Comments: Video Game Conundrum

Will the kiddies get to "dead check" their bound and prostrate prisoners, too?

Posted by Steve in Los Angeles at April 15, 2009 04:48 PM
how do you present the horrors of war in a game that is also entertaining

home arson kits.

Posted by hapa at April 15, 2009 04:50 PM

When will the U.S. stop harming itself by indulging in racist, violent entertainment?

Posted by American at April 15, 2009 05:25 PM

To be fair, you're talking about an industry that managed to leave this generation bored with World War II.

Posted by Kaelri at April 15, 2009 06:27 PM

This is CAPITALISM 'run amok'...killing made entertaining to make profits!

What will they think up next? Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Rape made into games and entertaining?


Posted by Rupa Shah at April 15, 2009 07:52 PM

This is an excuse for not having the craftsmanship of a Kubrick or a Coppola.

On a deeper level, Roger Ebert has said that it's hard to make an "anti-war film", because at some level, no matter how horrible or graphic a war film is, you always end up being entertained by it to an extent. Sam Fuller also said that the only real way to have the audience feel the horror of war in a film was to shoot bullets at them in the cinema hall itself.

If any of you have seen a war film that managed to be "truly antiwar", do tell me.

Posted by En Ming Hee at April 15, 2009 08:27 PM

Letters from Iwo Jima. One of the saddest films I have ever seen. I'd say it is 'truly antiwar'.

Posted by Cloud at April 15, 2009 08:42 PM

Just another recruiting show.

Posted by Mike Meyer at April 15, 2009 08:45 PM

EMH: You make an excellent point. (Re the video, maybe it should have an explosive device inside. You know, to get the proper mix of horror and entertainment.)

Re. war movies, I am partial to "Forbidden Games" because I saw it very young (same age as the children acting in it) and it hit so close to home I never had the courage to see it again. It's more about children than about war. (Of course, war is more about children than about war.)

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at April 15, 2009 08:50 PM

I've read Ebert say that, and he said he was quoting Truffaut.

The Americanization of Emily is anti-war, although it's not really a war movie. Anyone, do you think any of the Vietnam movies count as "truly anti-war"? How about The Thin Red Line?

Posted by Save the Oocytes at April 15, 2009 10:19 PM

I'm not really sure why they let any ground troops in that city at all. Well I guess I do, so they could make a fucking video game about it. Those retarded ass Marines [read: GWB] were itching for a chance to shoot some rag-heads, and they weren't going to pass up the opportunity for a duck hunt style shootout. And don't let all their gung-ho battle stories about how bad ass they are convince you otherwise. Air support 'won' that battle just like every other American victory in this war. And by G-d, they dropped *tons* upon *fucktons* of munitions in that battle. 4 days with no stop [literally], and 2 weeks intermittently.

I'll let you in on a secret: That battle was a PR stunt for both sides. And just to disabuse you of any notions that this battle was particularly bad or anything.... it wasn't. Every soldier, marine, airman, or whatever laughed their ass off at the big uproar after that dead check thing. War ain't pretty you taxpaying suckers, you.

Rupa Shaw, I sure would rather have some pasty ass freak playing Japanese rape games than anywhere near the public. And who gives a jam about violent entertainment. I mean it's a fucking war. Blood, guts, dead babies, the whole thing. Who gives a crap about a video game? Just sayin'.

Posted by tim at April 15, 2009 11:12 PM

I'm a fan of the Acid Trip school of anti-war films. You know-- Apocalypse Now, Slaughterhouse Five. Any crazy bastards who watch those movies and rush to sign up are sure to be disappointed.. and anyone with sense will get the point about war being some dumb shit [tip- it's not really like that]. And myself just bees entertained.

Posted by tim at April 15, 2009 11:18 PM

Kubrick's Paths of Glory is an anti-war film.

Posted by Seth at April 16, 2009 12:12 AM

I have a friend, up at the local VA, that got shot 7 times in Fallujah. I'm guessing he doesn't see it as all fun and video games.

Posted by Mike Meyer at April 16, 2009 01:11 AM

Re: tim - they're more or less on record describing what happened. The residents killed four American mercs, dragged their corpses through the streets and burnt them on a bridge (maybe not in that order - I forget). The US brass was incensed and decided they needed to get revenge, show who has the bigger balls, not let them get away with this, etc. So they went in with guns blazing and white phosphorous, uh, blazing, and the rest is sordid history.

Posted by saurabh at April 16, 2009 02:41 AM

Thanks, I have seen all of the films you talked about, but it seems to me that one of the limits of the cinematic medium may be that it's hard to convey the necessary revulsion and terror to be mustered for war, when you sit in an auditorium and are at any point engaged by such things as cinematography, writing and acting, no matter what, these films still convey aesthetic pleasure. That immediately puts a distance between you and the film. That's why Sam Fuller said that the only way to bring about and evoke the terror of war in a cinema is to shoot bullets at the audience themselves.

