Game Publisher Apologizes for Asking Journalists to Shoot People Dressed as Arab Stereotypes

Developer CI Games held a press event at a private military training compound where participants were asked to use M4 rifles to shoot people dressed as Arab stereotypes.
June 24, 2021, 3:31pm
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Image: CI

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 developer CI Games has apologized for hosting a press event at a military-themed training park in California. A journalist was disturbed during the event when organizers put a converted M4 rifle in his hand and asked him to fire airsoft style bullets at park employees dressed in white robes and keffiyehs.

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“The launch event took place on an authentic military training base in San Diego and aimed to replicate how real U.S. Navy Seals train, featuring standard military procedures and techniques,” CI Games said in its apology

Journalist Eric Switzer wrote about his experience at the Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 launch event at The Gamer

According to Switzer, a “Trump 2024: The Revenge Tour” flag flew above the main facility and he was informed no one at the event would wear masks. 

CI Games said in its apology that it abhors racism of any kind, and that as a Polish studio, it has "absolutely no affiliation with any US political party or movement."

“We break up into groups and spend most of the day learning how to breach a building, systematically move down a street while in hostile territory, and handle a weapon,” Switzer said. “We’re each given an M4 rifle converted to fire simunition, which has a similar impact to airsoft, and we practice firing them and running various military drills.”

The San Diego facility is part of Strategic Operations INC. (STOPS). Its website bills it as a converted movie studio that provides hyper-realistic medical and tactical training for law enforcement and the curious. “Since 2002, STOPS has provided training support to hundreds of thousands military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel (and still counting, every day) using Hyper-Realistic® scenario environments,” the website said.

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“The Strategic Operations facility looks a lot like a set you might see in American Sniper, Lone Survivor, or any other military propaganda film,” Switzer wrote. “The streets are paved with dirt; the broken down, abandoned vehicles are covered in grime; and the short, featureless huts look like they’re made out of mud. It’s the Middle-East as we’re often shown it via Western media—a gross, twisted doppelganger that doesn’t actually represent life in that part of the world at all.”

The enemies for their drills are white guys dressed in keffiyehs and white robes. “As we run drills, no one refers to the people we’re learning to kill as Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Arab,” Switzer said. “Any time the instructors refer to them, they say enemies, bad guys, or the other guys. Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that ‘the bad guys’ are most certainly Arabs here.”

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 is set in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Kuamar. The enemies look like soldiers in any modern military and the setting and story have the vaguely mil-shooter look of a game’s company trying desperately to invoke modern conflict without pissing anyone off.

Anti-Arab representation in video games has been a problem for decades now, but controversy around the forthcoming Six Days in Fallujah has reignited it

After Switzer published his experience, CI Games released a public apology. The studio is based in Warsaw and it said that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, none of its employees could attend. “We were distressed to discover that an event meant to be fun and engaging for participants caused offense for some attendees,” it said in its statement. “We had asked the events company to change the outfits of the enemies in order to match those that are represented in the game, which are specifically designed to avoid any direct cultural representations. We were informed that in order to preserve the authenticity of the training event, this request was declined.”

“It felt like a normal press event, which makes the content of the event so disturbing on top of racist, I think,” Switzer told Waypoint in a Twitter DM. “This stuff shouldn't be normal, but it's never going to change until we stop making and playing games that glorify violence against Middle Eastern people.”

CI Games did not immediately return Waypoint’s request for comment.

Update 6/24/21: This story has bee updated with a comment from Switzer.