Is Homefront a socially irresponsible game?

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6 mins read

Does anyone remember the “Domino Effect” theory? It was a popular theory in the US in the 50s that predicted the spread of communism throughout Asia, and from there, the world. China would be the first domino to “fall,” from the Soviet Union’s influence (and in all fairness, it was) and from there it would spread like a disease to Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India (this is where the theory fell down). And then Australia, apparently.

Historians will know where this theory led – directly to a very couple of very stupid wars that unnecessarily cost a lot of lives on both sides (yes, Vietnam and Korea). And its effects are still evident in today’s society – if you polled a number a group of people about what “communism” is, in many cases you’ll find it’s still considered something of a boogyman.
How does this all fit in with Homefront? Well, Homefront plays on those same fears, both in terms of marketing and the story’s driving force. The unified new Korea that has invaded America is communist, and has come to town with the philosophical attitudes of Socialist North Korea (or at least, how they’re portrayed in the mass media); South Korea, as part of the reunified invading force, is just along for the ride.

The marketing of this game has been pretty heavy on the Freedoms
And it’s a Socialist Korea that is as evil as the worst fantasy literature would have you believe. It’s spread across the world like a disease. It’s become a world super power on the back of the same kind of cold cruelty that made Soviet Russia so feared (and birthed the Domino Effect Theory in itself). These Korean soldiers are shown to have no qualms about shooting parents in front of children, building open air mass graves and turning America into a ruined shell – all this imagery of Soviet savagery is present and accounted for, and all crucial elements of the game’s marketing.
That the game’s script was written by John Milius surprises me. This is the same man that penned Apocalypse Now – considered a broad criticism of the Vietnam War. For him to be glorifying the fight against “un-American” values is somewhat against type (at least, the type I had him pinned for). Here, he’s written a plot that aims solely at machismo, gun-toting ultraviolent freedom fighters.
In Homefront, the story isn’t about a real war, nor is it a story that focuses on the humanity and horror of war, and nor does it focus on a completely improbable science fiction scenario. In that regard, it effectively separates itself from the likes of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Killzone. With Homefront, it’s a very real (but in perception only) threat to the American Way of Life that is the focal point to the story.
But I’m not sure that was a responsible direction to take the game by THQ. Consider this – Japan just went through its worst disaster and crisis since World War 2. Where the vast majority of the world cried out in support of Japan, a small – but very vocal – minority of America spoke out. “Karma for Pearl Harbour” was a trending topic on Twitter. I’m sure we’ve all seen the screen grab of the Facebook updates. It’s a very small group of people making trouble, but most of us would agree that it’s a group that we shouldn’t be encouraging.
Games like Homefront just reinforce that kind of “fear of Asian invasion” (whether cultural or physical) that is so prevalent in the American underbelly. It turns the negative connotations of “Freedom Fighting” into a glorious pursuit – not just condoning it, but putting it on a pedestal.
Am I saying Homefront shouldn’t exist? No. This is a free market, and if THQ wishes to release distasteful material to pander to people’s unjustified fears, then that’s its prerogative. However, throughout the entire development and hype cycle of Homefront, something about the game made me feel a level of discomfort that Call of Duty or Killzone never managed – despite the level of violence being roughly equivalent.
Then I saw the cut scene with the child’s parents being shot by “evil” Koreans and realised what it was. Moreso than Activision or EA who produce games about wars, THQ has published a game that encourages a misogynistic fear about something that people don’t need to be worried about, stroking unnecessary flames to make an extra few sales. 

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