Washington Post: Is There a Video Game War Between Islam & the West?

October 9, 2006 -
The USA has America's Army. Radical jihadists have Night of Bush Capturing.

The episodic military game Kuma War, which features realistic missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, is an American product. Commander Bahman is its Iranian riposte, depicting fictitious attacks on U.S. forces.

In today's Washington Post, reporter Jose Antonio Vargas conducts a recon mission of military and politically-themed games and declares that a video game war of sorts is being waged between Islamic and Western designers. Ed Halter, author of From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, agrees:
"There's a very interesting tit-for-tat going on here, a weird kind of dialogue... And what's disconcerting about it is that the conversation is often reduced to the lowest common denominator of violent action in games, which is in a way very reflective of the overall way things are going right now in real life."

Syrian game designer Radwan Kasmiya of Afkar Media also believes the struggle between Islam and the West is being mirrored by games - and Kasmiya doesn't like some of what he sees:
"We're the terrorist, the enemy, in these (Western) games... Our games are not propaganda. Our games are a reflection of our history -- past or present. The fact is, most movies, most TV shows, most video games put Muslims in a bad light, so we have to try to tell our side of the story."

Afkar Media is best known for its 2002 game UnderAsh (box pictured), which relates the story of the first intifada from the perspective of a Palestinian teenager.While Western games generally to stick to simulating combat, the Islamic-themed games are more blatantly political, perhaps reflecting the turbulence and deep divisions of the Middle-east. For example, the Washington Post notes that Kuwaiti channel Al-Rai TV recently broadcast a call by Sheik Nabil Al-Awadhi to develop Islamic games to compete with those of the West. Al-Awadhi specifically suggested a game in which the player "slaughters the Jews and liberates the Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Comments

Did anyone notice how this article treated each soruce as of equal validity. So on one hand you have the guy Kismaya actually publishing the games saying pretty reasonable stuff for a sound bite. And then the article finishes up with a quote from some extremist loon from the radio, not even an interview, and we are led to believe the the extremist's view is representative of the entire muslim spectrum of opinion.

Even Verbinator's first comment here indicates that this spin was very effective because the quote from the loon was all that he remembered.

So on one hand, you've got an interview with Kismaya and on the other hand you've got tons of radio broadcasts to sift through and find some damning quote from somebody who personally has nothing at all to do with video games.

Is this anything close to fair reporting?

@Brer

Points taken, as you said the minority in question is most likely alot less than 49.99%, otherwise these issues would be a whole lot worse.

'The people who bomb embassies, firebomb churches, and who shot and killed the Sister Leonella in Somalia after the Pope’s remarks on Islam acted A) in a pre-meditated and planned manner and B) with the coordination and aid of multiple people and/or Islamic organizations like Ansar Al-Sunna.'

Yes my example described one person, but this definition encompasses many groups within america and other countries... What about gang warfare, drive by's are premeditated and involved the aid of multiple people. Yet these acts seem more accepted and not as 'radical'.

I wasn't trying to 'pass off' riots etc (i apologise if it seems that way) mearly to put them in perspective. When so many people seem to think only muslims riot... Look up the Cronulla riots in Aus, something I had thought above the people here but it happened (off the top of my head I don't think there has been a muslim riot in australia). You need to keep these things in perspective.
Regarding the cartoon, quite frankly, I agree it was a stupid thing for such behaviour to result from. However, I disagree with 98% of religion IN GENERAL because it breeds irrational and ignorant thoughts and consequently, irrational behaviour. 80% of these problems result from a lack of religious acceptance, from both sides, and given that they are beliefs - rational arguments don't tend to abate fanatical drive. Probably better I stop there... We don't want to begin a debate over religion :)
I completely agree that more focus on the 'groups like the Mujahedeen Shura Council' is needed. Which in a roundabout way was my point that the focus tends to be on muslims and those from the middle-east rather than the problem causing radicals.

Al-Awadhi specifically suggested a game in which the player “slaughters the Jews and liberates the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

With quotes like that, there don't need to be Western video games which put Muslims in a bad light. They are doing a darn fine job of shining that bad light upon themselves.

