The Battle for Aleppo, Video Game Edition

Murtaza Hussein has a fascinating piece up on “Rage Wind”, a new short film on the recent battle for Aleppo:

ISIS exploded into the popular consciousness of many Americans following a series of videotaped executions of Western hostages. Those images have become grimly iconic of the Syrian conflict to many in the West — but ISIS is only one of many parties producing its own media about the war. The video produced by Ahrar al-Sham eschews the blood and gore that is ISIS’s signature, turning the subjects of the film into identifiable characters and imitating the storytelling style of traditional war movies.

The film bears an easy and purposefully resemblance to multi-player video games, but the camera movement evokes Saving Private Ryan as much as Call of Duty. The coupling of distinct cinematic and gamer aesthetics is what makes Rage Wind visually compelling.

To me, though, the main takeaway of the film is how ubiqitous smartphones and HD cameras are on the battlefield now. More and more it feels like Syria will go down as the first smartphone war: not just in the sense that Syria bears the same relationship to smartphones that Crimea or the US Civil War bear to photography, but in the sense that the smartphone itself has become a kind of battleground in its own right. The parties are no longer competing over territory alone, if they ever were. They’re also investing heavily in a competition over how the war is experienced and consumed on a four inch piece of glass.