FoxNews.com is carrying the story about the new multi-player video game release Medal of Honor where players could choose to be on the American side or be on the side of the Taliban. Due to protests from veterans organizations and the US military, Electronic Arts decided to drop the option for players to jump into the roles of the jihadists. The game scenario takes place in modern day Afghanistan and thus the concern was promoting the pretend roleplaying of Islamic extremism and a general disrespect for those who gave their lives in the current conflict.
This story is a little hard to gauge as game playing often has kids taking the good and bad sides of real battles. Often they are perceived roles as in “Cowboys and Indians” since we know cowboys were not all that good, but just the same there is a tradition of role reversals in group game playing. The question is, would anyone play as a Taliban member? This would be similar to playing a World War 2 game and wanting to play a Nazi. There may be some morbid fascination with doing so but generally speaking I would guess that among peers very few people would be volunteering to be Nazis or Taliban fighters.
That begs the question if there was any need to protest the game option. However, from Electronic Arts’ perspective they must have known this would cause controversy and possibly they wanted it leak into the 24 hour news cycle–though still, it’s hard to imagine it was done on purpose. I don’t consider the move to take the feature out of the game any sort of censorship and it almost seems like someone at EA marketing dropped the ball. Wouldn’t there be a backlash if the real Taliban or Taliban sympathizers got their hands on the game and used it as a propaganda tool to shoot American soldiers?
From a public relations point of view EA did the right thing, still…I always prefer allowing for freewill. The question is will gaming ever truly be completely devoid of restrictions and is it better for civilization to act out their darkest fantasies in a game rather than in reality or will it simply encourage bad behavior. Gaming seems to increase in violence as we see a general reduction in real violence. Hard to say, interesting story though.