Heroes of 71: A Game Making Bangladeshis Revisit a Bloody History

‘Heroes of 71: Retaliation’ is an Android game that rewards players for killing Pakistani soldiers as it attempts to take the Bangladeshi youth on a ride of nostalgic patriotism.

Sponsored partly by two Bangladeshi government agencies – ICT Division and the Bangladesh Computer Council – the game was released on Bangladesh’s birth anniversary in 2016.

The third person shooter takes the players on a journey to relive Bangladesh’s bloody past, and in the process proves to be an agent of catharsis for all the pent-up anger from the time of the country’s Independence struggle. 

The Bangladesh Awami League, the current ruling party of the country under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman played a crucial role in the Independence struggle of the South-East Asian nation, and if the game is anything to go by, the party looks in no mood to let its efforts be forgotten by history.

History Retold or State Sponsored Propaganda?

The government funded video game attempts to evoke memories of the Pakistan army’s excesses that gave birth to an uprising of the Bengali-speaking population of the nation. As history books would tell us, this mass uprising – later aided by Indira Gandhi’s tanks during the 1971 Indo-Pak war – had ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Playing on a plot set on the backdrop of the the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, ‘Heroes of 71: Retaliation’ appeals to a generation which grew up listening to tales of brutalities of Pakistan military’s failed bids, such as Operation Searchlight.

(Photo Courtesy: Google Play)

What is the Game Like?

The game – a sequel to ‘Heroes of 1971’ has far superior graphics than its predecessor, according to a review by 1843 Magazine, and features new characters, including Anila, a saree-clad female Guerilla fighter who is seen wielding a gun and killing Pakistani Army personnel.

Towards the later part of the game, players even get the chance to punish members of East Pakistan’s right wing fundamentalist parties who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the tumultuous period leading up to Bangladesh’s Independence.

And from what it looks like, the Bangladeshi youth is relishing the opportunity to kill enemy soldiers, even if it is virtual.

Reviewing the game on Google Play, a player said:

Azmayen Khan1971, I must say is not only a game which proves there are people who love the country. It teaches us how the people of our country fought with enemies. And a big thank you to those who made this game . Well I would like to add this game is success already. 

Use of Nostalgic Patriotism To Win Votes

(Photo Courtesy: Google Play)

Similar reviews suggest that the strong dose of patriotic nostalgia has helped the game become a hit. Data shows the game since its release in 2016 has been downloaded an impressive 4 million times.

But perhaps what is of greater significance are the dividends that the government-backed game is paying off for the country’s ruling party.

Awami League, which over the decades has remained locked in a fight for the the control of the country with the right wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – an ally of Jamaat-e-Islami – a party which had opposed Independence, is proving to be the real winner as ‘Heroes of 71’ has helped it reach out to a new generation of voters by reminding them of the party’s role in the country’s existence.

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