The "bombing-Iraq" videogame industry

Jul 20, 2022 6 min read

A documentation by @halalsalman.

The video game industry has a long history of normalizing bombing Iraq and killing Iraqis, which the US has never been held accountable for.

Below a chronological overview of the videogames that support bombing Iraq, documented by Hala Alsalman.

1. F-15 STRIKE EAGLE II (1989) A combat flight simulator game that lets you carpet bomb places like “The Middle East” and “The Persian Gulf” with three kinds of missiles used by the US military. Priming young minds for an upcoming war? Brace yourselves.

IN REAL LIFE - Jan 1991: The US begins bombing Iraq in what is known as the Gulf War.

2. ACTION 52 (1991) With US media of the time reducing the Gulf War to a cartoon showdown between Saddam Hussein and then US General “Stormin’ Norman,” this video game obliged. Never mind the hundreds of thousands civilians killed.

3. OPERATION: DESERT STORM (1991) Top down tank shooter game culminating in the city of Baghdad with the final enemy being Saddam Hussein. Super lo-fi but reinforced the perception that bombing Iraq is basically a video game, because that’s how it looked on CNN.

4. DESERT ASSAULT (1991) A shoot ‘em arcade game where players use machine guns and other projectile weapons during the Gulf War, as the REAL Gulf War was happening! Guitar riffs and synth abound, “perfectly capping off the all-American, hard rock Desert Storm war fantasy,” according to a gamer site.

5. OPERATION SECRET STORM (1992) A Nintendo game where the player George B. “fights a lot of Arabs” to get to Saddam H. The Gulf War was in full swing in the news so the developers rushed the game to release it before the conflict could end

6. PATRIOT (1993) A strategy game about the Gulf War. Famous for being the 45th worst video game according to Computer Gaming World in 1996. Hey at least they were trying to keep the dream alive!

7. STEEL PANTHERS II (1996) DOS war game where you can just waltz into Iraq with your tanks and destroy. Less is more.

IN REAL LIFE - Dec 1998: The Clinton Administration bombs Baghdad, killing many innocent civilians including famous Iraqi artist Laila Al-Attar and her husband in their home.

8. SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (2000) First-person shooter game “notable for its graphic depictions of firearms dismembering the human body” and the ethnic diversity of terrorists to kill, including Iraqis.

IN REAL LIFE - September 11 attacks: Almost 3000 people killed. US- funded terrorists include Saudis, Emiratis, an Egyptian and a Lebanese. Not one Iraqi.

9. CONFLICT: DESERT STORM (2002) A tactical shooter game set in the Gulf War where you get to use demolitions, sniper/assault rifles and machine guns to kill Iraqis. This game dropped as the drums of the very real “War on Terror” were beating.

IN REAL LIFE - March 2003: The US invades Iraq

10. CONFLICT DESERT STORM 2 (2003) Back to Baghdad. Enough said.

11. QUEST FOR SADDAM (2003) First-person shooter game where you gun down Iraqis to get to “their boss” Saddam Hussein. You get to kill camels too!

12. FULL SPECTRUM WARRIOR (2004) A squad-based game where you get to kill Iraqis in the fictitious country of Zekistan. Development is directly linked to the US military because they noticed recruits grew up on video games so they pushed for a radical design where first-person actions were limited to issuing orders: “The application defied conventional wisdom, winning both awards and commercial acceptance.”

IN REAL LIFE - Nov 2004: The Battle of Fallujah, the height of the invasion in terms of bloodshed. Americans enter the city to seek and destroy “insurgents,” a deceptive term the US media adopted to hide the fact that these were in fact Iraqi citizens, defending themselves against foreign invaders.

13. PROJECT REALITY: BF2 (2005) Hyper realistic war game with detailed maps from across Iraq (and other Middle Eastern countries) to bomb and invade with precision. Game modes include “Assault and Secure” and our favorite propaganda term, “Insurgency”.

IN REAL LIFE - Mar 2006: US soldiers gang rape Iraqi teenager Abeer Al-Janabi and slaughter her entire family in what is known as The Mahmudiyah Massacre.

14. BAGHDAD CENTRAL (2006) First-person shooter game set in modern Iraq, featuring “nasty insurgents with all the weapons you dread” according to Amazon :)

15. BLACKSITE: AREA 51 (2007) First-person-shooter game set during the 2003 Invasion, where you not only get to kill Iraqis, but aliens too! In this walkthrough (3:56), the player enters a village and shoots up an Iraqi, which prompts the gleeful audio dialogue: “THAT GUY AIN’T GETTIN’ UP AGAIN!”

IN REAL LIFE - Sep 2007: The Nisour Square Massacre. Blackwater mercenaries murder 17 Iraqis in the street including 9 year-old Ali Kinani.

16. INSURGENCY (2007) What better way to normalize such a deceptive word than to make it into a video game series? In various installments, marines kill Iraqis and Afghanis with hardcore gameplay, a selling point this game was known for: “Feel every bullet, and fear every impact.”

17. ARMY OF TWO (2008) Third person shooter game where two asshole mercenary killers wreak Blackwater-like havoc in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americuh! FUCK YEAH!

18. SPLINTER CELL: CONVICTION (2010) Shooter game where you get to go to Diwaniya to kill Iraqis by shooting them “in rapid succession without manually targeting each one”. Mass murder made easy! Brought to you by novelist Tom Clancy.

19. BABEL RISING (2012) Honorable mention from the French. Why stick to modern, real-life wars when you can destroy Iraq in the biblical past? In this game, "the player takes the role of God trying to prevent the Babylonians from building the Tower of Babel." Yes, GOD.

20. CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE (2014) First person shooter game where you’re part of the US military and bombing Baghdad IN THE FUTURE! Set in 2061 with Kevin Spacey featuring as an evil Erik Prince type. PS. An installment of this series also pissed off Russians for the way they were depicted.

21. SIX DAYS IN FALLUJAH (TBD) After 10+ years in publishing hell, this horrific game has resurfaced. Based on a very real and recent American war crime in Iraq. Enough is enough. Sign the petition to stop its release and share.

Can you believe there are more? This article isn’t trying to prove that game developers are evil. Rather, that US politics and entertainment are inextricably intertwined.

Iraq is a real place with real people, not a video game.

Hala Alsalman is an Iraqi-Canadian filmmaker and visual artist whose work is informed by her past life as a journalist in the Middle East. She has worked for various outlets like Reuters, MBC and Vice Media.

Instagram: @halalsalman

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Iraq Now.

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