ISIS has turned to very sophisticated video games as recruiting tools to attract new followers and galvanize it as an organization that uses terror, murder and destruction to reach its goals.
The video games are in the same vein as its propaganda videos, mimicking those produced by western gaming companies, advertising agencies and even Hollywood.
Some of the videos and games are almost direct copies – characters, scenes and memes contained in popular video games and music videos. These include Hunger Games, American Sniper, Call of Duty and Grand Auto Theft.
Javier Lesaca, from the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs says that by copying popular western culture, ISIL is engaging directly with its intended audiences and desensitizing its bloody work. The games and videos make terror seem glamorous and its victims either just actors or those who deserve to be killed.
“In the case of ISIS videos showing executions, 40 percent feature highly salient cultural images. By doing this, ISIS transforms victims of terrorism into actors in Western popular cultural products, aimed at engaging with their global audiences and making terror popular,” he says.
Leseca has analyzed 845 videos produced by ISIS between January 2014 and September 2015, and found that 15 percent of them have been inspired by actual western movies and video games.
He describes ISIS use of videos and video games as “marketing terrorism – new phenomenon of unpredictable consequences” and something that no terror group has ever done on such a scale, quality and with defined strategy and audience.
“ISIS is following an unprecedented and sophisticated audiovisual strategy, consisting on the massive elaboration and distribution of audiovisual images that are highly salient and resonant in the culture of their targeted audiences,” says Leseca.
“The ISIS communication strategy poses a new challenge in the fight against terrorism. For the first time in modern history, a terrorist group is talking directly to its target audiences on a daily basis in their own mother tongue, and in their own cultural language.”