Osama Bin Laden has been killed. And as the figurehead of the most notorious terrorist organisation in the world today, surely this is as close as it gets to winning the war on terror? And since our first game was designed as a humble protest - a feeble attempt to stop that war - we can no longer justify its production or sale. Therefore, we are triumphantly shutting up shop, effective immediately. USA! USA!
Nah, only kidding. There's bills to pay and Tom needs new shoes. Still, we're very happy that the war on terror is over. Man, it sucked for a good ten years there, but we finally kicked Terror's butt. As Ed Miliband said on the news, "we woke up this morning, the world a safer place, but our vigilance against terrorism must and will continue". In other words, we are protecting you, but still be afraid. This is the kind of double-think that has characterised the 'war on terror' since its inception.
the jubilation is spontaneous and child-like, tapping into a sense of primal, universal justice that needs no courts to validate Take the actual operation. The night-time raid was carried out in secret, with all the nobility and justice of a gangland slaying. It's not applauded when it's the Bloods and Crips on the streets of LA and it certainly wouldn't be celebrated round the world if carried out by Pakistani secret service, complete with gunships and heavy artillery, in the hills of West Virginia. And yet president Obama talked of the operation that brought Osama Bin Laden "to justice". His predecessor, George Junior, echoed this sentiment, he said: "America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done".
The awkward implication of such triumphalism is that if this is "justice", why bother with courts? If America (and the world, apparently) is happy with summary execution as a form of justice, then why is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - alleged "mastermind of 9/11" - being tried at great expense in a civilian court in New York City? Why not put a bullet in his head and throw him in the lake to sleep with the fishes like Osama? After all, Osama wasn't even formally connected with 9/11, according to the FBI themselves (check the 'wanted for' list of crimes on the FBI Most Wanted page), but the guy who is the self-proclaimed mastermind gets a "fair trial"? Seems ... contradictory.
Of course, it's not good news for everyone. As some have already pointed out, Osama Bin Laden was regarded not as an evil terrorist, but as a great hero by many people all over the world. Ronald Reagan, for example, would no doubt be saddened by the news, were he alive today.
It's not repeated often enough that he remarked of Bin Laden and his fellow Mujahideen: "These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers". Reagan even received the leaders of the Mujahideen in the White House (see photo above) and then dedicated the space shuttle Columbia to them, calling them "freedom fighters". (This was before they mutated into Al Qaeda and became ungrateful terrorists, using all the training, organisation and Stinger missiles we gave them against us).
Why was Reagan so effusive in his praise for this rag-tag band of fanatics and dangerous extremists? They were fighting back the Soviet forces who were occupying Afghanistan during the 1980s. Naturally the Russians insisted they were there not to occupy, but to liberate the country - and that they were there at the invitation of the Afghan government ... but the Ruskies were fools to think we'd fall for a line like that.
In one of those ironic twists that only history is capable of delivering, Bin Laden became the nominated reason we invaded Afghanistan 15 years later. As George W. Bush said, there should be "no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts (9-11 attacks) and those who harbor them." These words, from Bush's infamous September 2001 speech, were mirroring Henry Kissinger's own sentiments, earlier: "Those who provide support, financing, and inspiration to the terrorists are as guilty as they are." This being true, Kissinger and Bush would of course be both first in line for a special-forces middle-of-the-night execution. Worse, the entire country of America would stand guilty and exposed, open to invasion, for harbouring such criminals.
Working under the service of several administrations, Kissinger has provided undeniable "support, financing, and inspiration" to state terrorism in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, South Africa, Iran, Bangladesh and most of the countries of Central and South America. The accumulated death toll from these acts can scarcely be guessed at, but clearly eclipses, several times over, Bin Laden's crimes. It's only natural, then, that Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973; an honour he shares with the current president for his services and dedication to peace and justice throughout the world.
