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Just a game? Homefront’s sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy

By
29 March 2011


Not to know what you are talking about is pretty obviously a bad move. But it never stops some people, does it? And on this occasion, I’m not about to let it stop me. This has to be said. Venturing into unfamiliar terrain can be unwise, so I’m taking a risk here. But they started it, not me. There comes a time when real men must face down the foe and stand up for truth. (Aging academic adopts unconvincing Mel Gibson pose, ripping his jeans for added verisimilitude.)

Video gaming is not my scene. I have neither the time nor the inclination for it, so this is not a world or genre I know well. But I’m aware that millions think differently. Most are the same sex as me, if rather younger. And a lot are Korean. South Korea is a major site for both production and consumption. Many games are developed in Korea; the top players are feted like rock stars.

Well, here’s one game they won’t be playing in Korea—because the ROK has banned it. I’m no fan of censorship in general, or of President Lee Myung Bak’s many sly backward steps in tightening media control in particular. But just this once, I sympathize.

To see why, please contemplate the following scenario. You may wish to sit down first.

  • 2011:   North Korea faces another UN sanction over its latest nuclear test.
  • 2012:   Kim Jong Il dies and is succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.
  • 2013:   Kim Jong Un is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and featured on the cover of Time Magazine for his accomplishment of Korean reunification.
  • 2014:   American military withdraws from the Korean peninsula. General Motors declares bankruptcy for the second time.
  • 2015:   The effects of peak oil are felt as gas prices reach up to $20 a gallon due to a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia cuts off all oil trade with Europe. Survivalist literature becomes bestsellers in America. China’s influences diminish.
  • 2016:   America withdraws its military from Japan and other countries overseas, focusing on its instability back home.
  • 2017:   Martial law is declared in the United States as its infrastructure crumbles due to financial deficiencies.
  • 2018:   After the destruction of one of its nuclear facilities by Korean Special Forces, Japan surrenders to the Greater Korean Republic and is capitalized into a vassal state.
  • 2019:   The UN goes out of commission.
  • 2020:   Canada closes its borders to Americans. The U.S. military takes over the functions of many emergency services, as well as the distribution of basic goods. This causes many Americans to abandon the suburbs in exchange of [sic] the military-managed urban centers.
  • 2021:   Korean forces succeed in annexing many countries in Southeast Asia. A new pandemic known as the Knoxville Cough, a type of bird flu, begins to spread in the United States.
  • 2022:   To prevent the contagion of the Knoxville Cough, Mexico closes its borders to Americans. Hyperinflation pushes the U.S. dollar to the edge of collapse.
  • 2023:   The Knoxville Cough ravages the American public. The Korean People’s Army reaches 20 million total personnel.
  • 2024:   Using the captured M-V rockets at the Uchinoura Space Center, Kim Jong Un announces a new space satellite program, under the pretense of replacing the decaying GPS system, which America could no longer afford to maintain.
  • 2025:   A thermonuclear device is detonated by one of the Korean satellites 300 miles above Kansas, blanketing America with an EMP [electromagnetic pulse] that wipes out its power grid and most of the electronics above ground. The U.S. infrastructure is virtually in ruins. This is followed by the Korean seizure of Hawaii and landings in San Francisco. Korean paratroopers are dropped into central United States. The economic downfall in Europe prevents its nations from intervening.
  • 2026:   The United States is split into two as the KPA irradiate the entire Mississippi River, as a fortification for their control of the western side.
  • 2027:   The United States Armed Forces are completely scattered.[1]

Excited? Outraged? Bemused? Welcome to the dark alternative universe that is Homefront: a brand new video game, released with much fanfare in mid-March. In technical terms, Homefront is an FPS game. (For those with better things to do with their lives, that means First Person Shooter.)

Let the guilty be named and shamed. The developer is Kaos Studios, the publisher THQ. The author—this stuff has authors?—is John Milius. He wrote Apocalypse Now, coined the phrase “make my day,” for Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, and gave us Red Dawn—on which there is more below.[2] A self-proclaimed “zen anarchist”[3] and stalwart of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Milius is buddies with the Coen brothers, who apparently based a character in The Big Lebowski on him: Walter Sobchak, “an infamously bombastic right-winger with an obsession with all things militaristic.” [4] With friends like these…

Cocooned as I am in my own little fantasy world, contemplating the real North Korea (which is bad enough), I’d have been blissfully unaware of all this. But someone from Reuters in Seoul emailed me out of the blue, sent me the timeline above, and asked for comment; which I duly gave him, at some length and in high indignation.

As usual, they only used a couple of sound bites: that “the whole scenario is unutterably ridiculous,” and accusing the makers of “playing on and fomenting a sense of anxiety.” For some reason, my executive summary of the whole farrago as a “piece of shit” failed to make the cut.[5] Strange, that.

Here’s what I wrote, in full. These may be strong words, but they were not unconsidered: 

This sounds a deeply implausible and lurid, not to say rancid, fantasy of sick paranoid minds who know nothing of real Korean or world politics.

My first problem is 2013. What exactly happens? How is Korea reunified?

  • If by force, then obviously no Nobel Peace Prize. And North couldn’t defeat South Korea plus the United States, anyway.
  • If peacefully, then unified Korea would be run by the South, not by the North. South Korea is a staunch U.S. ally, so all this is extremely insulting to them. No wonder they have banned the game.

The whole scenario is unutterably ridiculous:

  • Korea has never been an imperialist, expansionary power. Even today’s nasty North Korea is motivated mainly by defensiveness.
  • Today’s rising power is, of course, China. How, exactly, does Beijing’s influence “diminish” from 2015?

