Six Days in Fallujah

KindOfBlue

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Blue
#1
Because of the nature of this game, I wasn’t sure if this topic would be better suited for “politics” but I think it raises some interesting questions pertaining to gaming.

For those not in the know:
Via Wikipedia:

Six Days in Fallujah (SDIF) is an upcoming first-person shooter video game developed by Highwire Games and published by Victura. Described by Highwire Games as a tactical shooter, it was slated to be the first video game to focus directly on the Iraq War. The game's plot followed a squad of U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1), fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah over the span of six days in November 2004.

The premise of the game was the subject of controversy in 2009, with questions raised as to its appropriateness, especially given the fact that the true events the game is based upon were recent at the time. It was originally to be published by Konami, however, in April 2009, a spokesman informed the Associated Press that Konami was no longer publishing the game due to the controversy surrounding it. The game was originally slated for a 2010 release, but it was cancelled due to controversy; the game was put on hold until 2016 after its original studio, Atomic Games, went bankrupt in 2011.

In February 2021, the game was announced to be back in development at Highwire Games, consisting of former Halo and Destiny game developers. Published by Victura, Six Days in Fallujah is expected to be released on PC and consoles in late 2021.
Here are some trailers that dropped recently:

As seen with other games that tackle such themes, the question of “is this game political?” has come up. Here are some statements from the developers regarding their intent behind this game.
https://www.polygon.com/2021/2/15/22279600/six-days-in-fallujah-interview-iraq-war-politics
https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/8/2...r-inseparable-politics-victura-highwire-games
https://www.gamesindustry.biz/artic...-dont-think-we-need-to-portray-the-atrocities

The Second Battle of Fallujah in particular is notable in part for the use of white phosphorus by Coalition forces, as well as for resulting in an increase in birth defects and illnesses in Fallujah brought about by exposure to depleted uranium from munitions used in battle. It is considered the deadliest battle of the Iraq War, in which 10,500 American troops, 850 British troops, and 2,000 Iraqi security forces battled against 3,700–4,000 insurgents including affiliates of Al-Qaeda among other militant Sunni organizations, and loyalists of the Ba’ath Party, which had been banned following the invasion of Iraq and the deposition of Saddam Hussein but still continues to operate today.

This battle followed the First Battle of Fallujah in March 2004, in which U.S. forces attempted to apprehend/kill the perpetrators of a highly publicized attack on a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater USA who were conducting a delivery for food caterers Eurest Support Services. The Blackwater private military company would later receive attention in September 2007 after a group of its employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 in Nisour Square, Baghdad. Four guards were convicted in the U.S. but were later pardoned in December 2020 by then-president Donald Trump.

Overall, the Second Battle of Fallujah depicted in this game resulted in 95 American troops killed and 560 wounded, 4 British troops killed and 10 wounded, 8 Iraqi security forces killed and 43 wounded, 1,200–1,500 Iraq insurgents killed and 1,500 captured, and 581–670 civilians killed according to the Iraq Body Count project or 800 civilians killed according to the Red Cross. It was considered "some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines have been involved in since the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam in 1968."

Naturally, the game and the statements from the developer have attracted a fair bit of controversy, mainly surrounding concerns that this game will be pro-war propaganda that trivializes the experience of the civilians who to this day still suffer the consequences of what many consider to be an unjust war. Some of the more concerned reactions to the game can be found here:
https://www.ign.com/articles/six-da...ainful-for-those-connected-to-the-real-events
https://screenrant.com/six-days-fallujah-procedural-generation-levels-bad-history/

As a fan of tactical shooters, I cannot deny my intrigue in this game. But as a racial minority who considers himself anti-war, I wholeheartedly understand the concerns surrounding this game. And so I would love to see some of your reactions to this. In particular, I’m interested in the conversation of how war is presented in video games. Many people praise Spec Ops: The Line for its portrayal of the horrors of war and consider it the “right way” to portray it, but surely there’s more that can be done? Games like the 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare sometimes present themselves as morally grey, but as much as I love the game I personally find that it makes it pretty clear who the “good” and “bad” guys are. I would love a tactical shooter of a more open-ended nature bordering survival horror, one that doesn’t shy away from the political and moral implications behind the player’s actions and makes the interactions with civilians just as important as the interactions with enemies.

