In Casablanca, Explosion Kills One at Video Game Arcade

March 11, 2009 -

Was it a bomb?

The Associated Press reports that a video game arcade in Casablanca was rocked by an explosion which left at least one person dead this morning:

Hassan Sajeed says the explosion occurred at about 8:45 a.m. in front of or inside a video game arcade on his street, the Boulevard el Joulane.

Sajeed said he believed the explosion was a bomb, and that windows were blown out as far as 40 meters (yards) away.

However, an unnamed official at the Moroccan Interior Ministry said that the blast appeared to be caused by natural gas.

The AP notes that Casablanca experienced a series of deadly terrorist bombings in 2003.


iPhone Game Lampoons Airport Security

March 4, 2009 -

Over at Water Cooler Games, Ian Bogost writes about Jetset, his iPhone/iPod Touch game that pokes fun at the bureraucratic nightmare that is modern airport security.

From the description:

The challenges of today's airport security make business and pleasure travel increasingly difficult. Security is there to make you feel safe and get you to your plane in one piece. However, today's regulations change frequently and are often different from airport to airport. Now, you too can stand in the shoes of a security agent trying to avert terrorism while getting everyone through a checkpoint quickly...

Play 100 different airports from around the world... Strip search travelers for fun... Confiscate dangerous travel items like pressurized cheese — all inspired by real events in airport security... Game automatically selects the airport you are in or near based on available location services

Jetset is currently available on the iTunes App Store for $3.99


Security Guy: Mumbai Terror Attack a "Video Game Killing Fantasy"

December 4, 2008 -

Over at GamerTell scribe PJ Hruschak is a bit frustrated with a security analyst who likened the Mumbai terror attacks to a "video game killing fantasy."

RAND Corp. analyst Brian Jenkins made the comment during a recent interview with NPR's Talk of the Nation:

We’re talking about a warrior subculture here. And I suspect that those who actually carried out the attack certainly were convinced that going down shooting was better than secretly planting bombs in public places... This in a sense for them was an opportunity to demonstrate their conviction, courage, although it doesn’t require a lot of courage to gun down unarmed people, but it becomes a kind of a real-life video game killing fantasy for the actual attackers themselves.

Jenkins probably meant no offense, but his remarks will likely rile some gamers. Hruschak explains:

Taken out of context, that sure sounds like Jenkins is a gamer hater. Really, he’s just trying to give a visual way of describing the attacks for an aural media. It’s more trying to describe the psychological state of the terrorists rather than specifically likening games to terrorist acts.

Even so, describing bombings as “unmanly” (inferring that gunning down innocent people is manly), indicating these terrorists are part of a “warrior subculture” and that “going down shooting” is a “a more attractive ending” and then summarizing it all as a “real-life, video game killing fantasy” should not sit well with many gamers.

After all, how many people has Cooking Mama, er, Mario killed?


Video Game Voice Actor Wounded in Mumbai Terror Attack

November 27, 2008 -

The CBC reports that a Canadian voice actor with video game experience was among those wounded in yesterday's terror rampage in Mumbai, India.

Michael Rudder was one of two wounded Canadians who were part of a delegation on a trip to India...


Rudder, who has worked in film, theatre and television, is a voice performer who has played roles in cartoons, commercials and video games, including top sellers Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3. He has also performed in the animated PBS series Postcards From Buster.

Rudder's other game work includes:

  • Far Cry: Instincts
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader Sean Bustin for the tip!


Taliban Burns Down Pakistani Video Game Shop

November 21, 2008 -

GP sister-site GameCulture, citing Indian newspaper The Hindu, reports that Taliban thugs burned down a video game shop as part of a sweep through the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan.

Stores selling videos and electronics were also attacked.




In Parliament, Vaz Debates Suicide Bomber Game, Praises New Game Violence Study

November 7, 2008 -

This week, GamePolitics has been tracking public outrage over Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game, a no-budget affair created by an amateur and posted online.

While the game is admittedly in very poor taste, there's not a lot to be done about it. As a non-commercial offering, Kaboom is not subject to any content rating requirements. And, since it is hosted outside the U.K., it would seem to be beyond the reach of English law.

But such logic has never been known to stop British Labour MP Keith Vaz, who has now taken his objections to Parliament. Vaz had the following exchange yesterday with MP Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons:

Vaz: Has my right hon. and learned Friend had the opportunity to look at early-day motion 2416? (quoted):

[That this House condemns the creation of the online computer game Kaboom which asks the player to replicate the actions of suicide bombers; believes that this game is offensive to the families of those killed by suicide bombers and devalues all human life; further believes that this game depicts an unnecessary level of violence; is deeply concerned that vulnerable people under the age of 18 are able to access and play this game; calls upon the game's creator to show sensitivity and responsibility by removing it from the internet; welcomes the findings of a new study from Iowa State University which recognises the link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour; and calls on the Government to revise its regulation of violent video games.]

[The motion] refers to an online computer game called "Kaboom", which asks players to replicate the actions of a suicide bomber. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is offensive to the families of the victims of suicide bombings and that it devalues human life? I have raised this matter on several occasions at business questions and in other debates. What action are the Government taking to remove such material from the internet or, at the very least, to approach service providers to ensure that they take appropriate action? Children and young people will be able to have access to those games. Could we have a debate on this important matter?

