Under Siege

Hero/Villlain--Two Sides of the Same Coin

tank vs. boy
Demo Download
System Requirements:
Windows XP+, Intel Pentium IV+, 512MB+
Radwan Kasmiya

Benedict Arnold is considered by the Americans as ​the ultimate traitor. However, to the British, Arnold was loyal to the British Crown, the legitimate rulers of the colony, making him a hero. Hero or villain--depends on which side you're on. Similarly, while most games portray Arabs as terrorists, there are games that show them in a different perspective.

Under Siege is a serious ​game designed by Radwan Kasmiya about the Palestinian hardship in the Second Intifada, the second Palestinian uprising during 1999-2000. The game is a military mission FPS set in the Middle East. You play different characters that America or Israel might call terrorists. All the missions are based on events documented by the United Nations.

The missions are raw and original, designed to elicit emotion. In the first mission you are in a mosque where a lunatic Israeli general, dual-wielding submachine guns, is shooting civilians. You must neutralize this Israeli terrorist, during ammo reloads, bare handed. In mission three, you play as a boy who must take an Israeli flag, mounted on a tank. The boy is equipped with a sling shot for this task. In mission five, you play a woman who must kidnap an Israeli general from an armed convoy. Most missions involve targeting the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), the Israeli army, and absolutely prohibits harming civilians.

Story-wise, Under Siege is overly dramatic. For instance in mission three, the boy captures an Israeli flag from a tank, completing the mission and triggering a cutscene in which one of the tank's crew shoots the boy with the tank's mounted machinegun, wounding him​. As the boy crawls away, the soldier climbs out of the tank, firing his pistol, multiple times, at point blank range. As you sigh for relief, knowing that the brutality is over, the ultimate overkill occurs. The soldier continues by lifting a concrete block to smash the boy.

The game also has a major design issue. The game is unnecessarily difficult due to the poor feedback system. You often die and have no idea why. There are no in-game cues as to what is occurring. Worse, in mission four, you have to plant an explosive on a bridge without being detected by I​DF patrols. As soon as you step out to the street, the game abruptly stops, leaving you wondering. It take several tries before you figure out paths that avoid enemy lines of sight. At times, playing Under Siege is like playing a action-puzzle game with a meta-goal of figuring out how the game system works.

I laud Radwan Kasmiya for making games not for mere entertainment but as an interactive documentary of hardships of the Palestinians. Although overly dramatic, he tells the story masterfully and guides the player in building a strong emotional connection to the characters. I however prefer Peacemaker, a game created by a team of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans with a more balanced agenda. Peacemaker shows the difficult choices that face an Israeli or Palestinian leader but does it in a way that tugs my heart AND my mind, helping me to understand both emotionally and intellectually.


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Blatant Propaganda

When you get down to it, this game is blatant propaganda from a Palestinian position. Missions absolutely prohibit killing civlians? Like the women and children blown up on busses before the Israeli's built the wall to make infiltration harder? Like those injured and killed by rockets from Gaza fired without regard for the nature of the target?

And as for 'mission three,' personally, I always leave the safety of an armored vehicle and expose myself to enemy fire for the sole purpose of committing an atrocity, but that's just me. Or perhaps the point is that only Israelis are evil and subhuman enough to perform such an act.

Mind you, from my perspective, people are free to create propaganda for whatever damn thing they wish; and certainly many western games contain missions that, while intended primarily for entertainment rather than propaganda purposes, are gung-ho, anti-Islamic horseshit -- unconscious propaganda, if you will, easily assimilating the intolerance and hostility to the Islamic world that is the common purview of much of American popular culture (particularly on the right). And, from my perspective, it's a good thing that games are being used for propaganda purposes; it's an illustration of the utility and importance of games beyond the realm of simple pleasure.

Nor, I should note in passing, am I all that sympathetic with Israel; the only possible solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is dead obvious, and has been for almost fifty years, and Israeli arrogance is at least as much responsible for its failure to occur as Palestinian intransigence. (The solution, in passing, is an independent Palestinian state on the territory of the West Bank and Gaza.)

Yet to characterize this game as, say, "an interactive documentary of hardships of the Palestinians" is disingenuous, to say the least. It's as much propaganda as the Allied depiction of German soldiers during WWI as "tossing Belgian babies from bayonet to bayonet," or Hitler's depiction of the Western Allies as being the puppets of International Jewry, or American depiction of the Japanese in WWII as bucktoothed, slavering monsters.

The IDF is a conscript army. Its soldiers are primarily young people between the ages of 18 and 21, doing their service to defend their nation. Some of the things they may be called to do in the course of their service are unpleasant, and may perhaps make them deeply uncomfortable about the policies of their own country -- or contrariwise inure them to the issues and make them think of the Palestinians as less than human. Both are common responses to violent conflict. But they, also, are human, and young, and often troubled. They are not evil monsters seeking to viciously slaughter peaceful resisters.

Indeed, I would suggest that, if the Palestinians had adopted the tactics of Gandhi, if their resistance were based on non-violent confrontation rather than terrorism, not only would the whole world be on their side, but they would long since have achieved their objectives.

