Reg Keys, father of Red Cap Thomas Keys, a soldier tragically killed by an Iraqi mob in June 2003, told the UK's Daily Mail that "glorifying" the event in a video game showed "poor judgment and bad taste" on Konami's part considering the "enormous loss of life" in the Iraq War -- a war that is still ongoing.
Six Days in Fallujah is reportedly inspired by events that occurred during the second battle in Fallujah -- codenamed Operation Phantom Fury (also, Operation Al-Fajr or "The Dawn") -- which took place between November 7 and December 23, 2004. When it was announced, Anthony Crouts, vice-president of marketing for Konami, said it wasn't the publisher's intention to take a stance on war, telling The Wall Street Journal, "We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience."
Unfortunately for Konami and developer Atomic Games, the Battle of Fallujah is widely regarded as one of the most controversial battles in recent history. Ducking any associated messages may be an uphill battle.
What are the events that make this battle so controversial for a video game setting, especially one that will attempt to entertain rather than state an opinion? This is a brief rundown of some of the controversy that surrounds The Second Battle for Fallujuah, Operation Phantom Fury:
Will the developer put such a controversial weapon in the hands of the player?
In November 2004 the second battle for Fallujah begins. It is noted as the largest single month of US casualties in the Iraq War. Current figures stand at 137 named soldiers dead (3 reported) and 1,427 wounded in campaigns throughout the war.
By November 15, Operation Phantom Fury removes a reported 1,200 insurgents from Fallujah. However, controversy exists regarding the number of civilian casualties that were related to the fight. Some claim numbers to be as high as "1,000," but the Defense Department operational update briefing claim such numbers are "exaggerated or baseless." [Paragraph edited with new source links.]
Operation Phantom Fury also ignites a political firestorm when reports claim the United States Military had used white phosphorus as a weapon against insurgents. The use of the substance was initially denied, but US officials later confirmed its use, stating the weapon is "standard" for field artillery units.
However, a previously classified Pentagon document from 1995 describes white phosphorus as a "chemical weapon," in reference to former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein's use of the substance (in combination with other weapons) to murder between 3,500 and 5,000 Halabja citizens in a horrific poison gas attack in 1988. Atomic Games told The Wall Street Journal it wants Six Days in Fallujah to be more than a game; comparable to a documentary. With that in mind, will the developer put such a controversial weapon in the hands of the player?
Six Days in Fallujah could inadvertently become one of the most important video games this generation.
Beyond that, the game focuses on an ongoing and highly controversial war. "The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war," Stop The War Coalition spokesperson Tansy E. Hoskins told TechRadar. Previously, Sony applied to trademark the term "Shock and Awe" (a reference to a massive bombing campaign in Baghdad), which was set to be the title of a war game set in Iraq. Following controversy regarding the application, Sony canceled its plans calling the move "an exercise of regrettable bad judgment."
Regardless of Konami and Atomic Games' intent, it appears that Six Days in Fallujah could inadvertently become one of the most important video games this generation because of its subject matter. In a medium that is not typically hailed for handling current affairs, Six Days will have a lot of historical weight on its shoulders and eyes on its portrayal of the ongoing Iraq War.
Six Days in Fallujah is in development at Atomic Games in collaboration with "more than three dozen" Iraq War veteran US Marines and is set to release sometime next year on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Ed. Note: Six Days in Fallujah is not the first game to tackle the Second Battle of Fallujah. A free, independently developed, online PC game titled Kuma War includes a "series of playable recreations of real events in the war on terror."