Vlambeer studio co-founder Rami Ismail issued a statement today to address concerns that its hit 2D fighting game Luftrausers "implies" that players are controlling Nazi pilots and aircraft during World War II. The concerns likely stem from the name, which is similar to the "Luftwaffe," the air force of the German Wehrmacht during World War II; and the uniforms worn by commanders in the game that look similar to uniforms worn by German officers during the war.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a lengthy statement today noting that it is time that games involving war start including the actual laws of war. The IRCC says that this could be done without interfering with the fun that millions of players have playing first-person shooters.
An Indie GoGo fundraising campaign has launched for Luc Bernard's Imagination Is The Only Escape, a game about a young Jewish boy named Samuel who uses the power of his imagination to escape the horrors of the Holocaust after the Nazi occupation of eastern France during World War II. To say that the game's subject matter is dark is an understatement, but that's the point of the game, according to what Luc Bernard recently told The Verge.
Russian distributor 1C-SoftClub was forced to halt sales of the WWII real-time strategy game Company of Heroes 2 after consumers complained about the portrayal of Russian forces in the game. After numerous player complaints about Russian forces being portrayed as having a ruthless leadership and taking liberties with history, the distributor decided to stop shipping the game to retailers, and reached out to publisher Sega. Sega said that it was looking into these concerns.
In a blog post republished on Gamasutra, Barbara Jones (a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Corporate and Securities practice group, a member of the Global practice group and the Emerging Technologies Team, and co-coordinator of the firm’s Conflict Minerals Compliance Initiative) discusses the video game industry's compliance with the Securities and Exchange Commission's new conflict minerals rules.
Apple has refused to include Auroch Digital's Endgame: Syria on the Apple App Store and has removed Sweatshop HD - a collaboration between U.K. studio Littleloud and Channel 4, according to this Polygon report. Both games, it seems are a little too controversial for Apple.
According to the Long War Journal blog (by way of Gameranx), Syrian rebels have built an armored vehicle about the size of a car that uses a game controller that looks an awful lot like a PS3 controller. This homemade tank is equipped with a 7.62mm Russian PKM that is operated via a game controller and a small monitor.
Apparently Israel Defence Forces have decided to "gamify" their website to encourage viewers to promote the content, using a virtual game that awards visitors with badges and points for sharing pages through other social media sites. The gamification of the site actually happened way back in July but had a spotlight shined upon it today in this GameSpot Australia report.
World of Tanks, World of Airplanes, and World of Warships creators Wargaming announced this morning that they are "fully underwriting" aircraft enthusiast David Cundall's efforts to recover British Spitfires reportedly buried in Burma at the end of World War II. The company's investment in Mr. Cundall's will allow him and the Burmese authorities to pursue the long-standing mystery of the Pacific theater.
The Truman National Security Project plans to launch a browser-based game this week that explores the United States' political and military involvement with Iran, according to a report in Defense News. The group describes itself as an institute that recruits and trains progressives to lead on national security issues.
A new video game developed by a 19-year-old student and promoted by the Azerbaijani government lets players change the results of the Spring 1992 capture of the Nagorno Karabakhi town of Shusha by Armenian and Nagorno Karabakhi forces. The battle marked the turning point in the conflict for control of the territory.
Nintendo has scored a rank of "0" from the watchdog group, the Enough Project. Out of the 24 companies on its list, Nintendo was the only one to receive the lowest rank possible. The Enough Project is a watchdog group that follows the money trail of "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where warlords are fighting for control of the country.
Game developer Wargaming America is working hard to bring some game-based virtual simulation to the USS IOWA. The battleship recently took its final voyage to dock at the port of Los Angeles, where it will serve as a museum beginning next month. Wargaming's simulation promises to bring the battleship's "history to life by creating a bridge experience and an aerial combat game that will live on the ship and showcase its firepower and aerial defenders in action."
The Associated Press reports that residents in the Northern city of Gao in Mali are not happy after Islamists smashed television sets used to play video games and watch television shows that were considered "un-Islamic." The effort was intended to show residents that they are under Shariah law there. The Islamist fighters took up a strong position in the northern part of the Northeastern African country after they were they pushed back by Malian government troops in March.