So basically, what are your thoughts about this game and overall what would you consider a good way to portray modern war in video games? What aspects of story and gameplay do you think could present a more honest and perhaps tasteful portrayal of war? What does “politics in games” mean to you, how do you feel about how they’re presented, and how do you think they should be presented?
 
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Makoeyes987

Listen closely, there is meaning in my words.
AKA
Smooth Criminal
#2
This game is straight up bullshit.

We might as well have a Japanese game developer make a first person shooter called "A Year in Nanjing" and make this a game series.

This game and it's developers are frankly, disgusting.

We don't need developers monetizing and glorifying real life war crimes. If so, video game development is creatively bankrupt.
 

The Twilight Mexican

Ex-SeeD-ingly good
AKA
TresDias
#3
It's difficult for me to assess whether this is in questionable taste. I've certainly played a number of games set in WWII, as I'm sure many of us have. Hell, the "Call of Duty: Black Ops" series has segments set in the even more recent Vietnam War.

I really don't know. :monster:
 

KindOfBlue

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Blue
#4
It's difficult for me to assess whether this is in questionable taste. I've certainly played a number of games set in WWII, as I'm sure many of us have. Hell, the "Call of Duty: Black Ops" series has segments set in the even more recent Vietnam War.

I really don't know. :monster:
I figure the controversy comes more from the morality of the conflict itself, since it’s generally accepted that the Axis powers were the bad guys of WWII even though there’s definitely been atrocities committed by the Allies. There’s quite a few parallels between Vietnam and Iraq that are interesting, though I think the current state of geopolitics definitely makes Iraq a very touchy subject.

What interests me in terms of morality is the argument I’ve noticed from some online that the insurgents were rightfully defending themselves against a foreign invading forces. I wonder how those who argue this point would then reckon with the atrocities that those same defenders may have participated in against their own people. I can’t really defend anybody in this case and thankfully it’s not my job to, but I do wonder what would happen if a game was made from the opposite side.

WWII’s a pretty easy backdrop for video games because it more easily fits into the model of good = us and bad = them (even though most Germans you’re fighting in these games may not actually be Nazis themselves) but more contemporary conflicts...yeah, that can be tricky.
 
AKA
Mr. Ite
#5
An American-made video game shooter about WWII starring American characters says to me “Take on the thrilling role of an soldier protecting their national interests abroad, by shooting humans in the face! Set in a time so very long ago (just before your fictional superior officers commit the greatest possible war crime, twice), where you don’t have to think about the impact of your violence because even the survivors are dead now. Enjoy hours of guilt-free slaughter because of the Holocaust, or something, while the 13-yo boys in your headset make jokes about gypsies and kyke faggots!”

Everything is political. Everything is propaganda. And shooters are necessarily pro-war. This game shines a light on just how fucked up war shooters are, and the people who are popping their monocles off just because it’s “too soon” need to take a long look at how historic shooters are used as tools of the military industrial complex.

Edit: oh I didn’t see that last bit of the article where it talks about how the project lead used to make training sims for the US Military and is “proud” of that work.
 
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Lulcielid

Light Bringer
AKA
Lulcy
#7
PlayStation, Xbox and Valve called on to drop Six Days in Fallujah

article said:
A prominent Muslim advocacy organisation has called for PlayStation, Xbox and Valve to drop controversial shooter Six Days in Fallujah.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights charity in the US, issued the call in a press release which brings the game's subject matter back into the spotlight once again.

Calling the game an "Arab murder simulator", CAIR linked to Rebekah Valentine's recent article for IGN on the game, "Six Days in Fallujah Is Complicated and Painful For Those Connected to the Real Events," and an article from Turkish-state owned news outlet TRT World, "Six Days in Fallujah reveals the gaming industry's Islamophobia problem."

In its statement, CAIR said game would "only normalise violence against Muslims in America and around the world".

"The gaming industry must stop dehumanising Muslims," CAIR spokesperson Huzaifa Shahbaz said. "Video games like Six Days in Fallujah only serve to glorify violence that took the lives of hundreds of Iraqi civilians, justify the Iraq war, and reinforce anti-Muslim sentiment at a time when anti-Muslim bigotry continues to threaten human life."

Six Days in Fallujah re-emerged in February, 11 years after it was ditched by publisher Konami following significant criticism from the mainstream press. Controversy surrounding the game immediately reignited over its setting and portrayals of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and Peter Tamte, boss of developer Victura, was forced into a public U-turn over comments the game would not be a "political statement either way". Re-framed as a shooter with "documentary segments" and now "inseparable from politics", Victura attempted to get its PR campaign back on track, though things were derailed once more by a widely-criticised first reveal of its gameplay.

