How the “Six Days in Fallujah” Game Glorifies U.S. Involvement In Iraq

Earlier this month, CEO of Victura Peter Tamte announced the return of the Iraq war military shooter game Six Days in Fallujah — a once-cancelled game that stirred a massive backlash and engendered controversy back in 2009.

Mr. Tamte revealed in 2009 that the game aimed at narrating the stories of the U.S. Marines who courageously fought in Iraq in a way that would be relevant and compelling to these soldiers. 

“After they got back from Fallujah, these Marines asked us to tell their story.” Mr. Tamte said. “They asked us to tell their story through the most relevant medium of the day — a medium they use the most — and that is the videogame.”

Vice President of Konami, Anthony Crouts, the then-publisher of the game, told The Wall Street Journal in 2009 that they were not trying to make any “social commentary” through the game.

“We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable,” Mr. Crouts added. “We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience… At the end of the day, it’s just a game.”

It wasn’t “just a game” for the lives that were destroyed.

In an interview this February, Mr. Tamte told Polygon that even though the game would provide a context about the second battle of Fallujah, while narrating the stories of the “heroic” U.S. coalition forces, it would not focus on the political motives underlying the presence of the U.S. troops in Iraq in the first place. “We’re not trying to make a political commentary about whether or not the war itself was a good or a bad idea,” Mr. Tamte added.

For Mr. Tamte, Six Days in Fallujah is not “just a game,” like Mr. Crouts said. Rather, it’s a way of storytelling incorporated in a video game to challenge the stereotypes that limit video games into a sphere of shallow entertainment without being educational or insightful.

“This generation showed sacrifice and courage in Iraq as remarkable as any in history,” Mr. Tamte said. “And now they’re offering the rest of us a new way to understand one of the most important events of our century. It’s time to challenge outdated stereotypes about what video games can be.”

According to Mr. Tamte, Six Days in Fallujah is designed to be an “apolitical” game that is expected to evoke empathy within players, making them “curious,” and “want to learn more about all the things that have happened in Fallujah since the 2004 battle” without paying attention to the ethics and morals underlying the war itself by putting players in situations that would require them to implement tactics of war.

“90 percent of the challenges that players face will be consistent with what the actual Marines and soldiers faced: tactical challenges, not moral challenges effectively completely independent of the controversy surrounding the game,” Mr. Tamte added. “Challenges where the player needs to think through, ‘How can I use my tool set to overcome this challenge?’”

In essence, Mr. Tamte didn’t seem to be mindful of the gravity of his statements. Worse still, he didn’t realize he actually contradicted himself — so much so that he believed that a “tactical” war game that depicts a one-sided narrative about an illegal and unnecessary war in Iraq from an invading force would be a compelling way of “engendering empathy,” and bringing “people closer together.” Discarding ethics of an illegal war just to focus on tactics of war literally means that players, 90 percent of the time, would be indulged into thinking “What should I be using now to kill and win? Guns, or grenades?” — which would make players too distracted, thinking about how to win instead of feeling empathetic. 

Mr. Tamte negated himself even further when he admitted that players who play military shooter video games tend to play “as lone wolves.”

Unlike what is announced on the official website, the alleged heroism of U.S. invading forces has an ultimate monopoly over Six Days in Fallujah, leaving out only 10 percent to include Iraqi civilians in the narrative — which means that Mr. Tamte’s apolitical game is indeed political. It dismisses the voice of the very citizens, the Iraqi civilians, who found themselves encountering invading forces coming from the U.S. and the UK. 

The game dismisses the voice of the very citizens, the Iraqi civilians, who found themselves encountering invading forces coming from the U.S. and the UK. 

Since Six Days in Fallujah will let players feel what the U.S. soldiers felt like being in Iraq as coalition forces, then of course the players will feel somewhat similar reactions, swinging between the stress that comes with the mere thought of finding an “enemy” while entering a room, and the sigh of relief whenever the place is empty. That being said, will such a biased game even dare include any of the incidents in which the U.S. troops broke into houses and fired their guns on unarmed civilians? 

In an interview with The New Standard, Burhan Fasa’a, an Iraqi journalist who works for the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), said that while being in Fallujah, the U.S. forces “entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English.” Mr. Fasa’a added “They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because [the people] didn’t obey [the soldiers’] orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.”

Mr. Tamte already said he discarded the whole talk about atrocities because he wouldn’t “need to portray the atrocities in order for people to understand the human cost.” But, that way, the storyline wouldn’t be as authentic as Mr. Tamte wanted it to be. That is to say, the players wouldn’t get to choose not to have interpreters to get a mission in which they would shoot unarmed civilians, and next time choose a different path and see how the story would unfold.

There are pivotal missions that the coalition forces were on and Mr. Tamte didn’t mention anything about them. If included, such missions would make players get a more realistic experience of what it is like to be in combat as it would require them, for example, to get on rooftops with snipers and target unarmed civilians who would go out for the sake of getting food or medicine, specifically because such missions would be extremely tactical, and would need a lot of planning to ambush “enemies” during the “cease-fire” time before the start of the curfew — which would serve the nature of the game.

The U.S. forces treated all of the Iraqi population as their enemies, and preferred to refer to them as “insurgents” when, ironically, the U.S. wasn’t supposed to be in Iraq in the first place

The U.S. forces treated all of the Iraqi population as their enemies, and preferred to refer to them as “insurgents” when, ironically, the U.S. wasn’t supposed to be in Iraq in the first place

Not only does the game bluntly dehumanize Iraqi civilians and marginalize their voices, but also glorifies an occupying army that is actually an intruder in the eyes of those civilians. If anything, the game demonstrates a “make-believe” kind of narrative that fabricates the reality of a war that is still going on and whitewashes the crimes committed by the U.S. instead of portraying them accurately. 

“Very few people are curious what it’s like to be an Iraqi civilian,” Mr. Tamte stated. “Nobody’s going to play that game.”

Mr. Tamte just openly explained the reason why the narrative has to be about the U.S. troops. It’s not that he wants to tell stories worth telling. Rather, this is how Six Days in Fallujah is going to be a best-selling game. That is to say, the game will never become top-notch if it portrays the U.S. troops as the “bad ones” — which makes it clear that reality doesn’t matter the second it stands in opposition to profit. 

Six Days in Fallujah is a political equation in which empathy goes hand in hand with apathy. Empathy would be engendered, by those who don’t know what really happened in Iraq, toward the U.S. troops who were “heroic” in firing on “enemies,” and apathy would be stirred toward those enemies who, in fact, are the ones who are oppressed by invading forces who committed war crimes and international law violations for the sake of some false pride.

The game is now back in development to be released this year.