(I suspect this is really about China in some way, but it would be impolitic to cast China overtly as the villain. North Korea makes an easy target and substitute.)

I find all of this deeply offensive and quite worrying. In the real world, nothing like this could conceivably happen. The paranoid fantasies of survivalism appear to be creeping from the margins to infect mainstream U.S. culture.

Either that or cynical games developers who should know better are playing on and fomenting a sense of anxiety. Grown men should know better than to “think” like retarded macho adolescents. The whole thing is sick. Everyone involved in this piece of shit should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Overwrought? As an analyst and ex-academic, normally I’m all for nuance. But there’s also a time to tell it like it is and shoot from the hip. (This tough-guy attitude is catching, ain’t it?)

I’ve since dug deeper. Homefront’s website is a mine of information, if you can stomach it. (The certificate is “Mature” [sic] 17+, and promises “Blood, Strong Language, Violence.”)

Don’t miss the smug developers explaining their work of art, nor the character summaries. Not to mention all the weaponry. Here’s the summary storyline, lest you think I exaggerate:

The year is 2027. Her infrastructure shattered and military in disarray, America has fallen to a savage occupation by the nuclear-armed Greater Korean Republic. Abandoned by her former allies, the United States is a bleak landscape of walled towns and abandoned suburbs. This is a police state where high school stadiums have become detention centers, and shopping malls shelter armored attack vehicles. Join the Resistance, stand united, and fight for freedom against an overwhelming military force in Homefront’s gripping, cinematic single player campaign, and experience epic, ground-breaking, multiplayer action all set in a terrifyingly plausible near-future world. [6]

Terrifying, sure. But plausible? A multimedia version of the timeline above has its moments visually, but doesn’t make this pile of nonsense any more convincing. It starts by seamlessly and shamelessly blurring fact and fiction. A real clip of Hillary Clinton warning of reprisals against Pyongyang for sinking the Cheonan is followed by a fake TV news report of a North Korean nuclear test and Kim Jong Il’s disappearance, both supposedly occurring in 2011.[7]

In 2012, a digitally-altered brief scene of a DPRK mass rally, with a striking huge image of a smoother Kim Jong Un, is spoiled by crass mispronunciation. A gravelly-voiced U.S. announcer intones: “North Koreans greet their new Supreme Leader, Kim Joon-il’s son Kim Joon-un.” How hard is it to utter Jong correctly? There goes the Korean-American market as well.

And 2013? Astonishingly, no attempt whatever is made to explain how Korean unification—evidently on the North’s terms—has come about. All we get is a clip of the rather good Kim Jong Un actor declaiming (in Korean with subtitles, and fist raised): “The plan to reunite our nation will reunite Korean families, industries, and economies!” Cue thunderous applause.

But what plan? Was it a war? Did the South agree or surrender? No answer. A tie-in book by Milius is promised, so maybe that will fill in these gaping plot blanks. Or maybe not.[8] It’s the same for China’s supposed loss of influence in 2015. The PRC flag is simply crossed out, with “Rise and Fall” scrawled across it. How exactly might that happen? No answer.

Speaking of China, my initial hunch turns out to be correct. If you’re going to play paranoid invasion games, then Beijing would make a less ludicrously implausible foe. Sure enough, that was the original casting. The gaming website Kotaku gave the game away in a revealing article on January 13, 2011. Why the switch? As Kotaku’s paradoxical headline put it: “China Is Both Too Scary and Not Scary Enough To Be Video Game Villains.”[9] More precisely, Homefront needed a scary enemy, a nation that gamers could believe would be capable of invading the United States in a decade or so. Russians? No, too 80s. Chinese? The Chinese seemed like good candidates for this and were initially going to be the … villains. Except [as a THQ executive put it]: “China is like America’s factory …Everything you buy is made in China. It’s all friendly. Everything’s made there, from games, to every toy to everything. So they’re not that scary.”

Well, there’s also the other problem with our un-scary friends across the Pacific. They may not be the kind of guys to laugh off some fun American video game about the Chinese invading and oppressing the U.S. of A. [The THQ executive] recalls getting a word of caution from some of the personnel at his company. “The guys in our Chinese office said: Did you know that everybody on the exec team will be banned from coming into China for the rest of your lives? They were afraid the ministry of culture was going to wipe us out.”

So North Korea it is—and not only for Homefront. Exactly the same has happened with the remake of Red Dawn—only belatedly, and much more expensively. This was filmed in 2009 already, with the PRC replacing the former USSR as the dastardly invaders repelled by mid-Western farm kids. But then somebody got cold feet about how Beijing might react:

As result, the filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from Red Dawn, substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.[10]

North Korea makes an easy villain, but that’s no excuse. Everything about Homefront sticks in my craw, especially when they have the nerve to claim plausibility for such utter rubbish.

Cue a certain Tae Kim: a former CIA field agent, now working for Kaos. Kim insists that: “we went to a very rigerous [sic], academic reserach process to make sure to not only look at North Koreas current state but to look at historical examples how things could parallel and turn events.”[11]

And I’m Marilyn Monroe. Why not be honest? All they wanted was some scenario—any scenario, however ludicrous—to lead up to the same old clichéd FPS starting-point. Gung-ho guy, with a gun or three, saves the world by blasting everything that moves. Yawn, yawn.

