Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor Those Who Served in Iraq

April 8, 2009 -

Just announced on Monday, Konami's upcoming Iraq War game Six Days in Fallujah is already into its third day of controversy.

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported on concerns expressed by several critics in the U.K., including a decorated former army colonel and the father of a Royal Marine who was killed in Iraq.

Today's interview with Dan Rosenthal is a little closer to home. Actually, make that a lot closer to home.

Dan (left) is a veteran of the Iraq War. He's a longtime gamer. He's also a law student and edits the excellent gameslaw.net blog, which we cite with regularity here on GamePolitics. I first met Dan at PAX 08. He attended GDC last month on on IGDA scholarship. So when he speaks from the heart about his war experience and his feelings about Six Days in Fallujah, I listen. As it happened, yesterday Dan and I interacted on Twitter about Konami's controversial game. Afterward, Dan was gracious enough to consent to this interview:

GP: Dan, when were you in Iraq? What unit did you serve with?

DR: I served in the U.S. Army, 3rd Battalion 124th Infantry Regiment... Our unit was based out of Florida with the Florida National Guard, but during our time in Iraq we were attached to several units... I arrived in Kuwait in February 2003, participated in the invasion of Iraq in March, and left around a year later.

GP: Where were you stationed for the bulk of your Iraq tour?

DR: During the invasion, we drove upwards through southern Iraq, helped secure the area around Nasiriyah, then moved northward and conducted operations out of Baghdad for the remainder of the time... If you've ever seen the movie Gunner Palace, that base was a few hundred meters away from our compound, a former Republican Guard general officer's quarters.  

GP: Did you see any combat?



DR: Well, we were an infantry unit, so that's pretty much what we were designed for. During the invasion we were assigned as security for various elements... and helped to screen and cover the advance northward.  Once we were in Baghdad, we did security patrols in the city, as well as provided escort security for other units as needed. So, as you can expect, we found ourselves in trouble a fair bit of the time.

GP: When did you return from Iraq?

DR: March 2004. When I left, I was midway through my sophomore year at Florida State University, and when I returned, I found that the university had removed us from the university roster, and that we'd all have to re-take the SAT and reapply in order to come back. I had to fight with the university, all the way up to the president and the Adjutant General of the state, before we were allowed back. That's when I first became involved with the Iraq War Veterans Organization, which I was a board member of for several years.

GP: And you jumped into law school when? Which school?

DR: Not until after I graduated and was out of the military, at American University, Washington College of Law in D.C.

GP: What are your gaming preferences? Have they changed since your tour?

DR: My gaming preferences have always been FPS games. I was a member of the development team for the Firearms mod for Half-Life, which eventually was acquired by Valve. I've always liked RTS games but I'm god-awful at them because I like to turtle and tech up, which never wins. I also like flight sims... and the Ace Combat series are still some of my favorite games. Since my tour in Iraq, I don't think my preferences have changed much, except for hating the Metal Gear Solid series, especially the 4th installment which I feel paints PMCs [private military contractors] in an unrealistically negative light.

GP: What are your thoughts on Six Days in Fallujah?
 
DR: A "realistic" war game is not going to be fun -- who wants to play a game where you sit around doing nothing, punctuated by raiding the wrong house and tearing apart the home of an irate Iraqi family, or sitting around on a convoy until your vehicle gets hit by an IED and your character dies, with no clear enemy in sight? Who wants to play that? In order to make the game fun (it's a "game" after all), it simply has to sacrifice some amount of realism for fun factor.  When you do that with a war game based on a real war, with real people, you run the risk of dishonoring their memories and sacrifices, and I think that this game has a dangerous potential to do that.

I have worries that Konami, whose war game track record includes Boot Camp, Top Gun, Rush'n Attack/Green Beret, and of course, the wonderfully inaccurate Metal Gear series, cannot give the game the level of respect that it deserves.  The war in Iraq is an incredibly complex topic; the Middle East is an incredibly complex location, and I have major doubts that a company like Konami understands it enough to honor the memories of the soldiers around the world who have fought and died in Iraq.  It's not a great start that the Creative Director at Atomic Games is on the one hand talking about trying to "present the horrors of war" and on the other hand make "entertainment". His own words. Or that the VP of marketing thinks that soldiers weren't "men" before the war.

Will this game recreate what I felt watching one of my close friends die less than 10 feet away from me? Will this game recreate my experience of being shot at by children? Will this game recreate the positive experiences of Iraq, the endless hours spent with community leaders to rebuild schools and hospitals?  ...The questioning of the reasons for getting into the war? Probably not. And let's be honest, who would want to play that anyway, even if you could?