The Government are concerned about the effect on children of violent internet and video games, which is why we commissioned the Byron review. That set out how we need action from parents, from the industry itself and from the Government to ensure that there is proper control of content and clear labelling to protect young children. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's long-standing interest in these issues, which he had even before he became Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. Under his leadership, the Committee has taken a strong interest in such matters. I bring to his attention the fact that on Thursday 13 November, in Westminster Hall, there will be a debate on the question of harmful content on the internet and in video games.

GP: Vaz is referring to the game violence study published by Dr. Craig Anderson earlier this week. Anderson's work has been challenged by Dr. Chris Ferguson of Texas A&M

GamePolitics will be tracking Parliament's game violence debate on Nov. 13th.

British MP Vaz Erupts Over Suicide Bombing Game

November 6, 2008 -

A British video game industry official recently credited Labour MP Keith Vaz's public criticism of Manhunt with helping to drive sales of Rockstar's bloody game.

Vaz is seemingly at it again.

The Daily Mail reports that Vaz has expressed outrage over Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game. As GamePolitics reported recently, the amateur game is freely available online, although not from commercial video game industry sources.

In fact, we hadn't heard of the game until recent coverage by British tabloids. However, comments made by Vaz are helping to spread the word:

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the game contained an ‘unnecessary’ level of violence and offended relatives of those killed by suicide bombers...


He also said he was ‘deeply concerned’ that vulnerable users under the age of 18 are able to play the game...

The Israeli Embassy in London is also understood to have complained. Scores of Israeli citizens have been killed by suicide bombers in recent years.

Vaz has called for a ban on the game. However, as a non-commercial product it is not subject to the U.K.'s game rating process. In any case, because it is hosted on at least one U.S. site, it would seemingly be beyond the reach of British law.

GP: While the previously-obscure game is certainly in bad taste, we thought Conservative MP John Whittingdale took a more sensible approach:

I find this game tasteless but I don’t think it will necessarily start turning people into suicide bombers. But those whose lives have been affected by suicide bombings I imagine would find it upsetting.

UPDATE: Dvorak Uncensored notes that a website operated by racist fringe group the Aryan Nation now links to the game.

UPDATE 2: The game has come in for a mention in the Arab press.


bin Laden Bodyguard Can Turn a Sega Cartridge into a Bomb

November 4, 2008 -

There were some pretty awesome games on the old Sega Genesis.

Some bombs, too.

But an Al Qaeda operative apparently taught himself how to turn a Genesis cartridge into a real bomb, as the New York Times reports:

They were called the Dirty 30 — bodyguards for Osama bin Laden captured early in the Afghanistan war — and many of them are still being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Others still at the much-criticized detention camp there include prisoners who the government says were trained in assassination and the use of poisons and disguises.

One detainee is said to have been schooled in making detonators out of Sega game cartridges. A Yemeni who has received little public attention was originally selected by Mr. bin Laden as a potential Sept. 11 hijacker, intelligence officials say.

It's unknown whether a Sega cartridge bomb was ever actually used in a terrorist attack.

Via: Kotaku

Posted in

British MP Keeps Amateur Suicide Bombing Game in Perspective

November 4, 2008 -

British tabloid the Daily Star gets itself worked into a tizzy over an amateur online offering, The Suicide Bomber Game.

The free online game, which can easily be accessed by children, shows graphic images of body parts being splattered across the town. Yesterday, it was branded “sick, callous and upsetting” by the Bali Bombing Victims Group, who want it removed from the internet.

One member, Susanna Miller, who lost her brother Dan in the 2002 attacks which killed 202 people, said: “It’s callous, inappropriate, irresponsible and deeply offensive. I find it disturbing... I appeal to any sites featuring this game to remove it. It’s completely sick."

While Ms. Miller's sentiments are completely understandable, it's cheap journalism to call up someone who lost a relative to a suicide bomb and then ask them how they feel about a suicide bombing game. Apparently, that's how the Daily Star rolls.

Kudos to Conservative MP John Whitting­dale (left) who keeps things in perspective. It would have been very easy for Whittingdale to turn the Daily Sun's question about this obscure little title into a highly-publicized whinge encompassing video games in general. Whittingdale told the tabloid:

I find this game tasteless but I don’t think it will necessarily start turning people into suicide bombers. But those whose lives have been affected by suicide bombings I imagine would find it upsetting.


D.C. Metro Rider Complains About Fallout 3 Ads

October 25, 2008 -

A man who rides Washington, D.C.'s Metro underground rail system has written to the Washington Post to complain about poster ads for Fallout 3 which appear in the Metro Center station.

Joseph Anzalone criticizes the ads as well as Metro management for accepting them:

In one ad, the Washington Monument and the American flags surrounding it stand ravaged, as if hit by missiles. In another, the Capitol dome is partially caved in, while the rest of the building and the city behind it lie in ruins.

