Is it too soon for a realistic Iraq War game?

Konami appears to have ditched controversial title Six Days in Fallujah over a U.S. outcry. But was the reaction to the game's reported content justified?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
5 min read

Updated at 9:30 a.m. PDT Wednesday to add comment from Konami.

Reports surfaced on Monday that video game company Konami won't be publishing a title from Atomic Games called Six Days in Fallujah.

According to a report by Japanese newspaper Asahi, which cited an unnamed public-relations representative, the negative reaction to the game compelled Konami to drop it. (Editors' note: the report is now missing from the Asahi Web site. Konami spokeswoman Marisa Gross confirms that "Konami will not be publishing Six Days in Fallujah," and the game title is missing from Konami's listed lineup.)

Six Days in Fallujah
Six Days in Fallujah creates controversy. GameSpot

"After seeing the reaction to the video game in the United States, and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it," the unnamed source told Asahi. "We had intended to convey the reality of the battles to players so that they could feel what it was like to be there."

Six Days in Fallujah takes players to the infamous battle waged in Iraq in 2004. The game is based on documentation, including videos, photographs, and diary entries, taken from veterans of the battle.

The battle for Fallujah claimed the lives of 38 U.S. troops and approximately 1,500 Iraqis. But whether or not Six Days in Fallujah is really appropriate is up for debate. After the game was first announced, outcry erupted all over the U.S. Konami and Atomic Games were facing off against veterans and those who lost loved ones in the battle.

Gold Star families speak out
In a press release sent to reporters three weeks ago, an organization for Americans who lost loved ones in battle called Gold Star Families Speak Out "expressed outrage" over the possible release of Six Days in Fallujah.

"Gold Star families continue to live with the horrors of war every day, as we mourn the loss of our loved ones," the organization said in a statement. "We question how anyone can trivialize a war that continues to kill and maim members of the military and Iraqi civilians to this day."

Joanna Polisena, sister of Army Staff Sergeant Edward Carman, who was killed in action in 2004, said that "when our loved one's 'health meter' dropped to '0', they didn't get to 'retry' the mission. When they took a bullet, they didn't just get to pick up a health pack and keep 'playing.' They suffered, they cried, they died. We, their parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends, absolutely find it disgusting and repulsive that those so far detached (and clinging to denial of reality) find it so easy to poke fun at such a thing."

Atomic Games expected that reaction. The company's creative director, Juan Benito, told Joystiq in a recent interview that "there will be a broad range of reactions and opinions on the experience...For some, they may have fun. We are recreating and presenting these events, and people, I think, will have their own individual reactions to it, and those will be across the board. And that's what we want."

The annals of history
But for many, hoping to spur individual reactions isn't acceptable.

Reg Keys, a man who lost his son in the battle for Fallujah, told the United Kingdom's Daily Mail that "glorifying it in a video game demonstrates very poor judgment and bad taste. These horrific events should be confined to the annals of history, not trivialized and rendered for thrill seekers to play out, over and over again, forevermore."

Tim Collins, a former colonel in the Royal Irish Regiment who fought in Fallujah, was equally disturbed by the game. Collins claims that "it's much too soon to start making video games about a war that's still going on, and an extremely flippant response to one of the most important events in modern history. It's particularly insensitive, given what happened in Fallujah, and I will certainly oppose the release of this game."

Veteran support
Although Collins has strong feelings about the game, there are some veterans who support its release.

G4 Media sat down with some veterans from the battle, who said Six Days in Fallujah should be published. They didn't see any issues with its content.

"As a combat veteran and as a gamer, I have no problem whatsoever with the game," Sergeant Casey J. McGeorge told the network. "As long as it's made as realistically as possible, I believe that this could be a good thing for both combat veterans and for the war in general."

Former Sergeant Kevin Smith told the network that he hopes the game will "bolster support for military veterans by giving civilians insight into what this war was actually like for them." He went on to say that he hopes the game "receives positive press and encourages more empathy towards veterans after gamers have experienced what they have gone through."

Unexpected revelation
But what about those who were on the other side of the battle? In an interview with Joystiq, Six Days in Fallujah's developer let slip a revelation that has infuriated some: Atomic Games consulted insurgents to create an ultrarealistic rendition of the battlefield.

"It's important for us to say, you know, that there are actually three communities that are very affected by the battle for Fallujah," Atomic Games President, Peter Tamte told Joystiq. "Certainly the Marines. Certainly the Iraqi civilians within Fallujah, and the insurgents as well. We are actually getting contributions from all three of those communities so that we can get the kind of insight we're trying to get."

He went on to say that insurgents are "involved in the creation of the game. The game--the influences for the game--came from the Marines that returned from Fallujah. But quite frankly, in talking with them, many people would just like this to be a re-creation, and we can't re-create that without getting the perspectives of all the people who were involved."

As you might expect, not everyone was pleased to hear that insurgents played a role in the development of the title.

Dan Rosenthal, a veteran of the Iraq War, told GamePolitics that it's "absolutely unbelievable" that Atomic Games is "soliciting advice and input on how to best kill Marines in a game, from people who have worked to kill Marines in real life."

What's the verdict?
There's no shortage of controversy surrounding Six Days in Fallujah. But which side makes the most compelling argument? Is it too soon for a realistic Iraq War game that takes input from all sides? Is Six Days in Fallujah just plain wrong?

Let's hear what you think in the comments below.

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