Earlier this week, the developer of the controversial FPS game Six Days in Fallujah said he understands that the events to be portrayed are “inextricably linked to politics,” and that his aim is to tell the story of the second battle of Fallujah to tell from a variety of perspectives. This followed intense online criticism following the February announcement that development had resumed more than ten years after the original publisher, Konami, retired.
“The stories in Six Days in Fallujah are told through gameplay and documentary with service members and civilians with different experiences and opinions on the Iraq war,” Victura said in a statement posted on Twitter. “So far, 26 Iraqi civilians and dozens of service members have shared the toughest moments of their lives with us so that we can share them with you in their words.”
Part of the criticism of Victura following the announcement of Six Days in Fallujah’s revival has to do with concerns that the game might be told from a perspective that minimizes or turns on its head the atrocities committed by US forces against Fallujah’s citizens, such as the documented use of white phosphorus against enemy combatants – a practice prohibited under the Geneva Convention and under British law.
We spoke to Peter Tamte, CEO of Victura, shortly after this reveal in February. He says that Six Days in Fallujah will be presented in a documentary style that cuts gameplay sequences with interview footage of US troops and Iraqi civilians who were present during the battle. Victura says that while players in Fallujah will not be able to use white phosphorus in six days, its use in combat is described “during the documentary segments.”
We understand that the events recreated in Fallujah in Six Days are inextricably linked to politics. pic.twitter.com/N7nkPilp1Q
– will win on March 8, 2021 (@VicturaGG)
In February, Tamte told us that his reluctance to take a personal political position on the war in Iraq or on what happened before and during the Second Battle of Fallujah was based on his belief that his own view of the war is unimportant compared to them of the people who have seen it firsthand. He never said the game he was playing was “not political”.
It bothered me deeply that games are not allowed to tell stories that other media can. Not only should we, but we are responsible for it
“The truth is that the Marines and soldiers themselves disagree on the Iraq war,” he told us. “In fact, when asked to risk their lives for it, many of them spoke out very loudly against the war. If people have asked me over the years what you think about the Iraq war, my answer is, I think people don’t care what I think – I think they care a lot about what these service members do thought and what these thought Iraqi civilians. And our job is to try to be a channel for her voice and not let my voice get through. “
Tamte also gave us additional details about the Iraqi civilians his team worked with to put together the stories that will form the narrative basis for Six Days in Fallujah. Before the project was first canceled, the developers worked with a journalist who interviewed around 15 Iraqi citizens. To a group that, according to Tamte, included teachers, journalists, political leaders and a sheikh. Victura’s staff journalist then traveled to Fallujah “about a year ago” to collect more accounts and visit some of the locations depicted in the game. A third group of Iraqis consisted of new immigrants to the United States.
“We have remarkable stories,” Tamte told us. “Honestly, the frustration for me is that I don’t know how to tell all of these stories because each one is compelling in its own way.”
From our conversation with Tamte, it is clear that he regards Six Days in Fallujah as a documentary or journalistic undertaking. He went so far as to say that games have a moral obligation to deal with difficult historical subjects.
“It bothered me deeply that we as a medium are not allowed to tell stories that other media can,” he told us. “I think we shouldn’t just do that, we have a responsibility to tell these stories.”
The door [that US troops are kicking in] is the hinge on which everything hangs. How can you tell the story of Fallujah without the other side?
Six days ago in Falluja’s first rejection, Tamte said Konami did market research and found that only about half of young people were familiar with the Battle of Fallujah, even in 2009. He said that number was today, almost 12 years later , is almost certainly even lower.
“That concerns, right? Because over time we distance ourselves from these battles. Not only do we forget the sacrifice of the people who are in this struggle, but also the human cost of that struggle, ”he said.