I guess that maybe a film by its nature can't be fully antiwar. To the extent that most antiwar films are pro-something else. "The Thin Red Line" and a very similar Japanese film called "The Burmese Harp", get around the limitations of a war movie by showing that mankind has always had alternatives to bloodlust if it was willing to embrace them. They're pro-peace rather than anti-war films, and perhaps that makes them more valuable than anything else.

Posted by En Ming Hee at April 16, 2009 02:44 AM

"All quiet on the Western Front."

Posted by sam_m at April 16, 2009 03:48 AM

En Ming Hee - I'll go with "Das Boot" - the few scenes of actual combat mostly involve people being left to die in horrible, senseless circumstances, not to mention the extremely nihilistic ending.

Posted by saurabh at April 16, 2009 05:29 AM

Seems to me this is a good example of why "the anti-war movement" (when there was one) never made much of a dent in imperialist thinking. The younger you can get the budding troops, the better and games like this are ideal for that purpose. When the kiddies are younger,schools get all gushy over a visit from a uniformed soldier who instills the idea that he/she is protecting us just like the friendly crossing guard on the corner. I think the populace's acceptance of official mayhem as right, proper,and inevitable, learned so early, is more important for its continuation than the active promotion of warfare by the ruling class.

Posted by Rosemary Molloy at April 16, 2009 07:09 AM

If you want an antiwar movie, watch Johnny Got His Gun (1971). It doesn't get more antiwar than that, but don't say I didn't warn you.

All good war movies must by definition be antiwar to some extent. To see the one truly antiwar Vietnam movie (opposed to the partial deal of Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon or Casualties of War), the first one in my experience that ever showed the Enemy as human (We Were Soldiers goes in that direction somewhat, but stops at the point of proud respectable adversaries), some personal sacrifice is required. Look deep within and clear yourself of everything you ever knew about movies. Focus on having a clear heart and open mind. Ok? Now go watch Tunnel Rats. No, I'm not kidding. Ignore its abysmal ratings and watch it.

Posted by Lurker at April 16, 2009 07:34 AM

The best war movie of all times will of course always remain Stalingrad (the 1993 German one).

Posted by Lurker at April 16, 2009 08:11 AM

The video games are repulsive, but most of that type have been so for years. They reflect the coarsening of our culture while contributing to its degradation.

Posted by Svensker at April 16, 2009 08:11 AM


Posted by Svensker at April 16, 2009 11:00 AM


Peter Watkins' 1964 film Culloden was a powerful antiwar film.

Posted by Svensker at April 16, 2009 11:02 AM

saurabh: I spent this battle huddled behind the police station at the other end of that bridge, so I have some idea. Those four contractors may have been used as an excuse of sorts, but they weren't the reason for that battle. Hell, I didn't even know it was the same bridge until a month later when I watched that prick Moore's movie 'Farenheit 911'. [that movie made me more angry than getting shot at for 2 weeks].

The ultimate anti-war movie is being there. [And I don't feel bad about any white phosphorus or double tapping. Like I said, most people no idea and want no idea what happens on a daily basis over there.]

Posted by tim at April 16, 2009 11:18 AM

Bernard forgot to mention (no snark on my part intended) that Iraq Body Count says several hundred civilians were killed in both the spring and the November 2004 US assaults. I'm too lazy to look up their exact numbers, but I think it was something like 600 in the first and 800 in the second. And given IBC's methodology, these figures might be conservative.

Of course, Dexter Filkins of the NYT informed us that there weren't any civilian casualties to speak of in the second assault, because he was there and didn't see any civilian bodies and they'd all left (though there were news stories at the time saying that male civilians of fighting age were forced back in). Though he also didn't see any insurgent bodies until he was taken out on a little excursion specifically to find one.

Posted by Donald Johnson at April 16, 2009 01:31 PM

Time wrote: "[And I don't feel bad about any white phosphorus or double tapping. Like I said, most people no idea and want no idea what happens on a daily basis over there.]"

Interesting. Why is it you don't "feel bad" about using white phosphorus as an offensive weapon or about "double tapping" (do you mean "dead checking" as in US Marines shooting unarmed, bound, and wounded prisoners-- prisoners-- lying on the floor?). Just curious.

And Tim also wrote: "Those four contractors may have been used as an excuse of sorts, but they weren't the reason for that battle."

Interesting again. What was the reason or were reasons for "that battle"? Fallujah 1 or Fallujah 2? Just curious.

Posted by Steve in Los Angeles at April 16, 2009 02:11 PM

The US military uses white phosphorus for illumination. Period.

