Garry Kitchen’s Super Battletank: War in the Gulf

It's War. It's Super. It's Garry Kitchen's.

This is the lesson I have learned from Garry Kitchen’s Super Battletank: War in the Gulf:

Videogame approximations of recent, real-life wars are only offensive if they’re accurately and thoughtfully portrayed.

Take Six Days in Fallujah, for instance.  Atomic Games were developing training tools for the US Marine Corps, but the Marines they consulted with were sent to Iraq a few months into development.  When they returned from Fallujah, said Marines asked them to create a videogame based on their experiences there.  The team interview over 70 people – Marines, Iraqi civilians, ENEMY INSURGENTS, war historians, and senior military officials – just to get it right.

So the game picks up steam as the first first person shooter based on honest-to-God experiences in war, and Konami picks it up for publishing.  All is well and the Marines involved are proud to have their story shared with the world through a new, exciting medium.  Konami are proud too, and show it off to the gaming press, only to be railed on by war veterans and soldier’s families (“how DARE you document true war in a toy?!”), and just one week later, Konami pulls the plug.  The words “too soon” were thrown around a lot.  This was nearly five years after the Second Battle of Fallujah had ended.

Which brings me back to Garry Kitchen’s Super Battletank: War in the Gulf, set in the first Gulf War, released just ONE YEAR out from the conclusion of said war.  Try playing Space Harrier from inside a mailbox and you’ll have an idea of how this game plays.  Apparently reducing the entire war to a flat, sandy carpet dotted with poorly drawn and re-drawn tank sprites, is NOT offensive.

Under the radar.

Alright people, I think I’ve got a handle on it now:

Trivialising war via crude reductionism = OK
Empathic storytelling via realism = Not OK

Oh wait, there was those movies The Hurt Locker and Green Zone.  Let’s try again:

Trivialising war via crude reductionism = OK
Empathic storytelling via realism IN A VIDEOGAME = Not OK

Does that work for you?