Israel vs. Gaza War Games

via: The Jerusalem Post

War games

Kassam rockets are coming in way too fast, raining terror across the western Negev. IAF fighter-bombers are responding with ferocious bombardments of Gaza City, and tanks are rolling in behind them. The whole chilling scene unfolds on the computer screen… until I hit the “escape” button.

As if the constant stream of television coverage of Operation Cast Lead weren’t enough, several video games depicting the fighting have been posted to popular on-line gaming sites in the past two weeks. So now the fate of Israelis and Palestinians are in the hands of computer geeks from Nebraska to New Zealand.

Look closely at the or Web sites, for example, and you’ll find current events reflected in the list of free games. In Gaza Defender, a Hamas gunman must fire his AK-47 into the sky, shooting at IAF jets as they drop bombs that tear away at the Gaza skyline. Save Israel is a race against the clock as rockets bombard the South; the goal is to click on the cities being targeted (to sound the Color Red alarm) and then click on the incoming rockets to destroy them before they hit.

Two take-offs on the popular “tower defense” game are used to highlight the disparate forces involved in this (real) war. In Raid Gaza, Israel’s high-powered military faces off against woefully inaccurate homemade rockets, in a clear mismatch that leads to an inordinate number of casualties on the Palestinian side. Likewise, Gaza Defense Force pits a handful of rock throwers against tanks and planes in an utterly hopeless battle.

These games were put together quickly, using simple Flash programming and a lack of any real plot development. This is old-school electronic warfare, the kind that is controlled with arrow keys, the space bar and a few well-timed left-clicks on the mouse. At the same time, though, these games are becoming a new front in the Israeli-Arab conflict – a battle for hearts and minds that is anything but fun and games.

IN 2007, Hizbullah released Special Force 2, a game that recreates the Second Lebanon War through the guerrilla army’s eyes. A gunman fights his way through the villages of Aita a-Shaab, Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil, kidnapping IDF soldiers on patrol, killing a sniper and destroying the corvette INS Hanit.

For Hizbullah, the game’s worth clearly lies in its propaganda value.

“This game presents the culture of the resistance to children: that occupation must be resisted and that the land and the nation must be guarded,” Hizbullah media official Sheikh Ali Daher said upon its release. “Through this game the child can build an idea of some of… the most prominent battles, and the idea that this enemy can be defeated.”

The 3-D game, Daher added, also “features secrets of the resistance’s victory” that have been depicted “so that the child can understand that fighting the enemy does not only require the gun. It requires readiness, supplies, armament, attentiveness and tactics.”

Meanwhile, in Damascus, Afkar Media is churning out games and movies aggrandizing the Palestinian intifada. A few years ago it released Under Siege, in which the hero – a young man beaten by his Israeli jailers – later joins the armed struggle and takes on soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank. (Interestingly, the game disallows shooting at civilians or carrying out suicide bombings.) More recently, Afkar released Road Block Buster, in which a Palestinian boy taunts and teases Israeli soldiers and devises ways to circumvent military roadblocks.

In some cases, video games come in response not to an actual battle but to other video games.

After the American company Kuma issued Assault on Iran – “an extremely plausible scenario for delaying or destroying Iran’s nuclear arms capabilities without kick-starting World War III,” the company wrote – Iran’s Union of Students Islamic Association went to work on a game of its own. It took it three years to produce Rescue the Nuke Scientist, in which Iranian security forces rescue nuclear scientists who are captured by US troops and then smuggled to Israel. The Iranian agents have to infiltrate Israel, kill American and Israeli soldiers and seize their computers containing secret information.

“This is an entirely Iranian product in response to the US cyberwar against Iran,” said the leader of the technical team that produced the game.

“This is our defense against the enemy’s cultural onslaught,” said a leader of the student group – which, incidentally, is the same group that organized the “World Without Zionism” conference in 2005 at which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

One can only imagine how much Iranian tempers have been inflamed by Rising Eagle, a rather sophisticated, million-dollar video game released just a few months ago by the Israeli firm Invasion Interactive. Although the game focuses mainly on imaginary clashes between the United States, the European Union and China as they are envisioned in 2040, it also offers the chance to see a futuristic version of the Golani Brigade’s elite reconnaissance unit face off against Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Gaza Strip. (Hebrew signs, graffiti and billboards are all over the virtual background, and actual Golani combat pins decorate the unit.)

If all that fighting turns you off, though, don’t despair. You can always try your hand at Peacemaker, by the Israeli-American partnership Impact Games. The game, meant as an educational tool more than an arcade favorite, gives you the opportunity to try to steer the Israeli-Palestinian peace process through its myriad crises. You can play as either the Israeli or the Palestinian leader, but the goal – calm and a mutually acceptable peace agreement – remains the same in either case.

CALM AND a mutually acceptable peace agreement seem especially far off now, however, as much in the gaming world as in reality. And just like in real life, the latest batch of games about the Gaza fighting has created quite a controversy on-line. Feedback for Raid Gaza, Gaza Defender, Gaza Defense Force and Save Israel has come fast and furious.