Monday, May 4, 2009

Six Days in Fallujah

Like many others with their fingers on the pulse of the gaming industry, I was appropriately intrigued by the recently announced game, Six Days in Fallujah, but for reasons different than the average gamer or developer.

From the screenshots, the graphics looked surprisingly pedestrian.

When described as a survival/horror style game, I didn't think that I'd really enjoy the gameplay all that much.

What did intrigue me about the game was its subject matter. It was a pretty bold move to chose to use a very specific engagement in the Second Iraq War as the basis of your game, particularly when the Second Iraq War draws such heated responses from both sides of the political spectrum. But it wasn't just the subject matter that got my attention, rather, it was the response to the fact that this was a game, about a real and recent event, that got my attention.

A great majority of the feedback was wholly negative. The event was "too recent" and that the game would "do a disservice to the men who fought and died there."

The first point is debatable, and the second is the real crux of the complaint. Clearly, games are more than childish playthings at this point: the Nintendo Generation is now over 30 years of age. The Playstation 1 generation of kids has graduated college and entering the workforce, and the PS2 generation is nearly there.

Gaming, as a medium of artistic expression, is here and holds relevance for those that have grown up with it. It is more than a child's play thing, though, there is much of gaming that fills that role.

The general response of "disservice to those that died" is clearly made under the false assumption that games are not art. But if we are to be considered art, like film, cinema and literature, developers need to be able to take on controversial topics - like the War in Iraq - and do so without worrying about publishers pulling the plug.

To put it another way: if "Six Days in Fallujah" had been a movie, would we even be having this discussion? Obviously not. Atomic is making a serious game, on a serious subject matter, using a significant and recent event as the backdrop. That alone, for those like me that enjoy serious games and see games as an art form, is enough to pique my interest and hope to see the game on the shelf.

Will the game be any good? I don't know. I hope it is. More importantly, I hope it does treat the subject matter seriously and not put it into any sort of political context. You can tell the story of Fallujah without any NeoCon or Liberal spin - simply putting the player into the battle, and tell the stories of the men around them (ala Brothers in Arms) should be compelling and engrossing enough.

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