"We call on Microsoft, Sony and Valve to ban their platforms from hosting Six Days in Fallujah," CAIR wrote. We've contacted Microsoft, Sony and Valve for comment.
 

Kyo Cobran

Lv. 25 Adventurer
AKA
Jim Kyo
#8
I wonder how those who argue this point would then reckon with the atrocities that those same defenders may have participated in against their own people. I can’t really defend anybody in this case and thankfully it’s not my job to, but I do wonder what would happen if a game was made from the opposite side.
That's a very interesting thought, like a game where you play a resident of Fallujah defending against American invaders.

I think the underlying assumption that the defenders in Fallujah would have participated in atrocities against their own people is a moot point. Historically, people so often use that to rationalize their own unwelcomed, unwarranted and unproductive acts of aggression. It's basically saying, "Well, those folks would have killed themselves anyways, so we *really* didn't mess things up too bad, right?" The Japanese said the same things about their actions in China, "Well, ultimately were doing China a favor, since the Nationalists and the Communists would have killed the each other anyways." Right-wing Islamists and the People's Republic of China use similar rationalizations to justify their animosity toward America "Look at how America treat its Black people, our 'interventions' would be doing America a favor..." and so forth. At the end of the day, the well-being of Iraqis was never a factor in why we went to war to Iraq so what the Iraqis would or would have done to each other is really irrelevant.

And because of that, I don't think the fundamental morality of situation changes. Putting yourself in a Fallujah civilian's shoes - you'd be living your life until one day until a bunch of soldiers from literally the other side of the world come and destroy you home, neighborhood, family and friends and tell you it's because a group of terrorists from two countries over attacked them, so that's why they are attacking you.

A game made from the opposite side would still be a game of you defending your home from invaders.
 
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KindOfBlue

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Blue
#9
That's a very interesting thought, like a game where you play a resident of Fallujah defending against American invaders.

I think the underlying assumption that the defenders in Fallujah would have participated in atrocities against their own people is a moot point. Historically, people so often use that to rationalize their own unwelcomed, unwarranted and unproductive acts of aggression. It's basically saying, "Well, those folks would have killed themselves anyways, so we *really* didn't mess things up too bad, right?" The Japanese said the same things about their actions in China, "Well, ultimately were doing China a favor, since the Nationalists and the Communists would have killed the each other anyways." Right-wing Islamists and the People's Republic of China use similar rationalizations to justify their animosity toward America "Look at how America treat its Black people, our 'interventions' would be doing America a favor..." and so forth. At the end of the day, the well-being of Iraqis was never a factor in why we went to war to Iraq so what the Iraqis would or would have done to each other is really irrelevant.

And because of that, I don't think the fundamental morality of situation changes. Putting yourself in a Fallujah civilian's shoes - you'd be living your life until one day until a bunch of soldiers from literally the other side of the world come and destroy you home, neighborhood, family and friends and tell you it's because a group of terrorists from two countries over attacked them, so that's why they are attacking you.

A game made from the opposite side would still be a game of you defending your home from invaders.
I think it’s hard to really pinpoint what the “opposite side” is in this case considering there’s civilians but also several militant groups involved, each with their own interests. For a civilian who’s town was terrorized by Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi presence or by loyalists to Saddam Hussein, I don’t know if minimizing those atrocities would be any less distasteful than the minimizing of American atrocities. Of course, my general opinion is that we did more harm than good by going in, but I think painting any “side” as inherently good is doomed to fall into similar issues of morality. I think most people would agree that the Nazis were the bad guys in WWII for instance, but we rarely hear of the American atrocities whenever the subject is covered in media. But they happened, somebody suffered for it, and that suffering is often overshadowed for somebody else’s sake. Is it worth it for the greater good? Depends on who you are in this situation I suppose.

So I don’t know if I can say it’s irrelevant to account for the Iraqis who were killing each other because if the goal is to create as honest a portrayal as possible, I would hope that a project like this would set the standard by not minimizing any atrocities, not just the ones that make one side look better or worse than the other because we need to fit into this video game model of “us good, them bad.” I’d say give the player a choice as to who to ally with and be as honest as possible with the consequences. Help the Coalition? Fight alongside other insurgents? Join a terror group? Just worry about your family? Maybe the player should be the one to decide what’s “right”, but the consequences should be as honest as possible?
 

