General Sir Michael Rose said the use of footage licensed from ITN, Reuters and Associated Press was morally questionable.
The game, Kuma: War, “combines the intensity of computer gaming and the timeliness of breaking news to provide you with an experience unlike any other” according to its official website. The game has yet to attract a publisher.
Kuma: War is a tactical first person shooter that will recreate real-life missions, putting players “in the frontlines of international conflict” according to its developer. After subscription to the game, which is set to launch in February 2004, players will be able to download additional game content (levels, weapons, missions and campaigns) via broadband Internet connections.
Sir Michael Rose described the idea of a game using footage shot by real soldiers in a conflict situation as “bizarre”. “War is not a game and the moral issues involved in taking live footage and turning it in to a game are question,” he told MediaGuardian.co.uk, although he conceded that “If there is a serious desire to advance military thinking then there could be some benefit.”
Given the game’s strap line – “In a world being torn apart by international conflict, one thing is on everyone’s mind as they finish watching the nightly news: ‘Man, this would make a great game.'” – that seems unlikely.
However the use of real-life combat situations – even recent ones – in videogames is nothing unusual. From World War II and the Vietnam war to more recent conflicts like those realised in NovaLogic’s Delta Force – Black Hawk Down and Task Force Dagger titles, games have never been afraid to explore the boundaries of gamers’ morals. Perhaps the best example of this is EA’s Command & Conquer Generals, which was attacked by many sections of the specialist press for its portrayal of middle-eastern armies using chemical weapons on their own people.
Perhaps for many people the use of actual war footage, as opposed to computer generated sequences, is the final straw.
Earlier this year, Sony even tried to register the trademark “Shock and Awe”, a US military term for the early stages of the Iraq campaign, before giving up in the face of adverse publicity and describing the incident as “an exercise of regrettable bad judgement”.