My goal was to state that you can’t combat violence with more violence and that’s it. I didn’t want to say that either side is good or bad or to reflect any specific view about Arabs, Muslims, Israelis, Jews, Americans, U.S. foreign policy, etc. (even though, since the game is open ended, each player will fill in the blanks by herself). That is quite funny, because when I started thinking about the game, in late 2002, what I had in mind was basically the War on Terror in Afghanistan. But a lot of people saw in it a depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the current war on Iraq. Another interesting thing is that the game’s launch (late September) happened at the same time that the Iraq war was resulting in more and more American casualties and the U.S. public started wondering if so many body bags were worth it. A lot of people read the game in this way, too.
With video games, and particularly with open-ended simulations, the author simply sets the limits and certain parameters. It is a genre where you have to trust your players and, more importantly, be aware that games, unlike stories, do not have to hit their target always. A joke or a story, you either get it or you don’t. But games are about repetition, so you may experience a lame match of a great game, only to later have great experiences with it. My advice to designers: trust your players and don’t worry too much if they read the game differently from what you intended; the fact that they can read it personally means that they can construct with it something that is important to them, and that is the most clear sign that your game has succeeded.