Makoeyes987

Listen closely, there is meaning in my words.
AKA
Smooth Criminal
#10
How about the real question..

Why do we need video games to romanticize and comodify real life fucking war?

I've never understood even the premise of these games. Fiction/fantasy is one thing, but why dilute something as violent, ugly, tragic and horrific like the reality of a war by making it a video game experience? But, I'll happily concede that's my personal opinion.

But let's be clear. This game isn't like Call of Duty WWII or the numerous other games derived from past 20th century conflicts the US fought with allies to stop a world threat. The Iraq War doesn't even carry the justification or moral premise of a "just war." It was one of the most destructive, horrific and ridiculous foreign policy mistakes based on a lie. People fucking died horrifically, tragically and unjustly in Fallujah. Why? War crimes were committed to invade Iraq for a lie. Why?

Why do we need a game romanticizing, justifying and essentially propagandizing a perfect distillation of "forever war?" Washing the Iraq War through pop culture consciousness through a tone deaf and insensitive video game is so disgusting to me, I seriously can't believe this even got green lit. These people were real. They aren't zombies in a fictional African country having to be stopped by the BSAA to prevent a global zombie parasite pandemic.

This a game about a war based on lies where you play the role of the invading US forces and attack people in their country. And that's somehow a game that's meant to be fun and entertaining. I don't get this at all.

But then again this is 2021, so no I'm not really that surprised.
 

Kyo Cobran

Lv. 25 Adventurer
AKA
Jim Kyo
#11
I’m not trying to minimize the horrible things that Al-Qaeda or Saddam did. You are absolutely right – they did happen, someone suffered unjustly and their story needs to be told, but you can’t have that honest portrayal without putting these into perspective relative to everything else going on at the time.

Basically, I’m saying this: “All sides are equally bad” can be just as destructively reductionist as “X are the good guys and Y are the bad guys.”

When I said the intra-Iraqi potential for violence was irrelevant, what I was saying was that in 2002, there was no one doing anything in Iraq that was comparable to the hell we brought upon them. So, it doesn’t really change the moral calculus of the situation. There was no Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq before the US invasion and Saddam Hussein’s genocidal heyday had largely abated after the 1991 Gulf War when we set up the demilitarized zones in the north and south. No matter how you cut it there just was no reason for us to be there, and the ends didn’t justify the means because there were no good ends to justify the means.

Had this been Bosnia, Kosovo, WWII, or even Gulf War 1991, the pre-existing local violence would be “relevant” in the sense that our role actually did wind up stopping active atrocities going on without being overshadowed by our own “atrocities.”

Which all goes back, to quote Makoeyes987, “the real question”: There is no way you can redeem the American role in the Iraq War so why even bother? The Iraq War is a sad historical lesson that America, for all the great things we have done, is just as capable of doing terrible things as any other people. That’s a lesson we need to recognize if we want to prevent more unnecessary bloodshed. At this point there isn't anything I can't say better than what @Makoeyes987 has already said other than this game tries to take that lesson away which only makes it easier for us to repeat the mistake.
 

KindOfBlue

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Blue
#12
I would say that a video game has the potential to be a pretty powerful and unique way to shed light on the experience, depending on the motivations and the execution of course. Will this be the game that makes people really think about how American foreign policy screws over the rest of the world? Probably not, or if so, maybe unintentionally. I figure in the devs’ minds, they’re not making a game from the perspective of the politicians actually responsible for starting this war but rather people who were ordered into a shitty situation because of a culture that encouraged them to do so. Is the effect of the U.S. propaganda machine also going to be touched up in this game? Again, probably not, or accidentally at best.

But what if somebody covered those topics intentionally? Not that I think this game will do so, but I guess what I’m saying here is that the medium of video games does present a unique opportunity that the right people need to use the right way. Personally, I thought Spec Ops: The Line was a noble effort but overrated. I appreciate what it tried to do, but I tend to groan when a video game chastises its audience for making decisions that the player is forced to do.

I feel like direct and optional interactions with civilians is probably the best way to comment on the larger themes of the war, though much like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), I don’t think accidentally shooting a civilian for example will carry much consequences in this game. As far as I can tell, the devs are primarily concerned with accurately portraying the story that was told to them by the people who were there, not by the pencil pushers who can sit behind a comfy desk and sign other people’s children off to die. Whether those stories include specific atrocities remains to be seen, I suppose.