But for a developer who claims to want to "tell the stories" of soldiers, there's a lot that they're going to leave out. They're certainly not telling my story. They're not telling the background to the story. They're not talking about how we got into Fallujah in the first place. They're not talking about Scott Helvenston, who was pulled from his car, beaten, lit on fire, and his corpse hung from a bridge, which prompted the first battle of Fallujah. So what stories are they telling? Just another war game?

One of the things COD 4 did really well, is it used war as a backdrop. The real story in COD 4 was the hunt for Zakhaev... It didn't reference the actual Iraq war, and didn't need to get into the politics behind it, and Infinity Ward was able to tell a story without getting bogged down. This issue is unavoidable in Six Days. The game isn't set in some unnamed country, it's in Iraq, and it's not some "unnamed city", it's Fallujah. There's no way for them to avoid that they chose to place this game in a location where 20,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, reportedly over 6,000 civilians were killed, and over 150,000 displaced.  Who is going to tell those stories?

One thing I'd like to make clear is that this is NOT an issue of censorship. I will fight to the death to defend Konami's right to make this game... At the same time, I strongly protest their decision to actually do it. I think it is foolish, I think it's inappropriate, and I don't have very high hopes that they're going to do a good job of it. I'd love to be proven wrong. I'd love for this game to be a Medal of Honor, or Call of Duty. Hey, I'd even love for it to be Operation Flashpoint or Armed Assault (two of my favorite games). But I'm not holding out hope.

GP: Thanks, Dan.


Comments

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Is this a joke post? I admit, it's hard for me to tell. If it's not, I seriously suggest you reread the interview, thoroughly.

 

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

I think it's a false premise to say that a game can't depict war with respect and a certain level of realism and still be entertaining.

Once again, I'm gonna turn to the example of Saving Private Ryan. The D-Day scene is bloody and violent and gives the viewer a hint of the kind of chaos there was that day, yet overall the film still managed to entertain.

In theory, a game could do the same with Fallujah. Whether Atomic Games pulls it off or not, who knows.

If you go crazy then I will still call you Superman.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

You can do things that are entertaining in movies that don't work in games.  Games are meant to be played, not watched.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Not to mention give vetrans flashbacks to similar experiences of their own, making it hard for them to watch.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Whatever you thought of what he said, you got to respect that he didn't say "Ban, Ban, Ban!!!"

"Who I am is not important... my message is"-Reven

"Who I am is not important... my message is"-Reven

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

You should have asked him about similar depictions in other mediums, such as the TV show "Over There". I dislike this notion that fun-factor should always be the biggest priority in games. It's rediculous, I know, that I think games should be designed with fun not first in mind, but when tackling a serious issue like the Iraq war, you have to make some resignations in order for your social commentary to actually be effective. Vietcong and Brothers in Arms, and a couple of games stuck with a realistic tone and autheticity to keep it more as a virtual doccumentry about these soldiers, than it is a game.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

Over There was politically charged tripe. It was nothing close to representative.

Generation Kill, however, was very much representative of what day to day life was like (and also happened to be filmed by units that I was located parallel to. Occasionally you can hear my unit being referenced on the radio.)

-- Dan "SWATJester" Rosenthal; Executive Director, http://www.gameslaw.net

-- Dan Rosenthal

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

One thing I'd like to make clear is that this is NOT an issue of censorship. I will fight to the death to defend Konami's right to make this game... At the same time, I strongly protest their decision to actually do it. I think it is foolish, I think it's inappropriate, and I don't have very high hopes that they're going to do a good job of it. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Gotta respect him for this, that's an important distinction to make. Having said that, he seems to be under the impression that Konami is doing the actual dev work, which they aren't.
---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.


---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

No, I understand they're the publisher. Atomic Games is the developer. But Konami holds the purse-strings, which means they have the ability to make broad decisions about the fate of this game. Furthermore, they control the almighty marketing dollar, which is where the real offenses are likely to occur.

-- Dan "SWATJester" Rosenthal; Executive Director, http://www.gameslaw.net

-- Dan Rosenthal

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

That's true, but I'm not sure it's reasonable to be anticipating a clone of some of Konami's worse games based on that. Using EA as an example here, I'm not a huge fan of most of the games they make themselves (not counting Maxis games) but they publish a lot of games that I do like, like the Anno/A.D. series.

I just reread the interview and noticed this bit, by the way.

It's not a great start that the Creative Director at Atomic Games is on the one hand talking about trying to "present the horrors of war" and on the other hand make "entertainment". His own words. Or that the VP of marketing thinks that soldiers weren't "men" before the war.

I was really tired when I made that last comment and somehow totally missed that bit of what you said, and I can see where you're coming from here (and obviously from that part you do know who's really making the game =p).
---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.


