Electronic Arts’ new “Medal of Honor” video game, which is scheduled for release on Oct. 12 on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3, has been raising eyebrows all the way from London to a GameStop near you.
Last week, the commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange, Major General Bruce Casella, announced that the popular title will be banned from all Post Exchanges on U.S. Military bases across the globe. Following suit, GameStop declared that the game will be banned from at least 49 different branches in the United States.
The game has even agitated military leaders from across the globe. British Defense Secretary Liam Fox issued a statement urging British retailers to refrain from stocking the “un-British” and “tasteless product.” According to a Sept. 2 issue of the New York Times, Canadian and New Zealand politicians have also raised a red flag.
What is it about the new “Medal of Honor” that is causing such a ruckus? For starters, it’s a war game. There has always been a mix of skepticism and artistic acceptance surrounding the controversial genre. However, there was hardly any traction over the “Medal of Honor” series, which is comprised of 12 games based on World War II, prior to the upcoming title release.
If you haven’t already heard, the new “Medal of Honor” is based on the current Afghanistan war. The game takes place during Operation Anaconda, America’s response to the 9/11 attacks. In the story mode, or single player campaign, gamers play as “the good guys” and take out Taliban forces. But in traditional “Medal of Honor” fashion, the multi-player and online mode allows you to choose whose side are you on. Gamers can choose to be the “good guys” or “bad guys,” the American troops or the Taliban.
Naturally, parents of lost soldiers went into a frenzy, complaining that the game is insensitive and distasteful in several media outlets, including abcnews.com. The idea that a couple of guys can laugh over a beer as they shoot at American forces on Xbox Live simply doesn’t sit well with too many people.
For that precise reason, Casella called for all the domestic U.S. military bases to keep the title out of sight.
But the UR gaming scene seems to be unfazed the “Medal of Honor” controversy.
“You should be able to pick what side you want,” senior and “Call of Duty” fan Akeem Simpson said. “That’s what made ‘Medal of Honor’ good. But of course it’s controversial. I’m sure a lot of people are going to pick the Taliban for the heck of it.”
Several student employees from the Hive argued that it’s nothing more than a video game, and that people should not look at it as anything more than entertainment. EA’s top spokesman Jeff Brown argued along the same line. In an online press release, Brown said that EA’s critics are overlooking the point of playing war video games.
“The job is to match wits with the other humans on the other end of the Internet and defeat them through coordination, tactics and execution under pressure,” he said. “The actual identities of the combatants are no more meaningful of black and white in a chess game.”
Brown also stressed that players will not be able to play as the Taliban in the campaign modes. Thus, it is technically impossible for the Taliban to win the simulated war. In the modes that gamers can play as the Taliban, online and multiplayer, the game is absolutely storyless.
But that isn’t good enough for the handful of parents who have made complaints to EA in the wake of the game’s release. Some parents are concerned that young gamers may get a false perception of the war and think that it is OK to side with the Taliban. But Brown thinks otherwise.
“Someone is the bad guy,” he said in EA’s press release. “When the robbers won, it didn’t mean those kids wanted to kill the police.”
New York Times’ video game enthusiast Seth Schiesel pondered whether the real issue with the game is the idea that the Taliban are a military force that can match and strain U.S. forces in virtual combat. He then raised an interesting question: is the real problem the fact that it is possibly true?
Despite the mixed attitudes and clashing opinions, “Medal of Honor” will hit the shelves on Oct. 12. Then you can decide whose side you’re on.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.