@GP

Mmm, well after checking the mission list on Kuma/War's official website I retract the "years back" (It was last year), but will stick by the "one episode" to date (I'm going to argue that the Eagle Claw recreation doesn't count). They've announced plans for "Assault on Iran" sequels as you mentioned but according to their website at least none have been released yet. So to date it is only one episode and a certain amount of posturing from a mediocre (at best) game developer.

As a side-note, it's really, really, really surreal to see two of their missions based on my old unit's activities while we were in Iraq (3/2 ID (SBCT) ).

@Shade and a few others here:

A pet peeve. Muslim != Arab, and Muslim isn't a racial group, so even if you were marching around screaming "Death to the Pagan Mohammedans" it wouldn't be -racist-. Prejudiced and ignorant perhaps, but not -racist-. It's also worth remembering that while the radical/fanatical subset of Islam is larger than the current fanatical subset of Christianity (we only lose a few people a year to abortion clinic shooters and the like as compared with the relatively large number of Islamic terrorists), the actively violent are still a minority of the worldwide population of Muslims. The biggest problem with the Muslim community or Islam isn't that it's a flawed or inherently violent religion (or at least no more so than Christianity of Judaism, which isn't necessarily saying much), but that most of its moderate adherents are more concerned with protecting other Muslim brothers than in ending violence. In other words they aren't violent, don't believe in the ideologies spouted by the militant minority...but they won't oppose them either, and certainly won't -fight- them. Think of the people in the American South in the mid-20th century who proclaimed that they didn't believe in the Klan, but would stop well short of either supporting civil rights movements or even cooperating with the police if they tried to investigate Klan-related violence because the Klan members were "our people".

With that said, let's be clear: Equating Cmdr. Bahman and Kuma/War is reasonable (both depict military actions against "hostile" government forces). Equating Kuma/War and the sort of game advocated by Sheikh Al-Awadi is not, although I'm sure there will be apologists out there ready to try. As for games like Under Ash and Under Siege, that's more of a grey area in my opinion since the targets are military and you're supposedly penalized for killing civilians, while at the same time it's miscasting the events of the first and second Intifadas (in the real thing, the Palestinian attacks were directed almost entirely towards civilians).

"Our games are not propaganda. Our games are a reflection of our history"

Kasmiya doesn't seem to understand that propaganda CAN contain some facts and history. However, propaganda is never reliable because it only tells one side of the story. Frankly, that's all I've been seeing in games from both sides.

Well, movies have been used as propaganda tool since World War I (and they're still used as propaganda today). But it happens that a propaganda movie overcomes propaganda and becomes a great movie, a masterpiece. The best example is "Casablanca".

But right now, games such as "Kuma War" or "Quest for Bush" are very far from it : IMO, they're rather the gaming equivalent of WW1 propaganda movies. The problem of many of these games is that beyond their propaganda purpose, there's nothing, no artistic ambition, no effort to make an original gameplay. That's why I don't like in these games.

After all, you can design a game about modern combat and make an effort to have an original gameplay ("Battlefield 2", "Operation Flashpoint", "Rainbow Six", "Splinter Cell"...). So if "Eastern" or "Muslim" game designers want to imitate "Western games", I suggest them to imitate the good ones.

Shade

You make a good point. Notice how you never hear anybody in the muslim community saying or doing anything to improve their image around the world or locally in America? Charity drives, sponsoring community events, things that every other social, religious, and ethnic group in my area do. All I ever hear from the muslim community is their outrage over stupid stuff, like co-workers keeping plush pigs as office decor and health clubs not offering them special segregated times during the week.

Oh, and bombing embassies because of a political cartoon.

And notice how there are never any muslims responding to these questions? In everything I've read, and every muslim I've meet, they act as if they are above everything everybody else does, yet feel entitled to everything this country offers without question or contribution on their part.

I'm sorry if this makes me sound insensitive, but I call them as I see them.