---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Shouldn't these people also be complaining about all the WW2, Vietnam, and Desert Storm games?

Eggy Weggs

Eggy Weggs

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Ya, i kinda wish Dennis used the oppurtunity to ask his opinion on those kinds of games

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

The thing that differentiates this from WW2, etc. is that the war is still ongoing, and if it paints U.S. troops in a negative light it is much like the soldiers comming home from Vietnam; coming home only to be looked upon as monsters.

Now in 15-20 years? Thats different, then it become acceptable to use actual places. Don't ask me why, it just seems the cultural standard. By then such memories as watching your friend die have somewhat healed, though such things can never really go away.

Atomic Games re-traumatizes every survivor of violence

I became angry when I read the CEO of Atomic, Peter Tamte, saying, "The challenge was how to present the horrors of war in a game that is entertaining."  Any sane person who has lived with the horror of deadly violence knows that it cannot become entertainment.  The fact that it is based on real events makes it intolerable as a game. Peter Tamte's boasts about it have re-traumatized hundreds of thousands of survivors, at a time when violence is on the rise in our nation.

 
Nick Arnett, grief counselor with the Bay Area Critical Incident Stress Management Team and extended family of a Marine killed in action in Fallujah 11/10/2004.

Re: Atomic Games re-traumatizes every survivor of violence

Movies do it all the time, I think what he is trying to say is they want to tell a story, they want to use a game to tell that story, they want people to actually play the game.

 

the game needs to be entertaining, the story does not need to be though, the story can be sad, scary or contraversial but its all a moot point if no one actually wants to play it because the game mechanics suck

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

Most people have the similar concern that it isn't the game itself that they have a problem with, but the fact Konami is trying to paint it as the 'real story' that happened in that city during Iraq. If that is the case, that would be nasty and brutal enough that most companies would veer clear. However no doubt it is being made to be an attempted Call of Duty set in Iraq. (I agree with Dan, CoD4 did this successfully without actually saying this is the Iraq War, and had a good intertwining Clancy-ish story to it.) I really hope Konami knows what it is doing...seems like everyone though doubts they are.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

My brother just got back from Iraq. USMC i told him about this game.He said as long as it dosen't suck. But after reading this I think he'll agree with me in the fact that it will probably suck. For some reason he does not like MetalGear Solid either. I like it though.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

I think people who like to play this kind of game will buy it regardless. 'The Dam Busters' was considered, at the time, to be the finest war-films made, nowadays we know it's full of inaccuracies, completely one-sided and, generally, little more than Pro-UK propaganda that was rife at the time.

I have a suspicion that this will go the same way, any soldier who's served in the war in Iraq will probably say it's not even close to realistic, as the interviewee quite rightly said, it's supposed to be game, but people who like FPS games will still buy it, especially with the controversy it will cause.

 

Edit: Reminds me of KumaWar.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

I'm not sure how you can truly dishonor another soldier, especially with a game. Makes me curious if he thinks it'll have another soldier that states, "There was this one soldier that never did anything, he was named Dan Rosenthal, who never did anything but sit around and complain and cry."

I doubt it be anything like that however. I understand his concerns, but I believe it can be presumptious to just say that anything they make will be horrible even though he hopes to be wrong. He is a bit biased against Konami, and perhaps they are aware of this and don't want to tell his side, but it could just be because they already have more volunteers than what they know what to do with.

I doubt they'd do the moments of sitting around and waiting and doing whatever to pass the time and the constant shaving with a tiny shard of mirror with a small blade and poking a hole to get water on the face. They'd likely just say "x amount of time has passed and everyone is bored, then an explosion happens."

Anyway, lets face it, the most we can do is speculate until some actual gameplay segments come into light.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

I'm sure Op Flash had a mission or two that for 15+ minutes was just following a road.

--
A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. Benjamin Franklin

--
A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. Benjamin Franklin

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

''and of course, the wonderfully inaccurate Metal Gear series''

um i wasnt aware that Metal gear was meant to be 'accurate' to anything in real life...

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Well yes and no.  Metal Gear Solid as a franchise is supposed to take the greatest "fears" of the day and crank that scenario to 11.  Take a look at MGS1.  Nuclear stockpiles and genetic engineering.  MGS2, fear of a control state forced onto an unsuspecting populace.  MGS3, cold war.  MGS4, the influence of corporations in the modern war machine.

Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will Dishonor

Advertisement spewage aside let the work show how bad it is once its made....

 


Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.


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Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

He's right, this game isn't going to tell the story of those who fought in Fallujah, and Konami shouldn't be painting it that way. But it still has the potential to be a fun game, which is what I think should matter the most. He also seems to dislike the Metal Gear Series because it portrays war and PMCs in an unrealistic manner. Of course it does, it's Metal Gear! It portrays everything in an unrealistic manner.

