Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cuban video game recreates revolutionary history

Cuban programmers have unveiled a new 3D video game that puts a distinctly revolutionary twist on gaming, letting players recreate decisive clashes from the 1959 uprising in which many of their grandparents fought.

Fight your way through swamps shoulder-to-shoulder with bearded guerrillas clad in the olive green of Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Your mission: topple 1950s Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Out to foil you are Batista soldiers and police who pop out from behind trees and fire from trucks and farmhouses. You pick them off with a vintage Colt .45 or Springfield rifle. If you're hit three times, it's revolution over.

"The player identifies with the history of Cuba," said Haylin Corujo, head of video game studies for Cuba's Youth Computing Club and leader of the team of developers who created Gesta Final – roughly translated as "Final Heroic Deed". "You can be a participant in the battles that were fought in the war from '56 to '59."

The game begins with the user joining the 82 rebels who in 1956 sailed to Cuba from Mexico aboard the Granma.

After a brief description of the landing – a spectacular disaster that very nearly derailed the rebellion when three-quarters of the Granma's passengers were killed – you find yourself wading through the wetlands of south-eastern Cuba surrounded by fellow guerrillas identifiable by the black and red armbands of the revolutionary movement.

The keyboard-operated game has five levels, most named after battles like La Plata and El Uvero, and the scenery is full of ancient vehicles and the ferns, canebrakes and mountain trails typical of the Cuban countryside. A soundtrack of gunshots and explosions accompanies the action.

The gamer never reaches the palace to take on Batista, as the main goal is to survive through to level five, which recreates the key second battle of Pino del Agua months before Batista's departure.

The game lets you pick from three player profiles, one in an olive hat similar to the one Fidel Castro was known for, another wearing a Guevara-style beret and the last with the kind of helmet worn by the ill-fated Camilo Cienfuegos in many revolution-era photographs. Programmers said that they're not meant to be exactly like the three famed rebel commanders.

"We didn't want the characters to identify any revolutionary leader, but we did want it to frame the moment," Corujo said.

This article originally appeared in the Guardian

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Going over the top because of a visit to Cuba

Beyonce with Cuban school children
If you typed "Cuba" into your browser last night, you might have thought that by mistake you'd entered "beyonce jay z cuba," given the pages and pages of media reports on the power couple's visit to the island. It appears to be, for the media, the most important event this year concerning US-Cuba relations; not because of the fame of the visitors, but because some ultra-right denizens of Miami went over the top in chastising the pair.

If you guessed that we mean Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, you're right. They are among the many whose careers depend on maintaining the blockade. They were joined by the similarly blockade-dependent professor Jaime Suchlicki, of the University of Miami.

The scholar compared Cuba to Nazi Germany, without explaining the parallel. Ros-Lehtinen decried the torture going on in Cuba, without mention of a single particular.

A few opinions on the Web did mention that the blockade itself is what is wrong in this picture, or pointed out the immense hypocrisy of those who are wringing their hands over the trip. And there is plenty of hypocrisy.

For example, Cuba has not ever launched a blitzkrieg like the one the US unleashed against Iraq (at the time, it was called proudly "shock and awe"), without justification and contrary to international law. To our knowledge, Prof. Suchlicki has not challenged the war against Iraq or the decade-long occupation of the country. Not one of Cuba’s neighbouring countries is afraid of being attacked by Cuba, and all of them except the US oppose the blockade.

Neither Suchlicki nor the Congresswoman have spoken out against the tortures that the US applied around the world as standard procedures, in secret sites and in blatant violation of the International Convention Against Torture. Neither she nor Diaz-Balart have demanded an investigation of the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike who are being kept in prison in Cuba, perhaps for the rest of their lives, even after being cleared for release. Torture has indeed taken place in Cuba, and massively, but that was in Guantanamo Base, and it was applied by the CIA and the Pentagon. The force-feeding of the desperate captives is taking place there also, now.

The personalities mentioned claim the moral standing to sustain the blockade against Cuba after more than half a century. Even Diaz-Balart, who never mentions that his father was a close associate of dictator Fulgencio Batista, or that his father and his uncles became rich from working with the dictator and the Las Vegas mafia.

Fortunately, theirs is not the only opinion on the matter. More and more people from the US are visiting Cuba in person to see what it's like. Thanks to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, millions of people who had not followed previously the issue of the blockade are now discovering it. They are also discovering the people who want to keep other people of the US from travelling to the island where the famous entertainers were received warmly, not at all like enemies.

This article originally appeared at La Aborada