The reason for the battle, as we was told when it happened was that it was going to be a grand decisive battle, and the beginning of the end for the whole war, the insurgency was going to mount a major defensive operation and would collapse because of it. Right.

Considering the weeks of advance warning they got, it is no surprise that it wasn't decisive at all. For the same reason, I think enemy casualties were inflated (and in any case they sure didn't find that many enemy bodies). As for civilian casualties, hey that sucks, but you had weeks of warning stupid.

And as for the comment I made about not being sorry about that stuff, let me rephrase. I'm not sorry about anything done according to the law of war. The dead check was wrong, and if I remember correctly that guy got put in jail. But the white phosphorus thing, those stories are plain bullshit. Seriously, why the hell would we even do that? You know we have tanks that shoot radioactive ammunition? Airplanes that shoot artillery? Real artillery? Jets with mounted chainguns? Helicopters with missiles? Not to mention all those crazy Marines who get shot 7 times like it's their job and live to tell it? Somebody tell me why the fuck we would shoot illumination flares at someone to hurt them.

Posted by tim at April 16, 2009 02:45 PM


Have you ever heard of "shake and bake?"

Hint: Not the Kraft© product.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at April 16, 2009 05:07 PM

Seriously, why the hell would we even do that?

How about this (pdf)?

b. White Phosphorous. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired "shake and bake" missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.

HE=high explosive rounds, by the way, for those not familiar with the way war criminals talk among themselves.

Posted by John Caruso at April 16, 2009 07:03 PM

Oh fine, whatever it takes you to feel morally superior.

Posted by tim at April 16, 2009 07:18 PM

tim, damn, WE invaded THEM. if you got shot at, if you saw things you hate, blame your own people. your moral justifications can't bring back the dead that didn't want the kind of help you brought.

Posted by hapa at April 16, 2009 09:04 PM

I've often noticed that the people who use the "War is hell, people get hurt, quit being a bunch of sissies about a few dead ragheads/gooks!" line never seem to realize that it applies to them too. If you invade a country, bomb its people, run them over with tanks, slather them with white phosphorus, torture them and their brothers and fathers and and sons, they will shoot at you, bomb your transports, kill you. So quitcher bitchin', tim.

Posted by Duncan at April 16, 2009 09:26 PM

" As for civilian casualties, hey that sucks, but you had weeks of warning stupid."

Their country, Tim. I'm wondering how many Americans would feel if some of our victims came here to clean out our own terrorist forces and killed a bunch of civilians too "stupid" to leave when they were told. And anyway, from what I read military aged men were sent back to Fallujah for the second assault, as it was suspected that they might be guerillas trying to escape, so maybe those "stupid" guys who got killed didn't have much choice.

Posted by Donald Johnson at April 16, 2009 09:47 PM

@tim at April 15, 2009 11:12 PM

I agree with you about everything regarding your description of war. I think it is even worse and am absolutely, totally against war or any kind of violence.
However, there is more than enough evidence to show that children who play 'violent video games', have aggressive thoughts and engage in aggresive and violent behaviour. This, in fact becomes a precursor of a state of mind where they want to resolve conflicts violently. According to American Psychological association, video violence is even worse than TV violence because of its interactive nature. So,when you say, "who gives a crap about a video game?", I say, I do (about games depicting violence) and we all should as this is about the future generations of our country.

Posted by Rupa Shah at April 16, 2009 11:08 PM

The US military uses white phosphorus for illumination.

the same way the iraqi resistance uses IEDs for illumination.

Posted by almostinfamous at April 16, 2009 11:41 PM

I remember playing the Vietnam version of call of duty and was anything but a glorification of the conflict. It was a really, weird, paranoid game. I'd withold judgement.

Posted by Ed Marshall at April 17, 2009 01:56 PM


The relationship between video games and violence is absurd and overblown. Video games do NOT predispose you to violence. They may, as in this instance, predispose you to worshiping a violent culture, but it's the real-world existence of that culture that's at issue, and conflating IT with the (fictional) world of the video game. Video games don't manufacture killers; they manufacture people who think of killers (i.e., soldiers) as protagonists. And there are people (i.e., the Pentagon) who are eager to exploit their naiveté to sign them up for a battle they have the wrong idea about.

Those people aren't any more likely to go out and be able to actually shoot real people with no compunctions (as I can attest after having played hundreds of hours of Halo). They're still going to come home with PTSD after they've done the real deed.

Posted by saurabh at April 17, 2009 06:59 PM

And Tim also wrote: "Air support 'won' that battle [Fallujah 2] just like every other American victory in this war. And by G-d, they dropped *tons* upon *fucktons* of munitions in that battle. 4 days with no stop [literally], and 2 weeks intermittently."