The Last Paragraph

@costik: Now that you brought up peaceful protests, a topic JZW wrote a blog entry about last week ("Tahrir"), it may be worth (re-)reading "The Last Article", a brilliant short story by Harry Turtledove.

Before you cast your stones...

I wrote this with an effort to understand through the eyes of a frustrated Palestinian developer. I am trying to be unbiased and write based on facts and not emotions. I however, agree with Costik.

If you want to learn about unbiased account of the middle east, Under Siege is not it. Under Siege is so overly biased, I have a hard time believing the message that Israelis are the real terrorists. What I praise Kasmiya for is his innovative and emotional story telling--not the message. You switch from playing a man, woman and child getting different perspectives.

I wish it was more balanced like Peacemaker, which is also based on real incidents. In Peacemaker I learned that people wanting fairness, seek and eye-for-an-eye that leads to atrocities by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Per my suggestion based on the help of the PTT community, the game dev program at LA Film school uses Under Siege and America's Army as counter examples of propaganda in games.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. --Mahatma Gandhi


Maybe calling "documentary" is saying too much.

However there is a difference of main importance.

Americas Army, as well as the main majority of games depicting the NATO Armies as heroes, are Institutionalized Propaganda. This traces a line of flagrant hipocresy by pretending to compare "Under Siege" with other "western" productions of multimillonary funding that ALSO count with political and even governmental support.

This game, is indeed documentary: it shows how its developer feels, how much fury and exhaustion of seeing all the time the same bullshit. Thats what the melodramatic escenes really depict.

Ironically, this games faces the same relation of forces from the conflict that everyday they face on the streets.

Special note: the designers of the modern terrorism are actually the Israelis. Please understand history before navigating this topics.

I dont face a hard time AT ALL, "believing the message that Israelis are the real terrorists"

Two Sides of the Same Coin


When you say
...understand history before navigating this topics.

History is relative to which side you are on. As my example in my review, general Benedict Arnold was a traitor and general George Washington was a hero according the colonists, while those roles are reversed to the British.

As for Under Siege you play characters that would be considered terrorists by the Israelis and freedom fighters by the Palestinians. Who are real historical terrorists and freedom fighters? It depends who you ask.

Benedict Arnold

Your Benedict Arnold example is a poor one, and undermines your whole "two sides of the same coin" metaphor.

No matter which side of the American Revolutionary war you see him from, Arnold was a turncoat with base motivations.

Arnold was originally a successful American rebel officer, who was miffed because he didn't think he got enough credit for his successes. His offended vanity led to his defection, and he tried to sell his command to the British for money. It's hard to imagine even the British thinking very highly of him. He certainly was no hero to either side! Even a cursory glance at Wikipedia shows that many contemporary Britons viewed him with disdain.

Benedict Arnold is, in fact, a reductio ad absurdum of the relativist argument you are trying to make here.


I have to say that reading that phrase of mine again, it sounds agressive, which was not my intention. Apologies.

You're right about history being relative. I mean c'mon, reality itself is relative.

My point though, was: the behaviour today denoted by the mainstream as 'terrorism' was widely used by the Israelis themselves to put pressure on the creation of the Israely country. So lets not go too nervous about who are or arent terrorists, its just a matter of having the material power to sustain an open war or not.

All in all, this is an extremely difficult subject; is a conflict that goes back thousands of years, and only made worst by the intervention of the western powers.

"They are not evil monsters

"They are not evil monsters seeking to viciously slaughter peaceful resisters." -Costik

While this is probably true for the vast majority of Israeli soldiers, I don't think anyone would deny that at times the effect of the IDF's actions have made them virtually indistinguishable from a group of people who have those motivations.

"Indeed, I would suggest that, if the Palestinians had adopted the tactics of Gandhi, if their resistance were based on non-violent confrontation rather than terrorism, not only would the whole world be on their side, but they would long since have achieved their objectives."

This is completely ridiculous. The implication here that if only the Palestinians had produced a Ghandi or MLK like figure then their shit would be sorted is offensive. Its simply unreasonable to expect this to have happened.

I don't want to throw in my lot with Novack here entirely, but I do think its worth pointing out that while there's no such thing as a real Palestinian government that controls and moderates the collective actions of that population, there is such a government in place in Israel. This power imbalance makes the problem more difficult then just simply throwing our hands up and saying both sides have done grisly deeds and thus its a wash or, worse, that the Palestinians need to develop the Christ-like ability to turn the other cheek.

I agree however, that the game is propaganda. Bad propaganda at that.

It's easier to realise

It's easier to realise everyone puts out propaganda. Including you. Including me.

I mean seriously, when you say something it's truth, when the other guy does it's propaganda? The other guy believes in just the same way you do that he is speaking a truth. Do you believe you think "I'll speak the truth" but the other guy just thinks "I'll speak properganda"? Nah, he's thinking the same thing as you. It's ironic how two bitterly fighting sides can be closer and more in tune with each other than any lovers, in that way.
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