You know, hate to be the non-PC guy, but last time I checked there were not many 60 year old Sweetish grand mothers strapping bombs to their chests and flying planes into buildings. I can't think of the last time I read about a Canadian Military Dictator or a genocide led by a religious group in Spain.

Lets not forget all the Bio Weapons Luxemburg hasn't used on it's own people.

"Al-Awadhi specifically suggested a game in which the player “slaughters the Jews and liberates the Al-Aqsa Mosque."

See, this is why I'm willing to overlook a drunk Mel Brooks being a bit of an a******. Mel Brooks apologized, this man probably got a medal.

These people (no, not every Muslim) are the new Nazis. If video games taught me anything, it's how to deal with Nazis. Give them pink baskets of roses so they become better people and feel bad for all the wrong they did... and then shoot them in the face.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition"

Now what would be funny is if they start making better games than some of the US companies. Eventually quality will become an issue.

Brokenscope
Good point. People don't seem to mind playing as the 'Bad Guys' in the Battle Field series.

What's funny is that Kuma/War made -one- episode covering Iran, years back, that was a commercial failure. -One- game constitutes a cultural war?

Now if only i could make myself believe that what i said could never happen.

this is a tricky subject...I think that every nation is probably guilty of some sort of propaganda in games, films and such...the fact that arabic countries use it in games in the exact opposite that we do is not even a real issue...how can we complain about it when we do it ourselves in so many films and other media.

I would not be suprised if we started seeing games made by domestic developers on the same line as 'battleship potemkin'...it would appeal to the hard right conservatives who want to live in a simple black/white political world.

What they do in their country is of no concern...the fact that they make games based on the culture they live in should come as no shock.

we do it all the time.

Mike

I just love that little quote on the front of the Kuma War box: "A bit like life really." Aren't game boxes supposed to have the best quotes from noteable sources on the front? That one just seems like "This game is ok, but the real thing is happening down the street."

Brer - I believe that Kuma's episodic content has had far more recent forays into Iran.

See: http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/tag/iran

Actually, I would find it quite interesting if Al Qaida started producing their own titles and releasing them on the internet. Then yes, quality would eventually become better, the developers might become bored with using an anti-semetic terrorist angle every time and start releasing increasingly less controversial titles like simple q-bert remakes and Bejewled style spyware games myseriously reffered to as "Rubied". And then they want to try something on a bigger scale, they borrow a few angry young men from the army and start on an Unreal Engine sandbox shooter which while still unPC isn't considered any worse than GTA, especially after they decide that their organization needs more money and change the name from "Jew Pwn" to "U Pwn", then change the more controvesial enemies to droidlike supersoldiers representing mankinds inner need to conform. U Pwn starts to be more of the standard aggression release at headquarters and while the higher ups are concerned by the recent lack of terrorist activities agree to allocate more resources because the game is "so AllahDamned Fun!". Miyamoto is kidnapped for consultation and somehow manages to not only become their lead game developer, but leader of Al Qaida (which he renames AQSoft or AQS for short) after the success of the first ever online platformer (Skywar) which eventually manages to be the main focus of the organization. Osama himself is included as an ingame character. In a secret underground press conference, Miyamoto reveals, he just really got into his work and joyfully announces a Christmass release date for the ever-increasingly popular game's expansion pack. He also states a possible AQS console and recounts how his original name for it, the Phalic, was voted down by islamo-extremist, or so he says. A year later, AQS releases the Prik, a next-gen console backed oddly by both EA and HAL Labs. Hamas as a result of the success opens up a small game department, similar results follow, this time involving Hideo Kojima. In about five years, terrorism becomes synonamous with game developement for reasons unconnected to Jack Thompson, the suicide bombings stop, "freedom fighters" all over the world forget what they were doing and become nerds. Gabe and Tycho later join Mohammed as cannonical prophets and are followed later by Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and finally after a bloody civil war fought in his name, Sonic the Hedgehog.

Muslim historians were said to have been very drunk by that point, so very little past that was recorded.

Hey, it could happen.

Babus

Oh yes, wouldn't it be interesting if Stalin had had access to this technolegy?

