Six Days in Fallujah, a game that is being referred to as an “Arab murder simulator,” is being released on consoles after years of controversy and backlash.
Games where American soldiers kill endless waves of Arab enemy combatants are nothing new, and even make up some major franchises like Call of Duty. In a lot of games, “just shoot the Arab” is as ubiquitous as “just jump over the pit.” The popularity of this sub-genre has deteriorated over the last decade due to public backlash regarding Islamophobia.
So, maybe it’s appropriate that Six Days in Fallujah has been sitting around in development hell since 2009. At the time it was first announced, it was going to be the first game to directly reference the Second Iraq War, though that ship has obviously sailed since. Originally, it was to be published by Konami, but growing criticism of the portrayal of Arabs in gaming led to the company dropping the game. Its original studio, Atomic Games, went bankrupt in 2011.
However, a new studio called Highwire Games picked up the pieces and is due to release the game on consoles and PC this year. Why anyone would be interested in a twelve-year-old tactical shooter that never sounded that interesting to being with now is beyond me and re-inventing the worst of jingoistic impulses of the game world in 2021 seems like outright madness.
Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has spoken out against the release of the title. It uses a brutal battle that killed more than 800 Iraqi civilians as a backdrop. In the Second Battle of Fallujah, the United States military deployed white phosphorus chemical weapons that later led to many Iraqi babies being born with birth defects. It was, by all accounts, a nightmare in which America did some horrific things while combating insurgents.
“The gaming industry must stop dehumanizing Muslims,” said CAIR Research and Advocacy Coordinator Huzaifa Shahbaz in a statement. “Video games like Six Days in Fallujah only serve to glorify violence that took the lives of hundreds of Iraqi civilians, justify the Iraq war, and reinforce anti-Muslim sentiment at a time when anti-Muslim bigotry continues to threaten human life.”
It’s possible that the game will tread ground of titles like Spec Ops: The Line and attempt to address the horrors of war instead of glorifying it, but even that game did so clumsily and in a way that still empowered players in their violent quest. More likely, it’s yet another adventure where we focus on how hard killing foreigners and people of color is on Americans while still not addressing why we did it in the first place.
What is most surprising about the title is that it’s actually making it console stores for PlayStation and Xbox. Cut-and-paste military shooters with racist bents are a dime a dozen on Steam, but Sony and Microsoft are known for being a bit more cautions what they upload for sale (Sony’s weird relationship with hawking atrociously broken Gilson B. Pontes games aside). A game that has had widespread condemnation from groups like CAIR and war veterans for so long is an odd title to throw that sort of clout behind, and you have to wonder if the console decision makers looked no further than the fact that former developers of Halo were involved.
Currently, CAIR is petitioning Sony and Microsoft to deny the release on their stores. Frankly, the world does not need another Arab murder simulator that, intentionally or not, further dehumanizes a marginalized group in America and makes a violent war based on government lies look badass. At a time when gaming consoles can render nearly anything with uncanny accuracy, why on Earth would we waste that reliving one of our country’s worst military moments?