Less than 24 hours ago, Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of two dozen Navy SEALs. In another six days, you’ll be able to relive the killing yourself in a videogame. While games have never held back from using ongoing conflicts in their narratives, this must set a new, slightly grisly standard for topicality.
KumaWar is a free-to-play tactical shooter developed by Kuma Games. It already offers 106 ‘episodes,’ each a reenactment of some famous real-life military operation. These mostly focus on Iraq, though there are missions based in a virtual Afghanistan, Iran, Mexico, Sierra Leone, and others. Existing episodes depict John Kerry’s Silver Star mission and the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Kuma Games CEO Keith Halper revealed to Kotaku today that KumaWar Episode #107: The Death of Osama Bin Laden would be released on May 7th:
“I looked back at 106 episodes of KumaWar 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 KumaWar until we’ve told this absolutely critical last story.”
Is this rampant and tasteless exploitation at its worst? That was certainly my first reaction – disgust is an easy first emotion in this case.
Yet according to Kotaku, Halper has previously compared what his company does to the work of news organizations, while KumaWar is endorsed by the History Channel. It also seems to strive for accuracy, with extensive background information for each mission, including satellite photos, Department of Defense records, and a multimedia library.
I guess what this boils down to is: are videogames a viable way of documenting history? As I sincerely believe they are, I don’t feel I can fairly criticize KumaWar, however current it may be.