To be fair, Kissinger's prize was awarded before he had a chance to conduct many of his more heinous crimes against humanity, such as his support of Suharto's genocide of the East Timorese which saw the slaughter of over 100,000 men, women and children. Presumably, Obama's premature Peace Prize was given to him in anticipation that he, like Kissinger, would go on to achieve similar heights of international terror and destruction. He has certainly got off to a good start.
But there's no room for such ambiguities or contradictions in today's news reports. As the crowds gather on the streets in the United States,chanting and waving their flags, it really looks like the good guys have won. Like the end of Rocky, when the crowd storm the ring, the jubilation is spontaneous and child-like, tapping into a sense of primal, universal justice that needs no courts to validate.
But there's a problem with being the good guys: we need the bad guys. After all, what's good without evil? It is meaningless. That's why Rocky II followed Rocky and that's why our next nemesis is just a name's throw away. To paraphrase Voltaire: much like God, if Osama does not exist, we need to invent him.
08/05/11 - UPDATE. Felt this was relevant. Or, at least highly moving:
Posted by TerrorBull Games on 2 May 2011 - 5 comments
Comments so far:
- Formidable, as always gents! Spot on.Graham Murphy from London - 3 May 2011
- Can I also just say, it's such a pleasure leaving a comment on your blog with the War Criminal Captcha. I like to get it wrong a couple of times first, just to get the error message.Graham Murphy from London - 3 May 2011
- Graham, thank you for your kind words. If we can give some little pleasure through a criminal captcha, imagine how much joy we'd bring by bringing the actual perpetrator to justice. May I suggest a night-time bullet-to-the-head?TerrorBull Games - 4 May 2011
- No no no, get with the times. Extra judicial killing apparently became acceptable.Michael from Edinburgh - 4 May 2011
- Fear and Loathing on Wall Street: Cliftâ€™s notes of the last ten+ years, and the War on Terrorâ€™s evolution Some of my friends contend CEOs of humungous, multi-nationalsâ€”Exxon-Mobile, Monsanto and Pfizer spring to mindâ€”are not simply callous; theyâ€™re stupid as well. I disagree. As a class of people, powerful magnates are not really the ignoramuses we may make them out to be. Moreover, most Forture-500 corporate CEOs are potentially not all that much more callous than everyday ordinary Americans who have learned not to make eye contact when needy people pass them on the street, or to get choked up every time a passel of innocent children are incinerated by a drone missile in yet another far-away country whose name we can barely pronounce. No, what I strongly suspect characterizes your typical corporate big wig is neither exceptional stupidity nor callousness, but rather, fearfulness. Let me explain. Madoff On April 26, radio host, Terry Gross interviews New York Times financial writer, Diana Henriques apropos to her recently published book, The Wizard of Lies, about Bernie Madoff and the scandal of surrounding him. Henriques notes Madoff cannot face the fact that--when his Ponzi scheme goes south, and heâ€™s finally arrested and thrown into the clinkâ€”heâ€™s ever really lost a handle on the situation. Heâ€™s in the clink because thatâ€™s the way he wants it is all. The game, apparently, has started to bore him, and burned out by the day to day grind, he chooses the brig. Voluntarily. They never would have gotten to him if he had not let them! Rewind to Bush/Cheney In the first months of the new Administration, Bush/Cheney make a priority of energy independence. They want to roll back previous environmental protections, open the Arctic up to exploratory oil drilling. Do they show concern for what happens after oil reserves are exhausted? One would not exactly put it that way. Bush and Cheney are oilmen; Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes a â€œrevolving door policyâ€ affecting the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. This policy rewards private lobbyists for patronage they have offered by granting them political appointments later on. In exchange, politicians, when they step down from- or lose public office, are offered six or seven-figure jobs in the private sector. 