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One Year Later - A Terrorist Redux
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 11, 2002   |   Episode 25 (Show Archive)  

   
September 11th, 2002 - A year ago I wrestled with what to write, say, or feature around September 11th. After the tragedies in both New York City and Washington D.C., television channels were 24 hour news for an entire week. Other sites had taken this time to pause their updates. And everywhere you went people were talking about just one thing. So what could I do? The television said that everybody all over the world is in mourning ... but after three days, I started to wonder if I was the only one who needed something besides the sadness and grief. Convinced that I was not alone, I trekked ahead, trying to keep a light mood, and nice stories to calm the soul. I did this while quietly looking at what was happening in the game industry. As the days passed more and more companies were issuing statements about their games. As the weeks passed rumors started to persist. And all this time I sat there, working on what would be a feature I called Terrorism vs. the Game Industry. It was there that I confronted a few of the rumors, statements, and memos floating around. Perhaps, I thought, we could make some sense out of what was going on, possibly even help people see what could happen if things go wrong. Problem was that we were all still in a bubble. After all, this is only a few days after the biggest event in almost everybody's life. How could I even attempt to write a objective article about what would happen? Nobody knew what was going to happen, or even how people would react to little things. This article, written exactly one year later, addresses all of the problems thought to have existed in those fleeting moments after September 11th. Many of the rumors, memos, and statements found in those pages ended up being not as eventful as they once seemed. And a few of my predictions were, well, flat out wrong. So here we are a year later, what do we know? What have we learned? And where can we go from here? We've broken it into helpful mini-sections, so pick your potion (to the right) and see what has changed. PROPELLER ARENA (.dreamcast) Of all the games we talked about after September 11th, it was Propeller Arena that was the most missed. Sega's shooter promised to be the flying game for people who liked fighting games. Sporting a four player, split screen dogfight, gamers everywhere were ready to play in cities, the mountain sides, and more. So, what happened? That Was Then: "Directly after September 11th, Sega issued a statement offering little hope whether this was ever going to come out. It started with "Sega Corporation was greatly saddened to learn of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001." And ended with "At this time, we have decided to postpone shipment of 'Propeller Arena' for Dreamcast." "The problem was that the game didn't deal with terrorism, and frankly, didn't have much to do with September 11th. Sure there was flying, but they were all small propeller airplanes, and not jumbo jets, like the ones used as bombs on that fateful day." (Taken from the original article) This is Now: Of all the games that we talked about last year, including Metal Gear Solid 2, Ace Combat 4, or even Flight Simulator, Propeller Arena was the only one to really get side tracked by September 11th. Here we are a year later, and still nothing. But that wasn't going to stop me from asking at this years E3. While interviewing not one, but TWO different Sega reps at this years E3, all I could get was the official sounding "Everybody has our favorite Sega games they want to see re-released". But I don't know if it's my favorite, it's never been released? "Everybody has our favorite Sega games they want to see re-released". And so on so forth. Believe it or not, both of the Sega reps used this exact quote. Now that's cold. So where do that leave us? I'm afraid not in a good spot. Perhaps in the future Sega will port it to the PS2, Xbox, or GameCube ... perhaps even make it online. But before I get ahead of myself, I do have to say that I doubt any of this will happen. Sega hasn't exactly gone out of its way to revive this shooter. The game is complete, and other people at E3 I talked to were just as excited about the product as I was ... so either Sega never releases it, or they sell it to Acclaim for portage. Next year I want to be talking about playing this game, and not just wanting to play the game. ACE COMBAT 4 (.ps2) Namco's popular dogfight franchise, Ace Combat (also known as Air Combat), has been the recipient of editing in it's past. The ports from Japan to the U.S. have not always been kind for this aerial combat simulator, sometimes cutting the story out altogether! But it wasn't the content in Ace Combat 4 that got Namco in trouble. Instead it was the advertising. That Was Then: "Why is the commercial being pulled? Well, perhaps out of respect, perhaps just because Namco don't want to be tied with the a possible game/entertainment backlash. Either way the ad barely touches on anything controversial." (Taken from the original article) This is Now: Just after September 11th, Konami chose to stop the commercial for Ace Combat 4 (see the