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GULF WAR GAME - Animated in 2002 / ANIMATION

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Some may still remember this from first time around.


Before the outbreak of the Second Iraq War, I was reading a great many prognostications about what might happen were the U.S. to attack Saddam. Of course, nobody could have known precisely what would occur, but most warned that the outcome was bound to be an unholy mess. I felt that a simple Flash 'game' would be a good way to illustrate the inevitable spiral into chaos. So I picked one sequence of events, and built that up, click by click.

The game's many pro-war critics (who were as vocal as they were mean and dumb) all failed to point out the game's obvious flaw, the most glaring error. And that error is: the first counter-move by Iraq is to launch a WMD retaliation. And of course, as is now well known, they didn't have any.

One snooty academic sneered that the game was GIGO - "Garbage In, Garbage Out". Well, he was right, but the Garbage that was being peddled was the stuff being held up by Colin Powell in front of the U.N., and my G was second-hand.

I wonder if Prof. Snootykins ever bothered to send Powell & Co. a snarkmail?

Interesting to note that the first 2 or 3 moves in the game are the most inaccurate, but as the game proceeds, it starts to look more and more like the final outcome.The end scenario is a mess, and the current scenario is a mess - hopefully this statement won't be the treasonous outrage today that it was to most people in 2003. So, not a cakewalk after all, and no, Iraqi oil isn't paying the costs of the conflict.

Another failure of the game: it vastly overestimated the intelligence of the U.S. occupation - it never occured to me that they would remove the Ba'ath leadership structure in favour of the Shia majority, given their Iranian sympathies. I still don't understand why they did that. Gary Brecher suggested that Dick Cheney was an Iranian double-agent, and it's hard to disagree.

Regarding the time involved in making this thing: creation of the animation of the game took 4 weeks, following which I optimised it to get the file size down to 96K. Younger folk won't understand this today, but in those days of 480p, when youtube and facebook and twitter didn't yet exist, websites that hosted popular content were punished by massive hosting charges, and were taken offline until these were paid out by the hapless webmaster.

I knew there was a very good chance that the game would become popular, but I had no idea how popular.

At first, it was picked up, late Jan, by a tech website...after which it began to quickly pick up steam. The print edition of USA Today ran a nice piece, then Reuters interviewed me. I remember the interview, as I overslept, was woken by the journalist, and did the interview in a brainfog. As we ended the interview, she said this (and I'll never forget the way she said it, slowly and deliberately):

"Your interview will go out over the wires on Sunday evening; it'll be online on Monday morning".

What she should have said was: "Dig a bunker".

On Monday morning, I went to check my email, and found that I had over 500 emails.

Uh oh.

Answered a few. Reload. 40 more. Answer some more. 50 more. Most seemed to be coming in from forwarded emails - who does that any more? Ah, 2003. The log file on my server shot to 2 gigs in size in about 2 weeks. So it went on like that for a few weeks, slowly tapering off as the actual war got under weigh.

Once I got an email from someone in Khazakhstan telling me that the game had just aired on a TV station there, and had been seen around the entire CIS (former USSR). Another from Portugal, then one from the Middle East; the emails rolled in from around the world. Invitation to appear on 'Fox News', thanks, but no thanks. CNN put the game one of their Sunday news shows (in spite of my ribbing of them and their coverage). Thick skins.

Anyway, since then there's been a lot of water under the bridge, spilt milk, burnt libraries, looted museums, a couple million refugees, and tons of dead people.

A Hell of a decade.

Looking back on it now, a horrible time - not that today is much improved; maybe we're just better at dealing with the new state of 'normality'.