A miniseries like Generation Kill, a show about real Marines during the invasion of Iraq, actually manages to present the war as matter-of-factually as possible. The series doesn’t shy away from incompetent officers, civilian casualties, abusing POWs, pro-war propaganda etc. and despite being told from the aggressor’s perspective, the individual Marines are not treated as heroes, hell, some of these people are downright despicable.

So I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong in making a game out of something like this, it just depends on how it’s presented. Typically, games are a medium in which the player is made to feel like they’ve accomplished a goal, and that may not always translate well to certain video game narratives. War on the surface makes for a perfect setting when you can convince the player that the people they kill are 100% evil, which is where I think Modern Warfare failed in its “moral ambiguity”. So I would say no, we don’t need a game like this to exist. But we don’t need anything to exist really, so to me it’s kind of a pointless question. We don’t need anything, but it sure does make buttloads of money.

What’s interesting about WWII to me is although I do agree that it is a war that needed to be fought, would that justify the manner in which the war ended with the atomic bombing of Japan? Although we never play as the people who carry out the bombing in these games, are we still not supporting the side who carried out this act against primarily civilians and also imprisoned Japanese-Americans in internment? Do the ends justify the means? It’s a pretty old debate, on whether or not the atomic bomb was justified in preventing the need for an invasion of mainland Japan, but one that I wish a WWII game was bold enough to address. I’ve got no issue with considering Nazi Germany the absolute closest to pure evil as one can get and I don’t mean to draw moral equivalence, but do we perform similar acts of erasure by letting our own faults go unchallenged as well?

How about when a game presents an unnamed or fictional Middle Eastern country, conveniently erasing the identity of the people and the real-world politics behind the conflicts? How much less messed up is that than using a real war, when both can ultimately be tools for propaganda? And so I guess the most consistent viewpoint to have is that it’s all messed up and none of it should exist, but I can’t pretend I haven’t enjoyed these games for years either. Blowing shit up is fun in games, and while I agree this game is probably in poor taste (and I say probably because it’s not out yet), I don’t think it’s always as clear as it might be for this game as it is for other games just when we “cross the line”. So if nothing else, I’m interested in what kind of conversations this could bring in terms of how we treat war in video games.
 

Kyo Cobran

Lv. 25 Adventurer
AKA
Jim Kyo
#13
1) Holy shit! You can type and articulate your ideas far far FAR faster than me. I'm in awe.

2) I'm going to have to re-read what you said several times to really process it. There are a lot of great thoughts and really hard questions in your post. Hard questions that really rally my emotions, yet, I just don't have good answers too either.

3) One thing that stands out to me in your last post is what you said about "video games having the potential to be a powerful and unique way to shed light on the experience." I totally agree. Not only that, I would go further and say that video games especially with how immersive they are nowadays are perhaps *the most powerful medium* to influence people's thoughts and ideas, short of lived experience.

I think I'm going to take a step outside now, breathe in some fresh air and contemplate how what you said can be achieved. I probably still won't have any idea but it will be eye-opening nonetheless.
 

KindOfBlue

Pro Adventurer
AKA
Blue
#14
1) Holy shit! You can type and articulate your ideas far far FAR faster than me. I'm in awe.

2) I'm going to have to re-read what you said several times to really process it. There are a lot of great thoughts and really hard questions in your post. Hard questions that really rally my emotions, yet, I just don't have good answers too either.

3) One thing that stands out to me in your last post is what you said about "video games having the potential to be a powerful and unique way to shed light on the experience." I totally agree. Not only that, I would go further and say that video games especially with how immersive they are nowadays are perhaps *the most powerful medium* to influence people's thoughts and ideas, short of lived experience.

I think I'm going to take a step outside now, breathe in some fresh air and contemplate how what you said can be achieved. I probably still won't have any idea but it will be eye-opening nonetheless.
It was a great discussion, it’s exactly the kind of conversation I’ve been looking for! I wish I had all the answers myself because I grew up on military games and still enjoy them to this day admittedly but I think it’s fascinating to reexamine this stuff at a critical level now that I’m older.

Not to put too much more on your plate but I saw this analysis of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (I can’t remember if it was a YouTube comment or a video or something) but it basically offered an interpretation of the game that almost unintentionally criticizes American foreign policy. A friggin’ Call of Duty game, of all things.

