Homefront: Playing On Our Fears (For better or for worse)

Friday, June 11, 2010
Yesterday, Joystiq posted a preview of a new game entitled Homefront. A quick synopsis:

The year is 2027. What we now know as the United States has suffered economic collapse, while at the same time, North and South Korea have united to become the Greater Korean Republic. The GKR has already seized Japan and much of South-Eastern Asia, and now they've set their sights across the Pacific.

The game focuses on a small troop of civilian resistance fighters. From the presentation Joystiq saw, it appeared that the game is not a struggle for victory; only survival in a war that has come home. The game is grounded by real-world brands and stores, and is apparently a more restrained, human look at the cost of war.

The trailer opens with footage of actual press conference featuring current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussing the recent sinking of the South Korean ship Chenoen. If you've been following the news lately, the situation has only escalated, and it's making the international community very nervous.

So, how do we, as gamers, respond to this? Is it gaming's place to create alternate futures--well, hopefully alternate--of current events? Watching the trailer for the game filled me with a keen sense of dread; as if I were looking into the future. Homefront is obviously playing on the current fears of the international community. North Korea is a dangerous, volatile nation led by a megalomaniac and an army of secret police--not a subject to be taken lightly. Homefront developer Kaos Studios stands to make a substantial profit on that fear. Is that moral? I don't know. What I do know is this: I wholly support the endeavor.

For a long time, artists have confronted and brought to the masses the different sides of current events. George Orwell's uneasiness about the future gave us the literary classic 1984. Scorsese took Joseph Conrad's journey into the Heart of Darkness, put it into the Vietnam War, and synthesized the film classic Apocalypse Now. (In fact, the screenwriter responsible for Apocalypse Now has also penned the script for the game.)

Some would argue that social commentary is the purpose of art and the impetus for most entertainment. And while I'll wait to play the game before calling it art, Homefront looks to do both. Am I only interested in the game because it plays on the current geopolitical climate? Probably. Is that a good enough reason? You're goddamn right it is. In fact, it might just be the best reason of all.