9/11 Invaders Installation Pulled From Leipzig Games Convention

By: Derek Yu

On: August 25th, 2008


Don’t ask me why, but I’m kind of fascinated by controversial games right now. The games, the ensuing discussion, and their ultimate “place” in gaming history. If you’re not, however, then apologies in advance.

Artist Douglas Stanley has asked the Leipzig Games Convention to pull his installation, citing “a steady downward spiral in public discussion of the piece” as the reason. Stanley’s work, which lets players fight a futile battle against classic Space Invaders as they attack the Twin Towers, has drawn fire across the board – from Taito, who is considering a lawsuit against Stanley and/or the organizers of the event, to families of 9/11 victims. The controversy was also fueled over speculation that Stanley is French (in actuality he is an American living in France).

It should be noted that, unlike Sigvatr (Muslim Massacre), Stanley has publicly expressed that the game is partly a criticism of America’s war in the Middle East. And Kotaku’s Michael McWhertor, who played the game, reveals that a video loop plays next to the game, featuring “scenes from the films Taxi Driver, Independence Day, Air Force One and Die Hard — all of which are American made films with a xenophobic streak — interspersed with stills of George W. Bush in his flight suit and John Wayne pointing a gun at the screen.” (This makes the controversy over Stanley’s nationality somewhat ironical, I feel.) Also, on the “Game Over” screen the game displays “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS,” for whatever that’s worth.

I understand that depicting the 9/11 terrorist attacks in anything other than complete seriousness is still considered taboo for many Americans, but I’m still surprised that this drew so much outrage. Call me naive.

(Image Source: Kotaku)

  • HyBrIdEnS

    I hope there will be more controversial art games but better (like SCMRPG).

  • Towerofprostitutes

    “Balls of steel, what is that?”

    Gotta love Ventrilo Harassment.

  • Oddbob

    Haowan, I concur it looks awesome. I sort of like his reasons for pulling it though…”a steady downward spiral in public discussion of the piece”…

    Fantastic. A polite way of saying “if you can’t be arsed discussing this properly, then fuck off”. I can really understand where he’s coming from with that, but, surely that’s something which you’d have to expect when you make something that can, for whatever reason, be considered controversial?

    It’s going to get heated and some of the conversation about the piece will be dumb.

    It doesn’t follow that all discussion of the piece will be dumb though and I’m not sure stifling discourse by taking your ball home is quite the way to make a point.

  • Agreeing with Oddbob

    I think the best way to deal with idiots is offend them more.

    Make a schmup starring the falling man.
    Or as I like to call him (once he’s been flipped upside down and had flames drawn coming from his shoes), the FLYING man!
    I’m awesome :D

  • Esha


    I don’t have a game, but I can present you with a comic!


    I can say that it wasn’t well received when it was first printed though, it even got the good Mr. Morrison called a nazi. So the UK can be just as bad as America at least, we certainly have our fits and schisms that we, as a nation, should’ve grown out of long ago. America is more easily forgiven, for it is still a very young nation. Hell, I still occasionally refer to Americans as colonists!

    But yes, every nation has a sore spot. Touch it and watch the media go crazy.

  • European

    No-one outside of America really cares about 9/11. The British outside of London barely care about their own bombings.

  • ContinentCop

    You should call it “The United States” or “the U.S.”. You can even omit the periods if you’re lazy. “Everyone in the US is fat!” See, that’s much easier (and more accurate!) way to generalize.

  • Drakon


    A game like that has already been made some years ago. I don’t remember the name of it but you bombed Muslim terrorists. After that their relatives became terrorist when they saw the corpse, since they wanted to avenge their relative.

    In the end you were left with the whole screen filled with terrorists.

  • Kobel

    “let me say this: I hope you all lose loved ones in brutal murders, and then have to watch others use those deaths for their own self-serving political and monetary ends most publicly in various media forms for years to come. Maybe then you will understand that just because free speech in the TV/internet media era is allowed, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the basic decency that mankind deserves. ”

    First and last statements, taken together, equal epic lulz.

  • jenn

    A little to add to Derek’s assessment of the work itself, and why it’s wrong to pull it without paying it more thought:

    The movie clips McWhertor saw on loop aren’t just about xenophobia. They’re about explosions, mayhem, collateral damage, and patriotism. Here in the U.S., we stir all those themes together, not only in the manufacture of nationalistic feelings, but also to create really great entertainment. Like, Michael Bay entertainment.

