Atomic Games is teaming with Konami to release a “gameamentary” about the real-life Battle of Fallujah.
UPDATED: Six Days in Fallujah has been dropped by Konami, after a storm of controversy from veterans and veterans’ associations. Atomic is still working on the game, but without a publisher at this time. I agree that this is a sensitive issue, but I don’t think the game should have been dropped . . . See Matt Peckham for a good look at the implications.
UPDATED: the idea for the game came from the veterans who fought in the battle, themselves, because that is the entertainment medium they know — said [Konami’s] senior brand manager John Choon, “The soldiers wanted to tell their stories through a game because that’s what they grew up playing.” (from Serious Games Source)
The video game is a third-person, squad-based shooter game that aims to re-create the battle as accurately as possible. That’s a screenshot you see there. Game features include realistic destructable environments, which is likely to add a compelling dimension to the gameplay.
Like Atomic‘s excellent Close Combat series of video games, this one is designed with accuracy and realism in mind. In fact, Peter Tamte, Atomic’s president, describes Six Days in Fallujah as a new kind of documentary.
“For us, games are not just toys. If you look at how music, television and films have made sense of the complex issues of their times, it makes sense to do that with videogames.”
The developers based their game world on real-life satellite photography, and took the textures, lighting and look from stacks of photos taken by soldiers on site. Like Insurgency, it’s been made with extensive participation from the people who know the source material best: Atomic has over thirty soldier advisors on the team.
I know Atomic’s products quite well, as the Close Combat series of games engrossed me for many a night when I should have been revising or preparing term papers. They’ve deservedly earned a reputation for accuracy and realism. They’re the right developers for the job. I’ll be waiting for this one. If it works, it’ll show us all what gaming journalism could be.
Of course, making a game about real war – and a recent one, at that – raises all sorts of real questions. Close Combat was based on battles that happened 50 years ago, but less than a decade has passed since Fallujah. One of this game’s biggest challenges will be sensitively and appropriately dealing with things like this.
In parts of the “game-amentary,” as the developers of “Six Days” have called it, users are forced to make hard choices. In one opening sequence, an enemy bursts from a door without a weapon in hand. Players can decide if this character qualifies as a hostile and can act accordingly. Whether you choose to shoot the unarmed person will drastically change your experience with the game and will be heavily based on the player’s own support or objections to the war. Those personal feelings are complicated by the need to survive to succeed in the game.
That’s the added value from this kind of journalism: recreating a real situation in a game forces you to make decisions, to become involved in the situation. You become involved in a way you never would if you were just watching a doc on it. As Will Wright said, only a game can make you feel guilty, or proud – no other medium can do that.
You can read more about the game in the Wall Street Journal. Their headline reads “Iraq, the Videogame. War is hell. Should it be a game?”
I say, hell yes. There’s too much at stake for us not to engage with subjects like this through games.