Game puts players in Kerry's boat

Latest outing from military game firm re-creates Vietnam battle that earned presidential candidate the silver star.

Just where was that boat in relation to the Cambodian border? And how deep did that shrapnel penetrate?

Military game specialist will let players make up their own answers in a couple of weeks, when it releases a new adventure based on presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam War service.

"Silver Star" will be the latest in a string of missions for "Kuma War," an ongoing game based on historical events. The Kerry mission, to be released Sept. 30, centers on the Feb. 28, 1969, battle that earned the presidential candidate the nation's second-highest military honor, while he commanded a Navy "swift boat" in the Mekong Delta.

Kerry's Vietnam experience, particularly the incidents of Feb. 28, have been the subject of continuing controversy since a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began circulating ads and other material questioning Kerry's service.

Sarah Anderson, vice president of marketing for Kuma, said the company's simulation is based on military records accompanying Kerry's award of the Silver Star. By putting players in the line of fire, voters can settle their minds on the nature of Kerry's actions, she said.

"There's been so much rancor about the whole thing, and we saw an opportunity to use our tools to offer a unique perspective on events," Anderson said. "We think once you're in John Kerry's shoes, driving a swift boat up the river, you'll have a different perspective of those events."

"Kuma War," Kuma's main product, is a game engine available for download from the company's Web site. The company releases three new missions for the game each month. Players sign up for a $10-a-month subscription that gives them access to all previous and new missions.

Each mission includes a playable game portion and a video segment, in which military experts and other commentators explain the circumstances of the actual battle on which the game is based. The Kerry mission will include remarks both from Kerry backers and the Swift Boat Veterans group.

The company has released about 20 missions to date, most based on recent battles involving U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We're trying to take events we feel are important--that have some historical significance...and match that with something we can use our tools to re-create," Anderson said. "We're pretty much an adjunct to the news."

Anderson said Kuma had no plans at present for a mission based on President Bush's National Guard service.

Video games have become an increasingly popular arena in which to play out campaign issues this year, with titles offering everything from in-depth political strategy to Dick Cheney boxing.

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