But why North Korea? Why not three-headed purple aliens from the planet Tharg? Funny enough, an earlier video game called Crysis gives you both: “The player fights both North Korean and extraterrestrial enemies in various environments on and around [an] island.”[12]

Actually this sounds like more fun. Made in 2007 in Germany, it has Kim Jong Chul rather than Kim Jong Un as DPRK leader. He’s made North Korea rich, somehow, but again imperialist. A certain KPA general Ri Chan Kyong takes control of the Lingshan islands, on which there is a mountain containing a huge structure built by aliens with tentacle-like arms. Luckily our heroes have Nanosuits to protect them—but let’s not go there. Enough fantasies already.

Meanwhile Homefront has managed to annoy just about everybody, including people they don’t want to. Advance publicity included a pretend news video which got almost a million hits on YouTube. This too began with Hillary Clinton on the Cheonan, so—as in the famous precedent of Orson Welles’ radio play of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds—some people thought the war was for real. Fool them, maybe, but this is not responsible marketing. (You can, and should, still watch this trailer. Note that they’ve changed the actor who plays Kim Jong Un. The one here looks altogether too preppy and cute to be demonizable.)[13]

In San Francisco on March 2, THQ arranged a rally on North Korean human rights abuses as a product promo. How cynical can you get? 10,000 red balloons, launched into leaden skies, fell into the Bay and bobbed around instead. That really pleased local environmentalists.[14]

Best of all, I’m delighted to report that even as a game, Homefront sucks. It sold 375,000 copies in its first day on sale, but a lot of gamers are unimpressed. One reviewer wrote:

…After being personally subjected to an overwhelming number of posters and billboards, hundreds of balloons, an anti-Korean rally [sic], and a long schoolbus ride to a barbed-wire-laden warehouse, I was disappointed to find that behind this velvet curtain was a pretty flimsy product … It’s almost like Milius wrote “North Korea invades U.S.” on a napkin and called it a day.[15]

Most comments on the same page concur. And while hardcore gamers mostly don’t seem too bothered about political realism, the comments below the Kotaku article cited above have a lively and wide-ranging debate about this and many other aspects. I’m with RiderKick here:

There’s suspension of disbelief, then there’s illogical plot line… Homefront would’ve been better off if the invaders were called Great Asian Empire or Eastern Nations Conglomerate or something, basically saying all of Asia united and became a superpower. It’s a more believable than goddamn North Korea annexing all of Asia. The only reason they put North Korea as the antagonist is because of current day political climate. In other words, they’re trying to stir up controversy as a marketing tool first, while plot believability takes the backseat. It’s like if Michael Bay made Decepticons work with al Qaeda in TF2…

Casting North Korea as the bad guy in Homefront is on the same level as casting Denise Richards as a nookeelar scientist. At least the Bond movie was honest about just wanting someone nice to look at. Sure, Homefront may not try to be the most realistic in political storyline but casting North Korea just screams bullshit controversy to me. Like I said, they could’ve just made an Asian nation coalition. But I suspect that wouldn’t go well with the Chinese and Japanese. So they used the retarded kid who couldn’t answer back as the punching bag.[16]        

As to Japan, Homefront has problems there anyway. With surprising delicacy of feeling, but apparently in thrall to a general principle of not naming real people, Tokyo’s video games ratings board has ordered that all reference to North Korea be deleted. Instead it becomes “a certain country to the north,” and Kim Jong Un is now “Northern Leader.” But presumably the part about Japan itself becoming a vassal of North Wherever in 2018 is still in there.[17]

Thus amended, Homefront is due to go on sale in Japan at the end of April. That was before Japan was hit by a real-life apocalypse. But given the tact and sensitivity that THQ have shown so far in all of this, I dare say they’ll go right ahead with the launch in any case.

To sum up, is Homefront just a game whose players know what’s fantasy and what’s real? I wonder. The makers do their darnedest to blur the difference. That I find sinister.

Or again, have I had a humor bypass? I think not. For the record, and perhaps unlike some at 38 North, I don’t have too much of a problem with Team America: World Police. Subtle, this was not, but the parody was inventive. And I suspect Kim Jong Il really is lonely.

Whereas Homefront is just stupid, and sick. A country where grown men make stuff like this for other grown men to play is not a healthy one. The real North Korea is bad enough, but it is not about to invade the USA—except in the lurid fantasies of the ineffable Kim Myong Chol, soi-disant DPRK spokesman and regular snorter of over-the-top bellicose rhetoric: “The next war will be better called the American War or the DPRK-U.S. War because the main theater will be the continental U.S., with major cities transformed into towering infernos.”[18]

I bet he’ll buy a copy of Homefront. But he’s in Japan, so he’ll have to make do with the censored version where the KPA doesn’t even get the credit for all that mayhem. Bummer.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homefront_(video_game).

[2] For more on Milius’ extensive film output, see http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0587518/.

[3] http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/401/401150p15.html.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Milius; citing http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/trivia (checked).

[5] Jonathan Hopfner, “Resist the North Korean occupation—in new video game” Reuters March 15, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-korea-north-game-idUSTRE72E0VM20110315.

[6] Respectively, in order: http://www.homefront-game.com/videos#dev-diary-1; http://www.homefront-game.com/character; http://www.homefront-game.com/weapons; http://www.homefront-game.com/story.

[7] http://www.homefront-game.com/timeline.

[8] “Homefront Novel Written by John Milius Set to Accompany Game Launch”. IGN, October 25, 2010

http://uk.ps3.ign.com/articles/113/1130326p1.html.

[9] http://kotaku.com/#!5732623/china-is-both-too-scary-and-not-scary-enough-to-be-video-game-villains.

[10] “Reel China: Hollywood tries to stay on China’s good side.” LA Times, March 16, 2011,

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-china-red-dawn-20110316,0,995726.story.

