The G4 award for most controversial video game of the month goes to Six Days in Fallujah. This documentary-style combat game for the PS3, 360 and PC is being developed by Atomic Games and released by Konami. It's set in the Iraq war, and aims to give players as realistic a view of 2004's Battle of Fallujah as possible. Atomic says it will not editorialize. But despite the game's just-the-truth attitude (and the fact that all that's been released so far is a concept, a title and some screenshots) just the idea of a realistic Iraq war game has angered a number of peace activists and military veterans.
Tim Collins, a former colonel of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, told Britain's Daily Mail, "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."
On the other side of the idealogical coin, Tansy Hoskins of Stop The War Coalition, had this to say about Six Days:
"To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalize on the death and injury of thousands is sick... The massacre in Fallujah should be remembered with shame and horror not glamorized and glossed over for entertainment."
These are some strong opinions, but I doubt that the people who are most outraged by Six Days are gamers. To get the true scoop of the rank and file of the U.S. military, I contacted some gamers in the armed forces and asked them what they thought about Six Days.
Sgt. Casey J. McGeorge served three tours (36 months) in Iraq, and told me, "As a combat veteran and as a gamer, I have no problem whatsoever with the game...As long as it's made as realistically as possibly, I believe that this could be a good thing for both combat veterans and for the war in general."
While former Army Sgt. Kevin Smith worries that the game could be used by anti-war activists to further their agenda, he said, "Let it be made, and hopefully it will bolster support for military veterans by giving civilians insight into what this war was actually like for them."
Marine Corps. Gunnery Sergeant John Mundy thinks the game might actually help Marines train. "I know Marines would use this as a tool to not only give each other knowledge on the battle itself, but also have another tool to get the Marines thinking about Rules of Engagement and such so that they can play the game together and maybe learn a thing or two."
As for how civilian gamers will like a realistic depiction of war, Smith points out that real combat is not a game of Call of Duty 4. "You can't just lob a frag down the street or launch a RPG at a couple of guys if you have to reload," Smith said. "There are restrictions on what types of weapons you can use and when. Depending on what the Rules of Engagement were for the Marines in Fallujah, and if Atomic Games has consequences for violating them, I think some gamers might find it a little frustrating."
Gunnery Sgt Mundy sees potential problems with the "humanity factor" that multiplayer would bring to Six Days if the feature ends up in the game. "You will have your group of idiots that try to be the terrorists and kill Americans and shout obscenities through the TV, damning American military personnel," Mundy said. "But hey, those individuals can make fools of themselves all because of the protection that we military people give them each day."
Both McGeorge and Smith brought up a point that both the makers of the game and its detractors failed to mention: Perhaps playing a game that depicts war realistically will lead civilians toward a greater understanding of what military people go through during battle.
"It can be extremely difficult for the average person to understand why a person who returns from a combat zone may seem so jumpy and alert all the time," McGeorge said. "The first time in the game they get too close to a car and are blown up; the first time they are killed in the game without knowing what is really going on, they might be able to get a small understanding of what we have had to go through on a regular basis."
"A lot of soldiers have had a hard time readjusting when they return from war, and this has caused an extremely high suicide rate," Smith said. "I really hope that this title receives positive press and encourages more empathy towards veterans after gamers have 'experienced' what they have gone through. On a side note, I really hope this game includes co-op!"
Gunnery Sergeant Mundy summed up the feelings of the three military men we spoke to with this simple statement: "If someone doesn't agree with the game, they can spend their money elsewhere."