9/11 and its aftermath The Chief Executives hideâ€¦ President and Vice-President re-emerge. â€˜The most patriotic thing Americans can do in aftermath of 9/11 is buy,â€™ Bush declares: War on Terror, Afghanistan, Iraq (They say itâ€™s over....just aboutâ€¦What about Afghanistan?) The reasons for The War on Terror are multifaceted, including: the chance to flex our muscles; remind the world â€œweâ€™re Number 1,â€ shore up political influence. Are there still other, covert but equally â€˜satisfyingâ€™ psychologically reasons for the War? And could the War on Terror in some way gratify the popsters of corporate-dom? Consider Terrorâ€™s fallout: 1)Distracted public attention away from Wall Street shenanigans, 2)Calmed entrepreneurial fears that (although their sphincters may act up because of an over-inflated Stock Market) they can say with some probity: Weâ€™re not the only ones shitting our pants! Sources: Henriques, Diana B., on The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the death of trust Times Books: 2011, in an April 26, 2011 interview: by Fresh Airâ€™s Terry Gross Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2008 Sachs, Jeffrey, â€œThe World is Drowning in Corporate Fraud.â€ http://www.b-fair.net/?p=2183, B-Fair Project, May, 2011Charles from Texas - 15 May 2011
We went to see Stewart Lee at the weekend. It's not habitual for us to write about our private, social outings, but this was a special evening and there's a strained tie-in with War on Terror, so bear with us.
We grew up (read: "distracted ourselves at university when we should have been studying") with Stewart Lee's comedy as a persistent background, kind of like a funny wasp. These days he is known by many for writing and directing Jerry Springer the Opera (check out this great documentary on the fall-out of that) and also for his highly crafted stand-up routines. So it was a moment of great excitement to actually get to see him perform live. To mark the occasion we decided to leave Mr. Lee a gift of War on Terror at the venue as a token of admiration and respect for the funny man.
After the show, we lined up to get our "merch" signed. We introduced ourselves and the lovely man responded by insisting on returning our money. He thanked us for our random present and said he'd been chuckling at the box and was looking forward to playing it. The exact words were, "It'll make a welcome change from playing Risk with the wife". We thought about using this as an official quote, but he did tell us this in the course of a private conversation and we didn't want to breach his confidentiality. And anyway, something even better landed in our lap ...
"It'll make a welcome change from playing Risk with the wife" - Stewart Lee When it came to getting his book signed, Andy S, sensing a golden marketing opportunity, cheekily asked Stewart Lee to make it out to "War-on-Terror-is-the-best-board-game-in-the-world-ever". Amazingly, he happily obliged but changed the wording ever so slightly, to be more epistemologically valid:
"War on Terror is the best board game's box I ever read" - Stewart Lee.
You're probably thinking that we were disappointed by Stewart's redacted version. You're probably thinking that his unshakable integrity thwarted our PR coup and that, being the owner of the "best board game's box" is unmilkable in terms of publicity value. BUT YOU'D BE WRONG. Because Stewart Lee told us himself that his dad used to package board games and that he often brought home the spoils of his job to a young Stewart, who then became unusually familiar with board games and their boxes. In fact, it wouldn't be too great a leap of logic to call Stewart Lee an "expert in the boxes of board games". For the hard of reading, what this means is that we are now in possession of a rare and excellent endorsement from one of the greatest stand-ups (and board game box experts) in Britain. Result!
Also, quick "life hack" for you. If you want to get free stuff from your comedy heroes, it transpires that all you need to do is leave them a present earlier in the day - preferably something that you've made yourself, that unwittingly ties into their childhood in some way, like a board game. Best to mass-produce the game too; you'll want to keep costs down. Then you just need to market and sell it for a few years to make sure it is something that is vaguely familiar when your "target" sees it. Then, bingo! Free booty.
Incidentally, I thoroughly recommend reading Stewart Lee's collection of bad reviews (you need to scroll down a bit). Favourite line: "Everyone was laughing at him, and I hated his guts".
Also, not worth a blog post to itself, but too good to simply not mention, here's a great little story about someone trying to take War on Terror on a plane with them to Israel and Ewe of the Falklands has been reviewed in "PC Gamer" magazine!