I have a few muslim friends and they are good people. But its the muslims in the Middle East that give other muslim people a bad name.

Now the real question is.


Would they get banned in Saudi arabia for promoting zionism like pokemon did? OH and enslaving the minds of children.


Oh god.... i just had the funniest/most horrible thought ever.


A capitalst/democratic revoluntion hits several middle eastern countries because of videogames.

OH MY GOD THAT WOULD BE HILARIOUS!

Jack would be going see videogames cause violence, but then he would be saying that capitalism/democaracy are bad.

IT WOULD BE THE ULTIMATE END TO JACKS (Reign isn't the right word) ... OF STUPIDITY!



WOO! calculus tests make you say funny things.

A while back, I said Mel Brooks. I meant Mel Gibson. I get those two mixed up sometimes. Shame on me.

I would be far far more worried if Mel Brooks got drunk and made anti-Semitic rantings given that Brooks is quite famously Jewish and proud of it himself. :)

That's not how I took it. And, BTW, I assume you are referring to the souce piece in the WaPo and not GP's re-telling of it.

Jose Antonio Vargas, the reporter, in my view simply takes several people who are commenting and tells you who they are. It's up to the reader to assign weight to their comments. How is Jose supposed to do that for you?

The Sheik may be mad as a hatter or hateful, but he is, apparently a person of some influence and his comments can be considered in light of that.

The journalists quoted (inlcuding me but especially Ed Halter) have observed this rising tide and comment on it from that perspective.

I didn't get that Jose was trying to scare people here, merely that he wanted to show that there is this subtle tit-for-tat in some corners of the respective game communities both in the West and in the Middle-east.

"Our games are not propaganda"

Wrong. It's propanganda from all sides. Kuma War shows real events, mission style, from an American viewpoint. I have heard that they are putting out a few in the future from both sides, but that might be just internet rumor-talk. America's Army isn't propaganda per-se, because it really does try to be "realistic." Now, it does seem rather sterile, as far as the actual horror of war, but it's no MoH "medical canteen" style war game. Now, it doesn't show "both sides" of the war, of course. But would you expect something made by our army to do so? Of course not. That's why these pro-Iran type games don't bother me. First, they are rather crappy in comparison. Second, and most importantly, I'd rather Iran and the U.S. enchange vdieo game "shells" than exchange nukes.

I'd like to point out, while the U.S. and Iran are hashing out this war, both in video games and via their masques Israel and Hizbollah (spelling?), China is quietly asserting world economic dominance. Yes, let's worry about the video games. Maybe I should just cut to the chase and learn the language now.

The harder I try not to be racist, the harder the Muslims try to make me hate them.

They talk about slaughtering other races and religions as if they were cockroaches then bomb embassies and riot if you call them out on it.

Please, anyone out there who is a good and decent Muslim, try to be the one who makes a difference in the world, not Al-Awadhi.

@Dennis

Al-Awadi has his own national television show, not a radio program, which means it would be better to compare him to someone like O'Reilly (compare "No Spin Zone" with "Hour of Sincerity", in fact) or Olbermann. In other words he may not represent the moderate position, but he's hardly an "extremist loon" (and remember that Kuwait is one of the most liberal Arab states).

BTW, Brer's "@Dennis" is directed to the poster identifying himself as Dennis Hastert, not GP...

It seems that the extermist are making it hard to make video games a blurr between propaganda and creative ideas it makes it hard to decide.

IMMA CHARGIN MAH LAZOR!
SHOOP DA WHOOP!

Looks like there's already a group "fighting" this "evil propaganda":

http://www.boefivgt.org.uk

@ G-Dog & Shade

I agree with Brer. You are talking about a minority of extremists.

