Originally Posted by Wall Street Journal
In a darkened hotel room just south of San Francisco's downtown, Peter Tamte, president of Atomic Games, is excitedly running through the details of the company's latest project, "Six Days in Fallujah." Mr. Tamte and his team tapped dozens of soldiers who were involved in the real-life 2004 battle for the Iraqi city to add realism to their action game, which the company plans to release next year.
Verisimilitude is par for the course for military games which often tout their faithfulness to real battles and wars. As the capabilities of videogame hardware have burgeoned, the bar for realism in games has been raised. But Atomic Games wants its new release to be more than a game. The company sees it as a new kind of documentary.
"For us, games are not just toys. If you look at how music, television and films have made sense of the complex issues of their times, it makes sense to do that with videogames," Mr. Tamte says.
Videogames are not foreign to using real-life events as fodder. Many military games such as some of the popular Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series are based on past American campaigns during the various wars over the last century. The "serious games" movement, which often seeks to teach a particular message or idea, frequently draws on current events as well. MtvU, the college version of Viacom's MTV, launched a Web game called "Darfur is Dying" in 2006 to teach about the atrocities in the Sudan, and non-profit Global Kids and developer Gamelab created "Ayiti: The Cost of Life" that challenges players to keep a virtual family of five alive and healthy in Haiti.
But Atomic Games argues that releases like those, while drawing from real facts, are still just historical fiction. "Six Days," which uses actual events as its backdrop, is billed as having far deeper roots in reality and will be the first major game released about the ongoing war in Iraq. "We replicate a specific and accurate timeline -- we mean six days literally," says Mr. Tamte. "We track several units through the process and you get to know what it was like from day to day."