Posted by TerrorBull Games on 9 March 2011 - 4 comments
Comments so far:
- I was there too! Great gig.Dan Brown from Cambridge - 9 March 2011
- Haha! Love it! You are very lucky to meet him. And Stewart Lee has great taste (in boxes).Sara - 14 March 2011
- Very good. You guys really are masters of spin.Itchy - 3 April 2011
- Loved this. Excellent advice.Justin from Countryside! - 13 May 2011
Recently we discovered an active group of friendly, independent game designers right here in Cambridge. It was quite a surprise. Like finding out there are people living in the disused tunnels of the New York subway system. Suddenly, there was this thriving subculture right under our feet.
Although these gamers are mostly computer types, we quickly learned there was plenty of common ground, so we attended one of their regular "game jam" weekends at the beginning of the month. Basically this involves shutting 40 geeks upstairs at the local cafe for four days and seeing what comes out the other end. Turns out a whole bunch of weird is what comes out the other end. Here's our offering. We actually made two games:
Metakettle is a print-and-play game about kettling to be played by any group of people while being kettled. We're hoping it will be the first in a series of 'detention games'.
Ewe of the Falklands
Ewe of the Falklands is TerrorBull Game's FIRST EVER COMPUTER GAME! Yeeeeaaah! It's also embarrassingly shit. But please don't let that put you off. Ewe of the Falklands is a choose-your-own-adventure type game about the Falklands War from the point of view of a pacifist sheep. Rather predictably, it ended up being about the futility of war. But more than that, it is about the futility of being a sheep trying to stop that war.
Instructions: Download the zip file, extract it and double-click "Falklands.exe" to start the game. Yeh, sorry it's not a fancy play-in-your-browser game, but we have to start somewhere. And no it's not a virus, honest.
So there you have it. Our first forray into the digital world. It can only get better from here, right? By the way, the game was built with Ren'Py, a "visual novel engine" best suited to making porny-hentai fan fiction. It is very easy to use. I mean, if we can, anyone can. So if you're feeling creative (or porny), download it and give it a whirl. And be sure to tell us about your results.
Posted by TerrorBull Games on 17 February 2011 - 9 comments
Comments so far:
- I think this is the tipping point ... I'm going to buy stocks in TerrorBull GamesMatt from Brighton - 18 February 2011
- King of Peru, Thanks Haig!Ian from Cambridge - 18 February 2011
- I cannot win. I enjoyed my time as a sheep, especially eating cud.Quinlan Pfiffer from United States - 18 February 2011
- Learned about Ewe of the Falklands thanks to Renpy Tom's Twitter. If you want to talk about it with other visual novel fans, then you might benefit by joining the Lemma Soft Forums. You'll find at least a few other people there who are interested in offbeat and experimental visual novels. (While there are certainly a lot of porn/harem games in English, please keep in mind that many people who are writing their own freeware games want more diverse, unique content.)gekiganwing from Chicago - 19 February 2011
- Hi gekiganwing, thanks for the heads up about the Lemma Soft forums - I'll post it up there on Monday.TerrorBull Games - 19 February 2011
- Hi guys and girls, this looks great but I'm at loss how to install this on Linux. Help!Ant from Luxemburg - 22 February 2011
- Hey Ant. I'm afraid I can't help you directly, but this thread (http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1528707) contains some info, specifically: "In general, .tar.bz2 Ren'Py games do not require an install to run. Instead, all you need to do to run them is to run the gamename.sh file that's included in the package." Let us know how you get on. And I do hope it's worth the hassle :)TerrorBull Games - 23 February 2011
- Metakettle - that seals it, you guys are now my Favourite People. :-D (Also, War Criminal Captcha - ingenious :-p )Chris Cisne from Londinium - 4 March 2011
- Yahoo!... Hey guys! I made an article review on one of your games... http://studiomugenjohncel.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/ewe-of-the-falklands-i-dont-know-just-read-on/Mugenjohncel from Philippines - 2 May 2011
January is "academia month", apparently. Hot on the heels of our talk on games and politics at the University of Newcastle, we've just heard the incredible news that War on Terror is part of a module at the University of Westminster!