commercial here) in respect. Of course, I still don't see anything wrong with this commercial, besides it's lack of wit. Thankfully the game shipped on time, without any edits or problems. Here we are a year later and STILL Konami chooses not to use that commercial. Of course, the game is nowhere near new anymore, and in some cases dropped in retail price. So maybe this argument is simply futile. Regardless, it's still a great commercial, and there really is no reason for them to not have it on their website. Not to editorialize or anything. METAL GEAR SOLID 2: the Sons of Liberty (.ps2) Since the days of James Bond, terrorists have been one of the few groups NOBODY is offended by. That's why you see them so frequently in action films, TV shows, and videogames. Metal Gear Solid 2: the Sons of Liberty, was on track to being the biggest game of 2001, and then tragedy struck. Directly after September 11th gamers started to wonder if a hard edge title, like Metal Gear Solid 2, could still attract gamers with it's terrorist themes, and gritty mood. After all, the demo that had been passed around, bundled with Zone of the Enders, and gamers already knew the sort of battles that would be waged throughout this epic. So what would Konami do? Alter scenes? Move the release back? Konami was faced with a dilemma unlike any they had seen before. That Was Then:"We do not know what effects there will be upon Metal Gear Solid 2 at this moment. We are currently collecting and analysing information regarding this matter and would like to express our condolences to the victims of the tragedy." "It was only days before another announcement came from Konami saying that the game was still on track. The World Trade Center buildings have been taken out, but the anti-terrorist undercurrent remains." (Taken from the original article) This is Now:Metal Gear What? Never heard of it ... oh, I'm just yanking your chain. Listen kids, you don't need me to tell you how this story turned out. Not only was Metal Gear Solid 2 a huge success in the U.S., but it did well all over the world. The game had been hyped for something like two years, and fans were, mostly, happy with the final product. But did it have alterations? For the most part Metal Gear Solid 2 was left intact, only minor changes were made, and even then, they aren't worth reporting. What Konami knew that eager gamers did not, was underlined message of the game, one that preached peace, love, and environmental laws. The success of Metal Gear Solid 2 means a lot of things, but perhaps most important is that people were not afraid of terrorists. Hollywood would realize this many months later when the Sum of All Fears topped the box office, but the videogame public already knew that they had the stomach to torture terrorists. As for Metal Gear Solid, rumors persist about a third installment. Not to mention the upcoming title, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. Hopefully all the rumors of changes and influence can finally be put to a rest. Flight Simulator (.pc) It seems odd to even think that a program like Flight Simulator could cause controversy. In every sense of the word it's non-violent, yet it's realism, once considered a good things, is what ended up getting it into trouble. Who would have known that people would actually do those crazy insane things that you do when you're bored of just flying and landing?? Yet when it was learned that the terrorists responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon may have honed their skills using this Microsoft product, suddenly people started having some serious questions. Could it's realism be something that has no place in this new world? That Was Then: "Some stores stopped carrying it, however Microsoft has not officially pulled the game from stores." "Look for a couple of missing towers in the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002. There are other changes yet to be unannounced." (Taken from the original article) This is Now:I think it's safe to say that Microsoft's Flight Simulator series has always had a cult following, so it's no wonder the series continued almost without a hitch. Flight Simulator 2002 was pushed back to a late October release, but was met with critical praise and strong retail support. Even Microsoft's combat Flight Simulators weren't effected much. At this years E3 Microsoft seemed blind to the notion that videogames could in anyway influence, aid, or impact terrorism on any scale. In fact, many flight games tried to bring out the patriotism of the game player, generally in a tactful way. World War III (.pc) On September 10th 2001 World War III sounded like a great name ... but one day later it seemed both timely and unneeded. This real time strategy game featured a war between the U.S., Russia, and Iraq, and had been getting pretty heavy press up to its release. All of a sudden nobody knew whether or not there would be a "real" World War III, and would gamers really want to play one on their PC? These were all questions that nobody had thought about only days prior to the attack. That Was Then: "Russia and the United States are not feuding, thankfully, and Iraq, while engulfed into this whole ordeal, is not the prime suspect. This could just be fictitious enough to pass by the censors." (Taken