The people of our city do not need a daily reminder that Washington is a prime target for an attack. We do not need a daily reminder of what our worst fears look like. Since any First Amendment objection would be irrelevant (the ads do not present a true viewpoint or political message and would therefore not be protected), there is no reason for these ads to be part of our daily panorama.

The ads should be removed, and the appropriate office at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority should be directed to exercise better judgment regarding what can be displayed in our transportation system.

GP: Whether the ads are in poor taste is a matter of opinion, but Anzalone gets his constitutional argument wrong. The First Amendment protects more than "true viewpoints" and "political messages". That's why they call it free speech.


Pentagon Paranoia? How Terrorists Might Use WoW to Nuke White House

September 16, 2008 -

Planning a high level raid is tough enough in World of Warcraft, but a Pentagon researcher warns that al Qaeda could plan a nuclear attack on the White House via the popular MMO.

Wired's Danger Room reports that  Dr. Dwight Toavs, a professor at the Pentagon-funded National Defense University laid out such a scenario at the National Intelligence Open Source Conference in Washington, D.C. last week:

...two World of Warcraft players discuss a raid on the "White Keep" inside the "Stonetalon Mountains." The major objective is to set off a "Dragon Fire spell" inside, and make off with "110 Gold and 234 Silver" in treasure. "No one will dance there for a hundred years after this spell is cast," one player, "war_monger," crows.


Except, in this case, the White Keep is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "Dragon Fire" is an unconventional weapon. And "110 Gold and 234 Silver" tells the plotters how to align the game's map with one of Washington, D.C.


... details are a little fuzzy. The terminology doesn't match World of Warcraft lingo, all that precisely. There is no "White Keep" in World of Warcraft; "Dragon Fire" is a spell in EverQuest, the old-school role-playing game, not WoW. But the banter is reminiscent enough of World of Warcraft talk, to give outsiders an idea of how such a conversation might go down -- and how hard it would be to identify.

But Steven Aftergood of the Federation of the American Scientists was skeptical:

This concern is out there. But it has to be viewed in context. It's the job of intelligence agencies to anticipate threats and counter them. With that orientation, they're always going to give more weight to a particular scenario than an objective analysis would allow. Could terrorists use Second Life? Sure, they can use anything. But is it a significant augmentation? That's not obvious. It's a scenario that an intelligence officer is duty-bound to consider. That's all.

For his part, Toavs believes that anti-terror operatives may have to go undercover in games like WoW.

GP: This issue comes up periodically from the counter-terror community. Usually, Second Life is the main suspect. But would terrorists really go to all the trouble of using WoW as an assembly area when IMs, PGP-encrypted e-mail and steganography are readily available?

Besides, wouldn't WoW-playing terrorists become addicted like everyone else and neglect their jihad?

Finally, We've reported previously that Middle-East expert Juan Cole has dismissed the MMO terror cell notion:

What's the real game here?

...The notion that wandering around such an imaginary world with a computerized body is dangerous to anyone seems itself cartoonish and calls into question the public hand-wringing by security experts.



9/11 Memorial Held in Second Life

September 12, 2008 -

A 9/11 remembrance was held in Second Life yesterday on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

As reported by The Click Heard Round the World

There were 70-80 other avatars present... Most folks sat on the grass in respectful silence, restricting communication to instant messages.  A couple of avatars in soldier's uniforms stood at attention. Believe it or not, it means a lot for a bunch of avatars to sit in silence.  It just never happens...


On the audio stream, starting at 8:45AM EST (when the first tower was hit) and for several hours afterwards, the names of all the victims of 9/11 were read out by various members of the Second Life community... You could hear people's voices breaking in the midst of reading the seemingly endless list of those lost...



Burn Center Game Trains Docs for Mass Casualty Events

September 4, 2008 -

The Orlando Sentinel reports on the development of Burn Center by 360Ed, a local startup. The training game is designed to teach medical professionals who are not burn experts to deal with mass casualties from an event such as an explosion

The Sentinel notes that 360Ed partnered with the University of Florida College of Medicine and the Florida Department of Health on the project. 360Ed CEO Ben Noel, formerly of Electronic Arts:

September 11 awakened us to the fact that we have to prepare for these mass-casualty type of events, and the best way to prepare is modern technology, simulation and games. Instead of simulating it in a field experience, which can be very expensive, we are simulating it on a computer, which can be played over and over...


They said, 'If we give you a playbook, can you make like a Madden football for mass-casualty emergency response?' I said, 'Yeah, we aren't creating any new technology here; we'd just be taking content to places it hasn't been before.'

As the game begins, players are told that bombs have just exploded at a theme park:

The first phase is a race against time in which the player has to quickly assess and triage 40 victims. The second phase takes place in the intensive-care unit, where players make treatment decisions during a simulated 36-hour period. To get training certification from the American Burn Association, players must reach a certain score.


Burn Center isn't for the faint of heart. The game features screaming people, many of whom have gruesome burns and are covered in blood. In fact, some of the 360Ed team had a hard time looking at the real photos provided by UF to ensure the graphics in the game were realistic.



