Crisis In Korea Has A Video Game Echo

If war flares again on the Korean peninsula as it threatened to today, there will be far more dire things to worry about than a video game, but the upcoming Homefront will nevertheless feel different.

Homefront, as we've covered here before, is an upcoming first-person shooter set in the near future and scripted by the writer of Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn. It imagines a United States hobbled by economic woes and invaded by a triumphant unified Korea that is led by the real son of current real-life ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il. It is designed to make its players feel something, for me, at least, anger at its Korean invaders.

The game seems different today on a day when the frequently belligerent North shelled the South, killing two. The North claims it was provoked by artillery shots fired by the South. The South denies having done anything other than tested weaponry in their own territory and returned fire today.

Homefront feels today less like sci-fi or a what-if and more like, if not a predictor of future events — few would still expect North Korea to be able to invade the U.S. — a creative work with gut-wrenching timing. It's easier now to believe that in March 2011, when the game comes out, that the Koreas could again be in active conflict.

Most popular war video games involve battles from the bast, fights drawn from the conflicts of World War II or, with this year's Call of Duty, Black Ops. Games set in the modern war in Afghanistan, nearly a decade old, already make people leery. But Homefront presents something we haven't seen much of before: A game that could well be setting up a virtual enemy that is on its way to becoming a real one again.

Naturally, the game's creators say they're not trying to piggyback on any real war. "Homefront is a work of speculative fiction, set in the year 2027," a spokesperson for the game's publisher THQ told Kotaku today. "Recent real-world events on the Korean peninsula are obviously tragic and, like everyone, we hope for a swift and peaceful resolution."

The developers of Homefront are nonetheless well aware that their work of fiction continues to intersect with real history, and they've previously not shied away from using real-life bellicosity from the North to amp up the mood they are trying to set for the game.

Consider this recent storyline trailer for Homefront, which includes footage of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's spring 2010 criticism for the North's alleged sinking of a South Korean vessel as an element to hype the U.S.'s in-game tensions with the North:

That trailer shows in a simple way how unpredictable the North is. The expected next ruler of North Korea and the chief antagonist in the Homefront game, Kim Jong-un, had been photographed so infrequently that the image created of him by Homefront's developers for the trailer turned out to be quite wrong. While he's slender in the gaming version; he's chubby in the photo that came out of him in October. Members of the development team for Homefront recently told me they're changing the face, now that they've seen the real thing.

Much of the world wishes they could predict the actions of North Korea, which has sent mixed signals about its interest in continuing or stopping a nuclear weapons program, in reconciling with the South and of having normal relations with the United States and its Asian neighbours. A group of video game developers will be no more capable of anticipating the North's actions than anyone else, and their success or failure with a game that makes the North the enemy that could be released when the North is a more active foe is unknown.

What can be sure is that, if we have more days like today, Homefront's publisher probably won't march a fake North Korean army through downtown Los Angeles again to hype their game. That kind of thing won't be as easy to chuckle at.


Comments

    Baba Vanga was right all along.

    Viral marketing for Homefront, that's what all this Korea nonsense is.

    Wait... if i know my history, wasnt this how the vietnam war started.

    Who wants a North Korea parking lot.

      Except the North Vietnamese weren't suspected of having a few Nuclear Warheads....that changes the equation greatly. There's no way the US would try to invade and topple the DPRK's leadership.

      But even so, I re-watched the Homefront story trailer, and the scenario they put forward is somewhat plausible. I know people keep saying how backward ass the North is...but when you watch the trailer, you notice that nothing substantial happens till after they reunify the country....so they have access to South Korea's wealth, industry and technology, you couple that with the North's military dictatorship...and what follows in entirely plausible.

      But all that being said, plausible =/= probable. Still, its not as far fetched as a lot of people have been saying....and I thought Video Games were supposed to be about exploring situations that were a bit out there..

        I wouldn't even go as far as to say it's 'plausible. 'If unification happened they open the floodgates, the South will have to deal with an influx of several million 'refugees'. This will absolutely cripple the South Korean economy, which now has a huge humanitarian crisis on its hand, let alone gearing for war.

        German unification nuked their economy, took decades to move past and even now, much of the East is still quite poor compared to the rest.

        Unified Korea or not, invading the most powerful and advanced military in the world across the Pacific ocean, which is crawling with US Battle groups is just that, impossible. It does make for some great fiction though.

          Unified Germany is now, however, one of the most economically strong countries in Europe... they're practically bankrolling the EU at this stage.

      This sort of thing happens all the time along the border, NK will be antagonistic and there will be some hand wrangling and angry speeches but nothing will come from it because a war between the 2 would see catastrophic loss of life on both sides within a short time even without nuclear weapons.

        I hope you're right, because you forgot to factor in the fact that Kim Jong Il is absolutely batshit crazy.

          Hes old and preparing to hand over the state to his son eventually and he isnt the most stable of people but he has China holding him on a short leash.

          Theres nothing really to be gained from war between the 2 for either country and China sure as hell doesnt want war because 2 of its industrial provinces border NK and they dont want the inevitable flood of refugees and as such given that they're NKs main source of food they always exercise that muscle if NK starts to get too stupid.

          Maddness and power. What a winning combination.

    Because Kim Jung is illn'

    I just hope that if there is a war, that the game get's released before it starts. Imagine the potential media backlash against them while the US was involved in another war against North Korea.

    It being set in an NK conquered US might mitigate things a little, but it could still get nasty.

    I imagine it's Kim or his boy explaining to the rest of the world that there might be a change in leadership coming... but they are still not to be messed with.

    A few fired shells, some bad language, an old grievance about a border island... nothing drastic.

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