- “Six Days in Fallujah” is an upcoming video game based on the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War.
- The game’s subject matter is so controversial that a previous version of the game was canceled.
- In an interview with Insider, the CEO of the game’s publisher responded to criticism.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
“Six Days in Fallujah” is a video game wrapped in a nesting doll of controversies, and it hasn’t even been released yet.
The game, which looks similar to the “Call of Duty” franchise, is a “first-person tactical military shooter” set during a six-day period in the weeks-long second Battle of Fallujah — a siege on the Iraqi city that led to the greatest loss of life during the Iraq War.
Peter Tamte’s upcoming project — which has been in some form of development since the mid-2000s — attempts to convey the experience of the invading forces, from the perspective of the invading forces.
“What we really want people to take away from this experience is an understanding of the actual complexity and human costs of urban combat,” Victura CEO Peter Tamte told Insider in an interview this week.
But critics say the history of the Iraq War is once again being written from the American perspective.
Estimates from the Iraq Body Count project put the number of Iraqi civilian casualties around 200,000 as of last February, and the US Department of Defense reported over 4,400 American deaths as of February 2021, but historians say there may never be an accurate way to count the true number of lives lost due to the invasion.
“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,” Stop The War Coalition spokesperson Tansy Hoskins told TechRadar in 2009, when “Six Days in Fallujah” was originally announced. “To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalize on the death and injury of thousands is sick.”
But that isn’t the intent of the upcoming game, Tamte said.
“There is an assumption that we are going to whitewash decisions that were made by the United States and Great Britain and Iraqi leaders at that time,” he told Insider. “But in truth, I don’t think it’s possible for us to put players into the second Battle of Fallujah without understanding the events that led up to the second Battle of Fallujah. And those events are based on choices by policy makers that in hindsight have proven to be some poor decisions.”
One such poor decision, according to the US military leader who commanded troops and created operational plans for both battles in Fallujah, was starting the Iraq War in the first place.
“We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake,” 1st Marine Division Commanding Gen. James Mattis said in 2015. “I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea.”
It’s this conflict at the heart of the battle that Tamte hopes “Six Days in Fallujah” can accurately represent, 12 years since it was first announced and 17 years since the battle that inspired it.
“When those four contractors were hung from the bridge outside of Fallujah, and people around the world, especially the United States, were hollering for the United States to go in there and take care of business — I don’t think people understood what the military leaders were saying at the time, which was, ‘Please don’t make me do this,'” Tamte told Insider.
How does a video game convey the disputed history of a real life battle?
Following a series of conflicts — including an incident where US forces fired on unarmed Iraqi protesters which killed at least 17 Iraqis, and an incident where four American private military contractors were murdered and hung from a bridge — US forces laid siege to the city in two major battles.
The first, in April 2004, lasted several weeks before US-led troops withdrew. The second, in November 2004, also lasted several weeks. It’s the second battle that “Six Days in Fallujah” focuses on, with players tasked with going from building to building as a member of the coalition armed forces clearing the city. That gameplay is interspersed with dialog and video from actual people who fought in the battle. During parts of the game, players control an Iraqi family attempting to flee the city as battle rages around them.
But critics of the game’s concept persist in 2021.
When “Six Days in Fallujah” was re-revealed in February 2021, Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said the game’s developer is, “basing its game on excusing US war crimes.”
In a subsequent Twitter thread, Ahmad said, “The game is very much from an American point of view, as shown in the description.” He said what he’s seen of the game thus far, “strikes me as just another war game filled with US propaganda about the actual events that took place.”
By some accounts, thousands of civilians were killed in the second Battle of Fallujah by a military coalition primarily made up of American and British soldiers. It was the bloodiest battle in a bloody, controversial war, and has become symbolic of the US policies that led to the Iraq War in the first place.
The US government admitted to using white phosphorus in the battle — a substance commonly used for smoke screens that can also be used as a weapon of chemical warfare. Its use as a weapon is a violation of the Geneva Conventions that govern international conflict, and may have contributed to a years-long spike in birth defects.
Though “Six Days in Fallujah” intends to tell the harrowing story of the Marines charged with taking a city, it’s unclear how it will convey the complexity of the use of chemical weapons.
“I don’t have a good answer to that, to be honest with you,” Tamte said when asked how the game would deal with its use. “I don’t have a good answer for it because I do understand part of the argument of: If you’re going to talk about this battle, you need to at least have some reference to white phosphorus.”
The concern, Tamte said, is how to handle player interactivity when it comes to international war crimes.
“I don’t want to give players white phosphorous as a weapon,” he said. “We don’t want to ask players to commit war crimes, or even things that are in the gray area of being a war crime. We don’t want to do that. That would actually be kind of the opposite of what we’re hoping players will take away from us.”
His intent, he said, is “to share these remarkable stories of people and let people experience these stories.” And doing that, he said, doesn’t stop the game from “discussing some of the tougher aspects of the battle — we can do both.”
After three years in development, and 15 years of total germination time, “Six Days in Fallujah” is scheduled to launch in late 2021 for the PC and undisclosed consoles.
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