The videogame Six Days in Fallujah was announced more than ten years ago. Billed as a tactical shooter, it was in development by Atomic Games and was due to be released by Japan’s Konami. The project didn’t go beyond presentation because it was overwhelmed by a sea of criticism. Staging in a video game the capture of the Iraqi city in November 2004, in which white phosphorus weapons were used and in which 107 soldiers of the Anglo-American coalition, 1,200 Iraqi guerrillas and, according to an estimate by the Red Cross, about 800 civilians at the time at least a questionable choice had appeared, which was also opposed by the relatives of the Anglo-American victims.
Even today the battle of Fallujah is seen by a part of public opinion as an act of extraordinary violence and ferocity: it is therefore difficult to understand why the game Six Days in Fallujah has been dusted off by Highwire Games, a studio founded by the lead designer of Halo e Destiny, supported by the publisher Victura.
Officially re-launched a few weeks ago, it is proposed as a game that wants to treat war differently than usual, in a realistic way and without making it spectacular. To achieve this goal, many civilians and soldiers who lived through the tragic days of Fallujah were heard. A laudable intent, except that their project can hardly be separated from politics, even according to a first statement by Victura’s spokesperson who declared that the aim of the game is not, in any way, to create a political chronicle of the taking of the Iraqi city.
The publisher’s stance has brought back the age-old question of how much a video game can deal with political issues and how much this intention can make a title like neutral be considered neutral. Six Days in Fallujah. The limit of Victura’s statement came to light when Neil Druckmann, Vice President of Naughty Dog and Director of The Last of Us II, underlined how extremely important it is for a video game that chooses to represent a sensitive context, to deal with the subject thoroughly.
In the case of Six Days in Fallujah reconstructing the context without mentioning, for example, the use of unconventional weapons by the Anglo-American contingent would be a serious omission. Druckmann’s statement sparked a chain reaction on social media, reaching moments that, if it weren’t an extremely serious topic, would be hilarious.
In a tweet, a user pointed out to Druckmann that, according to him, it is possible to make great video games without them being political. In support of his position he posted an image depicting four titles: Far Cry 3, Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice, Hello e Spec Ops The Line.
To make his position even more tragicomic, this user could also have cited BioShock Infinite, but it was enough Spec Ops: The Line, one of the most political triple A titles made in the history of the medium, in which the damage produced by the white phosphorus enters a scene of chilling rawness in which the gamer cannot afford neutrality. In which the judgment by those who made the game is clear.
Furthermore, the user in question did not realize that all the games he enunciated, even if they cannot be defined as militants such as those made for example by Playdead, have social and political contents. The lack of understanding, on the part of the users, of the subtexts present in many video games highlights how difficult it is still today to convey some messages. The image posted by the user provoked a discouraged reply from Druckmann who responded with: “But those games are… sigh. I give up. You won”.
The very independent and very committed developer Rami Ismail also took part in the heated discussion on Twitter; Alanah Pearce of Santa Monica Studio, Cory Barlog, director of God of War. Finally, the screenwriter of Spec Ops: The Line, Walt Williams, undecided whether to laugh or cry over the comment just read.
Of course, the positions within the videogame community are not univocal, there are directors of important studios who argue that videogames must be free from political content, especially if aimed at the general public, millions of people with different sensitivities.
A few weeks after Victura’s first statement and subsequent social discussion, the publisher appears to have partly changed its stance. In a statement, the founder and CEO of the company, Peter Tamte, stated that the narrative of Six Days in Fallujah it is inseparable from some political content.
To respond to criticisms accusing the game of wanting to represent the conflict from the Anglo-American point of view alone, thus giving a partial and biased version of events, Tamte replied that the stories of Six Days in Fallujah they are told through gameplay and documentary material in which service personnel and civilians who have had different experiences and therefore have different points of view on the Second Gulf War participated.
The publisher reports that the testimonials will provide the player with a plurality of views on the clash, with different points of view. It also seems that if there are no white phosphorus weapons in the game, they will be mentioned in the documentary materials. A balancing act aimed at removing the game from the propaganda accusations made by various sides, a dexterity that, rather than politics, could be defined as politically correct.