[11] “Interview: Kaos Studios’ Tae Kim on Homefront”, GameReactor 11 June 2010. Typos as in original. 

http://www.gamereactor.eu/articles/3995/Interview:+Kaos+Studios’+Tae+Kim+on+Homefront/.

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crysis. A related video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48b7HlKNcnw.

[13] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN8S94Xo4k8. For the controversy, see “Game advert on YouTube sparks war worry,” http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8222816  (11 March 2011). Another trailer for Homefront can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTmRlo6EHMU.

[14] On the rally: http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2011/02/homefront_north_korea.php (read the comments too).  On the balloons: http://blog.games.yahoo.com/blog/445-balloon-stunt-raises-anger-in-san-francisco.

[15] Peter Galvin, “Gamer: does the dismal ‘Homefront’ have a silver lining?” March 18, 2011,

http://www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision/2011/03/18/gamer-does-dismal-homefront-have-silver-lining.

[16] Loc cit, footnote 9 above. Scroll down the page.

[17] http://www.gamefront.com/japanese-version-of-homefront-loses-references-to-north-korea/.

[18] “Kim’s message: War is coming to US soil.” Asia Times Online, October 6, 2006,

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/korea/hj06dg01.html.

Reader Feedback

49 Responses to “Just a game? Homefront’s sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy”

  1. Sariwon1994 says:

    I fully agree with Aidan Foster Carter. The whole plot of the game is a testament to how little the average American knows about North Korea that they would believe this to be a realistic plot. I personally think the game is the fruit of the culture of post-2008 financial crisis America, where dystopianism, pessimism, disaster survivalism, conspiracy theories and raving paranoia are all widespread. If you want an example of what I mean, just look up Alex Jones being interviewed by Piers Morgan. John Milius is the sort of person I’d expect to be an Alex Jones fan, or at the very least a Glenn Beck fan. I believe that this culture will decline again in the 2020s as the U.S. economy recovers, but Aidan Foster Carter is absolutely right to criticize this rubbish xenophobic infotainment garbage. There is good entertainment satirizing North Korea like Team America, but Red Dawn and Homefront are harmful jingoistic trash promoting paranoid delusions and blurring the line between fact and fiction.

  2. Alex says:

    to add to my previous comment, you also said in the title it was a work of FANTASY.

  3. Alex says:

    It’s just a game, a work of fiction, this guy is overreacting and over thinking the game and the gaming industry.

  4. listen says:

    there are games, as movies, that have people behind the scenes placing clues of upcoming real events, things that none else than them could know.
    The developers are not these people behind the scene, they only follow orders given by someone at higher spheres

    to anyone saying “it’s just a game”,
    please make a small research.
    and if you can see, well,
    welcome to the rabbit
    hole entrance enjoy
    your forthcoming
    journey to
    reality.

  5. Wooyoung says:

    Dongsoo, how stupid are you? We aren’t all that innocent either. Actually if you read about the fact the South Korean Bodo-league massacred over 100,000 civilians, you would have a brain to think the fact that things that happened in the 50s don’t apply now.

  6. geoffrey says:

    Dude its a video game…. a game. Get over yourself.

  7. Robert says:

    Ok people you are taking a VIDEO GAME waaaay to seriously, picking apart the plot and so on. It’s a fictional game meant for people to play, not to live their entire lives by, that’s like me screaming and panicking about an alien Invasian cause I play Halo, it’s ridiculous and a waste of time.
    I played through Homefront, I found it quiet interesting, though I’m not going to start spewing conspiracy theories over it, I mean it’s a game, not a news report.
    I found the visual on the game to be a little more towards the dark-side myself, but I enjoyed that factor, even for such a short campaign the plot had alot of dark moments, but doesn’t mean I think it’s going to actually happen.
    The games are rated MATURE for a reason, and if kids see the games that’s not something the creators should be blamed for, that title falls on the Parents or Gaurdians of said kids.
    You say the game is trying to push people into hating North Korea (from what I gathered), but yet I played the entire game and it’s has nothing to say that this is all fact, plus not to mention most of the news reports are in the FUTURE, which we all know, is unpredictable, so is completely irrelevant to say that that is a direct attack (also you’re picking apart the opening waaay too much, like I said, it’s a GAME) and the gameplay is soo ridiculous and the cut scenes are soo extreme that it’s easy to say “that would never happen in real life, but it looked cool”, I mean a man by the name of Isoroku Yamamoto once said “You cannot invade the mainland of the United States, there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass”, basically the idea of this is game being real is soo ridiculous you would have to be a complete brain-dead moron to think it would ACTUALLY happen, as well as think this is a conspiracy game meant to scare people.
    However, I do see you ranting off trying to attack a simple game for it’s outragous plot. You are the one who’s starting this, you are writing this report to do exactly what you claim this game is trying to do, and that’s start controversy.
    Basically put this report isn’t bringing anything to light, all it’s doing is spewing wild accusations to make the creators out to be korean-hating conspiraters, which it isn’t.
    So thanks for the review, it’s quiet entertaining to see through accusations, and see how ridiculous people get over little things.

  8. NorskeDiv says:

    Dongsoo, North Korea started the war in the first place. The fact they started a war they could not win is their fault. North Korea extensively bombed South Korea, and attempted to do so throughout the war. If it had not been for North Korea, no people would have died in the Korean war.

    And as far as the US army killing civilians in South Korea, it didn’t happen in any systemic manner. At most there were a few cases of retreating civilians being shot at because North Korean soldiers had taken to garbing themselves in Civilian dress and ambushing US military posts. I’d like to see any evidence, not from North Korea, that the US military on a regular basis massacred civilians – such evidence doesn’t exist.