Controversial 9/11 Space Invaders Mashup Pulled as Creator Blames Media Reports

August 25, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported last week, an artist's Leipzig Game Conference exhibit which blended the arcade classic Space Invaders with images of the Twin Towers caused no small amout of controversy.

According to Edge Online artist Douglas Edric Stanley has pulled the exhibit, citing the uproar. In his blog, Stanley blames much of the public reaction to what he views as an ill-informed initial report by Kotaku:

I believe that I have at least some responsibility in taking seriously the many comments, especially from those within the gaming community, and obviously over at Kotaku where the response was the most varied and interesting...


Sadly, the work has been discussed, largely... based on this early report in which the journalist did not even play the game. For me at least, a video game is at some point always going to be about its gameplay. Ironically, the same journalist finally did play the game, and found some merit in it. But by then, the cat was out of the bag, and we had a media circus on our hands...

Stanley adds:

While I take full responsibility for the uncomfortable ambiguity of certain aspects of this work, it was never created to merely provoke controversy for controversy’s sake, and unfortunately, this is what the piece has now become... The American response to this work has been, frankly, immature, and lacking the sophistication and consideration that other parts of the world have so far shown the work...


Contrary to previous reports, I am an American, and it saddens me that we as a people remain so profoundly unable to process this event outside of some obscure, but tacitly understood, criteria of purely anesthetized artistic representation.

In related news, Space Invaders creator TAITO has indicated that it may sue Stanley and the Leipzig show for using the game without authorization.


At Leipzig Con, Artist's Mashup of 9/11 and Space Invaders Creates Controversy

August 22, 2008 -

ECA sister-site GameCulture reports on the controversy sparked by a French artist's exhibit at this week's Leipzig game conference.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders, the Games Convention included "Invaders!"—a work by French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley. The original installation consisted of a Space Invaders machine set amidst a large interactive space. In that installation, the game screen was overlaid on an 8-bit backdrop depicting the two towers of the World Trade Center, which fell in September 2001 after being struck by a pair of hijacked jetliners...


The juxtaposition of the terrorist attack and a classic arcade game, coupled with the full-body gestural control scheme, seems as though it could have been an involving, if challenging, experience. Like Danny Ledonne's Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, "Invaders!" pushes back at our tendency to lock horrific events into an untouchable cultural trophy cabinet, forever off limits and sacrosanct...

As GameCulture's Aaron Ruby notes, American gamers initially reacted badly to Stanley's exhibit. After some reflection, however, there seemed to be more acceptance that his point was to make a commentary about America's current war strategy, rather than trivializing the 9/11 attacks.

Full Disclosure Dept: Both GamePolitics and GameCulture are owned by the Entertainment Consumers Association.


Side-Scrolling Mod Said to Be Terrorist Propaganda Tool

August 11, 2008 -

A site which tracks developments in the Middle East reports that a radical Islamist website has posted a video game encouraging players to battle Americans, Israelis and Shi'ite Muslims.

Of the game, which appears to be a crude adaptation of a side-scroller, MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, writes:

On July 21, 2008 a member of the Islamist forum Al-Ikhlas posted a video game designed to encourage children to fight against "the forces of tyranny". The game enables the player to shoot at planes marked "Shi'ite", "Jewish" or "American".


Throughout the game, inciting speeches by Osama Bin Laden are heard, accompanied by the sounds of explosions and gunfire. The player is exposed to images of bin Laden, Zarqawi and other prominent Al-Qaeda members.

Although we don't know much about MEMRI, the site has in the past been given high praise by David Kaplan, chief investigative reporter for U.S. News & World Report:

MEMRI... does translations of media from the Muslim world, focused on jihadist propaganda and efforts by reformists. The group's new MEMRI Blog serves up news stories, videos, and postings from 60 leading Islamist websites. Hey, where else can you get headlines like "Mega-Evil Zionist Queen Stars in Iranian Sci-Fi Movie"?

GP: Big thanks to reader enbob for the tip!


Republican Congresswoman Claims Terrorists Communicating Via Japanese Video Game Sites

July 25, 2008 -

There have been a number of instances in which U.S. government officials have attempted to link video game technology with terrorism, occasionally with comic results.

GamePolitics has just located a terrorism speech delivered in May, 2007 by Rep. Sue Myrick (left). We don't believe this has been previously reported in either the gaming or mainstream press.

In the speech, the North Carolina Republican, a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, offers no explanation or amplification while linking terrorist training with "Japanese video game websites":

Terrorists frustrate our intelligence agencies because they use Internet techniques that can't be easily traced...  They are sending training and recruitment videos over Japanese video game Web sites because the traffic and file sizes are so large, intelligence officers cannot easily differentiate jihadist files from regular video game files. They post pornographic sites as the front to their Web sites because they know government workers are forbidden to access pornographic Web sites and therefore cannot go further to access their actual Web site...


 We must not allow the Internet to be a safe haven for terrorists.

GP: Also missing from Rep. Myrick's speech is any explanation as to why Japanese video game websites would be targeted to the exclusion of games sites located in other countries. And the bit about government workers not accessing porn sites? We think she needs to double check that one...


