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Muslim Civil Rights Group Decries Six Days in Fallujah

Photo courtesy of Highwire Games/Victura

The largest Muslim civil rights charity in the United States has called on PlayStation, Xbox and Valve to drop the Iraq War FPS Six Days in Fallujah from their storefronts.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the game an "'Arab murder simulator' that glorifies violence that took the lives of over 800 Iraqi civilians, justifies the illegal invasion of Iraq, and reinforces Islamophobic narratives."

"The Second Battle of Fallujah was a violent and bloody battle during the Iraq War that left more than 800 civilians dead. The tragic episode was heavily criticized for the U.S. military's tactics, including the use of white phosphorous," the statement continues.

When Six Days in Fallujah was first announced in 2009, it was met with widespread condemnation by American soldiers and anti-war groups. Publisher Konami abandoned the project, leaving then-developer Atomic Games holding the bag. That studio's head, Peter Tamte, returned with a new studio, Highwire Games, and revived the project in 2021.

CAIR linked to two stories discussing the impact of Six Days in Fallujah to reinforce its argument. The first was an article from Turkish state-owned outlet TRT World titled "Six Days in Fallujah reveals the gaming industry's Islamophobia problem." The second was an IGN piece interviewing Arab and Iraqi members of the games industry for their take on the game. Both articles reinforce the negative perception of the controversial game.

"The video gaming industry must stop dehumanizing Muslims," said CAIR research and advocacy coordinator Huzaifa Shahbaz. "Video games like Six Days in Fallujah only serve to glorify violence that took the lives of hundreds of Iraqi civilians, justify the Iraq war, and reinforce anti-Muslim sentiment at a time when anti-Muslim bigotry continues to threaten human life."

Microsoft, Sony and Valve have yet to comment on CAIR's statement.

Six Days creator Tamte seems to believe his game deserves to exist as part of a larger attempt to truly understand the trauma experienced by combatants in the Iraq War. That goal is not without merit. But the game is poised to deliver that understanding at the expense of Iraqi humanity.

Take the game's approach to level design. Six Days in Fallujah uses procedural generation to create its levels. Tamte and company say this technique disorients the player, keeping them on their toes and anxious opening any door or turning any corner. In this way, the game attempts to connect players to experience the invading Americans.

Of course, to do so requires a literal reshaping of the world to fit the American perspective. Fallujah is a distinct city, with its own storied customs and long history. Six Days jettisons that specificity simply because it is inconvenient for empathizing with American soldiers. We're not here to understand the Iraqi perspective, we're here to valorize the American.

There's little doubt Six Days will show American soldiers doing both brave and terrible things. It wouldn't be a "gritty" or "serious" game if it didn't. But at its core, it aims to continue the project of American imperialism in the Middle East.

The world is full of pro-American stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them, like 2008's "The Hurt Locker," show how deeply traumatizing war can be. Isn't it time we extended that same level of empathy to the thousands of lives we overturned, uprooted, and ultimately ended?