    If you’re going to be angry at someone, be angry at the nutcase who tried to impose authoritarian communism by force. Or be angry at the South Korean leaders who arrested and killed civilians, not the Americans who merely attempted to throw off the North Korean and Chinese invaders while documenting wrongs done by both sides.

    If you want to be angry at someone, you could also be angry at Mao (China), if it weren’t for China invading only about 100,000 people would have died and Korea would have been united. Instead China decided to drag the war on for three more years by all means it had, America merely responded in kind. Oh wait, I know why you are not mad at China, because you ARE Chinese.

  9. glic says:

    If North Korea had the capacity to make a video game where U.S. invades and take over all of Korea, subjugates innocent Korean civilians under military rule like concentration camps, and the mission of the video game was to kill all those evil, savage Americans and save the Korean people, would you say “oh calm down it’s just a game”?
    I’m glad someone was smart enough to write an article like this. Thank you, Aidan.

    hahaha you freaking idiots in the comment section below who think this is “nothing more than a video game”. The big difference between this game and a “James Bond Movie” or “Star Craft” is that real people’s image are at stake, you dumb shits. Do you really think young kids who are susceptible to external influences will learn to “respect” Asian-Americans or Korean-Americans especially after playing a game like this where they shout “KILL ALL KOREANS” “KILL ALL KOREANS”?

    “Few young people are gonna get affected by it so no big deal?” Idiots like you are the ones who let Columbine happen. You are probably one of those idiots who believed that Iraq had mass weapons of destructon just because Bush went on TV and told you so. Keep your mouths shut if you haven’t done any research into how much the media impacts your psyche. Obviously THQ’s primary audience was stupid people like you – who would be smart enough to be excited by a “plausible real-life scenario” but dumb enough to not ask questions about its morality. And I wonder why THQ closed down its South Korean office a couple months before the launch of this game.

  10. Gamebomber66 says:

    I was reading up about it on wiki and they banned it because they did not what to get into a argument with north Korea so they said the easy thing to do was just to ban it

  11. dustin says:

    To every body complaing about the game you need to find somthing better to do if you dont like it dont play it its as simple as that an to the guy who wrote this page complaing about the game you say you have so much better things to do but you obviously dont if your just gonna sit around and complaine about it so you just need to shut up

  12. dongsoo says:

    People, DO KNOW what you see in the homefront is
    exactly the OPPOSITE of what really happened?

    US army did such terrible things you see in homefront during Korean war.

    Over 2 million Koreans were massacred. Northern region of Korea was bombed flat .. some city were bombed to the level where the city were almost erased from the map.

    Civillians were massacred by US army. Not only north side, but southern side too.

    They are all documented.

    Its just hard for you to see the truth, because they are all hidden by flood of false propaganda.

    Pictures you see on the internet where some Korean bodies lying around ARE NOT MASSACRED by North Korean army.

    THEY ARE ALL MASSACRED BY US ARMY!!!

    I feel such rage and evil to see this game made by complete zombies fooled by brainwashing propaganda by US government.

    Dont be fooled.

  13. Snowpaw says:

    Homefront is a pretty run of the mill FPS game. There is nothing really noteworthy about it other then it’s subject matter apparently which seems to be getting under people’s skin. Really the scenario in it is so ridiculous people have a higher chance getting struck by lightning while submerged under water.

    The only fascinating thing about this game are the reactions of people have towards it. It is indeed just a game and one must have indeed nothing better to do in order to be offended by a video game. What about games that depict other countries in conflict? Even if this game is a North Korean wet dream, last I checked such things are legal, no matter how much you think it might be in bad taste.

    The point is, it is just a video game. It is not bound by reality, most games have an unrealistic plot, world, environment, etc. And to be offended by a game like Homefront, just because it involves the North Koreans is quite frankly petty. People think that being offended gives them certain rights and privileges, it’s nothing more then a whine.’This offends me’ Well so F#^%ing what? doesn’t change a thing, take your knocks like the rest of us and get used to it. turn your attention to more practical things that is much more deserving of your brain power. American Idol offends me, I don’t bother watching it but I don’t try to condemn it openly and prevent others from having it.

    I’ll say it once more incase your head is simply too think for it to sink in on the first attempt, IT IS JUST A VIDEO GAME! Nothing more.

  14. Reality says:

    And for another example to respond to the guy below my large response, look at history. The North Koreans are monsters. Look at how there military and government have treated there own people and in previous times. They have done just about almost all the same stuff portrayed in HomeFront. Get over it. Call of Duty World at War portrays Japanese as cruel, which they where, and murderous. Guess who helped make World at War? Japanese people. Get over it.