from the original article) This is Now: It's funny what a difference a year makes. Here we are, September 11th 2002, exactly one year later, and we're not talking about Afghanistan, or even Osama bin Laden ... nope, we're talking about Iraq. Not only are we talking about Saddam and Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, but we're actually thinking about going to war! While this game isn't exactly predicting anything, I do find it more than a little funny that one year ago it seemed almost unthinkable to go after Iraq. There we were ready to go after Afghanistan and get the man who we thought (and later turned out to be) was responsible for the worst terrorist attack on this country. But now we're talking about pulling people out of Afghanistan, and invade, and inevitably, take out the leaders of Iraq. Even though they weren't responsible for the terrorist attacks, and they have yet to attack us, or any of our allies?? Oh ... wait ... The World War III game in question actually did ship on time, in mid-October, and received fairly mixed reviews. Perhaps it was the invasion of Afghanistan being shown on CNN that took peoples attention away from this fictional War, or perhaps people were just waiting for WarCraft III. Regardless, World War III is a blip on the map of history now. RUMORS It's probably easier to discuss each of the events in the rumor section one at a time. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you view things, many of the predictions I put forth in those days after September 11th came true. A lot of the rumors were quickly dismissed, and this section will prove to be something of a disappointment the longer the years drag on. But here we are, a year later. And what do we know? Let's correct some of the rumors put forth in this section a year ago. However, we will have to take these one at a time. Twisted Metal Black:The Twisted Metal franchise has been around since the birth of the PlayStation, and even on the PS2 it proved to be the first must-own of 2001. Even though the game featured an extremely violent theme, it was never really considered controversial. After all, like the Speilberg film Duel, Twisted Metal was always just automobile combat. By the time September 11th struck, though, Twisted Metal Black was embroiled in controversy from all sides. And with a U.K. release pending (at the time), the rumors about it's content was loud and everywhere. That was Then:"Possibly the biggest and worst delay, if true, is the imposing release of Twisted Metal Black in Europe. And even though the game has come under fire in the United States for it's stereotyping of the mentally insane (which is a whole other feud all together), the game is still set to be released in Europe this year." "However, will there be any changes? I mean, in one part of the game you shoot down a airliner like the one used to attack the World Trade Center? And that, you see, is a major part of obtaining a secret character. In another level you fight on the top of a large skyscraper like one of the two World Trade Center buildings. There are more offenses, but as they say, the show must go on." (Taken from the original article) This is Now:While the Twisted Metal Black Online game was delayed by a full year, it had nothing to do with September 11th. In fact, a European release went off without a hitch, content fully intact. The game also went on to become part of Sony's Greatest Hits campaign, solidifying it's stance as a strong PlayStation 2 title. And not only did it sell well, but it was fully supported by Sony even amidst the controversies. Now a year later, Sony is shipping Twisted Metal Black Online to the PS2 owners who bought their Network Adaptor. The very week of September 11th Sony chooses to ship out the first batch. If that doesn't speak volumes about where we've come from then to now, I don't know what will. First Person Shooters:Among all the genres that could be affected by September 11th, it's the first person shooter fan that had the most to be worried about. Half-Life and Unreal Tournament had already given Quake a run for it's money on PCs, but the future was looking for at squad based, and realistic shooters. Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, and Counter Strike had all done a good job at dropping that dose of reality into the otherwise virtual world. But there were others. Halo, for example, had been primed to be the PlayStation 2 killer that Holiday, but like Half-Life, featured a rather violent premise. Would people be as interested in a game like that right after the tragedy that September? That was Then:"Halo, Microsoft's upcoming Xbox first person shooter has been rumored to be delayed until next year. And while the delay may come true, it's likely not because of the World Trade Center attack. One could only hope Microsoft actually waits until the game can be played online before releasing it." "Counter Strike, the Half Life game, has come under fire as well ... however, like Flight Simulator, the game has yet to be pulled from the shelves. There are stores that refuse to sell games like Counter Strike, but that has always been the case." (Taken from the original article) This is Now:As we all know, Halo was NOT delayed ... but did manage to impress just about everybody. Truth is, when