Dr Richard Barbrook, who we know through his Class Wargames group and related game nights in London, is a senior lecturer of politics at the University of Westminster and this year he's running a new core module in "Political Simulation and Gaming" as part of their History & Politics BA. Check out the plan for Week 4!
After being referenced in several PHD theses, academic books and now War on Terror is on a university syllabus, what could possibly be the next step? Surely, War on Terror studies is an eventual inevitability?
EDIT: We just got word that the IT University of Copenhagen used War on Terror twice last year in game design modules, like this one (scroll down to September 28). If anyone else has any academic-related news to do with our games, we'd be fascinated to learn of it. Drop us a line!
Posted by TerrorBull Games on 17 January 2011 - 0 comments
2011 started unusually auspiciously. We were invited to give a short lecture at the Political Geography Research Group's workshop at Newcastle University on a subject relating to: 'Why does political geography matter?'.
First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title.Good question. Rather than get bogged down with the actual answer to this question (and we all have enough experience with university to recognise there are no real questions in academia - and if you do have the misfortune to come across a genuine, non-rhetorical question, it's generally considered bad form to answer it without using another question or without rephrasing the original question into a form more suited to your area of study/research/revision) - we first hit up Wikipedia for the answer to a more important question: what is "political geography"? Mountains signing peace treaties? Spoiling your ballot in an ox-bow lake?
It seems that - very basically - political geography examines how space impacts political structures and processes. We still weren't sure at this point how relevant we were to a discussion about how relevant this was, but we always like talking about games as political objects and there seemed to be some crossover, so we jumped at the chance.
First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title. All good talks and papers contain some sort of play-on-words. This is what we got: "Space Invading: Are Games Becoming Part of the Political Landscape?". All we had to do then was bend what we wanted to talk about to fit our title and the workshop as a whole. Plus we'd added a question of our own and we had a killer pun. This was going well ...
Despite the good start, we were actually pretty nervous. 15 minutes isn't a lot and I originally had planned a thorough history lesson about the socio-political history of traditional games.
On top of that, I was imagining stepping into a room full of eminent professors, lecturers and PHD students and basically giving an ill-positioned, extended advert. "And now a word from TerrorBull Games ..."
Still, as you can see for yourselves in the video below, it all went pretty well. Even got some laughs. And the feedback was genuinely enthusiastic - turns out that what we had to say was uncannily relevant to many peoples' areas of study and - if nothing else - most people seemed grateful for the rest from incessant meta-theories.
A couple of apologies: First, my mumbling and enunciation. I was rather nervous and knew I had a tight time limit, so I just put my head down and tried to race through it. Also, the sound quality isn't brilliant. On both these fronts, we will endeavour to improve our output. There was also (in my head) a fairly neat and clear thread linking the 3 "case study" games - Wargames, Train and War on Terror - in that, to learn the lesson of these games, you didn't necessarily have to play them. But that got a bit lost in the mix.
We enjoyed hanging out with academics and were made to feel very welcome. One of the delegates, Alan Ingram, had even name-checked us in the introduction to his book: Spaces of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror. It brought us full-circle back to why we designed War on Terror in the first place - and that was with educational and political goals in mind.
Many thanks to Nick Megoran for inviting us to submit in the first place. And thanks to everyone present for being so friendly and enthusiastic.
Posted by Andy S on 16 January 2011 - 2 comments
Comments so far:
- Very good, but I don't think you should have used canned laughter.Mark Sheerin from Brighton - 24 January 2011
- But, Mark, it worked on The Two Ronnies ...TerrorBull Games - 26 January 2011