  15. Reality says:

    O.K. dude, first of all, its just a game. They chose North Korea because it would be “politically incorrect and cause a rouse to use China.” Why? Because China is full of a bunch of whiners that threaten anybody who says “I do not agree with you.” People and government are so chicken now days and want to keep a peaceful union with those freaks that they are afraid to let a possible reality be put into a video game and have China bitch and complain about it. I do agree that a unified Korea could never do this, but once again, its a video game. If you do not like the unreality of it, you might as well complain about Star Craft, and other unreality games. And for my next point, take a look at Call of Duty World at War. You do not see Germany complaining about it. You do not see Japan complaining about this either and guess what, news flash! People in Japan helped make the game, if you look in the end credits. Look at the other Call of Duty’s and Battlefield games. They all include war and acts against Russia and you sure as hell do not see them complaining. This is just an example. And for another example, Unified Korea takes over Japan. Guess who helped make Home Front, Japan. They did not “pick on North Korea because they are an easy target.” They where forced to use Korea because they where forced to. Then we have Korea whining. We have had trouble with China and North Korea from day one so it makes sense to use one of these sides in this game considering so many other titles have used Russia. So, due to the cause and effect of many games using many countries no other has thrown such a fit except China, if Homefront would be using them, and Korea. It proves my point that they are a bunch of whiners that can not take any pressure whatsoever. In Battlefield 3, a Marine shoots his own commander. Why are most of the American populace not irritated by this? Because its not real and we, unlike some countries such as Korea for example, cannot distinguish a video game of unreality from reality. You said you had some problems with how they unify. Look at your history man. North and South have been trying to unify for like ever. And since this is just a game and NOT REALITY, it could have happened by North Korea’s new leader using previous ways and coming to terms. Once again, its a video game and has not happened yet and might not so do not worry about it. It may be stupid to you but guess what, it is not real and niether is Battlestar Galactica. Get the hell over it people! Its just a video game! Its NOT REAL! Most countries who have been placed in these video games have not complained or even thrown as big of a fit as these Asians have. Korea and most of these Asian countries are whiners about anything that slightly goes against them. For the record, I do play Homefront and like it. No I am not a fanboy, just sick of people attacking a certain game when there are other games much worse than this that do not even get a scratch on them. Sorry for the few spelling errors and not dividing into paragraphs. I am kinda rushed right now.

    Cheers!

  16. Byulli says:

    I am glad I am not alone feeling iffy about this game. I am first generation Korean American (my parents immigrated to America) and I have to say, rather than feeling offended by this game, I was in shock and felt scared. The gaming itself was good and I have no qualms about it, however the setting and plot… Oh God where to begin. I feel terrified at HomeFront. It portrays all of Korea as hideous monsters and can actually be used as subliminal messaging that Korea is destructive and imperial.

    I am absolutely thrilled I found your review to know that there are people who understand.

    To those who say “it’s just a game”, that is total bullshit. That just shows the kind of attitude this world does not need. Nothing is ever “just” anything. To you, it may not mean much but there will always be people who are profoundly affected by it. That kind of ignorant attitude is what lets the world become a corrupt place.

  17. Nichols says:

    Truth is now that Kim Jong has passed away this video game has me kind of scratching my head. His successor is Kim Jong Un and the dates seem to be almost accurate.

  18. [...] would make millions, I have no doubt). I wrote about it earlier when it was released and there was controversial buzz around it. Readers will recall that it is a first-person shooter in which you play an American [...]

  19. [...] Foster-Carterhas already written an extensive review of Homefront for 38North (See: Just a game? Homefront’s sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy, March 2011). Since I enjoy playing video games, in particular FPS (First Person Shooters), and [...]

  20. [...] Foster-Carterhas already written an extensive review of Homefront for 38North (See: Just a game? Homefront’s sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy, March 2011). Since I enjoy playing video games, in particular FPS (First Person Shooters), and [...]

  21. TBone says:

    I stumbled across this article after playing the game extensively just to see how plausible the scenario is. Glad to hear so many refute the likelihood of the events presented in the game happening in reality. Whew!

    As a long time gamer and a 40 some year old man, I wanted to share that I really do like this video game. The single player campaign had some rough edges and did not feel complete; however, the multiplayer is superb!

    This is one of the few successful Xbox games where I can play online with up to 32 other players smoothly. I am about the gaming experience and can vouch that this is a fun time!

    So for those who decided to read an old article and all down through the comments to mine, I just wanted to share its a good multiplayer game despite of the storyline. When you are playing online games, who cares what flag the opposing team is virtually waving?

    It is all about people having fun and some people just don’t appreciate that.

    Possibly they do not have time to have fun in their lives anymore. =(

  22. martin says:

    when i first saw this in a store it didn’t seem bad but I wanted to find out more about it and there were a page called the GKR so i decided to check out the timeline the beginning was north Korea exploding a nuke no surprise then old Mr Kim dies and is replaced by his son who is his REAL son and after that he reunifies the north to form the Greater Korean Republic and the world goes to hell naturally it was censured by the PESRB (China) I have played the Chinese version and the KPA has been removed poeple in the west aren’t spared this luxury

  23. Kyromoo says:

    I recently re-read a preview of this game in one of my magazines here in America, and was immediately struck by how out of touch the plot was with how the world is. It sent me searching on google for a debate as to what the general opinion was, and it seems the vast majority either decry it as completely senseless or try to waive it off as ‘just a game’.

    I disagree with the latter and don’t believe that Americans in general feel an anti-asian sentiment. I definitely won’t be paying for such a poor product that tries to depict this plot as realistic. Thank you for your analysis, but I don’t really believe that this game will have the effects on worldview among western countries that you seem concerned with.

  24. Rebelhope says:

    its just a game and it means nothing there is no reason to get riled up about it. it is based on a worst case scenario of what would happen IF the us was invaded by north Korea. in the actual timeline of the game it explains that the us become isolationist and cuts its ties in Asia which is why North Korea could obtain control of a THEORIZED unified Korea. And if u asked me, Koreans r complaining to much. Russians r constantly getting their ass beat in games and never complain while in this game, Koreans r kicking the Americans ass and instead of feeling appreciated that Kaos Studios and THQ finds them strong enough to even do this, they get mad and ban the game for sale

  25. Ray says:

    Thank you. I am glad someone finally said this. I also agree with seoulbrotherno1 that this kind of trash is anti-Asian playing to the fears of America. I have seen the most absurd claims made about the DPRK but this only makes the ability to have a rational conversation about the north that much more difficult. Lets hope this and the new Red Dawn movie do not catch on with the public.

