You sometimes hear American-developed video games set in real-world geopolitical hotspots—like entries in the Call of Duty, Battlefield and Medal of Honor series—get decried as jingoistic, flag-waving propaganda. And Pakistan has issued a ban on Call of Duty and Medal of Honorfor how it's portrayed in those titles. And, yeah, while the claim can be made that political mindsets and cultural biases seep into those video games, they're not explicitly made to froth up ideological allegiances. (Well, there was the America's Army franchise but those games offered a pretty tepid brand of "eff yeah" messaging.)
Islamic Mali—as reported by Foreign Policy—goes hard in the opposite direction. The new game—playable here—made by Islamic extremists takes players into the skies to engage in aerial dogfights in the name of al-Qaeda. It's a rudimentary HTML5 browser game where you control an al-Qaeda fighter jet shooting down and dodging fire from French fighter planes. Islamic Mali virtualizes the very real conflict in Mali, where local rebel forces have been fighting jihadi soldiers with help from the French military.
And like so many top-down arcade shooters before it, there's a one-shot instant-kill power-up in Islamic Mali, too. Click on the black box of Arabic text—which translates as the first part of the shahada, Islam's core delaration of faith: "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God"—and a black laser obliterates all enemies in its path. And when it's game over, pop-up text indicates that you've become a martyr to the jihadi cause.
Islamic Mali joins the ranks of other explicitly political titles from other countries, like Glorious Mission in China or the Flash games hosted on North Korean web portal Uriminzokkiri. These games won't compete with bigger, fancier games from the West when it comes to entertainment value. But the fact that they exist is a testament to how fervently their creators want their particular ideologies to permeate every aspect of people's lives.