Renewed Controversy over Iraqi Artist's Virtual Jihadi Game

July 21, 2008 -

Controversy seems to follow Virtual Jihadi, artist Wafaa Bilal's computer game commentary on America's Iraq war policy.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this year, Bilal and his exhibit were uninvited from Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute following complaints about the game from the school's College Republican club. After moving the exhibit to an art gallery in nearby Troy, New York, Republican city officials intervened, closing the gallery over alleged building code violations. Art gallery officials charged that the closure was politically motivated. The New York Civil Liberties Union eventually filed a lawsuit against the city over the issue. 

Fast forward to this month. Bilal, an American citizen as well as a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, is currently exhibiting Virtual Jihadi at the Windy City's FLATFILE galleries, accompanied by a renewed round of controversy.

So, what's the uproar about? By way of background, GamePolitics reader Zachary Miner described the game as the RPI/Troy flap was raging earlier this year. Bilal's exhibit is, essentially, a mod of an al Qaeda mod of a forgettable PC game called Quest for Saddam:

During his speech, Bilal said that the idea for the game started with Quest for Saddam... in which the object is to find and kill Saddam Hussein. Apparently someone in Al Qaeda obtained a copy of the game, changed the skins of the soldiers and Saddam so that now the player is an Iraqi killing Americans and hunting George Bush [the so-called Night of Bush Capturing game].

[Bilal changed] the game from the Al Qaeda version so that instead of the player himself killing Bush, he now has to recruit someone else - in this case, a character skinned to look like Bilal himself... to become a suicide bomber and attack Bush. Bilial said that the point of this is to show the vulnerabilty of Iraqi citizens to recruitment for such purposes.

Negative reaction to the Chicago exhibit has come from a variety of critics:

  • Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin: If you’re a left-wing artist looking for attention, you can never go wrong with assassination chic. The latest entrant is one Wafaa Bilal. He’s got issues, as they say... And Obama and his grievance-mongering supporters have the nerve to whine about that New Yorker cartoon…
  • Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit: If somebody did this about Obama it would be a national scandal and evidence of America's incurable bigotry. But since it's an artist named Wafaa Bilal and it's about Bush it's just "confrontational art"... In an earlier age, this kind of thing would have been considered unacceptable enemy propaganda. On the other hand, this is just more proof that all the lefty bleating about George Bush's fascism is just self-indulgent -- and utterly dishonest -- twaddle.
  • Jihad Watch: There is freedom of speech and there is incitement to murder. A cartoon of Muhammad harms no one, although there are those who chose to consider themselves harmed by it, and think that it gives them a license to commit murder. This video game, on the other hand, encourages the murder of a living human being. Yet no one will be particularly concerned about this, while attempts to limit free speech because of the cartoons continue... It isn't as if anyone drew a cartoon of Muhammad in this exhibit. That would be crossing the line, now, wouldn't it?
  • Israeli game blogger Avi Green : This is really obscene and disgusting, and that it should be shown at an exhibition where I'm guessing they wouldn't even think of displaying the Mohammed cartoons from Denmark, should tell something about the true nature of the institute. Whoever Flatfile are, anyone with common sense should stay away from them.

Meanwhile, embattled anti-game lawyer Jack Thompson has inserted himself into the situation. As reported by Time Out Chicago, Thompson issued one of his typical legal threats to FLATFILE director Susan  Aurinko:

Either you immediately remove [Virtual Jihadi] from your ‘art gallery,’ or I shall take the necessary legal action to have it removed. I have already contacted the Secret Service.  Your public display of this game is a criminal act. 

It's unclear on what basis Thompson assumes the exhibit constitutes a crime. The FBI reportedly reviewed Bilal's game when it was first exhibited at RPI in March and took no action. Thompson subsequently claimed in an e-mail that Bilal "threatened" him in a phone call last Friday, although the nature of the "threat" is not specified. 

UPDATE: Executive Protection News has weighed in on Bilal's project:

Executive protection specialists should not dismiss these games no matter how distasteful they might be. Suicide bombers have been very effective in targeting VIPs and have successfully assassinated national leaders, military officials and other key figures. The threat of suicide bombers to key persons is real...


While it is doubtful that this game will result in a direct threat to President Bush or even an immediate suicide bomber attempt, these games give legitimacy to the tactic and hence encourage those who are already predisposed to use suicide bomber tactics.



Did al Qaeda Inspire Some GTA IV Attacks?

June 13, 2008 -

Spiegel Online International speculates as to whether some of the attacks in Grand Theft Auto IV were inspired by al Qaeda tactics:

Islamist forums are abuzz with a new theory: The designers of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, they say, were inspired by killing methods developed by al-Qaida. But did the idea for the car bombs and suicide attacks in the game really come from Osama bin Laden?


For user "Abd al-Wahhab," it is obvious. It isn't just military men all over the world who are studying the murderous methods employed by the terror group al-Qaida. Rather, designers, developers and graphic artists in the video game world, he argues, have realized that "al-Qaida is a killing school."

To support his premise, Abd al-Wahhab posts five YouTube videos. We've included one here, depicting a car bomb, at an airport, detonated by cell phone. Hmmmm.... Catch the rest of the videos with the Spiegel Online story.

