Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to video games and whether they are true or false.
VIDEO GAME URBAN LEGEND: Iraq was using Playstation 2 to help develop their weapons systems.
The second edition of Sony’s popular video game console, PlayStation, was released in 2000. Through various delays, only a million or so people had purchased consoles by the end of 2000, making it an extremely hard to find item, especially for Christmas 2000.
Right in the middle of all the fears of the shortage of PlayStation 2′s was the report in December of 2000 by WorldNetDaily that Iraq had imported 4,000 PlayStation 2s!
The WorldNetDaily report tied in with some reports that had come out when the game was first released. When the PlayStation 2 was first produced, the Japanese Ministry of Trade had to approve of its release outside the country because of two aspects of the console.
1. It had a powerfully encrypted memory card. Anything over 56 bit encryption has to be approved by the Ministry before it is exported from Japan. PlayStation 2 had a 128 bit encryption. Sony said it needed the encrpytion to keep people from making copies of videos or music.
2. The central procession unit (CPU) of the PlayStation 2 had impressive graphics processing. It theoretically could be used as the “eyes” of a missile guidance system.
WorldNetDaily argued that that is why Iraq was importing all of these PlayStations, because the “toys” would be able to pass by any weapons embargo placed on Iraq.
It’s certainly an interesting story, but for one, the Ministry of Trade DID end up approving all of the PlayStations to be exported out of the country, so they were not too worried about it, and in addition, military leaders decried the fact as nonsense, as there was no shortage of other places where you could get CPUs as powerful as PlayStation 2 and that most of these items were commonly sold in Iraq already (which was a big part of WorldNetDaily’s position – the unsupported position that PC equipment is banned in Iraq) and if you really wanted to get at CPUs, there were heck of a lot more efficent ways of doing it than importing and taking apart a bunch of PlayStation 2s.
And, of course, as time bore out, Iraq did NOT end up doing anything with the PlayStation 2s, so there’s that, too.
It’s a really interesting story, though!
The legend is…
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is email@example.com