Tamte pointed out the “talkies” that brought the Second World War back home, and the television programs from Saigon and the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War. “This is our form of media, and we need to use what is unique about this medium to help people understand events that shape our world. It’s not just “can we do this?” We have to do that. “
However, legitimate concerns remain about the six days in Fallujah’s approach to the endeavor. Developer Rami Ismail posted a long Twitter thread declaring his reluctance to trust Victura’s intentions with the project when it was announced. Following the company’s latest statement earlier this week, he republished the thread, saying that most of these issues are still going untreated.
When asked about Tamtes report on what he wants to achieve, Ismail says that conceptually he is not against Six Days in Fallujah. “I agree 100% with the game’s premise, right?” he says. “The idea of a documentary game about what happened in Fallujah is risky, and the idea of it is bold and daring, and something I would appreciate in our industry. I would 100% support the idea of treating something so difficult and complex in a real and honest way. To be able to play this sounds terrifying and awkward and not fun – it feels like something you don’t want to play unless you really want to be curious about what it is [event] was like.”
We could have done a better job [on the trailer and marketing]
Tamte says games should be “the greatest empathy machines mankind has ever created” by allowing gamers to literally walk in someone else’s shoes, but Ismail says he is concerned about who that empathy is for Is it the Iraqi civilians who live in terror during the war? Siege of Fallujah, or is it for the heavily armed soldiers roaming neighborhoods looking for possible insurgents, going door to door and kicking the doors down?
“I can’t watch this game and take it so sincerely if I only see one side of that door,” explains Ismail. “This door becomes the hinge on which everything hangs … how do you tell the story of Fallujah without the other side of the door?”
Leaving Tamte’s explanations aside for a moment, it’s understandable that everyone would look at the marketing materials for Six Days in Fallujah and conclude that the game has a US-centric point of view. The official trailer, released by Victura in February, shows gameplay footage of marine fireteams moving through urban alleys and clearing houses. The interview material shown features former U.S. soldiers and analysts, and the voice-over underscores the importance – and the alleged justice – of the attack on Fallujah. If a title card says the stories were “recreated by those who were there,” the next shot is a Marine armed with an M-16 walking down a rubble strewn street. There are very few images in the trailer to suggest that Six Days in Fallujah intends to show both sides of the door.
What they promise would be fascinating. But war from an American point of view? No, I’ve seen that before
“We could have done a better job there,” admits Tamte. “The first three votes in our announcement trailer are all Iraqi. Most importantly, they describe how decisions by US policymakers to disband the Iraqi army created the conditions that led to the growth of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And this is a perspective that many Iraqis have shared with us. “
In the foreword to his book The Fighters, the New York Times war correspondent and former Marine Corps officer CJ Chivers writes that “The people who lived where Americans fought and patrolled, and their protection in official statements, was one of the organizational ideas of the Wars were portrayed were often viewed by those on duty in the provinces as backdrops, riddles, problems, or worse. The result was that during and after the action, American combatants had little means to gain insight into the views or experiences of Afghan and Iraqi civilians. as is often evident in the veterans’ memories and reports of their tours. “
“What they promise – the truth of this terrible siege – would be a fascinating game,” says Ismail. “But seeing a war from an American perspective, feeling empathy with US soldiers and the difficulties they faced, and using Iraqi civilians as props to tell a story about the heroism of the US military? No, I’ve seen that before. “
Tamte tells us that most of the Six Days in Fallujah are about the experiences of soldiers and marines, but that the stories of the Iraqis are both incorporated into those stories and, in some cases, presented independently of the concerns of the US armed forces. “The Iraqis we spoke to for the game are lovely, warm people whose lives have been turned upside down by two decades of war,” said Tamte. “I hope the players will see our willingness to tackle difficult issues and present the Iraqi perspective in the game as well.”
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The second battle of Fallujah lasted from November 7th to December 23rd, 2004. In only nine of the 27 districts, the United Nations estimates that 700 civilians were rescued from the rubble of houses and shops. About 550 of them were women and children. Fallujah residents still suffer from increased rates of cancer, miscarriages and radiation poisoning related to ammunition used there by coalition forces in 2003.
Six days in Fallujah should appear later this year.