After a stormy reception by military groups and a Konami Gamers Night in which Six Days in Fallujah was a key highlight in its presentation, Konami has officially dropped the publishing rights to Six Days in Fallujah, reports The Asahi Shimbun today. [UPDATE: Konami returned my calls today to report that it has officially dropped Six Days in Fallujah. Officially. Really.]
The Asahi Shimbun quoted a Konami representative who confirmed the company dropped it, saying, “After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it,” a Konami official told the outlet.
We called Konami and were met with a strict “No comment” to all questions. However, Atomic Games gave mixed messages. Public relations Manager Jeremy Zoss said, “Right now we don’t have any comment, but we should have one in the next couple of days.” A second Atomic employee confirmed over the phone Konami is no longer publishing the game. “That’s right,” she told us, “Konami is not publishing it.”
In the next couple days, Atomic is likely to go on the road and pitch Six Days in Fallujah, a first-person shooter that re-creates the realism of the battle in Iraq using former military personnel’s journals and reports including interviews in the game.
One must wonder why Konami dropped Six Days in Fallujah. Did the game draw controversial attention beyond what the publisher had expected? Probably. Did the game look and play as well as Konami expected? The game I saw was early and didn’t look terribly impressive, but to be fair the title isn’t due until 2o10. How much research did Konami do internally and externally before acquiring the publishing rights? Apparently Konami is a more conservative company than even Konami thought it was.
Did the public’s reaction have an influence on Konami’s decision? Clearly, yes; the game has already been in development for about two years.
Games based on World War II re-create a war that’s a generation or two away, making it easier to swallow, as evidenced by the success of Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. The rash of Vietnam games that quickly came and went in 2004 drew some criticism, too, but again because that war had been over for more than 30 years, the raw emotions involved in it had simmered down.
The Iraq War has been controversial since the beginning, based on the notion that Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s government had developed the capacity to develop nuclear bombs. That premise changed when the US government found no such evidence. More to the point, however, the Iraq war is still going on, and soldiers are still dying because of it.
The question that Konami apparently didn’t ask itself was, “Do we feel comfortable making a first-person shooter based on a war that’s still in effect?” Perhaps some people felt comfortable about it, while others didn’t.
In an interview with Atomic Games at Konami’s Gamer Night, Peter Temte told us that Six Days in Fallujah is an important game because it takes a controversial issue and presents it in the medium of video games. “What better way to tell the story?” he asked. Atomic’s goal was to use the journals of several soldiers who wrote about the war, and to include their opinions and insights into the game, bookending missions and providing a human face to the levels.
Are video games the best way to tell the story of a war that’s still raging? Are they better or worse than a book, a TV series or a movie because they’re interactive? Do they under or misrepresent the reality of war? Will gamers trivialize the war because they can virtually kill terrorists?