Where the main villain of the game is an American general who instigates World War III between the U.S. and Russia by backing a falseflag operation in which Russian terrorists posing as Americans appeared to attack a Russian airport, all so he can achieve power and glory by stopping the Russians himself.

I can’t place whether or not the game was meant to be a critique, not that I would’ve really noticed considering I was a kid when the game released but I don’t recall too many people talking about the message of the game at the time it came out. I think the controversy behind the “No Russian” mission kind of overshadowed any meaningful discussion as to what that mission actually represents.

And I hesistate to say “represents” because I don’t know if that was it’s intended purpose but I feel there’s something poignant about just letting the truth speak for itself. I’m fully expecting Six Days in Fallujah to not be the kind of story I would like even if I do like the gameplay, so I’m still waiting for that military game that really just rips the warmongering politicians a new one.

My heart goes out to the civilians caught in the middle but I do have some empathy for the troops too even if they did sign up to be there. Here in the States, we make college ridiculously expensive but then promise it’s all covered if you serve. Not to mention how much propaganda is out there and how poorly we take care of our vets when we’re done with them. It’s a job that should be carried with honor and dignity but is tainted by the people who write the checks.

I guess what I want is a less tongue-in-cheek but still scathing video game version of stuff like this (just as long as it’s not pretentious as hell about it, I think I’d RATHER play a war crime simulator than watch first-worlders jerk themselves off over how anti-war they are lmao)
 

Kyo Cobran

Lv. 25 Adventurer
AKA
Jim Kyo
#21
@KindOfBlue

So, I've had some time to thing about your idea: A realistic military FPS that can be convincingly anti-war without coming across like, "a bunch of first-worlders jerking off to how anti-war they are."

And my short answer is, no, it can't be done. Okay, maybe, it's not impossible but it is profoundly unlikely to make an impact on anyone and it will inevitably come across as a "a bunch of first-worlders jerking off to how anti-war they are" or it'll be too subtle that the intended audience will miss it.

I can boil it down to two sets of reasons: marketing/demographics and game mechanistic reasons.

Most of people who predominantly only play Realistic Military FPSs (I'll call these games war sims because easier) don't really care about the human cost of war. It's too abstract a concept for that market to grasp. War Sim players just aren't interested in war games that make war look bad. The few that would generally tend to also play diverse genres would already have some critical understanding of war so they'd find the game thematically redundant to their already pre-existing values and experiences (and thus preachy).

So that sums up the marketing reason. Now let me be clear, I'm not saying that War Sim players are bellicose violent people. It's just the human consequences of war aren't enough of a priority to them to find a game that features that alluring *in that context.* Like, I don't hate farming and I conceptually understand the critical importance of farming in my life but farming is not appealing enough on its own to me to want to play Farm Simulator.

Then there are the game mechanic reasons. You already hit on that point earlier when you said, games that punishing you for doing what the game forces you to do makes you groan. And yeah, I totally know what you're talking about. I absolutely fucking hate most "karma systems" in violent open world games. Like, the game's okay with me acting with complete disregard for civilians in missions but suddenly in free-play mode, the game suddenly develops a conscious? It just seem arbitrary and lazy. It's, like, right before releasing a game, the developers suddenly realized they wanted you to exercise moral judgment but were too lazy to redesign the game around that so they just stuck a "karma system" so they feel less douchy to themselves.

Well, the thing applies to war sim games. Why the fuck would you punish players for killing Brown People in the desert when you literally designed the game to kill Brown People in the desert? "Here let's make you a US soldier, give you a gun, tell you there's a war going on, and make the civilians and terrorists equally as two-dimensional and expendable as possible. Like, can you imagine if GTA punished you for speeding?

The only way you could really do that well is if the entire genre consistently inserted anti-war themes basically - like the vast majority of war games you could play forced you to consider the collateral suffering of war so often that you basically have accepted that as part of the genre - and through that, your understanding of war in general. AND it implausible to expect a genre-wide cultural shift if there is no demand for anti-war war sim games (which of course is a circular trap - people don't wanna play anti-war war sim games so developers have to incentive to make anti-war war sim games which of course doesn't do anything to shift the views of the people who don't want to play war sim games, rinse and repeat.)

I guess you could *make* an objectively good anti-war war sim game but you'd have to rework the game's mechanics so much to make the internal morality of the game consistent and logical that it wouldn't really be a war sim game anymore - and thus no longer have an impact on the intended audience.

