The makers of combat video games have unwittingly become part of a global propaganda campaign by Islamic militants to exhort Muslim youths to take up arms against the United States, officials said on Thursday.
Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.
One of the latest video games modified by militants is the popular "Battlefield 2" from leading video game publisher, Electronic Arts Inc of Redwood City, California.
Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Electronic Arts, said enthusiasts often write software modifications, known as "mods," to video games.
"Millions of people create mods on games around the world," he said. "We have absolutely no control over them. It's like drawing a mustache on a picture."
"Battlefield 2" ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition. But in a modified video trailer posted on Islamic Web sites and shown to lawmakers, the game depicts a man in Arab headdress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. invaders.
"I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters," a narrator's voice said as the screen flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults.
first they hijack planes; now they hijack games! what kind of world do we live in where someone would create military training video games?
there's only one problem. that video, the one that was supposedly made by a jihadist, was made by a typical american gamer, simply to show up his 1337 bf2 skills.
oh, and another thing: that quote about the infidels invading a village? it's actually the voice of south park's trey parker from his puppet movie team america: secret police (and is even on the imdb quotes page).
oh yeah, and that stuff about how terrorists are modding the game... well, game modding is cool and all, but that video didn't require any mods. it uses the special forces expansion pack (created by EA, the game manufacturer) right out of the box.
oh, and one more thing. (how many things is that, four?) just in case you didn't click the link above, the US army has a free online first-person-shooter game to get kids snazzed about going overseas and shooting some brown people. if it's good enough for the goose...
so basically, just about nothing in the story is true. the story, which has been spreading through the media since thursday, is about a "global propaganda campaign by islamic militants" but the reality is it's just a bunch of kids playing shoot-em-up.
so what is the most absurd aspect of this story? is it that dan devlin, a DoD public diplomacy specialist, showed a gamer's fan-video to a congressional subcommittee claiming it was al qaeda propaganda?
is it that reuters' david morgan wrote and filed this story, clearly without doing any more research than calling someone at EA for a statement? (if he'd spent a few minutes on google, morgan could've discovered the truth behind the video and had a much better scoop: dan devlin is full of crap.)
for that matter, is it that EA's jeff brown had the opportunity to debunk the whole story but instead offered that silly duchampian quote about "drawing a mustache on a picture"? (in fairness, brown surely doesn't lurk on forumplanet and might not have seen the video before morgan called him, but he could have said "terrorists are modding our games for a global propaganda campaign? that's news to me; let me look into it and i'll get back to you.")
personally, my vote for the most embarrassingly ridiculous thing about this story is that wired news even bought into it, and to date hasn't posted a correction. i can accept that dozens of clueless media outlets worldwide eagerly ran the story, including the presitgious washington post. the media loves this kind of fact-free alarmist claptrap. but wired really should know better. and even accepting that wired bought into the hype and ran it, the gamer community has been laughing its ass off about this since at least friday. that's more than enough time to post a correction: sorry, we got pwned.¶