The videogame that predicted ISIS

Left, prince Kassad from GLA. Right, Khalif Baghdadi from ISIS

Released in 2003, Command and Conquer: Generals was a PC game that revolutionized the way people played real-time strategy games, with better graphics than any of its predecessors, and a gameplay that has people playing it in LAN parties until today. Players got to build an army, aircraft, defenses and super weapons in attempts to wipe the enemy player(s) off the map. The game’s campaign story revolves around three factions:

  • The US
  • China
  • GLA — short for the Global Liberation Army or جيش التحرير العالمي Jaysh al-Tahrir al-Alami in Arabic.

The game’s events kick off in 2013, with an all out war between the above three factions in places like Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan and others. Upon its release, the game received a 9.1/10 score from IGN, and was banned in both Germany and China.

From the game’s wikia page, it reads that the GLA is a “violent non-state actor formed in the 21st century, in opposition to the hegemony of the United States of America. The highly decentralized organization incorporated various groups of insurgents, terrorists, self-styled freedom fighters, members of the criminal underground and other people supportive of their cause under the common banner. The GLA’s rapid expansion and aggression triggered a global conflict with the nations it opposed. GLA leaders did not abide by rules of military conduct and routinely targeted civilian populations, up to and including terror attacks utilizing weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, State actors also continued in their war campaigns which hit the civilian element regularly, intentionally, and unnecessarily, providing them with no greater element of ethics in their warfare.”

Does this read like ISIS to you? Because wait, there’s more.

In the game, the GLA received funding from wealthy sheikhs and tribal leaders, ( such as Prince Kassad, who is actually a playable character in the game’s expansion pack) and often robbed UN foreign aid supplies, just like what ISIS is doing at the moment. The GLA’s strongest “super” weapon is a SCUD missile, like the one showed by ISIS in the picutre below*.

In Command & Conquer: Generals, once Dr. Thrax — the old GLA leader with a bad taste in nicknames — presumably died, there was wiggle room for all of the GLA leaders situated around the globe (Prince Kassad, General Mohmar, etc.) to fight for their own version of the unclear ideologies that the GLA pushed. This temporary power vacuum before the resulting infighting is similar to the Al Qaeda spinoff factions that rose to power in Syria after the death of Bin Laden (ISIS, Army of Mujahedeen, Al Nusra, etc).

The truth is stranger than fiction: The characteristics of the GLA were inspired by a post 9–11 world in fear of chaotic terrorism at every corner, and although the game’s storyline playing out in reality is most definitely a coincidence, it’s amazing how close it rings home.

*US officials have mentioned that this missile is not likely operational.