To distill everything into something really basic: Think of Duck Hunt. How can you make a duck hunting game make me sympathize with the duck?

If you can figure that out, you've figured out the answer to your question.
 
AKA
Blue
#22
Very good and thoughtful points here @Kyo Cobran I really appreciate your replies! It’s interesting with military-themed games because you got your typical action shooters like Call of Duty and then you have full-on simulators like ARMA that are not nearly as accessible because of the emphasis on realism. They’re very slow-paced and tactical, fights take place over huge open spaces where you can hardly ever see who you’re shooting at, and you can die in one hit in the most unremarkable ways possible.

I mean, compare something like this...

...to something like this...

...and you could probably guess which game might be more marketable. In a way, the first game almost takes the “fun” out of war through its gameplay (unless you fall into that market of tactical shooters that this kind of game appeals to, which is pretty small compared to the casual audience) and presents something a lot less spectacular or cinematic.

It reminds me of Generation Kill, an HBO miniseries that I cannot recommend enough. It’s based on the account of a reporter who was embedded with the USMC during the invasion of Iraq, and has been largely considered by veterans to be one of the most accurate depictions of war. What I love about it’s realism is how it’s conveyed not as much through shock and horror (though that’s definitely in there), but because it makes the war seem like such a stupid waste of time.

There’s very little actual combat in the miniseries compared to most war films, characters spend more time just waiting for something to happen while following pointless orders, descisions are regularly questioned, and shit just...happens. No overdramatic swells of music, no ham-fisted dialogue, it’s very accurately jargon-heavy to the point where it gets pretty difficult for casual civilian audiences to follow. Officers regularly make awful calls, civilian villages get blown up, children get gunned down, some troops say racist things and spew pro-war propaganda while others are more empathetic, and the way it’s all presented is so matter-of-fact rather than being over-dramatic that it makes war seem like a bad idea not for how horrible it is, but for how pointless it all seems.

It’s by far not something that seems intent on winning an Emmy or an Oscar by virtue of just how unfriendly it is to general audiences with its heavy military lingo, slow pace, and overall lack of dramatics. So I guess what that show does for military-based TV and film, I’d like to see that in a game. Of course, I absolutely agree with you that a game like that won’t be very marketable so I guess all I can do is hope and pray somebody is bold enough to go there. I could maybe see a cult following forming around a game like that much like how Spec Ops: The Line has some of the most generic shooter gameplay possible yet many flock to it for its story.

I guess Six Days in Fallujah is also going for realism in its gameplay which I can appreciate, it’s just the story itself and how it’s communicated through gameplay is where the most potential for problems can arise. A fictional story with parallels to real life like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) is a pretty good way to comment on real-life politics while also having flexibility, it’s just that the game kinda drops the ball by
- Rewriting an actual war crime committed by Americans and blaming it on the Russians
- Deliberately having the terrorist leader in one of the first scenes specifically note “this war is not for our faith” so as to not offend the Islamic community, unintentionally minimizing a very crucial aspect of how the acts of groups like ISIS threaten other Muslims more than anybody else
- Flirting with moral ambiguity but making the good guys and bad guys very clearly obvious
- Being really linear with its storytelling
- Including the ability to shoot unarmed civilians at key moments but not really having much to say about it aside from your CO scolding you before quickly moving on
- Trying to be “ripped from the headlines” but still not having the balls to take place in a real Middle Eastern country

Making civilian interactions just as important as interactions with enemies would be the way to go here but rather than using them as props, make them influential to how the rest of the game responds to you. Instead of just two arbitrary endings, one good and one bad, maybe have each individual choice have consequences like having civilians respond to your presence based on how well you treat them? I really like how thoroughly the choice system in Detroit: Become Human influences the outcome of the story so perhaps something akin to that but as a tactical shooter? I’d even go as far as having the whole game be playable without killing anybody and making it possible to disobey orders, with the game mechanics and story actually responding to this in a way that actually matters but is realistic.

More to my point about being masturbatory, I think the delivery of these themes is what would make it or break it for me. A story flat out telling me “you see, look at how horrible this is! Isn’t this horrible? Huh? Huh?! The horror...the horror...” almost feels out of touch because of how dramaticized it makes everything feels. I think I like the “here it is, no Hollywood gimmicks, just make what you want of it” approach provided that the game doesn’t go out of its way to be disengenous. In other words, if you want to be “apolitical” by not telling me what to think, at least be honest enough to show everything.
 
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