Spiegel games writer Christian Stöcker, however, doesn't think much of the theory:

To say that al-Qaida influenced Grand Theft Auto IV is just as absurd as claiming that al-Qaida invented violence... No way. You can carry out a suicide attack in almost every video game that contains bombs and grenades, simply by not running away.



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US Anti-Terror Consultants Deny Report That They Classified Fallout 3 Screenshot as Al Qaeda Material

May 30, 2008 -

UPDATE: The SITE Intelligence Group has issued a press release which says, categorically, that the article in the Telegraph (upon which this story is based) is wrong. From SITE:

On May 30, 2008, the Telegraph newspaper ran a misleading story... which incorrectly and falsely described analysis provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.


Discussing a computer-generated image of a destroyed Capitol Building in Washington that was posted to a jihadist forum, the Telegraph claimed, without any basis, "The SITE Intelligence Group said that the image, showing a ruined Capitol Building in Washington, was created by extremists as part of discussions about the feasibility of nuclear strikes against the US and Britain."


This claim is entirely false, as is the characterization that SITE is "embarrassed" or "red-faced." SITE rejects the claims by the Telegraph and stands fully behind the accuracy of its information and analysis. SITE at no time maintained that the image "was created by extremists."

(original story follows:)

A US defense contractor has mistakenly identified a screenshot from the upcoming Fallout 3 role-playing adventure as an al Qaeda-created graphic.

As reported by the Telegraph, the SITE Intelligence Group claimed that the image (seen at left) was created by terrorists as part of an al Qaeda investigation as to the feasibility of launching nuclear attacks against the US and UK.

From the newspaper report:

The images appeared in a video, called Nuclear Jihad: The Ultimate Terror, posted on two password-protected websites... believed to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda. SITE also released translated several chatroom threads... discussing the possibility of nuclear attacks on the West.


However, it has transpired that far from being a detailed simulation created by terrorist masterminds, the apocalyptic vision is in fact lifted from the computer game Fallout 3, by US game designers Bethesda Softworks.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian was among news outlets which ran the story including SITE's claim that the graphic was an Al Qaeda product.

This isn't the first time that video game graphics have shown up in US intelligence reports on Islamic terrorism. As GamePolitics reported in May, 2006, footage from EA's popular first-person shooter Battlefield 2 and even a voice-over from the film Team America: World Police were presented to the House Select Committe on Intelligence as al Qaeda propaganda.

Commenting on SITE's bungling of the Fallout 3 graphic incident, Alex Jones Infowars takes the mainstream media to task, claiming that it helps spread terrorism fears:

Whatever Al Qaeda is, the American (and Australian) mainstream media is doing their job of spread the threat of terror for them, and making money at the same time utilising dramatic free content supposedly supplied by terrorists.


It doesn’t matter how absolutely crap and ridiculous the supposed Al Qaeda videos are, the mainstream media gives them all front page and lead evening news story exposure, almost seven years after the United States was last attacked.


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Troy, NY Sued Over City Shutdown of Video Game Exhibit

May 2, 2008 -

Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal's controversial video game exhibit, which culminates in the player attempting to shoot President Bush, has triggered a lawsuit against the city of Troy, New York, according to the Albany Times-Union.

As GamePolitics readers may recall, Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to present his Virtual Jihadi exhibit at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in March.

RPI's Republican Club, however, objected to Virtual Jihadi, which Bilal said was designed to show how US policy in Iraq has encouraged terrorism. School officials subsequently ordered the exhibit off campus. A local venue, the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, then offered Bilal the opportunity to display his work.

On opening night local Republican leader Robert Mirch, who also happens to be Troy's Public Works commissioner, led a protest outside the exhibit. The following day, Troy code enforcement officials (who work for Mirch) shut the Sanctuary down over building code violations involving its doors.

The Sanctuary, assisted by the New York Civil Liberties Union, has notified Troy that it will file a lawsuit against the city as well as Mirch. Said Melanie Trimble executive director of NYCLU's Capital Region chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful... City officials cannot chill free speech in this city by using their official powers.

Bob Mirch is the head of Public Works which oversees the code enforcement. Code enforcement came the next day and shut the building down even though they had approved the building's opening the day before. It's no coincidence.

Sanctuary co-founder Steve Pierce added:

There is a climate of fear in the city.

For his part, Mirch said:

This is nonsense. And a publicity stunt. At no time was the sanctuary closed. The two situations are not connected. Not connected.

Capital News 9 has a video report.

After Booting Controversial Game Art Exhibit, RPI Goes After College Republicans

March 13, 2008 -

At Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, New York, the fallout continues in the wake of the school's cancellation of a controversial game art exhibit.

As reported by the Albany Times-Union, the College Republicans, who were instrumental in drawing attention to visiting artist Wafaa Bilal's Virtual Jihadi exhibit, have had their website shut down. RPI officials said the action was taken because the College Republican site referred to the RPI Arts Department as "a terrorist safehaven."

