Ever since it was announced that Six Days Of Fallujah, discussion have raged of it’s resurgence! While many found the idea of the game insulting, others praised it’s authentic story-telling. However, amongst the chaos, I was alerted to one major aspect that, despite me thinking of it, never actually was realised, that that was the voices of the other side this game will be representing.
Rami Ismail, ED of Gamedev spoke on his disappointment for the lack of communication from press media on the Arab/Iraqi perspective and opinion for Six Day Of Fallujah. Six Days in Fallujah is an upcoming first-person shooter video game developed by Highwire Games and published by Victura. Described by Highwire Games as a tactical shooter, it was slated to be the first video game to focus directly on the Iraq War. The game was initially canceled due to its funding from the CIA back in 2010ish and the accusation of the game being used for propaganda and recruitment also didn’t help its case. In a long and extensive Twitter thread he wrote:
I’m going to be very real with you all for a thread. I’m disappointed in the games media.
I am a huge fan of their work, their ability to see story, their caring so much for games they invest the time & energy despite all. But they don’t care for Middle Eastern folks. Imagine a game where you go and misrepresent the real-life murder of 185,000+ women. There would be interviews with the creator, but there’d be a plethora of articles signal boosting women and their views launching simultaneously, all over games news and games culture. Imagine a game where you go and misrepresent the real-life murder of 185,000+ black folks. There would be interviews with the creator, but there’d be a wide range of articles signal boosting black folks and their views and anger about once the game offered in games media. Imagine a game that misrepresents the focused, real-life, & ongoing murder of 185,000+ people in any minority. Imagine it for women, people of colour, gay people, trans, disabled, Jewish, poor, anyone. People who all deserve better. Imagine coverage being only dev interviews. Our blood is the cheapest on Earth. Maybe the real life death and murder of Arab people, day in day out, has become too normalized for the games press to remember that we are human.
Maybe they don’t have Arabs on their team, so they can’t see the Arabic response to it, and they’re unaware of the oversight. Maybe they’re scared of writing against the US government, which is not entirely unfair given the business considerations of US politics or the censorious overreach of the US government regarding its misbehaviour at war. But that is their job. Maybe they can’t see their own racism in demanding to own the dialogue around critical perspectives on US wars. Criticism on US wars comes from US veterans & US protestors & US widow(er)s & US politicians & US critics & US pacificists. We are subjects. We don’t get to speak. Whatever it is, the games press failed the Arab/Muslim community today. In sharing only interviews with the creator of Six Days of Fallujah over the past week, with only US/Western criticism – even where the pushback was convincing and strong – they failed to give us a voice. You might ask, Rami, why do you think they would reach out to *you*. You’re Egyptian, not Iraqi. I think so because whenever games press needs anything Arab or Muslim, they come to me. Because I know any Iraqi developer the games press would know – if not directly, indirectly.
If any of us had been asked to speak, I would probably be aware. But since I am not aware of anybody, I can guarantee you that either nobody was asked, or so few were asked that as a whole, it slipped under my radar. Because most of the time, that request gets forwarded from that developer to me. It is too risky for industry Arabs, Muslims, brown people to speak out in public. Because in the end, the US remains critical to gamedev, and the US will deny you access if you speak ill of it. Remember that the US now demands five years of social media information to enter the US. Remember the US will reject brown people at the border if someone sent you a US-critical Whatsapp picture that auto-saved to your phone. Most brown people? Most Arabs? Muslims? We run into industry racism and the reality of a Western-centric industry hard enough that most of us don’t get to say “if the US wants to ban me it is what it is, I have my opportunities”. I’m one of the lucky few because I was indie.
So if I got no requests from the press, no requests from fellow developers to pick up on their requests, no requests to connect anyone with the press, and I see no articles with our voices – that means there was no effort to hear us speak. It is that simple. And thus the cycle continues: brown people get murdered, US people speak. They speak of how hard it is to see your country go to a false war. They speak of how it’s about justice for the veterans, and the veterans speak of how war is an abomination. My people die in silence. In a way, this is the same treatment Six Days of Fallujah itself gives us: we are subject, filtered through US perspective for nuance, only given a speaking role if the story aligns. We never get to set the direction of conversation. We never get to speak. While we are dying. You see press sending out articles without a single Arab voice on their site, or in the article? They’re like Six Days in Fallujah. You see someone tweeting their US hot take without letting an Arab speak or demanding to hear one? They’re like Six Days in Fallujah. So yesterday I pointed out that I saw no reach-out from the press, and since several folks have reached out to correct that. Some freelance writers who have to pitch the idea, one employed writer who saw my tweet. One employed writer who was asked by a mutual friend what’s up.
Some podcasts have reached out, too. But for the major platforms, the websites, podcasts, livestreams? Nothing. As of yet, the biggest request to talk I’ve received remains the podcast a Gamergater who was forced to go solo after no one wanted to deal with his shit anymore. But we needed an Arab to spend ten years building an audience on Twitter to lose his shit on Twitter visibly enough for anyone to even consider that WE SHOULD HAVE A FUCKING SAY IN THE MURDER OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF US. And even then I had to ask for it, beg for it. Games media, you write how Six Days in Fallujah removes Arab agency. Talk of how the game turns us into silenced props and our deaths into a context rather than a subject. How it is not letting victims speak their truth, while the perpetrators speak their hurts. You do the same. You don’t have to talk to me, but you can’t put the creator of that game on your front-page without an Iraqi and/or Arab and/or Muslim voice anywhere. You wouldn’t for a game that misrepresented the real-life murder of hundreds of thousands in any other minority that way. You have to be better than this. You have to be. Because every time you fail, the propaganda works. We are dehumanized. We are subject. Our deaths a US context without our voices. We are target. And the next time the US wants to bomb us, popular opinion will kill us again.
You have to be better because international media failed to save the lives lost in Fallujah, Iraq. Now the life, freedom, & dignity of 2 billion people still alive today -including my own- partially depends on your ability to show us as full human. Will you fall short again? Spare me another moment of coverage of Six Days -or any game in our culture, where you kill our people- without us. If your team doesn’t speak the language, fix it. If you don’t know us, fix it. Let us speak. Be better than Six Days in Fallujah. Please. A fan of your work.
I figured I’d highlight it as it does raise a very important discussion to be had when it comes to how Arabs or any other group have always been represented in the media, and given that this game is based on a real-life war event, it is even more important than ever that the voices of both parties are heard, and the event is told in the most factual way possible!