The US military is well-known for being a propaganda machine. From pumping out dehumanizing attacks on foreign people and engineering regime changes; to outright attacks on foreign countries, the pace of US militarism is showing no signs of slowing. A lot of these propaganda pushes involve video games. Pretty much everyone remembers America’s Army, the military recruitment tool masquerading as a game. And that’s not the only time that the Department of Defense has engaged video games in an attempt to gussy up their public image. A more recent and offensive push involved the video game Six Days in Fallujah.
Six Days in Fallujah is a piece of propaganda, pure and simple. It purports to tell the struggles and “true stories of Marines, Soldiers, and Iraqi civilians who fought Al Qaeda during the toughest urban battle since 1968.”
During that same battle, more than 1,000 civilians had been killed by bombing and US military raids. It was counted as some of the most heinous destruction wrought by a single battle during the US-led Iraq invasion. So to see it gamified is beyond insulting, especially in this context.
And it’s pretty clear that this attempt at heroic portrayals was all a lie. The team behind the game at the governmental level, Destineer, has routinely partnered with the FBI and CIA to create training tools, and with Six Days in Fallujah, they wanted to gamify it. People really did not appreciate the brutal violence visited upon Iraq being portrayed as some heroic liberation.
This was the case all the way back in 2009 when the game was first supposed to release. Konami had partnered up to release the game, but pulled plans after the response was clear.
At the time, the Stop the War Coalition led a campaign among veterans and industry insiders to stop the game. “The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war,” spokesperson Tansy E Hoskins told TechRadar. The campaign worked and Konami pulled out.
“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.”
So what’s changed?
Destineer is no longer involved. Highwire Games—who includes talent that worked on the Halo and Infamous franchises— has picked up where Atomic left off, and is proceeding with the same tone and execution as the 2009 version. So in essence, nothing’s really changing. Victura, with Peter Tamte who worked on the original version, will be publisher. So expect the same soulless propaganda with a new coat of paint.
And to make it clear that the team behind it doesn’t give a crap that they’re making war-mongering propaganda, they put out a quite tone-deaf statement.
The team has come back with a direct rebuke of criticism saying, “When we originally announced Six Days in Fallujah in 2009, we learned that some people believe video games shouldn’t tackle real-life events. To these people, video games seem more like toys than a medium capable of communicating something insightful. We disagree.”
US Army recruitment is at an all-time low these last few years, so it makes sense why this game has come back. With this statement, the team has gaslit their audience by refusing to admit the clear intent behind the game. You can wax poetically about war all you want, but to use the horrors of war as a statement of heroism—set against a backdrop of recruitment and propaganda in a heavily militarized society—is not the same. It’s a ghoulish response that’s perfectly in sync with what the US military does every single day.
Being insightful doesn’t mean shrugging and going “well shucks, we just had to kill those thousands of civilians and bomb that country to dust, so why can’t we make money off of it?” F— you, Six Days in Fallujah, and the horse you rode in on.