With an official disciplinary review pending, Dean of Students Mark Smith ordered the website to be shut down, writing that:

[The terrorist safehaven remark is] slanderous, blatantly untrue, and can be construed to endanger the health, safety and welfare of members of the Rensselaer community.

Ken Girardin, co-chairman of the College Republicans, said:

[School officials] were looking at the term from the strictest interpretation. And we were looking at it with the loosest interpretation.

Ironically, the website shut down was the official RPI College Republican page. The terrorist safehaven comment resided on a separate blog not controlled by the school. 


ACLU May Sue Troy, NY in Game Controversy...

March 13, 2008 -

The furor sparked by Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal's controversial video game exhibit has seemingly taken on a life of its own.

In the latest news, officials of the New York Civil Liberties Union said that the organization may file suit against the city of Troy. As GamePolitics reported yesterday, city officials used local building codes to shut down Bilal's exhibit at a local studio. Executive Director Melanie Trimble of the Capital Region chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union told the Schenectady Daily Gazette:

The city is suppressing free speech, and they will face consequences. You cannot prevent people from assembling. It is an infringement of their First Amendment rights.

At the heart of the issue is the role of political figure Bob Mirch (left), a Republican with deep political connections in local and state politics. As reported by the Daily Gazette:

Mirch is head of [Troy's] Department of Public Works, works for [Republican] state Sen. Joseph Bruno as a constituent liaison and is Republican majority leader on the Rensselaer County Legislature.

Steve Pierce, director of the Sanctuary for Independent Media, which was shut down by Troy less than 24 hours after Bilal's exhibit opened, said:

We have [Mirch] on video saying, ‘I am the director of public works, and I am organizing this protest.’ The next day they shut us down. It is an issue of selective enforcement.



GP Reader Offers First-Person Account of RPI Video Game Controversy

March 13, 2008 -

While the Wafaa Bilal controversy continues to rage in Troy, New York and on the campus of Renssellaer Polytechnical Institute, a GamePolitics reader offers some local perspective.Zachary Miner is a graduate of SUNY Albany, and did his Master's thesis on the effects of the extensive use of MMORPGs and whether such use can be properly termed as an addiction. He has what he describes as an ongoing interest in video games and culture and hopes to do more research on gaming in the future. From Zachary's account (edited by GP):

I live in Albany, which is right next door to Troy, where the Wafaa Bilal flap is going on... I attended an event [Monday night] which was held at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy... 

During his speech, Bilal said that the idea for the game started with Quest for Saddam... in which the object is to find and kill Saddam Hussein. Apparently someone in Al Qaeda obtained a copy of the game, changed the skins of the soldiers and Saddam so that now the player is an Iraqi killing Americans and hunting George Bush [the so-called Night of Bush Capturing game].

[Bilal changed] the game from the Al Qaeda version so that instead of the player himself killing Bush, he now has to recruit someone else - in this case, a character skinned to look like Bilal himself... to become a suicide bomber and attack Bush. Bilial said that the point of this is to show the vulnerabilty of Iraqi citizens to recruitment for such purposes.

There was a photocopied booklet provided before the event that, in cartoon form, gives the backstory of the suicide bomber character in the game. The backstory follows Bilal's life almost exactly, which might be the source of some of the controversy, since it paints him as a terrorist. In real life, Bilal's brother was accidentally killed by a US bomb, and his father died 18 months later, grieving for his son...

Republican Leads Protest as Game-Art Exhibit is Expelled From RPI

March 11, 2008 -

The fallout continues at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnical University (RPI) following last week's cancellation of a controversial video game art exhibit by Iraqi citizen and Art Institute of Chicago professor Wafaa Bilal. 

As reported by the Albany Times-Union, the exhibition, suspended last week while school officials conducted a review, has now been officially expelled from campus. The head of RPI's Art Department has been ordered to have the exhibit hauled away by day's end. Of the decision, RPI VP William Walker said via press release:

As stewards of a private university, we have the right and, indeed, the responsibility to ensure that university resources are used in ways that are in the overall best interests of the institution.

Bilal's exhibit was moved to the off-campus Sanctuary for Independent Media where protesters, led by Robert Mirch (left), Republican majority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature, expressed their disapproval. Mirch told the Times-Union:

We're upset about the video game. He can show it. I don't have to approve it...

This Mirch quote appears on a separate Times-Union blog:

The Sanctuary for Independent Media should cancel this exhibit immediately. Allowing for the portrayal of the assassination of a president to be staged is wrong, un-American and destructive. I support free speech, but this exhibit goes beyond the bounds of what is decent or acceptable.

A counter-protest, organized in support of Bilal, was also present at the exhibit's new location.  

RPI Controversy Continues Following Cancellation of Artist's Video Game Exhibit

March 10, 2008 -

Last week GamePolitics tracked the story of Wafaa Bilal, an artist whose Virtual Jihadi exhibit at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute was cut short following protests from some students and alumni, as well as a visit from the FBI.

In the wake of the campus flap, Inside Higher Ed reports that some RPI faculty members were outraged by school president Shirley Jackson's decision to abruptly cancel Bilal's visit. Art professor Branda Miller, from whose classroom Bilal was pulled by college officials, said: 

This isn’t just shutting down an exhibit. This is an assault on my classroom, an assault on academic freedom and freedom of expression.

