Vietnamese gamers relive victory over French
The first Vietnamese-made war video game was released on Friday, giving players a chance to relive a historic victory over the French army while riding a wave of nationalism in the communist nation.
Hanoi-based developer Emobi Games chose to recreate virtually the French debacle in the northern valley of Dien Bien Phu, the scene of the greatest Vietnamese military victory in modern times.
Players can slay parachutists in the sky, surround the trenches and capture the headquarters of the French Colonel Christian de Castries, who defended the wide and deep valley in vain.
Video gamers in the Southeast Asian country have long been able to play international games targeting World War II Nazis or Red Army soldiers.
But the homegrown "7554" -- standing for May 7, 1954, the date of the final Vietnamese triumph at Dien Bien Phu -- allows them to take on the French from the 1946 start of the Indochina war, although it focuses on the final battle.
"It's not anti-French," Emobi Games head Nguyen Tuan Huy insisted.
The instructions merely invite players to "fire at the enemy," he told AFP.
But the game does not allow history to be reversed with a Vietnamese defeat.
"We wanted to make a game about Vietnamese history. We chose Dien Bien Phu because many people are proud of this victory," he said.
The battle was the pivotal moment in the birth of an independent Vietnam, where a sense of national pride has long been instilled in children at school.
"Throughout the five hours playing 7554, gamers experienced the glorious and moving story of four soldiers," state television recently reported on its evening news.
"It's the first time that a glorious period of the nation's history has been brought to the computer."
But critics say such a bloody event should not be exploited commercially.
"History is not a game, when it involved life and death and bloodshed," said Dang Duc Tue, co-author of a 2010 book published in France and Vietnam to give a voice to Vietnamese veterans of the battle.
Emobi Games says its team of about 20 developers, aged between 23 and 33 years old, paid close attention to the historic details of the fight, right down to the uniforms.
The firm had to stick closely to the official history of the Indochina War to obtain the green light from the authorities.
Young Vietnamese "will get a lot of information, comparable to those in books of high school students," said Nguyen Tuan Huy.
But Dang Duc Tue argued: "It is not a good way to learn history. Even if on a symbolic level it is an important victory, it's just a battle. The war continued afterwards until the 1970s."
Vietnamese players, however, are more concerned about 7554's technical quality, judging by comments posted on Youtube where a trailer for the game has been watched by more than 100,000 people.
The Vietnamese video game industry is still in its infancy and one poster said the graphics were "outdated" and the animation "poor", describing the creators as "amateurs".
Another agreed the graphics were not good but said Vietnam was "not rich compared with other countries", so he would support the game to help local industry take off.
The developers spent 17 billion dong ($800,000) over three years on the title and hope to launch it online worldwide in February, including a subtitled version in France, despite fears of an unfavourable reception there.
Even so, some might accept the idea.
"As a Frenchman, I was quite angry when I saw it," said a comment posted on the Internet. "But after all there are many games where you have to kill Germans or Russians and they are not complaining. It's just a video game."
© 2011 AFP