  26. Aidan says:

    ok get real. it’s just a video game. not all video games include plausible events. this game was created for sheer entertainment, not tell what will happen in the future. besides, consumers like the “what if…” factor of video games and movies.

  27. [...] is so thoroughly ridiculous, it hardly bears comment (just read Foster-Carter). I would only add two [...]

  28. Foobear says:

    All of your questions would be answered if you actually play the game.

    It’s actually a very powerful game, with a reasonably plausible storyline, involving a fast expansion of North Korea and several simultaneous disasters hitting America.

  29. Andrey Olfert says:

    I wonder then what’s your attitude to similar South Korean ‘invasion fantasy’ games? For instance, this one: http://ava.pmang.com/ava_frame.nwz?mKey=2&sKey=1

    It’s been in the service since 2007 and it is still in top 20. And what’s interestng here for me is that most of my Korean friends prefer playing NRF side, that is imperialist and expansionary.

    Although there may be no correlation between the side that is chosen and the subiminal support for expansionism (and I obviously don’t have any solid statistical data to check that), it seems to me that in the overall context of how Koreans try to advance their culture in the world the idea that the defensive nationalism of ‘Great Korean Republic’ can turn into something more is not so sick and stupid.

    It is of course not likely to show up due to the existence of China, but the probability of aggressive behaviour of the new united Korea will increase and we should not underestimate that.

  30. [...] hat sich Aidan Foster-Carter auf 38 North aufs Schärfste über ein gewisses Computerspiel aufgeregt und sein Bestes getan, alles an diesem Spiel schlecht oder krank zu finden. Jeder der den [...]

  31. [...] Venturing into what he admits is unfamiliar territory, North Korea expert Aidan Foster-Carter critiques Homefront, which he calls a “sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy.” [...]

  32. [...] to Homefront. The only act more illuminating of the human predicament than making Homefront is an earnest rant that will probably sell more games than dissuade – assuming anyone reads it. Speaking of China, my initial hunch turns out to be correct. If [...]

  33. [...] to Homefront. The only act more illuminating of the human predicament than making Homefront is an earnest rant that will probably sell more games than dissuade – assuming anyone reads it. Speaking of China, my initial hunch turns out to be correct. If [...]

  34. seoulbrotherno1 says:

    It is great to see some more critical response to Homefront. The game’s laughably implausible premise is definitely frustrating, but it is the social and historical context of the game that makes it a real slap in the face to Koreans.

    Socially, the game taps into anti-Asian xenophobia so the target audience (non Asians) can indulge in their fantasies of driving the Asian hordes out of America through pure, unmitigated violence. The premise of the game gives gamers license to commit unrepentant wholesale slaughter against a racialized other -after all they would do it to us anyways, right? (The game insidiously blurs fantasy and reality to make its racial conquest fantasy seem reasonable.)

    This type of debased moral reasoning (“no matter what we do to them it is okay, because these animals would do worse to us”) was exhibited in several US wars in Asia -WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (Afghanistan and Iraq too). Countless Americans rationalized US atrocities in those wars as “reasonable” because “compared to what the ‘enemy’ did, it was nothing.” Unfortunately most Americans are woefully ignorant of US conduct in Korea (it is a “forgotten war” after all). However with a little more information on the US mishandling of Korea, the problems with this game become that much more glaring.

    Here is a link to an article that fleshes this issue out:

    http://www.startribune.com/yourvoices/117755158.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUKcOy9cP3DieyckcUsI

    It is great to see that there are others out there who find this game upsetting. Based on the comments at the Star Tribune, it seemed like the majority of folks embraced the game’s jingoism.

  35. Many thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to comment. Also to several who wrote to me directly.

    As I responded to one of the latter:

    “Being very conscious of landing on a planet
    foreign to me, I ran several risks by writing.

    I do agree that video games as a genre deserve
    proper study. Like literature, they can be good or bad.
    But it may be that since I don’t know this genre and
    its conventions, I am judging inappropriately.”

    So perhaps guilty of overkill. For a more positive view, see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/arts/video-games/homefront-from-thq-review.html?_r=2
    (But I did find this rather shallow, especially for the NYT.)

    Mainly I hoped to start a debate, so again many thanks to one and all; especially those who know the games field better than I do, which is pretty much everybody.

    Cheers
    Aidan FC

  36. Planeswalker says:

    I myself have not played it (yet?) but as far as I saw trailers and scenes from the game, I am also very concerned about its contents, and still don’t know what to really think about it.
    If you consider the story that is presented in a video game as a kind of literature, or just think of “a story” to be something that provokes and pushes borders, I think you might understand it as a kind of dystopia. You can also compare it to movies, like 2009 Lost memories (rather than Team America, as supposed in the article).
    I guess, in the end the “good guys” (Americans?) win against the “bad” North Koreans? Of course, in the (Koreanist) world, there is no necessity for such stereotypes.
    Even though it may be banned in South Korea … South Korean video game players are not that concerned about copyrights than people from other countries are. It will definately be played in Korea for the sake of its “gameplay”, not the story it tells.
    Playing such games is a moral choice everybody has to decide for himself, as it is with reading literature.
    What the game surely does: It will educate young gaming people *in the world* about Korea, many will end up searching at least through Wikipedia in order to get to know background information. There are many clichees against video game players. But players are not stupid, they will question what they see.

  37. squandered adolescence says:

    The choice of North Korea as the “big-bad” has nothing to do with North Korea. Likewise, it’s not about employees at Columbia Pictures or Kaos Studios. This has everything to do with China; no one wants to gravely offend a market of 1.3 billion potential consumers. I think the real story here is US entertainment companies courting the Chinese market, not that they continue to construct implausible narratives to turn a medieval state with a decrepit economy into a global threat.