I thought, ‘this must be what it feels like to be in Iraq.’ A moment of compassion crossed my mind. I was imagining professors attempting to teach their students in countries where academic freedom does not exist, where even their lives are at risk.

I think this is a very complex discussion.He’s an artist. He’s very intelligent, very serious, very kind. He is trying to make a point. My students play these games. Some of these games are embedded with violence and racism and the ability to dislocate your sense of self when you kill someone. [Bilal was trying] to get people to think about the games.


RPI Game Exhibit Nixed Over Terrorism Concerns; FBI May Be Involved

March 7, 2008 -

On Monday GamePolitics reported on a brewing video game controversy at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, New York.

The dust-up centered around objections by RPI's College Republicans organization to a planned exhibition by a visiting artist. Wafaa Bilal (left), an Iraqi who is on the faculty of the Art Institute of Chicago and whose brother was killed in the current war, was scheduled to present a hacked version of Night of Bush Capturing, an al Qaeda propaganda game at the campus.

Bilal's exhibit, however, has been canceled by RPI administrators over terrorism concerns as well as protests by some students and alumni. As reported by the Albany Times-Union, Bilal said:

It feels like a military camp, not an educational institution.

Bilal maintains that the intent of his exhibit is to show how U.S. strategy in Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit new members.

Alumni Christopher Lozaga was among those who objected to Bilal's appearance:

So long as RPI sponsors these kinds of events, giving absolutely no consideration to military alumnus, friends and family of the university, I will not contribute a dime to the school.

On Wednesday Bilal was removed from an RPI classroom by administrators during a meeting with students. Said media arts professor Branda Miller:

It was very unsettling for me and my students. It would be unfortunate if Wafaa Bilal's art exhibition remains closed. The whole point of art is to encourage dialogue.

Bilal told the Times-Union that RPI officials, on orders from school president Shirley Ann Jackson, questioned him about the game mod and whether it portrayed an attack on President Bush. He was also told that federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were planning to attend his exhibit. 

While not commenting on Bilal's case specifically, an FBI official said:

I can state that there are situations where it would be appropriate for FBI agents to attend events which are open to the public if the FBI believes that there might be information relevant to national security. FBI agents can attend these events even if an investigation is not opened. But they would only report on information which is relevant to a threat to national security.'

RPI VP William Walker told the Times-Union: 

The university is considering various factors relating to the exhibition, and has suspended it pending a more complete review of its origin, content, and intent. Rensselaer fully supports academic and artistic freedom. The question under review regards the use of university resources to provide a platform for what may be a product of a terrorist organization or which suggests violence directed toward the President of the United States and his family.

RPI student body president Julia Leusner added:

If Bilal was making a point about the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war, I failed to see it, as did every other student I spoke to.

UPDATE: Newsday has picked up the story. Look for this to get some national attention. From Newsday:

"By taking [the exhibit] away, they destroyed the entire objective of it, which is conversation," Bilal said. "I think they're buying time as a tactic here, so they don't look bad. Let's call it what it is, censorship."

Bilal is no stranger to controversy. Some of his work was destroyed at an exhibition at the University of New Mexico, and he's also had government officials confiscate his work from an exhibit in Baghdad.

UPDATE 2: As expected, the RPI story has gone national. Here is Associated Press coverage in the Washington Post.

College Republicans Protest Iraqi Artist's Jihad Game Mod

March 4, 2008 -

An Iraqi video artist's  "Virtual Jihadi" exhibit is stirring controversy at the Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute campus in Troy, New York.

The artist, Wafaa Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, modded an Al Qaeda propaganda video game, Night of Bush Capturing, in order to craft a message about his views on the inhumanity of the ongoing war. From the RPI website:

Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber in the game (left). After learning of the real-life death of his brother in the war, he is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush. 

This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. 

The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media.

But RPI's College Republicans have expressed outrage over Bilal's appearance, terming the RPI Arts Department, which is sponsoring the event, "a terrorist safehaven:"

Our tuition dollars are hard at work in the RPI arts department which is proudly hosting a video game debut that simultaneously embraces Islamic terrorism and advocates the killing of the American President...


This is something RPI should be ashamed to have its name even mentioned with, let alone be sponsoring. Hopefully, the folks in the arts department will get enough phone calls from outraged alumni and come to their senses.

The College Republicans also express concern that Bilal's appearance is part of a program funded by a New York State grant.

Via: Albany Times-Union

GP: A number of GamePolitics readers attend RPI. We'd love to have them weigh in via comments...

UPDATE: Geeks Are Sexy has a lengthy interview with Bilal, who said:

I don’t know if it crosses a moral line, because it’s still virtual, right? So, if games like “Call of Duty” or other games are fine, why should this be any different?

...I think it’s a strategy of engagement. I don’t see it as crossing the line at all - but rather calling attention to something really disturbing, this game and the Web site, and the rhetoric as well...

We’re going to see more and more of games as a tool to capitalize on political issues, and as people, and the medium, become more sophisticated, we’re going to see more and more of this.


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