    Games are entertaining, and in them, things blow up a lot. It’s strange that, in our free time, we take such pleasure in death, destruction, and mayhem — things that have caused us such grief as a nation. Yeah, we glorify violence, until several of our loved ones are killed at once. And in the case of war, any country has a “Space Invaders” mindset: they’re coming, they’re faceless, they’re inhuman, they all look the same, let’s defend offensively.

    This isn’t to say that I outright defend the art piece. It’s a little tacky; it’s hamhanded. And I have to wonder how low an opinion the artist has of video games. But to close its exhibition completely? For Taito to threaten financial ruin to an individual, thanks to his unlicensed use of an iconographic trope? Yeah, right, no, that’s horseshit.

    And Derek’s right to call attention to it, particularly in a forum populated by civic-minded artists, because no matter the content of the art piece, no matter what you think of it, that’s some pretty heavy bullshit right there.

  • haowan

    Well said jenn.

  • magallanes

    For every american life take away in the 11/9 *we* must kill 10 iraqis. In this holy mission we are doing it pretty well. GO ON AMERICAN TROOPS!


    So, who is the invader?.

    And, where is it the art?

  • Fibbubber

    Let’s make a controversial game about being controversial. Honestly, this isn’t about games being art, it’s about controversy being art.

    This is yet another example of “Look at me! Being all real and putting it your face in the name art!” or in the worst form of it “I want to piss off as many people as possible. But I don’t want the responsibility, so I’ll pretend it’s art with a message.”

    Whichever this is, is up to you to decide. But in the end, it’s all shit.

  • LostSocks

    “Ummm, what? Since when is human life less valued when a country is at war? I hope you realise that as many as 220,000 people were killed in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Racist.”

    Where the fuck do you get off calling me racist you prick? I’m black, and some of my white friends say nigger all the time, but unless it’s used in a truly demeaning way, I don’t get pissed off about it. In what way was that statement racist? It was a simple statement that when a country is at war, the rules change. It has nothing to do with the Japanese people or any other ethnicity; overly sensitive morons like you only assume so. This also has nothing to do about video games as art. The real question is whether he was doing this for the attention, I believe he did, and THAT, Psychotronic, is why I care that it’s getting so much attention.

    And to you bastards who keep claiming America is controlled by the media; stop making generalizations about countries you’ve never been in.

  • LostSocks

    Holy fuck I can’t believe I just disobeyed my own ‘no one’s opinion has ever changed from an argument’ rule and bothered typing that. I just hope I brought up a point someone hasn’t thought of.

  • James-Kond

    See all you guys getting upset, you will all just try this game and you’ll just play in this ‘artist’ his hands :)

  • Al3xand3r

    The game was only part of the art piece. It was art which used a game, not a game as art. It does make a lot of difference. An art game would at least try to be a worthy game, it wouldn’t be a clone with imagery doing the talking instead of the gameplay. You see the art more when you see the piece described than if you tried to play it or something. I’m sure at least some people will understand where I’m coming from. As for how offensive it is, it really isn’t.

    PS: To the dude who said to make a game with Hitler being a good guy (I think they’ve done it in Japan anyway), how does that even compare to this? Do you see the game stating the terrorists were the good guys? Do you see the player (not that even in that case he’d be a “good guy”, but just saying) destroying the twin towers? Do you see anything similar? Now go back to my first paragraph because again, this wasn’t “a game doing x” like you want your Hitler game to do.

  • Al3xand3r

    Well my first paragraph above isn’t structured as best as it could be and I’m sure you all can dodge around some oversiplified comparisons about what’s a game as art and what’s art using a game but I’m sure deep down you know what I’m trying to say.

  • Psychotronic

    “The real question is whether he was doing this for the attention, I believe he did, and THAT, Psychotronic, is why I care that it’s getting so much attention.”

    So…people should only be allowed to get attention if they aren’t looking for it? Is there some other artist who is having a harder time making a living because of Stanley? Should we be discussing the Georgian conflict instead?

    Seriously, what is the source of the problem here?

  • Marcus

    Pyrrhon, if you can’t hear the Japanese cry over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it’s because you’re not listening.

