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Can’t wait to turn Taliban in Medal of Honor?

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2010-08-25

Allowing gamers to take on the persona of Taliban fighters seeking out US soldiers is exactly why new videogame “Medal of Honor” is eagerly awaited by gamers and, in equal measure, dreaded by politicians.

Millions of Westerners may soon be turning virtually into Taliban fighters. On October 12 (October 15 in Europe), game-maker Electronic Arts (EA Games) will see Medal of Honor on the shelves in gaming stores across the Western world. Gamers who manage to get their hands on a copy will then be free to turn themselves into virtual Taliban combatants, and battle against others playing American soldiers.

The format has sparked anger from many in the West, including several politicians. British Defence Minister Liam Fox called for an outright ban on the game in the UK.  "At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands”, he said. “It's hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game.” EA stressed that the game does not feature British soldiers.
Rightwing US TV channel Fox News has launched a full-blown campaign against Medal of Honor, inviting the mother of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan to appeal against the game on set. TechCrunch points out that the game will garner even more attention due to the timing of its release. Concerning November’s mid-term elections in the US, it wrote: “If you don’t think politicians looking for easy points won’t go after the game…” 
Ongoing conflict
Last week, EA defended itself and ruled out giving up on the game. “In a conflict like this, someone has to be the bad guy”, EA Games president Frank Gibeau said. A spokeswoman for the company told Britain’s Sunday Times that the game’s format "merely reflects the fact that every conflict has two sides”.
Playing the baddie has always been popular with video gamers, and the virtual trenches of World War II have been inundated with blood-thirsty players for some time. The difference with Medal of Honor is that the conflict in question is still going on. According to games website Eurogamer, “While bloodshed is still going on in Afghanistan, it’s a bit disturbing to be picking up trophies in virtual bloodbaths that look like the real battlefields”.
Controversy please
The controversy being whipped up by the game is not unlike the hullabaloo that came with the release of Call of Duty – Medal of Honor’s main rival in the war-gaming world. In one of the missions, players were obliged to take on the role of a terrorist charged with a mass shooting inside an airport. The slaughter of innocent civilians did not go down well with critics, and game-maker Activision finally decided to make that particular scene optional.
It’s largely thought that this sulphurous aspect of Call of Duty is one of the reasons it went on to sell seven million copies, making it the world’s biggest selling videogame. If EA Games is trying to replicate the technique intentionally, then it might be pushing its luck by taking on the present day’s most sensitive conflict.


Date created : 2010-08-25