Here's some more interesting reading (full report here) for you, Tim, about how US "air support" in somebody else's country (that did not attack your country) kills unarmed women and children.

And Tim, if you really are an Iraq veteran (and not a troll impersonating one) then dude, get some help-- seriously-- for the PTSD that your comments here are displaying. Seriously. And don't ever let your government do that to you or anyone you love again.

Iraq [US] Air Raids Hit Mostly Women and Children

by Kim Sengupta
April 16, 2009

Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead.

Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women.

Twelve per cent of those killed by suicide bombings, mainly the tool of militant Sunni groups, were children and 16 per cent were females. One in five (21 per cent) of those killed by car bombs, used by both Shia and Sunni fighters, was a child; one in four (28 per cent) was a woman.

The figures, compiled by academics at King's College and Royal Holloway, University of London, show that hi-tech weaponry has caused lethal damage to those in the population who would be furthest away from the conflict.

Posted by Steve in Los Angeles at April 17, 2009 11:34 PM

@saurabh at April 17, 2009 06:59 PM

The relationship between video games and violence is absurd and overblown. Video games do NOT predispose you to violence.

All I can say is, I beg to differ. A tiny percentage of population that smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and may live to be ninety, does not negate the carcinogenic effect of tobacco. Similarly if some children escape the detrimental effects of violent video games on their psychological growth and health does not take away from their harmful effects.

Posted by Rupa Shah at April 18, 2009 02:44 PM

Those people aren't any more likely to go out and be able to actually shoot real people with no compunctions (as I can attest after having played hundreds of hours of Halo).

Posted by saurabh at April 17, 2009 06:59 PM

Hah. Halo? Shooting fictitious aliens doesn't even have a non-virtual equivalent.

I've bayoneted virtual Vietnemese teenagers, finished off struggling pixelated SS soldiers and even been in the boots of a corporate soldier of fortune. I left behind scenes of limbs and gray matter that would make South African Halliburton mercs blush.

Still, I'm a Jain and I don't even touch the flies anymore. You'll find that my friends describe me as a guy with an especially long fuse. You'll also find that these friends have just as extensive video-based "MOs".

There's a catch I concede. When I tried out my marksmanship instructor's M1-Carbine, he incredulously asked if I've used the rifle before. Why yes I replied, necessity had me looking through the sights more than once on the beaches of Sicily. Mussolini's finest gave me plenty of target practice.

Yep. Couldn't find the study but videogames do correlate with a functioning knowledge of firearms, but other than being a gun encyclopedia, the lasting effects of videogames last only as long as the adrenaline rush playing them.

Posted by Nikolay at April 19, 2009 02:46 AM

There's one possible recruit. Put Nikolay in a foreign land with a rifle and he may well be able to cap someone he has NEVER met before.

Posted by Mike Meyer at April 19, 2009 11:45 AM

Ahh... the implication that videogames are a recruiting tool?

Well.. Oh who am I kidding, yes! Finding evidence that videogames are a recruiting tool doesn't take much effort. Videogame critic and retired Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman would have more success putting the game industry six feet under if he started tying links between the industry and his beloved Army than trying to make this media out to be "killing simulators." They don't call it the "official" Army game for nothing.

But it can go both ways..

"When you live in middle-east you can’t avoid being part of the image, as a development company we believe that we had to do our share of responsibility in telling the story behind this conflict and targeting youngsters who depend on video games and movies (which always tell the counter side) to build their acknowledgement about the world.

This game is suitable for 13+years age players, it contains graphical violence and shooting at military personal models, it does not includes shooting at civilians or abusing them, it does not include suicide bombing or any terrorist simulation, level contents are inspired by real stories of Palestinian people, that were documented by United Nation records (1978-2004), west bank and Gaza strip are occupied land according to UN law, and military actions performed by local fighters against occupying forces is considered eligible.

UnderSiege is about the modern history of Palestine and it focuses on the lives of Palestinian family between 1999-2002 during the second Intifada. All levels are based on true stories and we look forward to publish it all over the world on PC/windows platform."

Those minimum requirements are quite steep for such craptacular graphics. Why do you require a 64 Mega Byte card when the game doesn't even have decent bump mapping?

But I digress, I guess you could say, other than our stateside titles, that the Dev team was short decent military advisors.

I could buy that.

Posted by Nikolay at April 21, 2009 02:24 AM


Forget the way the battle could be portrayed. Military families don't think the game is a good idea either.

"Game is the key word here," said Karen Meredith, 55, of Mountain View, Calif., on Friday. She was notified on Memorial Day in 2004 that her only child - First Lt. Ken Ballard, 26 - had been killed in Iraq. She said the game trivializes the war."

Posted by Nikolay at April 21, 2009 02:41 AM