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A US video game to torture Iraqi prisoners that can’t be won

2 August 2016 7:50

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A video game is being developed in the United States, in which the player can torture prisoners in a jail in Iraq by assuming the role of an American soldier.

Work on the project started two years ago by a designer team in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Atlantic reported on Monday.

The designers claim that the game is aimed at bringing the player uncomfortably close to torture against inmates at the infamous Camp Bucca in southeastern Iraq, where the US troops held suspects of the so-called US war on terror between 2003, when the Iraq War started, and 2009.

 

They say they also want to bring more attention to abuses at the camp, situated in the vicinity of Umm Qasr.

What’s in game?

The story of the game occurs in an undetermined time during the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The player is supposed to interact with Iraqi inmates, wearing the trademark orange jumpsuits and at times black hoods covering their heads.

The player should extract intelligence from the inmates by resorting to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemized term coined by the CIA to refer to torture in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The player must interrogate the prisoners by choosing between various methods, including waterboarding, electrocution, rectal rehydration, attention grasp and stress positions, and is allowed to slay the prisoner if the questioning goes too far.

S/he should also carry the prisoners in the area of the detention camp.

Like many other games, the player’s objective is to either gather points or fail; however, even if s/he gathers the points required, they do not amount to anything and the game cannot be won.

To make the game, the designers relied on accounts of the inmates as well as leaked Red Cross reports to develop the storyline.

Who’s behind the game?

The game is being developed by five graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University and New York University, who have asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the issue.

The game, of which no footage is available yet, is said to be affiliated with neither university.

The team initially intended to design a fictional horror game but after one of the members learned of Camp Bucca through reading about Abu Ghraib, they came up with the new idea that also fit the nature of what they had in mind in the first place, a horror game.

The designers of the Camp Bucca, which will probably be released by the end of the year, also felt that torture at the camp has been underreported compared to torture in the more notorious Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

Why Camp Bucca?

The camp, named after Ronald Bucca, an NYC Fire Marshal who died in the September 11 attacks, is known as a place where the founders of the Daesh Takfiri terror group were incubated.

The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent five years in the camp himself and “forged many of the connections that make up the group’s network today,” according to the Atlantic.

No investigation was ever launched over human rights violations at that camp despite myriad reports of torture and abuse against the suspects there.

Will the game serve its stated purpose?

The game is claimed to be an attempt to raise awareness in regard to rights violation by the US. The developers also aim to send a clear message that torture results in radicalization, which could ultimately lead to the rise of terror groups like Daesh (ISIL) in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Through assumption of a US serviceman’s role, the game posits “the firsthand revulsion of being in the position of torturer,” according to one of the developers.

This is not the first time that torture is being portrayed in a game. At some point in the most recent Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game, for example, the player is required to waterboard a man.

Another attempt akin to the Camp Bucca game was made by Nonny de la Peña, a journalist and virtual-reality pioneer in collaboration with Peggy Weil, a digital artist, in 2007.

They created a digital model of Gitmo, where the player could peacefully explore a “torture contemplation area.”

Some, including David Ibsen, the executive director of the Counter Extremism Project, believe that games like the Camp Bucca could end up being counter-effective as they could be used by Takfiris as a means to recruit more members.

“In this case, I doubt it,” one of the developers said. “Even terror groups would understand there is a nuanced message behind the game that will in turn shine a light on their own abuses.”

This is while elements of violent video games such as Call of Duty and GTA are already being used by Takfiri terrorists to recruit militants.

“Until you play a game, I don’t think you can tell whether it succeeded or not,” said prominent video game designer Brenda Romero. “At this point, it’s like reading the summary of a book and wondering whether the book can deliver on its promise. And I strongly feel games should be given that chance to deliver.”

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