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Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University students are designing a game that puts political torture in the hands of its players. Based at Camp Bucca, former American prison camp during the Iraq War, players will take on the role of American soldiers who will interrogate their prisoners by any means necessary. Details are otherwise relatively sparse, and the developers of the game have asked to remain anonymous.

CBS-Pittsburgh news reports that, during an interview conducted by money editor Jon Delano for radio station KDKA, one of the as-yet unknown developers suggests their game is intentionally provocative and discursive:

“Sometimes games provoke an emotional response and convey a deliberate message.”

Further snippets of the interview suggest the goal of educating the player on the game’s historic references, with Camp Bucca considered the birthplace of much of contemporary Islamic radicalization and the origin of ISIS leaders like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and now-deceased Jihadist military leader, Haji Bakr. Of their future players, the developer said, “It may literally be the first time they Googled the name ‘Camp Bucca’.”

Said developer has stated that gamers will have the ability to torture their prisoners through waterboarding and electricity in order to extract information from them, even to the point of killing the prisoner. “The game asks players to literally create ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq & Levant) by assuming the role of U.S. Soldiers interacting with detainees,” he says, referring to the detainee prison origins of ISIS/ISIL where extremists were able to easily spread their message amidst growing distrust and anti-American sentiment.

Still a relatively obscure venture, the game has already garnered some negative attention, much of which can be seen on the CBS-Pittsburgh Facebook page featuring the story. The story has proven incredibly divisive, some feeling that the platform of a video game isn’t appropriate for the subject matter, some concerned that the premise is anti-American by default, others touting the belief that the digital violence and torture encourages real-life violence. Among the comments are a minority few who defend the game and the developer’s right to make it, though even less seem willing to admit their intent to play it.

Despite being developed by students of CMU, the project is reportedly not authorized by CMU itself and includes a team comprised of students from various schools that joined in the development process. The game has thus far been in development for two years and is made with Unreal Engine 4. Nearing the end of development, they expect to launch the controversial game by the end of summer, 2016.

Nate Gray

Staff Writer

Artist, writer, and avid fan of undesirables the world over.

  • DukeMagus

    It’s a pretty big effort trying to be edgy, now make the gameplay good or it’ll be shit and carry it’s message down the toilet.

  • Rakeela Deskairn

    They better get the gameplay right if they want their message to have any impact. If their ambitions end at manipulating the emotions of the audience, they’re working in the wrong medium.

  • Agreed. Within the given context, the gameplay should be suitably vicious. That’s my primary concern; I think the game itself is acceptable, but unless they’re speaking with/working with soldiers (seems unlikely) it may not have the necessary impact.

  • I agree. There’s a lot of potential for this to go wrong, not in the subject matter but in how it’s presented. I’m crossing my fingers that the game becomes dissenting for the proper reasons, could become a great reference for protection of video games as free speech in arguments about their discursive and political potential.

  • Rakeela Deskairn

    Are you optimistic about this project?

  • I don’t know that I’d say I’m ‘optimistic’. I’m a son of an army mother and have met other soldiers in my travels, I can honestly say that certain stories and experiences run deeper than those on the outside can accurately judge let alone recreate. That said, I am definitely excited that someone is taking the initiative to develop this kind of content as a video game. I fully believe in the power of video games as a method of education, therapy, and analysis, but establishing the platform as critical and valid means approaching some very controversial and uncomfortable topics. For that, I definitely applaud the developer.