Command and Conquer never seemed a dubious subject. There were good guys, and there were bad guys: A most ethical of game among the Grand Theft Auto's of recent times. And so, despite the fact we fought for the glory of the Soviet empire, and for world domination by a bald man's overgrown militia, it was all in the spirit of fun. With such perfect unit balancing, it was going to be hard not to make it fun.
Ethical and Moral issues tend not to go beyond this point in gaming. We accept them at face value: Do much more and their appeal would be very limited. But, despite years of Terrorism throughout hotspots in Ireland, The Middle and Far East, as well as countless bloody coups in South America, the effect of this intricate web of deceit was only truely felt on September 11th 2001.
GLA Pickup Unit - Terrorism Encaptulated
There is no point in going around it: The world, and indeed the computer industry, was shaken to the core. Games were forced to be indefinitely postponed, others were "Extensively Remodified". Even Counter-Strike, that ever standing bastion of gaming found itself playing host to "Offensive" teams rather than the more traditional and politically incorrect "Terrorists". Times change however, and while excavations continue to unearth bodies at the scene of the World Trade Centre attrocities, the world, to some degree at least, has returned to normality.
And that normality means one thing: Another addition to the Command and Conquer saga. Command and Conquer: Generals was officially announced on March the 13th, and since then, a plethora of screenshots, concept art, game info and even a video have been unveiled to us hungry CNC fans. One of the most interesting aspects of these game details was the inclusion of a third side to the fray: The "Global Liberation Army" or GLA, alongside the mighty US of A and the long marching Chinese communists.
But, in this world, still shaking from the shockwaves of September 11th, can a globalised terrorist group really feature in a computer game, or will slaughtering hordes of people with tea-towels on their heads actually attract more customers? Clichéd it may be, but the choice it seems, Is up to you.
And therein lies the rub: Developers only produce games that they believe people will buy. Surely the opportunity to erradicate virtual terrorists will fit in with the western media's backlash and demonisation of Osama Bin Laden. Surely it is a good thing to show black and white truths to the new generation; another way of presenting the message that: "Terrorists are bad". The logic behind this seems impeccable, yet, most probably, these very same children will be playing as the terrorists in Generals.
And so, as American, British, Australian, Canadian, Norweigen, Danish and German troops continue to pursue those would-be terrorists in Asia; is it not disturbing to think that at home, the sons of these brave fighting men could be replaying the skirmishes of Afganistans through the tainted eyes of their enemies? But before you click away from this article with the assumption that I'm a "Ban this Filth" Liberal, let me re-assure you that war-gaming is a passion for me: But this passion is within strict bounds.
Terrorism in Command & Conquer - Too Soon?
I am only to happy to shoot down ME-109s and JU-88s as they fly to bomb British civilians, or blow the crap out of the Yamato as it steams toward the US fleet. I will only too happily replay the Falklands conflict; taking great pleasure in striking down the Argentinian agresssor. I point blank refuse to fight on the side of wrong or evil: Irrelevant of whether or not it's a game. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain and disintegration of the Warsaw pact it has taken hundreds of innocent lives to remind us of the true horrors of war. In the last century; freedom has prevailed over tyranny at a horrendous cost; but as these conflicts fade into news reels, History Channel documenteries and ageing soldiers, it is acceptable, in my view at least, to replay them; but only on the side of good and right.
Command and Conquer: Generals doesn't seek to replicate the battlefields of Afganistan. But the similarities between the GLA and the current enemies of our nations are only too obvious. In my view, clear differences must be marked out between the GLA and Taliban-esque fighters, they could be in their ideals, manifesto, armaments or whatever; But the differences must be there for everyone to see.
My take on morality is one where freedom overcomes injustice; a Platonic ideal some would say, but "One man's terrorist is another man's Freedom fighter"; and I would stand by this. My personal political stances in Ireland and the Middle East are irrelevant: To every single true citizen of the world, the attack of September 11th were not acts of defiance or courage, but a cowardly blow directed at the heart of not only America, but the Free World as a whole. Memories can be buried, but never truly forgotten. C&C Generals may have the GLA being reminiscent to the Taliban, but we must ask ourselves if it has arrived too soon after the horrors of September the 11th, and if it's subject matter is too close to the current conflict.