The United States Army is using Crytek’s CryEngine 3 game engine technology to create a new simulation to help train soldiers. The Army plans to spend $57 million on the project. The technology that will go into the simulation and the technology to use it is being developed by Orlando-based Intelligent Decisions. The Dismounted Soldier Training System (DSTS) enables soldiers and units to train inside a video game environment that features real weather conditions, realistic graphics, squad-based interactions, and advanced motion sensor technology that provides full 360-degree movement within the game.
Pinged by Kotaku for a response to the Wolfenstein mod, Sonderkommando Revolt, the Anti-Defamation League says that the "Holocaust should be off-limits for video games" and they hope that the developers will abandon the game.
Sonderkommando Revolt is a Wolfenstein modification that re-imagines an October 7, 1944 event at the Auschwitz concentration camp where Jewish prisoners finalized a months-long plot to blow up one of the camp's notorious crematoriums. They succeeded in that mission and managed to kill three of the guards, but 451 people either died during the explosion or were put to death by the guards. The mod changes all that, instead turning one prisoner into a Nazi killing machine.
While critics of videogames would have you believe that they are efficient little murder simulations, an NPR editorial from Benjamin Busch begs to differ. Who is Benjamin Busch and why does his opinion carry more weight than most? Because he is an United States Marine Corps infantry officer who has served in Iraq on two combat tours.
Busch talks about the war games of youth - playing war in Brooklyn where kids played Allied forces and Germans and controlling the flow of war in a sandbox filled with army men. While the medium has changed since those days, the way war is played has not.
Busch points out that the reason that video games can never be like real-life war is that they do not usually contain elements that are unfair like real-life "invisible snipers" that pick off your friends. Here is a portion of what he says about that:
While there’s no doubt Electronic Arts totally succumbed to pressure when it removed the Taliban (in name only) from the upcoming Medal of Honor videogame, a letter written to the Colorado Retail Council (CRC) by a former Congressman and ex-Air Force General shows the type of opponents EA was assembling as media hysteria about the game spread.
In a letter dated September 30, just a day before EA announced its change to Medal of Honor, former Colorado Republican Congressman Scott McInnis and Bentley Rayburn (pictured left and right respectively), a retired U.S. Air Force General, affixed their names to a letter urging the CRC to denounce the Medal of Honor game.
As seen on the Colorado Springs Independent website, the pair argued their case to CRC President Christopher Howes, calling the ability to play as the Taliban a “complete disgrace” and adding that “out of respect to our troops no retailer in Colorado should sell it.”
The duo continued:
In a bid to clear up any “misunderstanding about the patriotism” at the heart of the game hated by defense ministers around the world, Electronic Arts will offer an open beta for the PC versions of its Medal of Honor game ahead of the title’s October 12th release.
PC owners will be able to take part in the open multiplayer beta from October 4th through midnight of October 7. The beta will consists of two maps (Shahikot Mountains and Kunar Base) and a pair of game modes (Combat Mission and Sector Control).
EA Games President Frank Gibeau offered:
We also hope that by offering the Multiplayer Open Beta, we can clear up any misunderstanding about the patriotism and respect that are the foundation of this game. The Medal of Honor franchise has always shown extraordinary reverence for American and Allied soldiers -- this game is no exception.
An opinion piece in a Fort Meyers, Florida newspaper describes the ability to take on the role of insurgents in the upcoming Electronic Arts game Medal of Honor as games reaching an “all-time low level.”
Taking a page (or bait?) from UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox, who urged retailers not to sell the title, the author of the News-Press editorial posed a similar challenge to readers:
…we do suggest that Americans at the very least refuse to buy 'Medal of Honor.' We suggest that retailers refuse to stock it. And we especially suggest that parents not allow their children to own or play it.
In response to Canadian Defence Minster Peter MacKay’s (pictured) disapproving comments about the Electronic Arts game Medal of Honor, an Ottawa Citizen columnist took to his pulpit in order to offer a spirited defense (defence) of videogames.
Referring to the ability to play as the Taliban in the game, MacKay had said that, “I'm sure most Canadians are uncomfortable and angry about this.”
In his column, Dan Gardner replied, “No one ever accused Peter MacKay of being Her Majesty's most cerebral minister…”
MacKay had also lamented that children might take on the role of insurgents in the game, a point which Gardner addressed:
Frank DeFord’s latest weekly segment on NPR, in advance of tomorrow night’s kickoff of the National Football League’s 2010 season, offers the scribe’s opinion why the popularity of professional football continues to grow.
