This video game about the Iraq war is an ‘Arab murder simulator,’ critics say

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Najla Bassim Abdullayah grew up in a war. The memory of seeing dead bodies regularly and shooting his friend next to him on his way to school haunts his childhood.

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The children’s laughter was replaced with a relentless soundtrack of bombs exploding, and she lived with a terrifying fear of losing her family.

“I hate that this is something that will create profit when people like me have to suffer the consequences of this war and people have to play it for fun,” Abdulela, 28, told Granthshala. “I just can’t get out of the inhumanity.”


For Abdulleh and other Iraq War survivors, the impending release of “Six Days in Fallujah” threatens to reopen old wounds and ease their pain.

They want the game to end.

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But the creators of the video game say it’s been completely misunderstood, and they’re simply using the gameplay — the way players interact with video games — to teach history.

‘The Massacre of the Arabs’

Part documentary and part video game, “Six Days in Fallujah” uses gameplay to narrate history and recreate true stories from the Second Battle of Fallujah. The offensive, called Operation Phantom Fury, saw US Marines lead a combined force of American, British and Iraqi troops into the ancient city.

The fighting lasted from 7 November to 23 December 2004 and, accordingly to the US military, widely regarded as America’s toughest urban battle since Vietnam, when brutal fighting between American soldiers and North Vietnamese soldiers resulted in the deaths of hundreds – if not thousands – of civilians, who were He was buried in unmarked mass graves. communist forces.

In Fallujah, US-led forces went door to door searching for suspected rebels. Fighters on both sides, as well as thousands of innocent Iraqis caught in the crossfire, tried their best to evade snipers and booby traps.

“We were told, in Fallujah, to the battle field, that every person who was walking, talking, breathing, was an enemy fighter. Like, everyone who was on the street or at home was a target,” Jeff Englehart, a former US soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, said in the 2005 documentary.Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre.
The US-led forces used over 300 bombs, 6,000 artillery rounds and 29,000 mortar rounds. US Marines. Military officials also confirmed that soldiers used white phosphorus, a highly controversial incendiary weapon that burns the skin.

Ross Caputi, A former U.S. Marine with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, recalls some controversial tactics used during the war, including firing grenades or gun rounds before entering homes in case the intruders were hiding inside. .

“These tactics were to keep us safe. But I learned later that tens of thousands of civilians were still hiding in their homes during the operation, so these tactics would have put them in great danger,” Caputti told Granthshala. . “The hardship that Phantom Fury imposed on Fallujan and the devastation it caused made me feel really ashamed of what we were doing.”

In the end, more than 80 US soldiers were killed, Granthshala reported. Civilian casualties remain unknown, but at least 800 innocent Iraqis were killed, according to Red Cross. Local NGOs estimate that 6,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed in the fighting. Guardian has reported.

Describing the result, Engelhart said, “It looked like a mass murder of billions. It looked like a mass murder.”

A new way to understand history

“Six Days in Fallujah” was originally developed by Atomic Games and was to be released by Japanese game publisher Konami in 2010. But the Tokyo-based company withdrew from the project a year ago due to widespread criticism that it was aggressive. Atomic Games went out of business and the project was shelved.

In February 2021, developer Highwire Games and publisher Victura, founded by former Atomic Games CEO Peter Tamte, announced that they were resurrecting “Six Days in Fallujah”.

The game is set to release by the end of 2021.

“It’s hard to understand what combat really is through fake people doing fake things in fake places,” Tamte said. Statement Announcement of the release of the game. “This generation showed as much sacrifice and courage in Iraq as any remarkable in history. And now they are offering the rest of us a new way to understand one of the most important events of our century. It’s about the sport. It’s time to challenge stereotypes about being.”
a view of "Six days in Fallujah." The developers say they collaborated with over 100 service members to recreate real events.

For this, the developers say they collaborated with more than 100 service members, who provided testimony, photos and videos to recreate real events “with authenticity and respect.” He also interviewed 27 Iraqis, 23 of whom are from Fallujah.

In the game, a player can choose to be an American soldier leading a team on missions against insurgents, or an unarmed Iraqi father trying to escape to safety with his family. While playing, gamers will hear from actual US service members, who narrate the missions, and Iraqi civilians, who relay their experiences.

“Players will encounter civilians during gameplay, and these people also speak directly to players via video interviews,” Tamte told Granthshala. “We want players to know these people as real humans, rather than as avatars on computer screens. And we want players to hear the perspectives and stories of these Iraqis in their own words.”

Tamte says the developers regularly consult with Iraqis about how they are portrayed in the game. If a player shoots an Iraqi civilian, the mission ends in failure. The only Iraqis who are allowed to be killed are the rebels.

