Raid Gaza! is an anti-Israeli political satire masqurading as a casual shoot-em-up Flash game. Is it an effective political statement? I don’t think so.
The game features an Indiana Jones-cribbed logo and a stylish juxtaposition of bucolic Israeli fields snuggled up against a chockablock Palestinian Gaza Strip. Then you click “Go Raid ‘Em!” and realize it’s impossible to lose, as you wing missiles, Merkava tanks, F15I Eagle fighters, and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters at Gaza’s untidy hodgepodge of circumscribed buildings and jumbled hovels.
Well, not until Hamas lobs a meandering Qassam rocket in your direction first, of course, at which point an Israeli official resembling Ehud Olmert appears onscreen entreating you to “please, hurry up and blow the Gaza Strip up before anybody gets hurt!”
Your goal is to kill as many Palestinians as possible in an alloted timeframe. You get three minutes to click on four squares and build an HQ to request money (denoted in Israeli shekels), a barracks to build tanks, an airport to queue planes and helos, and a missile pad. Click the pad to launch a missile, the airport to launch aircraft, or the barracks for tanks. Your units soar or trundle over to the strip and pound it to putty, producing a disproportionate kill ratio, with Palestinian casualties wildly outnumbering Israeli.
Your strategic options amount to timing aid requests with simplistic build queues to maintain an uninterrupted outflow of incendiary death. It’s more or less whack-a-mole with four hotspots to manage and negligible tactical flex. When the timer runs out, the Olmert sendup critiques your numbers and scolds that
…during 2007, for every Israeli killed by a Palestinian, 25 Palestinians were killed by Israelis (counting civilians and combatants killed by security forces, military or individuals of the other side. Not too bad, huh?
A pro-Palestinian critique of Israel’s recent actions? Yep. The question is, does it work?
Persuasive Games author Ian Bogost thinks so. He argues that
…[l]ike editorial games should, it takes a strong position. But unlike so many, it also offers coherent gameplay that is related to the conflict it critiques.
Bogost (for whom I have considerable respect) continues, suggesting that “as an editorial, it is a fairly effective one both as opinion text and as game…it is playable and requires strategy, the exercise of which carries the payload of commentary.”
While I see Bogost’s point, that Raid Gaza! is more coherent than a lot of other “op-ed” mini-games, his complimentary analysis of the gameplay is too generic. It equally well describes a bunch of message board posts, which (1) also take strong editorial positions, (2) require strategy, and (3) carry a commentary payload. I’m not sure I see how those points make Raid Gaza!’s gameplay either compelling or insightful. Click, click, click, time’s up, “you didn’t kill enough Palestinians,” try again.
Satire? Or over-simplistic bludgeon?
Trouble is, in my experience, this kind of noisy oversimplification routinely entrenches the opposition. It’s music for the choir. It ultimately persuades no one.
Where’s the rhetorical depth? The internecine subtlety? The political insight? MIA, though I’ll grant points for moments of fleeting statistical irony.
Is playing a game like Raid Gaza! as effective as something like this (from satirist Ted Rall)?
It’s not for me. How about you?
Update: Since a few apparently mistook the original post’s heading as expressing a position about the conflict itself (it didn’t) I’ve edited the title and tweaked a few sentences in the post to mitigate further misunderstandings.