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Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11th

Five years ago to this day, advocates of intolerance won themselves a victory; They sparked off a chain reaction by which governments were able to invent an impossible war and in doing so, restrict civil liberties and alter global politics for many years. I think it would be insensitive to rant against right wing policy today, so instead let's have a gander at the effect the September 11th attacks had on the computer games industry.

After a tragic loss, humans are compounded to assign blame. The media, gaming in particular, took a lot of flak during this time. Microsoft's Flight Simulator was removed from the shelves of high street stores because it was viewed as a potential terrorist training tool. Microsoft responded by removing the feature of planes able to explode on collision with buildings in all of their future titles. Written on September 21st 2001, How video games influenced the attack on America provides insight into the journalistic mindset before widespread disillusionment set in. The author of this article wraps up by commenting :

"You have to wonder what else terrorists are learning, thanks to the wonders of computer-based education."

I'm not aware of a single game in existence that teaches players to crash planes into buildings. Microsoft's game contained this feature for the spectacle, the entertainment factor of seeing a virtual plane crash and explode. An exploding plane teaches nothing but the fact that planes explode when impacting a solid surface at high velocity, as even the most brainwashed simpleton ought to realise.

The industry was not united in woe, however. Kuma War, a military FPS game developed by Kuma Reality Games, features regularly updated episodic 'missions' based on current conflicts happening around the world (although mostly in the Middle East). At the time of writing, Kuma War has released 76 'missions' and attracted Iranian uproar after releasing "Assault on Iran" in September 2005. Kuma War has certainly benefitted from a popular urge to 'defeat' terrorism. The same is true for America's Army, their website proudly claiming six million registered players.

The September 11th atrocity relocated the boundary over which controversy exists. Developers have come to realise that the global fear of terrorism can either have a game banned from sale, or guarantee huge profits. Another layer of exploitation has been plastered over the consumer. Knowledge and free discussion are the tools of our liberation.

You can find a long list of audiovisual entertainment effected by the September 11th attacks on Wikipedia.

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