Can games be journalism? Take a look at Exhibit A: JFK Reloaded, from now-defunct Scottish game studio Traffic Management Games.
It’s a first-person shooter designed to accurately model what happened at about half-past noon on November 22, 1963. You are in the position of Lee Harvey Oswald – on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, with a scoped rifle. The presidential motorcade turns the corner. Zoom in. Crosshairs on a face. Now what?
The game is designed to be an accurate reconstruction of what happened that day. The ballistics model is supposed to be top-notch, and the behaviour of the people in the sim, on the whole, is quite good. If you’re used to sniping in a first-person shooter game, it’s not so hard to score a head-shot on JFK in the slow-moving motorcade. But it is very difficult to replicate what happened in reality that day: three shots, killing the President and wounding the governor, leaving everyone else unharmed.
If you are very good (and rather lucky), you can replicate the exact pattern of shots and injuries that were reported in the Warren Commission’s report after the assassination – no gunman on the grassy knoll, no conspiracy.
Effectively, you could see JFK Reloaded as a piece of journalism proving that Lee Harvey Oswald could have acted alone. When it was released, amid the vitriolic controversy, its makers claimed that this is what it was all about.
Is JFK Reloaded journalism?
It’s graphic in its violence and questionable in its morality – but how is it different from this?
I’m curious to see what you think. But play it first: you can download it for free.