First, DeFord argues, America’s affinity for football has grown as our "success" in actual wars has declined. As he writes, “It makes me wonder if, ironically, football doesn’t provide us more with nostalgia for the way war used to be — with clear battle maps, focused campaigns, simple battle lines.”
He added, “And, of course, football games have neat conclusions — they’re simply won or lost. But our wars are precisely not settled that way anymore; their goals are vague and imprecise and they just drag on and on, without resolution.”
The other reason for the explosion in the NFL’s popularity is its violence according to DeFord, since “we prefer more violence in most all phases of our entertainment today.”
A high-tech, videogame-laden Army recruiting center in Philadelphia that was often the center of controversy and protests is shutting down at the end of July.
The Army Experience Center cost approximately $12 million to build and was launched in August of 2008. The 14,500 square foot facility, located in the Franklin Mills Mall, was consistently targeted with protests led by a coalition of national peace groups that operated the website Shutdown the Army Experience Center. The activists felt that the Army Experience Center glorified killing and depicted war as a game with its realistic simulators.
The protest group claimed victory, stating that the Army center was closed at least partly due to its efforts, noting that it had another planned protest in the works for Saturday, June 19.
Following last week’s story in which a United Nations investigator called for a ban on the use of CIA drone strikes on suspected Islamic militants in response to fears that such activities could lead to a “PlayStation mentality,” a reporter from the UK’s channel 4 visited an Arizona army base where members of the military are trained to use the unmanned aircraft.
At Fort Huachuca, reporter Sara Smith initially noted that, “You can teach almost anyone to use a joystick and fly these drones.” After stating that many young enlisted soldiers—as young as 18 years old—are being trained to pilot the drones, Smith talked to Staff Sergeant Brian Martin who said, “We like to use the younger generation because they’ve been playing the videogames, so they kind of have that mental capacity and their brain is already setup to think that way.”
A United Nations Investigator has called for the cessation of CIA-directed drone strikes on suspected Islamic militants, warning that such remote killings could lead to a “PlayStation” mentality.
Philip Alston, a "U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions," believes that drone attacks should only be carried out if circumstances make it impossible to capture a suspect alive and, if drone strikes do need to be used, only regular U.S. Army personnel, armed with “proper oversight and respect for the rules of war,” should control the craft, according to a Reuters report.
Alston, who will present his opinion to the U.N. Human Rights Council tomorrow, stated:
Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a 'Playstation' mentality to killing.
A generator-powered arcade in Kabul, Afghanistan provides the city’s inhabitants a welcome respite from the ongoing war and helps keep wayward kids off the street and out of trouble.
14-yeard old Ubaydollah Sharafian spoke to the Christian Science Monitor about the arcade, saying, “We come here to play games and relax from street-begging.”
All such forms of entertainment were banned when Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, perhaps leading inhabitants to embrace the ability to forget their troubles for a few minutes even more than might be the norm.
As a youngster in the midst of a game succinctly stated, “I don’t want this game to finish, I want to keep on playing forever.”
Another passage from the CSM article:
As the U.S. Military continues to implement interactive training as a means to prepare its members for combat, the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) team hosted a conference call today in order to discuss a pair of new training initiatives.
Clark Lethin, of the Office of Naval Research, began by noting that FITE’s focus was on training small units, or “squads of 10-13 soldiers, marines, sailors or airmen,” with an emphasis on improving team unity, unit cohesion, unit decision making and communication skills. The first new training initiative, which has been completed, revolves around a personal virtually reality system.
Lethin explained, “An individually worn virtual reality system with helmet-mounted display and a weapon with a toggle switch on it that allows you to locomote through the virtual world… then we have sounds tied into that system, as well as a shock device that will receive shock if these men are hit or wounded by any kind of connectict event.”
In response to this week’s leak of a video that appears to show U.S. troops in Iraq shooting civilians, an article on Slate examines how videogames could possibly assist in preventing such tragedies from happening in the future.
WikiLeaks spokesperson Julian Assange said about the video, “The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game. It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game.” And indeed, the Slate piece notes the similarities between the leaked footage and missions in both Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (pictured) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Slate offers the following interpretation of Assange’s quote:
To be fair, Assange's point is more subtle than that. He's not saying American gunners mistakenly shoot innocent men because they grew up playing video games. He's suggesting they do so because the killing itself feels like a game.
The author then assesses his own assessment: