Monday, April 27, 2009

Too soon?

A mere twenty-one days after announcing it, Konami has decided against releasing Six Days in Fallujah, the controversial military shooter depicting the 2004 Battle of Fallujah. From a marketing standpoint, the project sounded like a disaster from the start, but, even though I had little confidence in it turning out well, I was still intrigued by the possibilities.

Developer Atomic Games described it as a commentary-free "game-amentary," which got me imagining playing as a war photojournalist in a horrific battlefield version of Pokemon Snap, minus the rails. Maybe that wouldn't have been a good idea, but reading further revealed that the actual game was just a third-person shooter.

Despite the developer's insistence that it would honor the troops by working with actual Fallujah participants, the game's announcement was met with near-universal concern that, by the nature of the medium, it could only serve to glorify a real ongoing war. It probably didn't help that the pretentious claims were immediately undermined by Konami's marketing ("At the end of the day, it's just a game."). Subsequent previews furthermore revealed that it used a regenerating health mechanism that would have virtually destroyed any sense of realism or consequence. Reports of the developer consulting insurgents may have provided the final outrage.

Konami probably wasn't the right publisher to handle this topic, and its pulling out doesn't necessarily mean that the project is dead, but, given the overwhelming negative feedback that has dogged the game since its initial announcement, I can't think of any company that would be willing and able to take over releasing it. Personally, I'm a little disappointed at this turn of events. No, the game didn't sound too promising, but I think we should at least have gotten a chance to see and learn from what it got wrong. Right now, the only lesson seems to be that we can't handle controversy in gaming.

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