Video Games Let You Kill, Abuse Osama

Illustration for article titled Video Games Let You Kill, Abuse Osama

Sunday night a team of two dozen Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden. If all goes as planned, you will soon be able to reenact that head shot in a video game this weekend.


Kuma\War Episode #107: The Death of Osama Bin Laden is planned for a Saturday release, Keith Halper, the CEO of Kuma Games told Kotaku today.

Kuma Games, are the people behind turning John Kerry's Silver Star mission and the capture of Saddam Hussein into a playable video game. They decided this afternoon to return to the mostly defunct series to create this last episode.

"I looked back at 106 episodes of Kuma War and understood it was a story without an end and so it was a matter of personal decision between myself and the development and writing staff to say we can't close the door on Kuma War 2 until we've told this absolutely critical last story," Halper said.

In Kuma Games' Kuma War missions, players take control of the real soldiers who fought through some of modern history's most publicized engagements. The game plays a bit like most modern day shooters, such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, with players controlling the movements of a soldier and where and when they fire.

Kuma Games vice president Joe Kressaty, confirmed to Kotaku that the company was discussing the possibility of a kill Bin Laden mission based on the weekend's events, but couldn't provide further details.

Founded in 2003, Kuma Games turned the notion of fighting reality into a blossoming business. The company creates games that allow players to take on the role of animal predators, World War II dogfighters and relive the lives of infamous mobster like John Dillinger and John Gotti. But perhaps the company's most known, most relevant marriage of reality and gaming comes with Kuma War.


The free tactical shooter puts players in the boots of different international military forces as they replay famous, often current battles in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and Sierra Leone. Past missions have included recreations of John Kerry's Silver Star mission, a battle between Mexican soldiers and drug cartels and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The game has even created a past "episode" about Osama Bin Laden, examining the Battle of Tora Bora in Dec. 2001. Currently Kuma War features more than 120 of these episodes, each based on information pulled from news accounts, military experts and sometimes Department of Defense records. The missions often include briefings by military experts, soldiers and people who participated in the events.


Halper has likened what his company is doing to the work of news organizations.

While Kuma Games appears to be the only developer that may be turning the weekend killing of Bin Laden into a game, it's not the only game that includes a Bin Laden appearance.


Newgrounds, popular home to a stream of free-to-play, ever-changing Flash games, often features games created by budding developers looking to make a name for themselves. Coincidentally, one of the top games on the site hours after news of Bin Laden's death hit, was one starring the founder of Al Qaeda.

Illustration for article titled Video Games Let You Kill, Abuse Osama

In Mujahedin players take control of a suicide bomber who is targeting a U.S. Army base. The work of playable satire features a cartoon Bin Laden who offers to become a drinking buddy with the player if they succeed.

Monday morning, iPhone game developer Dedalord Games released an update to their Falling Fred, that allows players to control a perpetually plummeting "Ogama Ben Ladder" as you try to avoid dangerous objects... or hit them. The rag doll Bin Laden likeness bruises, loses limbs and bleeds as he hits objects during the fall, until he finally succumbs to his injuries.

Illustration for article titled Video Games Let You Kill, Abuse Osama

My attempt at guiding Ben Ladder through the dangers of his perpetual fall ended suddenly on a tiled outcropping. Then a newspaper headline popped up on the screen that read "Terrorist Terrorized by Terrible Tiling." The newspaper article underneath accounted my virtual Ben Ladder's many injuries, including the number of fractures, amputations and blood loss. I was also given the option to replay the video of his plummet.


Ian Bogost, professor of digital media at Georgia Tech and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play, calls these quick-to-hit reactionary bits of play "tabloid games."

"They are 'tabloid games' more than anything," he said. "Quickly created release valves that capitalize on this event for traffic or attention.


"That said, perhaps some of them may give us a sense of how the operation took place."

Kuma, he notes, tries to do that with their attempt at accurate recreations.

Bosost says that these tabloid games also give people a way to come to terms with a surprising event. For instance, a game popped up after soccer player Zinedine Zidane's head butt during the 2006 World Cup finals.


"That was so strange, 'Did that really happen?' was the question everyone was asking," Bogost said. "And the [Zidane] game, crude as it was, offered a way to ponder that question."

These Bin Laden games could also give some people a "welcome sense of false closure," Bogost added.


"See, Osama is dead. The 'war on terror' is over. See, I killed him myself on my computer.' Whether that's true or not, it doesn't matter," Bogost said.

Well Played is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.


The above picture shows Osama Bin Laden as depicted in Kuma War's take on the Battle of Tora Bora.

Well Played is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.



I think that everyone reveling in Bin Laden's death should pause and take a good look at themselves.

Regarding those eagerly playing these video games:

How is this more tasteful than a video game where you fly a plane into the Twin Towers?

Possible angry responses to this statement:

- He started it, this is revenge, so that makes it OK.

- 9/11 cost thousands of innocent American lives, this is the worst of the terrorists who deserves what he gets.

- Fuck you, I lost (name here) (in/at) (Afghanistan, 9/11, etc).

I'm sure there are plenty more you can come up with.

But let's think about this - how does this make us any better than someone gleefully playing a suicide bomber game targeted at the US?

Last night, 99% of the Social Media updates I saw were flat out cheering about Osama's death, claiming it should be a holiday, dancing about how great America is.

He was a symbol of frustration, fear and hatred for this country for a long time - now he is dead. But this doesn't end anything. We're still locked in at least two wars, with more on the horizon in the Middle East.

At what cost has this kill that everyone is so happy about, come to the world? Note the image for some handy graphs on civilian deaths in Afghanistan for the first six months of 2010. This excludes deaths in our military, in other countries, in the other years this has been going on. These were people living in a very different political and economic situation than your average American, but they were innocent humans like those killed in 9/11.

Yes, you're happy Osama is dead, but why? Specifically, what is your reason? What is your personal relation? I can understand those that have lost family members, friends and close family - that is always a tragedy, and I am sorry - I am not belittling your loss. But how about the average person that has no real relation to these events and is gleeful? Why the blood thirst? What is your reason?

Why is real live human death something to celebrate? I guess I can understand all the points that are about to be thrown at me - why this man deserves to die, why the 'terrorists' are different than us and why our killing is justified and theirs is not - but even then, why do we have to debase ourselves by being just as low as the people that 'we' hate - the terrorists, the 'enemy' - by reveling in their death?

These are not games about killing imagined enemies that have never existed - this is about dragging 'our' sworn enemy through the street and pissing on his corpse. And what is so great about that?

It's something to think about.