“Laden vs. USA” video game

Yikes. Over at Boing Boing, a guy sent in a picture of a handheld electronic game that a friend of his brought back from Taiwan about six months after 9/11. It’s called Laden vs. USA,” and a closeup photo of it is here. No word on what the point of the game is, but a quick Google search indicates that this game has actually been manufactured several times — on this blog, there’s a photo of a slightly differently-shaped handheld unit that’s also called “Laden vs. USA”. (And another, clearer shot of the game pictured above is here.)

It’s a pretty bleak specimen, but in a strictly academic sense, this is an interesting example of the trend towards using games as a form of political commentary. In this case, however, I suspect the motivation is just good old-fashioned profiteering. It’s unlikely that the game has any political content specific to Al Qaeda or the USA. On the contrary, it’s probably just some entrepreneur who bought a few truckloads of a generic war-like “shoot the soldiers” game; there are hundreds of these things produced every year by electronics sweatshops in Asia. Then they printed some labels to “rebrand” the generic game with a purported bin Laden theme, slapped ‘em on the units, and sold them.

Not that this excuses the creepiness of the game, but it makes it rather unlikely that it has anything to do with actual terrorist networks.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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