  • corpus

    A lot of the best British comedy for the latter part of the 20th Century was based on Hitler and co. What are you talking about?

    I’m not sure about the rest of Europe, but in England we’re not so unrealistically sensitive.

  • LostSocks

    Psychotronic: Of course there’s something wrong with that. Someone doing something simply to get attention, in this case negative attention, is tantamount to trolling, and if you say “what’s wrong with trolling?” then I’ll just give up now.

  • Lyx

    by LostSocks:

    “While some people are indeed moral robots, there are there counterparts like Lyx, who are desensitised and accept anything as okay, with no line being drawn.”

    Interesting how much you know about me, without me even mentioning anything in that direction. You must have telephatic skills or something like that.

    By the way: That someone does not go west, doesn’t automatically mean that he must go east. There is life beyond binary, y’know?

  • Psychotronic

    LostSocks: Oh, I see. It’s a problem if he’s doing it ONLY to get attention. That’s fair.

    In this case, I just disagree that that’s what Stanley was doing. He’s a professional artist who regularly makes interactive installation exhibits, some of which sound quite cool. He teaches digital art at Aix-en-Provence. I’m sure he makes a fine living.

    I really doubt he decided one day that he needed to be mega-famous. He just kept doing what he normally does, and this exhibit happened to strike a match in a room of dynamite. I don’t think he was expecting this kind of reaction.

    I’ve seen this happen a couple of times with people who are mainly artists, and are used to dealing mostly with people in the art world, or at least people who are interested in art. They see how video games are this major force in society , and so they try to incorporate it into their work. But they don’t understand what an insular, insecure nest of vipers the gaming population is, so the backlash always takes them by surprise. And to make it worse, he hasn’t been living with constant American media exposure, so he didn’t anticipate the 9/11 backlash either.

    So this exhibit wasn’t a smart move. But it’s just one piece over a lifetime the guy has spent making art. I’m sure he’d be perfectly happy if 99% of the attention would go away.

  • Towerofprostitutes

    LostSocks: The difference between this and trolling is that going on a ventrilo server and spamming it with a soundboard is actually, you know, funny. If done properly, anyway.

  • Lyx

    I fail to see whats so different about getting the “message” – its even mentioned in the article. Xenophobia. See, the entire “campaign” which is now no longer restricted to the US (lots of other countries jumped on the waggon) is based on there being some external – yet strangely elusive – threat, which “infiltrated us”. The way it works is in principle identical to witch-hunting. And the catalysator which made it all possible – the catch-it-all justification – is 9/11. Ergo: The WTC was attacked by evil “aliens”.

  • Lyx

    Sorry, little typo: “different” should be “difficult”.

  • GC

    I think trolls are really under appreciated. They may not have the best intentions, but what they create is an energetic mixing of ideas. Once the argument has died down, the participants are left with many new viewpoints to consider.

  • Unfrozen

    I think it’s sad how we all sit at our houses assuming we’re right the first time we say anything and the enemy is this certain way and the people agreeing with us completely agree with us.

  • LostSocks

    Sorry Lyx, I was drunk as piss for that first post (I would normally never get involved in this), but all my other posts I still agree with.

  • Yellow

    LostSocks, the only point I hope to make is that human life should always be valued as highly as possible, regardless of the objective situations surrounding it. War is an objective status, I could argue that the terrorists were at war with America during 9/11 but that still wouldn’t devalue the civilians who lost their lives. The same goes to the civilians of Hiroshima or Nagasaki and all other civilians that are affected by war or other means. People are people regardless of their situation.

    As for the art installation that featured a video game, I don’t have to like it but I’ll still defend this guy’s right to display it, as freedom of speech is something we should all fight for if we hope to live in a fair and open society.

  • ortucis

    Let’s face it. Those who haven’t suffered (all those bitching about ‘whining’ from US and all) will always support such stupid games which aren’t fun and don’t really have any obvious ‘message’ (unless the author tells us there is).

    That 9/11 game (saw the video) was retarded. I didn’t get it at all until he explained, even then it was retarded. Seems like the guy was just looking for publicity, he got it, with a lawsuit. Congrats.

  • Towerofprostitutes

    Final Verdict: The game is just pretentious shit that serves no purpose but to make me further question why I like indie games.