  38. Mieu says:

    What I heard is that initially they set China as the villain but changed it due to the complaint (and/or fear?) of the Chinese employees in the studio.

    …Which sounds exactly like the Red Dawn remake, right? They really ran out of ideas it seems.

    Another paradox is that everyone except John Milius knows that the story should not be taken seriously. If they aim to do something parody and over-the-top like Command and Conquer: Red Alert that’s fine, but they seemed to take it way too seriously which it just shouldn’t.

  39. A well-reasoned critique/dismissal, particularly in pointing out that the notion of the DPRK peacefully unifying Korea under its aegis is very far-fetched at best.

    However, the idea that “Korea has never been an imperialist, expansionary power” is problematic. Early Joseon was an imperialist power in Manchuria and Tsushima, Goguryeo was an imperialist power (if you classify it as being part of “Korean” history), and one could say that the multiple Korean unifications that have occurred over the millennia have been “expansionist” or “imperialist” projects. Simply because Korea has not been in a position to be expansionist over the past few hundred years does not mean that it will never be so. It would be better to avoid falling into the imaginary that sees Korea as ever virtuous, peaceful, and victimized.

  40. C. Sobieniak says:

    There’s always going to be an enemy, and “Homefront” certainly found that enemy, if only because it had to be the “flavor of the month” (perhaps decade now). These type of games have been around as long as I can remember (if only when I stopped playing games normally back in the 90′s). Too many of these FPS tend to wanna go after a future America that is a bleak, crumbled, barren wasteland for all sorts of reasons, and it’s pretty much all about staking it out as part of some resistance/rebel force (or out on your own in this dog-eat-dog world). Nobody ever wants to do a bright, happy future I wanted to believe in since I was 5, that all pretty much changed by the 1990′s and it’s just been doing downhill since.

    Why couldn’t they made it some pseudo/fake country instead, or do that Asian Empire thing and just not say specifically who is part of that, again, your article hits the mark over Korea being the red-headed stepchild stuck in the middle with no way out. It’s hard in today’s politically-charged world not to think of them in any degrading way besides the facts (whether people know their geography or not).

    I’m 33, I pretty much gave up on entertainment, period, and barely see much on TV besides a news story now and then, so whenever things like these show up, I play the Pollyanna route and ignore it as it doesn’t fit my view of the world at large. I’m sure there’s others like me who feel the same way too, but it’s a shame when you stop and think of those who may think otherwise and consider this the future world we’ll be stuck in eventually.

    And they’re remaking Red Dawn too, I feel it’s time has passed, but then, Hollywood can’t came up with anything better to do rehashing the same tripe for years to come.

  41. [...] 7. Aidan Foster-Carter really dislikes Homefront. [...]

  42. [...] 7. Aidan Foster-Carter really dislikes Homefront. [...]

  43. [...] which North Korea invades the U.S. and actually wins enough support from the anti-U.S. alliance. In this article, the game is criticized left and right. Doesn’t sound scary enough to you? Well, this picture [...]

  44. chris says:

    It’s nonsense, and badly made nonsense at that. The best, by far, way to treat it is to ignore it. As is frequently the case when front-end graphics are put before what used to be called “playability” when I was a gamer fifteen years ago, the result is usually just not very good.

    And besides, if the world is sick because of this game then it is surely sick for a million other reasons, most of them much more worthy of getting excited about. At the margins it might make a few young men feel slightly more ill will towards North Korea than they already do, but if that were sufficient to curtail free speech, we would also have to ban James Bond films.

    I was impressed that Dr Foster-Carter even tried to criticize the plot, though, since I felt that was admirably analytical. Alas, though, also barking up wholly the wrong tree.

  45. Richard says:

    Highly entertaining take-down, although it definitely leans a little towards overkill. Fyi, THQ insisted that those San Francisco promo balloons were 100% biodegradable.

  46. Tad` says:

    “To sum up, is Homefront just a game whose players know what’s fantasy and what’s real? I wonder. The makers do their darnedest to blur the difference. That I find sinister.”

    Homefront isn’t the first game to do this and certainly won’t be the last. There are literally hundreds of first person shooters with highly unbelievable plots that try and blur the difference between reality and fantasy. Flight simulators, strategy games, shooters often employ real actors to create video cut scenes in between play with fake news coverage to increase their sense of plausibility.

    So I don’t think Homefront is particularly unique in its strategy of embellishing politics into an absurd story line. I know its not particularly tasteful, but that’s the nature of these first person shooter games. Wolfenstein sees players fighting mutant Nazis and a crazy Hitler that never died, Command and Conquer against Soviets who won the Cold War and F/18 Korea–a flight simulator in which gamers bomb the living daylights out of the DPRK.

    I think the most objectionable part is the balloon launch though, that is just crass.

  47. cetacea says:

    I, as a game-playing-age male living a few dozen kilometers south of ’38 north’, find your comment on this rather half-assed product very deserving. However, I still think it and media products similar to it are more about a declining empire that the US of A finds itself to have become, rather than any of the ‘foes’ those games and movies etc portray. I mean, Homefront is virtually the siamese twin of Battle:LA, in that the US, while in reality has been waging wars of aggression in several countries (Afghanstan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen to just count a few), is assaulted brutally by foreign forces. And it defends itself with all necessary and some unnecessary dignity and glory. Stuff like this is exhilarating, fun, and perhaps fulfilling for those who do it, but ultimately is futile. And once again, it ain’t about ‘us’. It’s about you.

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Credit for photo of young North Korean girl: T.M. All rights reserved, used with permission.