--------------------------------------------------------

Believe in something! Even if it's wrong, believe in it! -Glenn Beck

-------------------------------------------------------- Believe in something! Even if it's wrong, believe in it! GET OFF MY PHONE! -Glenn Beck

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Unrealistically negative light.  I think that's the part he objects to.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Again, what´s the difference between a movie and a game? Because if it were Brad Pitt anouncing a movie with him on the Iraq war, nobody should be complaining about it.

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Well, I think that depends upon the actual content of the movie.  If it turned out to be an inaccurate or highly selective action flick (the way Dan envisions this game, and I have to say, it's hard to disagree), then I could certainly see people complaining.

He does have a point, no one would want to play the game that actually gives the player the experience of being in Fallujah.

I admire his willingness to come out and say that he objects to the decision to make the game, but does not dispute Konami's right to make it.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Still, the problem again is the media, not the topic. No war movie is 100% accurate with real facts. Not even documentals have the complete truth.

I´m desagree with him, but I respect his opinion, and it´s hard to believe (for me) that a person who comes from a society which rises their children with G.I. Joes and Nerf guns can be so discriminative against a war videogame.

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

even if it's not 100% accurate it is much closer than what a video game is likely to be...

"Will this game recreate what I felt watching one of my close friends die less than 10 feet away from me? Will this game recreate my experience of being shot at by children? Will this game recreate the positive experiences of Iraq, the endless hours spent with community leaders to rebuild schools and hospitals?  ...The questioning of the reasons for getting into the war? Probably not. And let's be honest, who would want to play that anyway, even if you could?"

These are many of the things you would likely not end up seeing in a game, but they are things that you might see in a movie... some of these things would be used by movie director's as a point of building drama and plot and a more mature audience will follow along; but FRS games tend to be geared towards action and thus cut out anything that's slow paced, or keep it to a very strict minimal... even if the movie is not 100% accurate, a movie is still likely to do a better job at grasping the overall experience of the war. A war video game tends to focus much on the action aspect of the game and does not go very deep into the more subtle moments or the more emotional and tramatic moments.

not to mention that GI JOE and Nerf guns are rather irrelevant... his problem with 6 days is that it is based off an actual recent war, where as gi joe and nerf guns are something purely fictional. He makes that distiction when he goes into the differences to how COD4 was done

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Games and GI Joe are both pretend. Even when war videogames are more realistic than toys, they are still fiction.

Doesn´t G.I. Joe "glamorizes" war? I would say even more than games, because they turn war in some childish game where is just "good guys vs. bad guys" and nobody dies and good guys always win.

But of course, nobody is saying that because they are just toys. But with videogames comes double or triple standards. They can´t be realistic. They can´t be fiction. They can´t not exist at all.

Same old song.

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Again, the crucial difference is that 6 days is actually based off of a real event... The soldier made that distiction when he was talking about COD4... Gi Joe is only based of the military in the loosest sense, where as 6 days is taking an actual real world event and turning into a game... he is not about the glamorization of war, he is talking about respect for those involved in the events that transpired, and stuff like that

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

"Again, the crucial difference is that 6 days is actually based off of a real event"

So was Point Du Hoc in CoD2, the movie We Were Soldiers, and Black Hawk Down. Yes, there were fictional elements in each of them, but they were still based off actual events- yet people are beyond those things because they're already out and about.

If one feels the need to raise a complaint over something like this, they're certainly welcome to- but eventually these things do die down. The reality is that anything is subject to entertainment, even serious events. Even the WTC event.

... And on that note, I finish by saying this- you can call me evil all you want, but the WTC scene in the movie Postal was hilarious. XP

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Well Dan did not give his opinion on COD2, only that of COD4... as such you could not say he is holding any kind of a double standard by calling out 6 days and not cod2

As for movies, i said earlier why movies can usually cover actual events without recieving any kind of controversy... Postal being an obvious exception to that...

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

I rarely see Nerf guns advertised these days. You're thinking of 80s and possibly 90s era...

I haven't seen a GI joe advertized in decades...

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

"I haven't seen a GI joe advertized in decades..."

I'm 20 and I remember seeing GI Joe ads on Cartoon Network when I was in middle and high school.

---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.


---
I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

And I still see about 2 nerf ads a week.

- Stand back! I have an opinion, and I'm not afraid to use it.

- Stand back! I have an opinion, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Re: Gamer War Vet Fears That Six Days in Fallujah Will ...

Well, he is young, so maybe there´s the chance he grew up with those things.

The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/ My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com/

 
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