Computer Games Take On Peace Enforcement

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International media have been endlessly replaying the Georgia-Russia war since it ended in August, with commentators and analysts sifting through the wreckage of a disastrous conflict that left hundreds of people dead. In December, it will be possible -- in Russia at least -- to replay the war on your own desktop through a Russian-language computer game that simulates hostilities between the estranged ex-Soviet neighbors.

The game's title, "Confrontation -- Peace Enforcement," is a direct reference to the phrase used by the Kremlin when its tanks rolled across the border -- an operation to "force Georgia to make peace." It is set sometime in the future, when Georgian troops make a renewed attempt to seize the rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with support from friends in NATO. Moscow, of course, feels that it has to strike back.

It hasn't yet been revealed whether there is a special role-playing function allowing gamers to torch and bulldoze villagers' homes while stealing their cars and shooting their cattle, or if players get bonus points for every refugee they create. But screenshots from the game do show fighter planes swooping low over blazing houses and a tank opening fire close to a Georgian Orthodox church.

"Politics are politics, and a game is a game. These things should not be confused," said a spokesman for Moscow-based Russobit-M, the company that designed the game. But some of the people who suffered during the war may find it hard not to see it as triumphalist propaganda.

Meanwhile, another forthcoming strategy game, "Arma 2," from Prague-based Bohemia Interactive Studio looks at hostilities in the Caucasus from a gung-ho, Western perspective. It follows an elite squad of U.S. soldiers who intervene in a civil conflict in a fictional ex-Soviet republic called "Chernarus," which is located somewhere south of Russia and whose landscape strongly resembles Georgia.

Somewhat disturbingly, these aren't the only computer games to have been linked to the Georgia-Russia war. Sharp-eyed commentators have noted that the conflict was all but predicted by an old shoot-'em-up game called "Ghost Recon," which was created by thriller writer Tom Clancy. Its scenario envisages a nationalist Russian leadership that wants to restore the old Soviet empire and dispatches its troops to support South Ossetian rebels who are fighting a U.S.-backed Georgian army. The Georgians are routed, and their capital falls to the Russians, who then go on to invade the Baltic states.

The game first went on the market seven years ago and was set in the future -- in 2008, to be exact.

Matthew Collin is a journalist in Tbilisi.