“Six Days in Fallujah” is coming under heat because… reasons.
The Second Battle of Fallujah, which took place in 2004 during the Iraq War, resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of Iraqi civilians — at the time estimated around 800 but likely many more — as well as over 100 US and British troops.
The battle was violent, tragic, and has been extremely controversial, in no small part due to the US’s motivations for being in Iraq at all, most notably around the now thoroughly discredited rationale of “weapons of mass destruction.” But in particular, the Second Battle of Fallujah was criticized for numerous civilian casualties, as well as the US military’s attested use of white phosphorus against civilians and other alleged violent acts by the military forces against non-combatants. Though the US military has denied violence against civilians, numerous accounts appear to contradict their claims [Warning: Link includes graphic content].
Nearly two decades later, there’s a video game being made about the battle, and a number of people with connections to the event — through family, culture, heritage, or experience — are frustrated and angry about the way in which its creators appear to be approaching this painful subject.
That should come as no surprise. When Six Days in Fallujah was first announced back in 2009, it was met with widespread criticism — ultimately causing then-publisher Konami to ditch the project. Now, it’s resurfaced and is meeting renewed resistance.
IGN spoke with a number of Arab and Iraqi game developers and members of the video game community about their perspectives surrounding the revival of Six Days in Fallujah. Five agreed to speak on the record, as did one US military veteran. Many of those we reached out to declined to comment officially for various reasons: for some it was a very personal topic that they found challenging to talk about, while others were concerned that speaking critically about either the US military or the real-world events in Fallujah would result in repercussions to either their careers or their livelihoods.
The general sentiment that emerged from those talks — among much else — was a mistrust of Seattle-based developer Highwire’s ability to represent a truthful human experience of the events. Alongside that came worries about the game’s representation of Iraqi citizens (and Middle Eastern cultures in general), and a wider concern about the responsibility of trying to turn a real-life war — particularly such a recent, bloody, and controversial one — into an interactive entertainment experience.