Back in 2009, the world wasn’t quite ready for a game set during the Iraq War. Well, times have changed.
Atomic Games first announced Six Days in Fallujah as a third-person shooter set during a six-day span as the second battle of Fallujah unfolded in 2004. But back then it was a different time for the world, and specifically for the place video games occupied in pop culture. The announcement of Six Days set off a round of blaring criticism, leading Konami, the game’s publisher, to cancel its release.
Now it’s back. Atomic is teaming with Highwire Games, founded by veterans of Bungie, and Victura for an updated version of the same idea. The new Six Days in Fallujah is described as a “first-person tactical military shooter.”
The game is a bit of a mystery at this point, though the above trailer provides a bit more detail. It’s coming to PC and unspecified consoles sometime in 2021, but we should be hearing more about it from Victura “in the coming weeks.”
An expanded description notes that Six Days “recreates true stories of Marines, Soldiers, and Iraqi civilians who fought Al Qaeda during the toughest urban battle since 1968. Players lead a fireteam through real-life encounters enabled by unique technology that simulates the uncertainty and tactics of urban combat.”
The original idea for the game came from Eddie Garcia, a former Marine Sergeant who was wounded during the fighting, in 2005. Davis felt then, and still feels now, that the best way to educate people on what he and others experienced in Iraq is a virtual recreation.
“Sometimes the only way to understand what’s true is to experience reality for yourself,” Garcia said in a statement accompanying the reveal. “War is filled with uncertainty and tough choices that can’t be understood by watching someone on a TV or movie screen make these choices for you. Video games can help all of us understand real-world events in ways other media can’t.”
“Sometimes the only way to understand what’s true is to experience reality for yourself.”
The announcement notes that the team building Six Days spoke with more than 100 individuals who were there on the ground in 2004. The details collected from those people, along with their photos and videos, “gives these stories voice through gameplay and first-person accounts captured in original documentary interview footage.”
There’s no question that both the technology and the audience fueling modern video games has matured to the point that telling serious stories about real events is an achievable goal. But when it’s a shooter sticking a virtual gun in players’ hands, there are bound to be questions about focus.
How do you get the people holding the controller to care about anything other than the targets they see in front their gun barrel? Shooters are inherently about shooting, and turning a real life event where lives were lost into a game runs the risk of trivializing those deaths. These are all elements that Atomic, Highwire, and Victura will have to address as more is revealed about this project.
The earlier cancelation may ultimately prove to be an asset if it allowed the core team behind the initial idea more time to fine-tune their thinking. Already the shift from the original’s third-person perspective to a first-person one — a much more personal perspective for players to step into — shows some evolution.
“It’s hard to understand what combat is actually like through fake people doing fake things in fake places,” said Peter Tamte, CEO of Victura and Atomic founder. He was a key figure on the original effort as well.
“This generation showed sacrifice and courage in Iraq as remarkable as any in history. And now they’re offering the rest of us a new way to understand one of the most important events of our century. It’s time to challenge outdated stereotypes about what video games can be.”
It’s an easy thing to say but a much harder thing to deliver on. Color us cautiously curious to hear more about how Six Days will juggle the many concerns to deliver a rich, convincing, and hopefully educational experience.