‘An Arab Murder Simulator’

Abdellah understands the premise of “Six Days in Fallujah” and Victura’s reasoning for releasing the game. He himself is a gamer.

But she says that taking a real-life incident in which people have suffered and died, and turning it into a game trivializes the experience.

There are more respectful and credible ways to learn about what happened in Fallujah, she says, alluding to produced news stories, books, and documentaries about the war.

“I got a chill in my spine thinking about the idea that they could use the scenario of someone who is so tragic for a sport,” Abdullah said, referring to that scenario. . “It brings me to tears. How’s that okay?”

Iraqi-Americans want Mohamed Hussein "Six Days in Fallujah" to freeze

Mohamed Hussein, who is also an Iraqi-American, says he was “hurt and upset” by the news that the game would be released. He worries that the game will reduce the importance of fighting, especially among younger players.

“Instead of a historical event, they will now see it as a game,” Hussain, 26, told Granthshala.

Hussein, whose parents are refugees from the Iraq War, is also concerned that the insurgents in the game look like typical Iraqi men, which he said could create prejudice in the real world. Screenshots of the game show some of the rebels, distinguished by the black and white cap, which is the common dress in Iraq and other Arab countries.

He said, “It dehumanizes the Iraqi people, it shows how some are rebels, some are al-Qaeda, some are civilians, there is no way to separate them. It is this generation against our people like this.” vulnerable to violence.”

a view of "Six Days in Fallujah" Shows a US soldier aiming his weapon at an Iraqi man wearing a traditional headdress.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, worries that the game could reinforce harmful stereotypes of Iraqis as well as other Arabs and Muslims.

CAIR and Veterans for Peace (VFP) frequent calls To end “Six Days in Fallujah” on Friday. In August, he issued a public letter condemning it as a sport that “glorifies the violence that has killed more than 800 Iraqi civilians, justifies the illegal invasion of Iraq and reinforces Islamophobic narratives.” ”
In April, the two organizations partnered start a petition Called on video game companies – including Microsoft Corporation (Xbox), Sony Interactive Entertainment (PlayStation) and Valve Corporation – not to host or digitally distribute games.

Garrett Repenhagen, executive director of the VFP, is a former US Army sniper who served in the Sunni Triangle during the Second Battle of Fallujah.

“As a combat veteran and gamer, I have trouble seeing what amounts to an Arab assassination simulator that fails to acknowledge the impact of a siege war against an unarmed and stranded civilian population,” Repenhagen told Granthshala.

When asked about “Six Days in Fallujah” and criticism of the petition, a Microsoft spokesperson told Granthshala: “We are aware of the concerns and are looking at the content.”

Neither Sony nor Valve responded to Granthshala’s request for comment.

‘how would you feel?’

Viktura is firm on her decision to release “Six Days in Fallujah”. It emphasizes that the game offers a new and exciting way for people to learn about what happened there.

“When we originally announced Six Days in Fallujah in 2009, we learned that some people believe that video games shouldn’t deal with real-life events. For these people, video games are like toys. who seem to be capable of some practical communication. We disagree,” the makers said in a Statement in February. “Video games can connect us in ways other media can’t.”
Iraqi-American Najla Bassim Abdellah says: "Six Days in Fallujah" Iraq is on the offensive for war survivors.

Critics want people to know about the tragedy in Fallujah. But they say turning it into a first-person shooter game played for entertainment is insensitive and disrespectful, especially when many Iraqis are still grappling with destruction.

“Six days in Fallujah” is a “disgrace” to the gaming industry, says Abdulleh. She says the trauma of Iraqis like herself “should not be turned into a show and a tell.”

“It’s not honoring the innocent people killed. It’s very disrespectful to their memory. Not to mention, this is very recent history. People are still living and digesting the trauma they received in the Iraq War,” he said. “My family and I saw painful, terrifying things… It’s not a memory we want to sit down or revisit or talk about.”

Hospitals in Fallujah have reported an increase in birth defects and cancer cases since 2005, according to one 2010 study In which some medical experts suggested that the use of depleted uranium may be to blame.

According to the researchers, many Iraqis who lived during the war also suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have not yet received any kind of care for their mental health.

A 2014 Study in Baghdad showed that more than 80% of participants experienced at least one traumatic event that caused them to suffer from PTSD and other mental health problems.

Hussein, who avoids documentaries about the war caused by PTSD from his annual trips to Iraq, in which he says he nearly died in a car explosion, says putting the sport on hold “shouldn’t be an argument.” “

When asked if he had any messages for Highwire Games and Victorura, Hussein asked himself a question:

“Have you not lost your loved ones?” He asked. “How would you feel if you were at the end? If you saw a game about a tragedy that has affected your family, your people? How would you feel?”


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