CI Games have apologized for a Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2 press event; where at least one writer was offended by alleged Middle Eastern stereotypes, and support for former US President Trump.
Gaming news outlet TheGamer reported on a press event they attended, entitled “The Sniper Ghost Warrior Press Event Made Me Pretend To Kill Arabs And I Hated It.”
Writer Eric Switzer describes how earlier in June he had been invited to an event to celebrate the launch of Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2. He initially sounded eager, due to how lockdown and quarantine had prevented similar press events.
The details of the event were intentionally vague, with the PR company only stating they “hope you have a BLAST” and “make sure you wear pants with belt loops.” Five writers (including Switzer) and five influences later found themselves at the Incredible Adventures team at the Strategic Operations facility.
The area was a former TV studio, which was later converted into a tactical training facility for police and military. It even grants “extreme military counter-terrorism training” for civilians, exactly what the press event was.
The facility included a “set” designed to look like a Middle-Eastern rural village; which Switzer described as being “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.” Switzer was also critical of buildings being made of “mud,” and rotting meat left out as a market stall “because the people here eat filth, apparently.”
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2 is set in a war-torn Middle Eastern country along the Syrian and Lebanese border that has descended into a chaotic civil war. Players must attempt to overthrow the country’s corrupt government by taking on contracts to assassinate key military personnel and other leaders. A US military training facility would also likely need to cater for training for conflict in the Middle East.
Switzer states he almost got back on the bus when he saw a flag on the main building flying emblazoned with “Trump 2024: The Revenge Tour.” While hotly debated, some suggest that 45th US President Donald Trump had a large number of supporters from military and veteran backgrounds. Switzer felt the flag sent a “hostile message,” and was further on guard thanks to being told no one would be wearing masks.
The instructors for Incredible Adventures, four combat veterans, explained that what the “sniper adventure” would involve. The guests would be taught how to breach a building, systematically move down a street in hostile territory, and how to use an M4 rifle (converted to fire simunition), and various military drills.
Despite Switzer’s objections, he notes that at no point were the enemy combatants referred to by their race or religion; only as enemies, bad guys, and other vague terms. One instructor also stated “Those guys over there have killed a lot of good Americans.” Switzer notes the “role-players” wore white robes and keffiyehs (traditional Arabian headdress, usually fashioned from a square scarf or cloth).
“The actors are all white, I think, and I can’t decide what’s worse,” Switzer laments, “white people dressing up like Arabs to be shot at, or subjecting actual Arab people to this experience.”
The combat scenario involved the group (broken up into teams), moving through the sets; complete with trading airsoft-strength fire and dodging explosions. At one point they climbed to the third floor of a building, and began sniping.
While the other attendees were reportedly having the time of their life, Switzer felt “Anti-Arab attitudes are so deeply ingrained in American culture, and here we were, play-acting a violent scenario to avenge our fallen brothers.”
He compared the sniping segment to a human shooting gallery, and felt it was “the most dehumanizing part of the entire day.” Once again, everyone else enjoyed it, and seemed “to be everyone else’s favorite, based on their reactions after the fact.”
The final gift bag included survival tools; such as “a firestarter, a rope saw, a compass, a pen that can break glass, and a collapsible baton just in case we’d like to do some more violence later.”
The group photo at the end of the day reportedly involved “[standing] in a row facing the role-players with their fists raised in anger, while the role-players are instructed to put their hands in the air and ululate like a jihadist.” Switzer and another guest reportedly gave each other a horrified look, while Switzer himself pretended to take a phone call to step away.
To Switzer’s understanding, developers from CI Games were supposed to attend, but the pandemic and travel restrictions prevented them from doing so. As such, there was no discussion about Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2.
There were PCs in the main building to play the game, but doing so was not part of the schedule (aside from lunch, they were not scheduled to go back inside). Further still, the event took place after the game had launched; with Switzer even noting he was already reviewing the game.
TheGamers report soon led to an apology from CI Games, who state they were “deeply disturbed” to read what Switzer experienced. They also state that requests to change the outfits used to better reflect the setting of the game were denied; in order to preserve the authenticity of the training.
“We were deeply disturbed to read the report from TheGamer website with regards to the live event held to support the launch of Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2. CI Games abhors racism of any kind, and as a Polish studio based in Warsaw, we have absolutely no affiliation with any US political party or movement.
Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 follows a purely fictional narrative, based in a purely fictional setting, and we try very hard to ensure we’re avoiding stereotypes or representing cultures in any negative way. Respect and tolerance are keystones of our company’s culture and we were distressed to discover that an event meant to be fun and engaging for participants had instead caused offense for some attendees.
The launch event took place on an authentic military training base in San Diego and aimed to replicate how real US Navy Seals train, featuring standard military procedures and techniques. The intention was to give press and journalists a real-life taste of what it would be like to be Raven, the game’s protagonist, in a setting similar to that of Kuamar, the fictional region where the game is set. 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 or indirect cultural representations. We were informed that in order to preserve the authenticity of their training event, this request was declined.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our team was unable to travel to the event from Europe, so we weren’t able to engage directly in the running of the event. As a result, certain decisions were overlooked and the event was conducted in a way that is not in line with our thinking or beliefs.
We would like to apologize directly to Eric Switzer from TheGamer and to any other participants who found the event offensive. Although the COVID restrictions made arranging this event unusually difficult, we take full responsibility and will work hard to ensure that in future any events associated with the Sniper Ghost Warrior franchise live up to the standards of respect and tolerance that we set ourselves.”
Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2 is available on Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and 2021 on PlayStation 5.