Following the recent announcement of a new war game called Six Days In Fallujah from Japanese publisher Konami, TechRadar spoke with ex-SAS man and well-known chronicler of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Andy McNab.
McNab, author of Bravo Two Zero and a number of other autobiographies and fictional accounts of war, was keen to stress that UK-based critics and commentators of Konami's game need to understand that "culturally it is totally different in the US."
"In America it is not as if this is "shock horror"," said McNab, "everybody has been watching it on the news for the last 7 years."
The ex-SAS man also thinks the culture of videogames is far more deeply ingrained in US culture, telling us that "my mate's granny lives in an apartment block in NYC and she has a gaming room of her own with two settees back-to-back and two flat screens – and she's in her late eighties!"
GTA and Call of Duty
The ex-SAS man sees little difference between Six Days In Fallujah and "killing Nazis or drug dealers or whatever it may be," reminding us that the "US Army uses shoot-em-ups as a recruit tool – it has a travelling gaming fair that travels round malls to recruit lads. Culturally they are more up for it."
Ironically, while McNab agrees that the game IS entertainment, he argues that "the media has used the war as entertainment anyway," and that "the war has turned into entertainment, with viewers more interested in visuals" than understanding the complex terms of the conflict.
"The hypocrisy is in the fact that when the media wants a 'shock horror' story they will focus on something like this," adds McNab.
"In Afghanistan last year, in those last few months of Basra, and lads there have got their laptops and they are playing games on their laptops in their free time…The people who are fighting these wars are playing these games."
Insurgents and civilians?
For a truly in-depth 'game-amentary' surely, some critics argue, we should show the point of view of the numerous groups involved in conflicts?
"Maybe we should show the civilian or the insurgents' side of it, sure," notes McNab, adding, at the same time, "the media doesn't do that in covering the real conflicts!"
In McNab's opinion, it really comes down to the cultural differences and the depth of feeling and understand about what Fallujah meant to Americans.
"In Fallujah the Americans lost more soldiers than the whole of the British Army has in Iraq and Afghanistan combined," he says. "So Americans are aware of it… it is in their psyche… so if the game stands up and offers Americans those soldiers' stories, then, why not?
"In America a 90 year old and a 12 year old will know what happened at Fallujah. Its on the TV, there are books about it… so the game is a natural extension to that.. it is folklore. The only difference being that it is presented in a different medium.
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