Medal of Honor Controversy: Should it Be Talibanned?

(Bonus points if you can name the episode of South Park the title references.)

First person shooters just can’t catch a break when it comes to the issue of realism. First, the most recent Operation Flashpoint sucked, and now the newest Medal of Honor is coming under fire for being based not just in a realistic setting (The Afghan War) but also for letting players play as the Taliban in multiplayer.

Honestly, I don’t know why EA didn’t see this coming. Did they not remember the lambasting that Six Days in Fallujah received when it was nearing its release? And to my knowledge that one didn’t even give you the option of shooting up American soldiers as Medal of Honor does. EA should have known from the get go that they were courting controversy, and hey, maybe that was their intention.

The market is pretty well flooded with first person shooters right now, and those of the “modern warfare” variety are a dime in a dozen. Chances are that had the multiplayer set up competitions between “Generic Army A” and “Generic Army B” like most others it would have flown right under the radar of the gaming community. By making it an interactive bout between American soldiers and the Taliban however, the game has been drawn front and center into the consciousness of the industry. You can bet that for every person turned off by the prospect of pumping US soldiers full of lead, there’s going to be five more made curious by the possibility.

Which isn’t to say that’s right. It does strike as a bit morbid. One could literally be playing this game, pop on CNN between matches and read up on the latest death toll in the war they’re simulating. From this angle I can see where some people, especially those who have lost loved ones or still have some overseas could be made a bit uncomfortable. It might be fair to say that this is a bit tasteless on EA’s part. Especially since unlike Six Days in Fallujah which was made to convey the experience of that battle as realistically as possible, Medal of Honor seems more to be just borrowing the setting for its own purposes.

Then again, that is their right and this wouldn’t be the first shooter to ever be based realistically on a real life war. The Medal of Honor series cut its teeth on imitating World War 2. And while some might make the argument that there is a difference between making games about wars past and wars current, I imagine there are some WW2 veterans out there who would feel differently. Imagine how a survivor of D-Day might feel watching a gamer gleefully play through a recreating of the Normandy landings?

Moreover, video games are not the first medium to offer portrayals of wars as they are happening. World War 2 era film is filled to the brim with films based in the war itself. Even Donald Duck got in on the propaganda game. The Iraq War produced an Oscar winner in The Hurt Locker. Where were the Gold Star moms when that was reminding soldiers and their families of the dangers overseas?

One could argue that the difference is interactivity, and moreover that you’re given the option of playing against American soldiers, but even in the Modern Warfare subgenre this is nothing new. Did anyone have any misconceptions that you’re multiplayer opponents in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Battlefield: Bad Company were supposed to occasionally represent Americans? The only difference here is that you’re openly playing as the Taliban.

How much of a difference would it really make if the names were changed? If the visuals were switched around? An American by any other name is an American and the Taliban is still the Taliban no matter what you call them.

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10 Responses to Medal of Honor Controversy: Should it Be Talibanned?

  1. Pete says:

    Six Days In Fallujah didn’t invite controversy because of insurgents, it was because of a series of DU-Saturated massacres by US forces that skyrocketed infantile cancer by 600-1000% in the city and killed thousands of women and children. Its funny that this guy thinks that people were offended by the inclusion of Iraqi guerillas. No, y’see, its Americans and their cowardly atrocities that were too much for people. As for this game, yeah, it offends me, but not because I get to play as Afghans in MP, rather than the propagandistic bullshit of SP, killing Afghans who had nothing to do with 9/11. Israel and the CIA pulled off 9/11.

  2. A Muslim says:

    As a Muslim gamer who comes from that part of the world, I beta tested the game to check it out and the Taliban characters are as generic as you can get. With almost everyone in that part of the world dresses the same way in the typical shalwar kameez, a turban on the head and a big scruffy beard.

    AK-47s are not proprietary to the Taliban, it’s as common as brandishing an iPhone or BlackBerry stateside.

    While I appreciate the sensitivity the current conflict has especially on those who have loved ones in the theater, I don’t believe this is an ethical argument to ban the game or change the Taliban side.

