to get the full picture. There is no black and white good and evil in this world, just shades of gray.

There are so many interesting articles that I've missed throughout this website. I should start a dedicated browsing one day!

On topic. I never thought someone had managed to give an artistic perspective from something that we do not normally see in varied ways, and even then the creator had many difficulties in letting his thought-provoker be known. Even though this concept seems a bit too Rambo-ish (being sent out to eliminate the president of the United States) I still appreciate it due to the simple fact that it tells the other end of the story. I'm honestly very tired with all of these western world-biased games and movies that does not seem to care about that war isn't a battle between "Good" and "Evil".

I am irritated in similar ways over how World War 2 is portrayed almost all the time. Like mentioned in another article on this site we see Axis forces as being "badguys" without being told of what they have really done. Anyone who has had a basic history lesson likely knows what they did, yet no one seems very fond of talking about it. A game besed on a German soldier's perspective would probably be more disturbing then entertaining, but the point is that it makes us think about these things and perhaps able to gain insight on the matter.

Simply put. I hope people will explore Humanity, both in the past and the present, openingly without fearing of being disliked and the risk of being censored. Virtual games can do these things in a very unique way that books or movies are simply incapable of. Instead of asking onself of what he, she or it will do in a situation the actions now rest on -your- shoulders. What will -you- do? Such interactive media can have a deep impact on the experience.

We need to be open-minded and honest about the state of the world. The United States of America isn't the all-protecting light in the world, for example.

AceDiamond:
As much as I consider games to be an art-form that should be protected under free speech, and as much as I tried to see things Bilal's way, I simply cannot. He is claiming video games are being used to foster hatred, and yet he's made one that would do exactly the same thing, regardless of his intent.

Did you read the article? That's his point.

He's making a questionable game in order to turn the tables and shine a light on other questionable games.

And who's really going to hate Bush more after shooting his cartoon in the face?

Whoever went after his *building* is gutless and corrupt. It's like an anti-1st Amendment airstrike.

akmarksman:

We only attack AFTER we are provoked. Case in point..

Case in point?!? Do you know any history that hasn't been represented in a videogame? We have attacked or 'intervened' in other countries dozens of times without justification or the slightest hint of self-defence.

We only engage in major wars when the government can sell a major war to the population, ie, after an attack.

ReverseEngineered:
It also helps that every boy plays with pretend guns at some time in their childhood,

Until they get suspended from school and face criminal charges for bringing a fake gun on a bus.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/05/14/massachusetts-boy-charged-bringing-toy-gun-bus/

I know its fox news but its still the same story its also a national chain

Here is a local one.

http://www.masslive.com/newsflash/index.ssf/story/palmer-boy-charged-with-bringing-toy-gun/ebefa90c4a85468ebcb5ec48fe6531ac

Well, as a non-American, the game is not any more offensive to me than Call of Duty (meaning it isn't offensive at all).
I suppose if someone made a game where you play a Hungarian (or German, I don't much care about nationality) soldier tasked with forcing the Jewish population of the country onto the trains that take them off to Auschwitz, I might think "damn, that's a little heavy-handed", but I wouldn't feel offended.
Violence, brutality and thousands of unspeakable atrocities are a part of history. They are a part of everyday life (yes, some guy (or gal, or kid) is probably getting killed by others in some horrific way right as you are reading this). Perhaps not for you or me, and be thankful that is so. But to deny them or think they should not be expressed in art is like closing your eyes and ears and shouting nonsense to block out reality.

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