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The Sandbox: Interactive Iraq

The Sandbox: Interactive Iraq (photo)

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If war is hell, then should war games really be entertaining? That’s the question surrounding “Six Days in Fallujah,” a title based on the 2004 battle of Fallujah that was supposed to be published by Konami later this year. On April 28th, the industry titan dropped the project amidst cries from vets that the game would exploit the war for vicarious thrills and, in doing so, disrespect all of those who lost their lives in the battle. But in interviews, development studio Atomic Games made it clear that “Six Days in Fallujah,” which was created with the input of Marines who fought in Fallujah (and who, according to a Joystiq interview, were to be featured as avatars), was driven by a desire for realism. The aim was to recreate harrowing true-life events with as much fidelity as possible, the result being a hybrid of a military simulation and a conventional third-person shooter. That uneasy balance between presenting the horrors of war and delivering what Atomic president Peter Tamte referred to as a “compelling” experience seems to have spurred the backlash that scared Konami off.

With the media having been shown only scant gameplay footage of “Six Days in Fallujah,” it’s impossible to gauge how successfully Atomic Games achieved its objectives. But the title’s cancellation raises a larger issue of representations of warfare. The video game industry makes a mint on war games, whether they be of the sci-fi variety like “Halo” and “Gears of War” or, more pertinently, of the reality-based sort best embodied by Activision’s lucrative “Call of Duty” series. The “Call of Duty” franchise has plundered past conflicts for more than they’re worth, so thoroughly strip-mining WWII for first-person-shooter action that the thought of reenlisting for another violent European tour against Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan makes me want to flee for the soothing pastures of “Little Big Planet.” And WWII hasn’t just served as a general setting for “Call of Duty”: concrete key events, from Pearl Harbor to Normandy Beach, have been meticulously reconstructed to provide gamers with ripped-from-the-history-books experiences.

05222009_CallofDuty4.jpgGiven the controversy-free “Call of Duty” games’ enduring popularity, not to mention that of so many other like-minded military series, the howls of disapproval generated by “Six Days in Fallujah” can’t simply be about its realistic portrayal of war. With each successive console cycle, certain genres take leaps and bounds towards greater photorealism, and in the case of war games, that authenticity is crucial to immersing players in the proceedings. And the fact that Atomic Games enlisted (by their count) dozens of Marines to consult on getting the details right — whether it be the way the battle progressed or the means by which enemy combatants used civilians as human shields — strikes me as a reasonable way to ensure that crass exploitation be avoided. Not to mention, of course, that the army itself has no fundamental qualms with the video game medium, as evidenced most recently by the “Army Experience Center” in Philadelphia’s Franklin Mills Mall, where a gaming arena featuring networked Xboxes and PCs actively entices visitors to enjoy some “Halo” while considering enlisting.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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