Comprehensive reviews of jihadi video-games

Ars Technica's Frank Caron plunges into the stormy seas of terrorism recruitment video games, reviewing such modern classics as Night of Bush Capturing, Quest4Bush, War on Americas, and Rescue The Nuke Scientist ("the player is an Iranian soldier seeking to rescue two Iranian nuclear experts who were kidnapped by U.S. forces. The game was designed in response to an American-made game called Assault on Iran that featured almost exactly the same situation, but in reverse").

Bottom line seems to be that jihadis can manage to produce workmanlike first person shooters, but fall flat when it comes to using humor, sarcasm, and novel game-mechanics to drive the point home. Of course, the same can be said for the producers of America's Army -- a recruiting tool produced by the US military tool to fight people recruited by these video games.

NBOC's final boss fight is by far the most disappointing part of the game. The game's central encounter –the final showdown with George W. Bush–simply falls flat on its face. Though the boss's character model bears the likeness of Bush and stands about three feet tall, you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish him from any other enemy in terms of both his AI routines and his in-game demeanor.

The developers started down the right path: Bush's evil lair is hidden underneath an abandoned port-a-potty out in the middle of the desert. Within this lair are a variety of pictures depicting a distinguished-looking Bush in the company of various world leaders and diplomats, so it has all the makings of a dramatic final encounter. But the developers, for whatever reason, completely passed up the opportunity to stoke their target audience's anger at the American president as a way of motivating them to defeat the final boss. For instance, they could have had him spout random Bushisms as he attacks (might we suggest, "Bring it on!"), but there's nothing so creative about this fight. Bush simply attacks you with no apparent master plan, shooting away with his M16.

Osama bin Fragged: a review of terrorist propaganda games


  1. I like it! Sort of reminiscent of a lot of bad 80’s action movies where the final battle with the old, flabby leader is the battle that gives the hero the most trouble; and not the heavily-armed and trained mercenaries preceding him. LOL.

    Even better, the boss’ hideout is a Porta-Potty!

  2. Nice touch there at the end. The only way to exit the level is to commit suicide.
    That is possibly the worst FPS ever. I’m going to get working on NBOC2.

  3. Ha! When they speak of putting “boots on the ground”, they mean the most secret, kickass weapons ever developed!

  4. But the developers … completely passed up the opportunity to stoke their target audience’s anger. … Bush simply attacks you with no apparent master plan.

    That’s pretty much exactly what makes me angry about Bush.

  5. “”Bush simply attacks you with no apparent master plan, shooting away with his M16.””

    So they went for realism… they should be commended.

  6. Well the production values seem a little higher than “our” analogous Quest for Al-Qa’eda based off the duke3d “build” engine. Then again, engines have matured over the years, so it’s hard to call.

    QfA had more levels and a little bit more creative jingoist design (gib-able scenery-camels; the bad guys shout pseudo-Arabic babble at you), as well as better though-still-very-amateur level design from a technical view. It seemed more challenging to me too, but maybe I’m just a noob. But for all this it had an even worse ending: Osama never makes an appearance at all (apart from posters), which is just inexcusable. Final grade: C-.

  7. Say what you will about the motivations and possible effects of of a game like America’s Army it is an incredibly slick and playable game to be offered up essentially for free and it is far beyond these offerings. Regardless of your feelings politically AA is game worth playing, particularly at its price point. I have trouble accepting that you have actually tried AA given your ‘review’ of it in this context.

  8. Anyone finding this to be a bit hypocritical?

    1.) Electronic computers were a western world created device.

    2.) The first video game (which wasn’t all that great) was created in the US.

    3.) The music is westernized…

    Also this map reminds me of all the crappy doom maps I played back in the day.

  9. I kinda like it, It’s refreshing to see a western leader demonized in a video game.

    Far too many times the ‘enemy’ in games is from an unpronouncably named eastern-bloc country or from the middle east.

    Who’d have thought that jihadi video-games would promote equality like they do?

  10. @7 And algorithms are a totally western concept… Oh, wait!

    Seriously, how long does a technical innovation give its mother country claim to validity? Even without mentioning Konrad Zuse, or the Brits who invented RSA in the 1950s and kept it a military secret, do you think computers are today primarily built (or even designed) in the US?

  11. Is it just me, or do we have a double-standard at work here? Almost every militaristic game available in North America consists of a US soldier killing the Russians, Chinese, but mostly in recent times, Middle Eastern people. These are slagged for being unoriginal and idealistic, but they don’t take much heat for always emphasizing the Americans as the good guys.

    Now we see similar games, but with the roles reversed, and suddenly these are terrorist recruitment games? I bet half of these games were made by Americans and are played by Americans, not because they want to become terrorists and strap on explosives, but because Bush isn’t even liked much within the country he runs.

    Feel free to call these new games terrorist recruitment and propaganda, but let’s not forget that changing who plays on what side doesn’t change the game; the pro-American games are just as bad.

    1. RevEng,

      Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.
      — Mel Brooks

  12. The development of “jihadi good guy” games is simply proof that the violent “western good guy” games really do produce anti-social behavior.

  13. #12: “Almost every militaristic game available in North America consists of a US soldier killing the Russians, Chinese, but mostly in recent times, Middle Eastern people.”

    I beg to differ. They’re usually aliens or other non-humans. Notable exceptions to this rule are mercenaries, nazis, and just about everybody in GTA.

  14. if they paid me right, i’d make them a real game.
    what do you think the legal ramifications are for that? would it be considered treason? wow. it’d be light years beyond any GTA controversy. i’d probably make enough to buy the presidency. :P

  15. I wish people would stop using the term “Jihadi” in this context, as if it is a direct synonym for “violent militant Islamic war”. It’s not. The concept of “jihad” is a complex one with many meanings, from a personal, moral struggle, to “sacred war”. To employ it in such a consistently simplistic way betrays ignorance of Islamic terms and ideology.

    I’m not in any way an expert on Islam, for what it’s worth.

    You can learn a little more about this, and its relevance to issues of censorship and cultural conflict in the most recent edition of the freedom of expression journal Index On Censorship.

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