You can't brand a whole religion based off the reports you receive of them in your own country... (no offense GP, but you hardly live in the middle-east and would have a hard time finding most of the news that is reported locally, which is why you remain objective and that, I appreciate)
I would hate to judge americans (not a religious group but an analogy all the same) based off what I see and hear on the news (especially given my dislike of GW Bush)... and lets face it, what is the american community in australia doing to improve their image - nothing. I don't expect them to be but maybe, the americans in Aus are like the muslims in america, in that they don't believe they should have a bad image because we in australia hardly hear all of the news in america, only the big news. This also works in reverse.. I could understand how people like Steve Irwin, Russell Crow and John Howard have influenced how other people view Australians, which is not necessarily an accurate representation either.

'Oh, and bombing embassies because of a political cartoon.'

I heard stories of people being shot over smaller things and of people who kill over items in computer games http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1040_22-5647411.html
It would only take a few people to bomb an embassy and riots have had there time in american history also, as in many western countries.

I don't think they should have to defend an image given to them by people who can't sift through extremist news worthy stories and the real deal that is oft not reported outside of the actual country.
G-Dog - Regarding your view of muslims within your community, obviously I can't say it isn't true but statements like 'I call them as I see them' reflect an attitude of 'if you don't see it - it don't happen'...

@Malarac

Don't mistake me, Malarac. 49.99% is a minority. The percentage of the Muslim population engaging in acts of violence isn't that high (or at least I've seen nothing to make me believe it is), but neither are we talking about a few isolated people. You use the example of one person killing another in anger, what in the US is called 2nd Degree Murder (meaning without premeditation). The people who bomb embassies, firebomb churches, and who shot and killed the Sister Leonella in Somalia after the Pope's remarks on Islam acted A) in a pre-meditated and planned manner and B) with the coordination and aid of multiple people and/or Islamic organizations like Ansar Al-Sunna.

@GP

We -really- need an edit feature as soon as possible :P

@Malarac

In short, while we shouldn't stereotype all Muslims as violent, passing off the riots and acts of violence that follow even the mildest expression of free speech aimed at criticism of or simply outside commentary on Islam as the isolated acts of individuals is a massive over-correction. We shouldn't attack or condemn Islam, the Muslim community, or Arabs as a whole (esp. not the last when some of the most violent and vitriolic Islamic extremists come from SE Asia, and when the most worrying theocratic state is Persian.). At the same time, let's pay -attention when groups like the Mujahedeen Shura Council issue statements like "...we will continue our jihad (holy war) and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism, when God’s rule is established governing all people and nations."

Your comments don't go this far, but I've heard others take the same basic tone and then amplify it to the point of reading that statement from the council and responding with: "Oh, they're just angry at the moment. They don't mean it. If we'd just force the Jews out of Israel and withdraw completely from the Middle East and leave Iran alone they'd calm down and leave us alone."

Ever since the release of Castle Wolfenstein there has been propaganda in video-making. Probably even earlier. "Axis of evil" is as much propaganda as "slaughtering jews", and I endorse none of these statements.

I remember a platform game on the Commodore Amiga 500 where ones sole mission was to go around shooting Arabs with a .45 and rescue some or other piece of information.

Here is another example, if nothing else in the title:
http://www.bluesnews.com/cgi-bin/articles.pl?show=445

I'd like you all to read John K. Cooleys "Unholy Wars" and reflect.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

the subject sucked...its not between islam and the west...

too sad many of you go after that line...

you guys suck too...

its really disgusting here...

i tried many times to see if i am wrong...by searching for information on the internet...but everytime i find out that i am on the right side...

just thought to tell my idea...dont waste your time responding to this...i dont care...

@Muslim

How is it not about Islam and the west? Of course your response just shows the ignorance and arrogance of the Muslim community when it comes to talking about a subject, i.e. the whole I don’t agree so you must suck and that’s that response.


@ who ever said it

America not trying to improve their image, you are so right. I mean foreign aid that we drop billions into for no other reason than to burn money is such a not trying to improve our image move. The fact that American's donate more money to charities than any other country is a sooo not trying to improve our image move.

Personally I wish America would turn into the country the Muslim countries call us to be, I wouldn’t hear about the Middle East any more because it would have been turned into a parking lot. Luckily such a thing is not true and most of the time we just laugh at the fact that a religion of "peace" reacts so often with violence and hate.
 
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