Raid Gaza Makes a Point

There’s a nice little internet storm brewing up over Raid Gaza.

raidgazaIt’s an uber-simplified real -time strategy game where you play the Israelis. As missiles curl out of Gaza, you respond by building tanks, soldiers and aircraft to blast the densely populated slums. The goal is to get as high a kill ratio as possible in three minutes.

It’s classic procedural rhetoric: the game mechanics running the simulation intrinsically slant the experience towards the Palestinian side.  The tone is satirical, with a comic visual style and a Muzak-ed version of Burt Bacharach’s What the World Needs Now is Love for soundtrack.

Like many media artefacts dealing with the Israel/Palestine situation, this one has whipped up a shrapnel-storm of commentary. Here’s one from the NewGrounds forums:

kinda pro-palastinien

date: January 11, 2009

hmm, i’m israeli, and i love parody etc.
and this game was pretty funny

BUT, i expected a parody on both sides… silly me.
so it turns out into some kinda pro-palastinien “israel is massacering them” propaganda thing in the end imo…

it’s like… the missiles from gaza don’t land anywhere near shderot, while in reality, they land in kindergardens there (happend today for a fact).
israeli casualties are at a minimum since they go into shelters every 5 minutes.

anyway, i’m taking this too seriously i guess, but just look at the other comments… they take what they see in here as facts =/

What I like about this is that it proves the game is working. People are playing it, and they’re thinking about the issues it satirizes. That’s what I call effective political communication. The game has made a point, and people are arguing and debating it.

(Sure, most of the comments on Raid Gaza are more like “OMG WTF this gmae is so cral LOll1!” but I lay that down to Sturgeon’s Law.) I heartily encourage a read (not just a glance) of the comment feed for this game, and you’ll see that some people, like tom-boy above, are engaging with the subject at hand, some times in interesting ways.

Keith Stuart in the Guardian has waded  into the fray:

Reactions have been mixed. News site Kotaku clearly feels it’s in poor taste, but political gaming expert Ian Bogost writes that Raid Gaza is successful as a polemical attack on Israeli tactics.

At the heart of the debate is an ongoing question – are videogames an appropriate medium for political satire?

I think they are, and Stuart seems to think so, too. It’s interesting to see how people’s reactions are affected by the contemporary nature of the event. Mike Fahey of Kotaku thinks this game is in poor taste, but this year’s best-sellers included at least one game about WWII and another about mercenaries fighting for warlords in Africa. Pretty high body counts in both of those situations, I think. But there wasn’t any outcry.

Israel/Palestine is an issue that stokes people’s spirits, though. Any time someone publishes an article or broadcasts a video about it, the flame wars start. Fahey’s disgust and the disgust of the people commenting is less about the game itself and more about the issue. It means the game is working.

One thought on “Raid Gaza Makes a Point

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