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Six Days in Fallujah Is Not Trying to Make a ‘Political Commentary’ About War

According to Six Days in Fallujah’s publisher Victura, the recently resurrected military FPS based on a real Iraq War battle is not attempting to “make a political commentary about whether or not the war itself was a good or a bad idea.”

Peter Tamte, the head of Six Days in Fallujah publisher Victura, spoke to Polygon after the game was re-announced for a 2021 release, and stated that developer Highwire Games “will not grapple with the political machinations that led to the titular conflict.” Instead, the game’s focus will be to “engender empathy” for the American troops, their work in taking out the insurgents throughout Fallujah, and the civilians who were caught in between.

“I think reasonable people can disagree with that,” Tamte told Polygon of his narrative strategy. “For us as a team, it is really about helping players understand the complexity of urban combat. It’s about the experiences of that individual that is now there because of political decisions. And we do want to show how choices that are made by policymakers affect the choices that [a Marine] needs to make on the battlefield. Just as that [Marine] cannot second-guess the choices by the policymakers, we’re not trying to make a political commentary about whether or not the war itself was a good or a bad idea.”

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Six Days in Fallujah isn’t the first game to attempt to sidestep politics, as The Division 2’s developer Ubisoft Massive also revealed that it didn’t want to take a stance in current politics and that doing so would be “bad for business, unfortunately.” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney also argued that politics should be removed from game companies.

The difference between The Division 2 and Six Days in Fallujah, however, is that the Iraq War is an event that is pulled right from our world, as opposed to a fictional tale of war.

The city of Fallujah saw increased insurgent activity during the 2003 Iraq War when a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi brought in fighters from around the country and beyond to the city. In the months and years that followed, Fallujah saw a ton of civilian casualties and the death of a team of private military contractors from Blackwater USA.

In 2004, Western forces made two attempts to retake the city, and Six Days in Fallujah focuses on this Second Battle of Fallujah which, according to the International Red Cross, cost around 100 American lives and the lives of at least 800 civilians.

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Considering that Six Days in Fallujah is a military shooter, it can be safely assumed that weapons of war will be used by the player. However, one such weapon, white phosphorous, that was used to flush out insurgents from bunkers, will not be part of the game.

“There are things that divide us, and including those really divisive things, I think, distracts people from the human stories that we can all identify with,” Tamte said. “I have two concerns with including phosphorus as a weapon. Number one is that it’s not a part of the stories that these guys told us, so I don’t have an authentic, factual basis on which to tell that. That’s most important. Number two is, I don’t want sensational types of things to distract from the parts of that experience.”

When asked what responsibility that Tamte’s team bears in communicating the outcome of the Second Battle of Fallujah to consumers, he said that he wants people to “understand the human cost of war.”

“I don’t think players are going to be confused about the cost [of war],” Tamte said. “I just don’t think that they’re going to walk away from this experience going, ‘We need more war.’ I don’t think that’s something that the Marines and soldiers want as a message. I don’t think that’s something that the Iraqi civilians want as a message. I think people do need to understand the human cost of war.

“Perhaps playing the game will make them curious and they’ll want to learn more about all the things that have happened in Fallujah since the 2004 battle, and that will lead them to their own conclusions from doing the research. But right now, simply ignoring the battle is not going to cause them to think about all of its consequences.”

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To help make Six Days in Fallujah as authentic as possible, Tamte and his team interviewed Marines and soldiers who were part of the battle. These interviews took place as far back as a few months after the battle to as recent as last year. These people will be the avatars that the players fight alongside.

While 90% of the story will be following these people from the US military, 10% of the game will tell a story from the city’s civilian population. Developer Highwire Games enlisted the help of an American journalist in Iraq to interview a dozen civilians who survived the battle. In Six Days in Fallujah, players will take on the role of a father trying to get his family to safety. This story will overlap with the US forces story.

“This is as an unarmed Iraqi civilian,” Tamte stressed. “We do not at any point ask the player to become an insurgent, to be clear about that. This is an Iraqi civilian who was trying to get his family out of the city during the battle.”

Tamte has been working on this project for over 15 years, and he noted that one of the most controversial parts in the long road in developing Six Days in Fallujah is its inclusion of real soldiers and their deaths. Tamte had a message to the families that may be outraged by this.

“A message that I heard from all of the people who’ve lost loved ones in battle is, they don’t want their child or friend’s sacrifice to be forgotten,” Tamte said. “Even the ones who were very opposed [to the war in Iraq]. And I had conversations with many of them, as well as other members of our team — especially former military who are on our team had conversations with many of these families in 2009 — and we heard one after the other, ‘We don’t want you to make a game about this, but we don’t want our son’s sacrifice to be forgotten.’ It’s a mixture of that.

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“The reality is that most people are not aware of the battle for Fallujah,” Tamte continued. “And so, by talking about this battle in a game, we are helping people remember the sacrifice of some very specific people. So that’s number one. We share the same objective they have, which is, we don’t want their son’s sacrifice to be forgotten. But do I understand their caution about it? Absolutely. Absolutely. Because for most of those people, their only idea of a video game is watching somebody else play Call of Duty. Call of Duty is a sport, and if somebody made a sport out of the killing of my son, I’d be pretty upset. Our job now is to show people that we’re not making Call of Duty.”

“The only thing that I fear is that fundamentally, when we cut through everything, people’s objection here to Six Days in Fallujah is more of an objection to the Iraq War,” Tamte concluded. “We’ve made games about other wars, and real stories from other wars, that have not gotten the attention and have not gotten any sort of controversy. So fundamentally, people’s objection is to the Iraq War. I don’t think we should be a proxy for that particular battle.”

Six Days in Fallujah will be released on PC and consoles later in 2021.

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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.