So, it appears that the most recent news that comes to my attention after I go to Comic-con in New York City is that a British Defense Minister to asked a whole country to boycott this game mainly because the game’s features the ability to allow you to play as the Taliban in a modern setting. The game is a modern setting war-game FPS featuring American and British forces fighting against the extremist political organization defined by their control and associations with anti-capitalist terrorism force Al-Queda and Osama Bin Laden. Electronic Arts has decided to ignore their threats to remove the content, claiming that there is a very good reason to have it; two sides of every war should be properly represented. The tension is growing, but the game’s release on October 12th is slated for PC through Steam, PS3 and 360.
Now, I won’t say that people don’t have a right to be angry. Many lives have been lost, and many more will still if this war proceeds…which as a concerned gamer and journalist I wish not to happen. Public outcries against the death and decay are part of our freedoms as human beings, and they have every right to make their voices heard. Many people are still jaded about being harmed physically and emotionally by terrorism perpetrated against the USA as well as Great Britain. The idea of a game allowing what most unhappy, irate parents and military families see as the enemy that took their loved ones and there’s good reason for backlash.
That being said, I want to make something clear to all these people. Especially those who have not played a videogame before and know very little about the industry; It is a game. While I admit that any form of any medium can have an agenda that appeals to a wider demographic with a veiled social or cultural message (videogame examples include Saints’ Row and the later Call of Duty games when you actually get down to the grit of action conflicting with politics), that message is placed in a medium which is essentially escapism to allow a person a good time. The fact that we are making our games more realistic about our views is something to be commended while they are still games and will allow people to enjoy them. People who have a problem with this game’s multi-player seem to misinterpret a very basic concept; let us say I play Mouse Trap with my friends one night. I manage to get to the end, and then someone comes in through the window from the PETA, screaming cruelty of animals. Now, if this was a real mouse I was trapping in a twisted version of the game, they might have a point. However, all I have to do is show the little plastic figurine and cardboard cheese pieces to stave them off. Medal of Honor is no different; while players do tend to be more aggressive during play of an FPS, they distinguish fantasy from reality by holding a plastic controller in their hands. They aren’t carrying a gun. There’s a piece of electronics called a television where they are viewing all of the action second-hand, just from that person’s eyes. The person who bought this game has to place a disk within a system to play the game, which precludes any reaction which might be considered harmful. It is a game.
Now that has been said, and I must turn to the game designers at this point. Yes, my friends, it is a game. However, a game is also a interactive visual medium that costs millions of dollars to produce nowadays, and gaming is an industry with several eyes upon it. Without question, the blame is on two fronts here, as developers should have expected this controversy when they released the game. For some reason, either EA refuses to do their research or they find their masses to be unintelligent idiots, which the gaming community on the majority would ask you to believe as wholesale. This is a lesson disguised by those who have failed before; always do your research when you make a game for greater quality.
If the game is on fictional, established ground like new mascots or RPGs, look at what your competition has done before you in terms of narrative and gameplay. Adapt from those ideas, and shape new ones based off the foundations of the old for innovation. For a more realistic and historical period, do not ignore those on the other side. EA, you claim there’s another side to every war. That’s absolutely right, and that should be explored when you mention your ability to do so when you press release the game. Why hide it? Direct exposure would draw surprise and some hostility, but then you appear to have nothing to hide when you show it yourselves.
With your game as an example, make a single-player campaign where you play as a Afghanistan military officer or insurgent. Show the players what they are fighting for on that side, what the turmoil is like, what the propaganda and the hostility and tension is like. They will be more informed gamers. They will thank you for a new experience, and will likely come back to play more of your work.
Perhaps everyone should just take a step back, and actually listen. Games are games, the medium makes a message, and there can be compromise. This is a reason why the first amendment rights of games are being tried in the first place. Miscommunication leads to disarray and chaos when both sides have a fair say. Why not open our ears? It’s only noise. It can’t hurt you.