people got the game home they realized that this was about as violent as a sci fi film ... and a lot more rewarding. No first person shooters were taken off the air because of their content, or affiliation with September 11th. Actually, realistic first person shooter games are even more common place these days. Like the movie industry, game developers are seeing the rich field the first person shooter landscape offers. Not that it can't be overused ... there have certainly been a few too many poor shooting games (especially recently). While not a first person shooter, Sony's SOCOM : U.S. Navy Seals game was met with huge critical success, as well as mainstream success. Unlike many games before it, SOCOM features area specific terrorists, some of which look like a few we've contained over the last year in Afghanistan. This game actually provides a war on terrorism online right in your living room. On the PC side the Army released an Army based first person shooter called America's Army. This free two disc game allows you to take on terrorists on your computer, online, 24 hours a day. It also works as a training tool and propaganda piece for the Armed forces. So it's clear, first person shooters have NOT been affected by this sad day. One thing that can be debated, though, is whether or not the Counter Strike sequel has taken so long because of careful footing around terrorist themes. This oft-delayed title will (hopefully) find it's way to the shelves come February 14th 2003, but one has to admit that the wait has been long. If anything is still true about this world we live in, it's that there will always be skeptics and theorists. And regardless of why it's taken so long for Twisted Metal Black Online or even another Counter Strike, there will always be people that subscribe to the notion that the industry will be forever changed. I, however, do not feel that argument holds up, though. For the most part everything in the gaming world has gone back to normal. ONE DOSE OF TRUTH Games like Metal Gear Solid 2, Twisted Metal Black, and Flight Simulator 2003 may have been released intact, but was that the case across the board? No. Even though a number of games did not have to worry about edits, there were more than few that went under the knife in order not to cause too much controversy. Probably the biggest changes, however, come in the way of Sony's own Syphon Filter 3. It was there that the entire fourth act was altered, trimmed, and devoured not to rub people the wrong way. Of course, this PlayStation game was dated, and probably would have snuck under the radar. But Syphon Filter 3 was not the only PSX title delayed or altered, the recent C-12 was shelved for several months before coming to the U.S. WarJetz, the forgettable PlayStation 2 game, had it's production halted by publisher 3DO after September 11th. According to publication Entertainment Weekly, 3DO feared the game, like Sega's Propeller Arena, would send the wrong message. Of course, as I wander through my local game stores, I have to admit seeing this game still being stocked. So either the game never sold, or it's back in production. Not that it needs any more controversy, but Grand Theft Auto III could have been a heck of a lot more spicy. Programmers were worried about alluding too much to New York City (which Liberty City has more than a passing resemblance). Rockstar Games had also planned on making more aerial vehicles available, but dropped them last minute. Don't worry, though. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will allow for airplanes, helicopters, and other modes of flight. Now the media will have a whole new reason to hate this franchise, as if killing cops wasn't enough. What is ultimately unknown, however, is the long lasting effects of September 11th. While games that were already in production may not change all that much, the games that come out may be affected only due to the programmers new conscience state. Just as musicians and filmmakers have retooled the way they view their crafts, games in the future may take a slightly more patriotic state. Considering that most of the games that are made are foreign, be it European or Asian, the game industry may come out a little cleaner than the movie or music business. But there's no doubt that the world has changed, and this will have an effect on all of us eventually. If we have learned anything, though, it's that gamers are ready to get back to normal. What may have seemed taboo or unacceptable two weeks after September 11th, now doesn't bother us at all. Games that may have seen excessive or foul ended up becoming some of the best selling games of the year. So should we worry about the way things are going? Probably not. Keep it in the back of your head, but there are much more pressing issues. A few of which are addressed in the article: Top Ten Ways You KNOW You Are Getting Ripped Off! For now, though, live your life, continue to buy games, and make sure you let your views be heard. This country is not about backing down and keeping your views to yourself. No, this country is about speaking your mind and yelling it to the world! And if you do anything this September 11th, let it be something as selfish as that. Because you deserve it.
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