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archive: First Person(s): 'Under Seige' and The New Virtual War
Posted on Saturday, September 04 @ 19:24:21 CEST by julian

Political Games

I first became aware of AFKAR Media's 'Under Ash' a couple of years ago via Kipper, while we were drawing up our own political game, Escape from Woomera. What excited us was to see a full-featured 3D game being used to distribute awareness of a situation as serious as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Given Under Ash's content, it's also interesting that it's widely known as the first Arabic 3D Game.

The team's next project, 'Under Seige' is timely for another reason however, and questions whether games can be so clearly defined as a medium of entertainment..

While not necessarily innovating the genre, Under Ash had a very pointed goal, to empower the player as a heroic fighter against militant Israeli efforts to claim Palestinian territory. In this sense Under Ash is far from a neutral depiction, especially given the first person shooter/adventure format, which contains a political subjectivity in itself. Though this is the case, the release of Under Seige is very timely with Sharon's recent physical demarcation and displacement of Palestinians in the region.

With giga-budget games like Full Spectrum Warrior funded by the US Army and written from a distinctly Pro-American perspective, it's remarkable that such a small team can produce such a comparably feature-rich game. Even more surprising is the visual similarity between games like Full Spectrum Warrior and Under Seige, as though each game offers a different first-person subject across the relative political divide (Bush avidly supports many of Sharon's efforts).

I recognise Under Seige is not about combatting US occupation, but politically they are played from very polar perspectives:

From our rooftops: Under Seige

From their ground: Full Sectrum Warrior

From this page we read of the game's message:

"A nation in Palestine is being uprooted: their houses are being devastated, their establishments are being destroyed, their lands are being occupied, their trees are being pulled out, their property is being confiscated, their cities are being besieged, their schools are being closed, their sanctuaries are being violated, their sacred structures are being made permitted, their children are being beaten, their hands are being broken, their bones are being crushed and they are imprisoned, tortured and slain. They are even prevented from crying and moaning. The whole world is plotting to ignore them. None hears them moan. None sees the trains of their martyrs. None says a word of support to their rights.

Under Ash is a call to justice, realizing truth, preventing wronging and aggression."

And from the Full Spectrum Warrior site, I find another kind of message:

"The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make some other bastard die for his" - George Patton

Are we starting to see a 'virtual war' being fought in the medium of the game? Can Under Seige be considered a 'Documentary Game' or more a positive propogandist initiative? Can Under Seige and Full Spectrum Warrior be considered ethically comparable? Is the medium of the game as easily considered 'Entertainment' any more?

Maybe I'll have some of these questions answered in an exclusive interview with the team behind Under Seige soon..

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