ISIS, the jihadist group operating in parts of Iraq and Syria, is believed to have released a new recruitment video that uses footage from Grand Theft Auto V. The mocked-up Grand Theft Auto-style trailer is designed to attract younger members and features virtual fighters shouting “Allahu Akbar!” as they attack U.S. troops.
According to Islamic State’s media wing, the video aims to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State”. The words “Flames of War” appear at the end of the trailer, with the tagline: “Fighting has just begun”.
The similarities between ISIS recruitment films and first-person-shooter games are likely intentional. Back in June, an ISIS fighter told the BBC that his new life was “better than that game Call of Duty.” Video-game-themed memes traced back to ISIS have been floating around the Internet for months, including one that reads, “THIS IS OUR CALL OF DUTY AND WE RESPAWN IN JANNAH.” (“Respawn” is the gamer word for reincarnate.) Another ISIS video, as the Intercept notes, looks like a deliberate homage to Grand Theft Auto. Audio clips that sound much like ones in Call of Duty have been spliced into other ISIS videos. Many of the ISIS recruitment videos are dedicated to showcasing rocket launchers, mines, and assault rifles, as if to say, “If you join us, you’ll get to shoot these things.”
Cut and edited to be played at three and a half minutes, the video targets to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State,” Forbes said, citing Egyptian media reports. Experts believed the recruitment video meant to “desensitize young people to violence.”
Not only is the game supposed to inspire young jihadists to join the Islamic State, but it also includes “all of the organization’s military tactics against its opponents,” The Islamic State’s media wing stated.
The video opens with a message written in slightly broken English: “Your games which are producing from you, we do the same actions in the battlefields !!”
One of the trailer scenes occurs when the terrorists blow up their opposition’s lead combat jeep. Afterwards, the rest of the opposing troops in the jeeps that followed get out and start firing at the militants. Despite being outnumbered and the opposition forces receiving reinforcements, the militants killed the backup respondents one-by-one as they pulled up. Of course, ISIS seemingly wins the battle.
Given the title Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem (sound of swords clashing), the first-person “shooter” game is reportedly being promoted by the Islamic State to “raise the morale of the mujahidin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State.”
Although the video game might seem like a barbaric way to get kids to join a militant movement, Jay Caspian Kang of The New Yorker writes that for the past decade the U.S. Army has used the online multiplayer video game series entitled America’s Army as a recruiting technique. Kang writes the game has been credited with a spike in enlistment.
But unlike the Islamic State video game trailer, “America’s Army” does not allow for random acts of violence and is designed to be an instructive game that uses military and team tactics.
It has yet to be known how Rockstar will react to their video game being used as a terrorist’s recruitment tool, especially since it is set to release an enhanced edition on November 2014 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It will then be released on January 2015 for Windows.