I picked the game Raid Gaza for two reasons. The first reason is that out of all the assigned games, this was the one that spoke to me the most. What has been happening, is happening, and seems to be continuing to happen in Gaza is horrific for a number of reasons. People die in ridiculously large numbers –all for a piece of property. Innocent people are dying purely to prove a point. This very fact shows the dehumanization of these people, which is terrifying. The second reason I picked this is because I think this game is especially relevant to situate in a socio-cultural context as per the assignment instructions. The message is very clear, therefore I think it’s the best example for this particular assignment.
The first thing you see when you begin the game is a quote from the Prime Minister of Israel: Ehud Olmert. Olmert’s quote explains how the ideal outcome is to have the number of Jews “maximized” and the number of Palestinians “minimized.” These people are literally being quantified, as if they aren’t people at all. In the background of the game is an arcade-sounding song that makes you think that the game will be easygoing and lighthearted, despite its actual dark subject matter. Once you start playing the game, the instructions given to you by a fictionally portrayed Olmert is literally, “Just, you know, click on these squares right here and build things you can kill them off with, OK?” This quote proves how lackadaisical the attitude is in terms of killing the people involved. The next set of instructions are to “eliminate as many Palestinians as possible” under the limited time constraint of five minutes. You get the choice to build an airport, a missile pad, a headquarters, and barracks. You’re also told not to spend all your money at once. I chose to build one of each and found it to be very efficient. I was able to shoot missiles, fly planes which dropped bombs and killed in mass numbers, and build tanks. Then, after I’d run out of money, I’d “call for aid” at the headquarters which was free. The aid then makes jokes about how we should have called and asked for money sooner and jokes that their money is to be considered “humanitary aid.” I was then given $5000 to continue flying bomber planes, sending missiles, and making tanks. Then, when I’d run out of money, I’d call and get more aid. It was a disgustingly simple cycle. It was basically like I had an unlimited source of money, meaning that I could essentially kill as many people as I wanted because my weapons were stronger (I had tanks and planes while the Palestinians had a weak missile every so often and that’s it) and I could continue to get the money to afford these weapons whenever I ran out of funds. The civilians of Palestine are helpless because I have superior resources. When you shoot the missiles and drop the bombs, sometimes you get “bonus points” depending on where you hit. For example, I received bonus points for hitting a “UN school” and a hospital. I found this to be so heartbreaking, not only because I received more points, but because people out there participating in this fight actually think like this. I was receiving more points because I had just killed a mass number of children and sick human beings, just like people are praised when they drop a bomb and kill mass amounts of people because it’s just emphasizing their point even further. When the time is up, you’re told the statistic that in 2007, for every Israeli killed by a Palestinian, 25 Palestinians were killed by Israelis. Rather than this quote being labeled as disgusting or any other negative word, it is followed by, “Not too bad, huh?”
I think the game itself is saying that Israel is in the wrong and is going about the situation completely wrong. Now, I am not using this assignment as some sort of political platform for me to say that the Israelis are completely wrong in what they are doing and the Palestinians deserve the land. Therefore, I am choosing to interpret the message as more along the lines of emphasizing the wrongness of this entire situation because people are dying in such large numbers because they are being dehumanized. The people are thought of as collateral damage. The people hearing about the situation know that this is happening, but are so desensitized to it that they are able to ignore the situation as a whole. This proves the point that in this ridiculously damaging fight between Israel and Palestine, the lives of people are being completely demeaned and dehumanized. It’s not like it’s only soldiers who are dying. I received bonus points because I was able to successfully bomb a hospital and a UN school. This shows that killing civilians is not even frowned upon, it’s expected and celebrated. Innocent people are caught in the crossfire between these two nations and no one is stopping it.
The game clearly utilizes the game features to emphasize that it’s wrong to be dehumanizing these Palestinians. First of all, the music in the background sets a positive mood despite the harsh reality of the game. This immediately sets the game up as a satire or a political point against the Israelis and their demolishing of the Palestinians. Then of course there is the quote to set up the Israeli Prime Minister as a powerful enabler in this whole situation. It shines a negative light on him and emphasizes the game’s point that he is thinking of people in terms of numbers (minimizing the Palestinians and maximizing the Jews) which is incredibly wrong. The most interesting part of the game is that it doesn’t tell you anything that isn’t true. Any quotes that are used are cited at the end so that you know it is using the truth. In my opinion, the game is a blatant satire and critique against this whole situation, but I like that the game does not ever directly say that they are against this battle between Palestine and Israel. It’s all told to you indirectly within the game, so it’s up to you to understand the message. This is a lot like the McDonalds game that Ian Bogost talks about. It’s an “anti-advergame” (Bogost). As you play the game, you realize that the only way to win is to kill more Palestinians than Israelis, which you can recognize is inherently cruel. To win, you have to utilize your resources, proving that there is a clear imbalance in terms of resources between the Palestinians and you, the Israelis. I found this game to be well-done in showing its message without telling you the message directly.
Bogost, I. 2008. Persuasive Games. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (pp. 28-46) ISBN: 978026202614-7.