In keeping pace with American imperial ambition, the video game industry has invaded foreign lands. Several years ago when Modern Warfare 2 was released a friend who follows the grisly aspects of the US war in Afghanistan told me that the game’s climactic scene was copied almost exactly from a leaked AC 130 gun-camera video (“shot-for-shot” was his dark pun). The leaked video showed the American gunship strafing dozens of Afghans on a hilltop outpost—and now in the video game version lil’ ol’ you got to pull the trigger. Like many of these games, the villains here are technically “Russians” (to be politically sensitive? lol), but players understand who is really being shot in Afghanistan. Americans seem quite eager to participate in armchair-imperial-bloodlust-snuff-film-cum-entertainment, but let’s not mix-up our adventures in Afghanistan & forget who we sub-contracted to actually fight the Soviets… oh yeah, Al-Qaeda!
So last week came the kerfuffle that at least seven members of Seal Team 6 have been disciplined by the Navy for assisting game designers of Medal of Honor: Warfighter simulate the raid that killed Al-Qaeda guru/posterboy/financier/inhouse-hack-poet Osama bin Laden. How dare they help in producing America’s premier propaganda!? They are supposed to leave that to the Navy itself! (The other irony, of course, is that modern warfare, like Modern Warfare, is already a video game: we have all read stories about military employees controlling death-delivering drones from computer consoles in Nevada. Then leaving work to pick up kids from soccer practice. BTW: Does the Pentagon provide treatment for virtual-based PTSD?)
All this came to mind this week when reading about the new EP from Kuwaiti-born musician, Fatima al-Qadiri. As she told Pitchfork’s Ruth Saxelby the EP, “Desert Strike”, is named after a video game of the same name from her childhood.
It’s named after a Sega Megadrive game from 1992, based on Operation Desert Storm from the first Gulf War in 1991…. The record is dedicated to this sci-fi period of my childhood—surviving the invasion of Kuwait, the war, and then playing a video game based on those events a year later.
Holy Shit & Dark & Unreal. The vantage of the game is American (obviously), so young Fatima would be playing as the U.S. invading her neighborhood—commanding digital helicopters as they bomb the region, steering toys of the tanks that rumbled the real highways outside her childhood windows. The surreal mixtures of experiences: first-hand and virtual. The evil twin of the bullshit we’re always carrying on about!
The original iteration of the game penalized players “if they destroyed objects that resulted in negative economic and political results”, but this feature was not popular during internal review and was scrapped. Oi.
For all of you fretting that the gaming industry is woefully retrospective, fear not: the recent game Battlefield III is set in Iran. Cool foreshadowing for WWIII? Fingers crossed!
Not enough line-blurring for you? The new Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 features a cameo from man-o-th’-hour Gen. Petraeus. (Picture)
p.s. It is convenient that the leaked gunship videos (etc.) that inspire these game sequences are in a familiar format: first-person shooter. And isn’t assuming that POV the point of this entertainment/propaganda? [Related: Of the many sites that host leaked combat videos pls note that http://www.apacheclips.com brands itself “Shock & Awe Entertainment“]