    If this is was done, then how do all the previous war games justify representing Germans being mowed down, Viet Cong being roasted and Russians nuked in realistic FPS and RTS games?

    The games I’ve played: Wolfenstein series, previous COD series, MoH series, Battlefield series, Joint Task Force, World in Conflict, VietCong 1 & 2, Janes Combat Simulations (all games), Janes Fleet Command, Janes Sub Command.

    The difference? In those games the player usually played the American side and had to win the mission or the game. So is it justified as long as the Americans win?

    There might be freaks who play the game then flip on CNN to tally their scores, but there are freaks everywhere who do dumb things. To let their foolishness dictate us is to only give credibility to their stupidity.

    I believe majority of the gamers are mature enough to seperate reality from fantasy no matter how photoreal or next gen the games may get.

    Besides, don’t such games already have an Mature rating?

    • Stew Shearer says:

      Excellent response! Thank you so much for your thorough and intelligent insight.

      I heartily agree that no matter the discomfort level for some, no work of fiction be it film, book, music or a video game should ever be subject to censorship. If people don’t like the content of games like this, no one is forcing them to play it.

  3. A Muslim says:

    Another excellent RTS series: Blitzkrieg.

  4. yodas earwax says:

    It’s worth a conversation, but at the end of the day, if it offends you, don’t buy it.

    After seeing the sniping single player footage from the game, I can’t wait to pop some heads off of some insurgents. If you’re offended by my comments, don’t read them. lol.

    I’ll prob not play the mp though; I already own Battlefield BC2.

  5. Max says:

    Personally, I would like a taliban campaign, but I fully understand that the ignorant bigots would not allow the slightest hint of sympathy to the taliban. And no, my ancestry is not middle eastern, but about as close to 100% european as you can get.
    There are two sides to every war, and the one side must not be ignorant to the other.
    In this rendition of medal of honour, the player can play multiplayer using meshes and sound files of the taliban, which really is very insignificant.
    I’m absolutely certain however that the fox headline we will all hear on release will be
    “terrorist simulator now on sale”. Pathetic.

    • Stew Shearer says:

      I think you can be sympathetic toward people though without sympathizing with a group. We’re lying to ourselves if we truly think that all the young men fighting alongside the Taliban are horrible people or even there by their own will. I can understand feeling that way, especially if you have a loved one overseas potentially being shot at by a Taliban rebel but the world is simply not that black and white most of the time.

      But as you said, it would never be allowed.

  6. Samurai says:

    Seriously. You people that keep comparing games to movies need to stop talking because you sound like little kids. A majority of you probably are.

    When you watch a movie … or a cut scene from a game … you are experiencing the actions from a script. You have no control in the outcome of that, and I would hope watching a terrorist killing a soldier from your country would piss you off. But when you are given the ability to make a decision on whether those soldiers are to live or die, that is a completely different premise.

    Look. I’m in support of a game company given the freedom to create whatever game they want. But I’m shocked that there are so many gamers ripping other people for not supporting the content of this particular game. BC2 … you are either US or Russian in multiplayer. Being a Russian isn’t evil. Being Muslim is not evil. Being part of the Taliban is. Being German is not evil. Being a Nazi is. The complaint that people are having is why would you want to play as a part of an evil group? Playing BC2 is somewhat weird when playing as a Russian killing US soldiers, but I can sympathize with a Russian soldier defending their country. How can you sympathize with terrorists blowing up innocent people, which they are doing when they’re not killing soldiers from the rest of the world.

    It’s acceptable to post your opinion on why you think this isn’t all that bad. But you have no right to belittle people doing the same thing that you are doing in posting opinions on the content of the game.

  7. Daniel Selberg says:

    im just 16 but i play these games with my friends. we play the game to have a fun tactical experience without having to care about politics and such. i mean we might even prefer playing as the taliban, not because we like acts of terrorism, but maybe because we prefer using a team specific weapon. im swedish and one of my friends father was in ISAF in Afghanistan and he even pre-ordered the game for his son. for us videogames will always be videogames, seperate from reality. sorry if i mispelled anything but as i said im only 16 and swedish

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