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It's a shadowy and lucrative relationship. But just how close are video-game developers with various military outfits? And how does it affect the games we play?
It's Monday night, the kids are in bed, and I am trying to kill Osama bin Laden. I stalk through his Abbottabad compound and I aim my rifle at the first person I see, only to discover he's my brother in arms, aka "OverdoseRocks". So I walk downstairs into a prayer room, at which point my gun accidentally goes off. Then the mission is over. We were victorious.
Next, I join US servicemen during the 2007 surge in Iraq. For about three minutes I kick about a palm-lined boulevard, strafing apartment buildings. I am ambushed. In my dying moments, I am presented with an advert for a game in which I can embody a cheetah and kill an antelope, but I have had enough bloodshed for one evening.
I have been on the Kuma Games site, an online entertainment developer and, according to reports on Iranian television, an international distributor of military propaganda. Kuma produces a range of games, from second world war air-battle shoot-'em-ups for the History Channel, through to the carnivore-themed I Predator, a tie-in for the cable station Animal Planet. Yet it's the company's Kuma\War series of topical military games, as well as a more discreet line of Arabic-language first-person shooter games, that have piqued media attention. During a televised confession on Iranian TV, alleged US agent and former marine Amir Mirzai Hekmati said he had worked for Kuma, and it was a CIA front company.
Though his words cannot be regarded as the unvarnished truth, publicly available government documents indicate that Hekmati had been a Kuma employee, while Kuma's CEO, Keith Halper, admits to taking on military work. If his words are true, Kuma\War are only one of a number of bloody titles produced under varying degrees of military aegis.