The United Kingdom's Defence Secretary Liam Fox yesterday urged video game retailers to ban the latest Medal of Honor game, calling it "shocking" and "tasteless".
His comments refer to the inclusion of the Taliban as playable characters in the multiplayer for the upcoming MoH title. Players will be able to take control of the Islamist political movement and open fire on US soldiers in a reconstruction of battles from the still on-going Iraq war.
Dr Fox was very blunt with his views, stating: "It's shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban. At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands."
Adding that he was "disgusted and angry", he urged retailers to "show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product."
Of course, this was just the beginning of an argument which continued to snowball throughout the next day. Publisher for the game EA quickly responded, telling the Sunday Times: "The format of the new Medal of Honor game merely reflects the fact that every conflict has two sides. "We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of us have been doing this since we were seven: someone plays the cop, someone must be robber. In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone’s got to be the Taliban.”
"We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of us have been doing this since we were seven: someone plays the cop, someone must be robber. In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone’s got to be the Taliban.”
As you'd expect, gamers were up in arms over Dr Fox's comments, defending the game's content and calling the Defence Secretary all sorts of names. Search Liam Fox's name on Twitter and you'll find descriptions such as "militarist headbanger" ( ) and the more brash "total knobshiner" ( ). One Twitterer asks "Has anyone seen Liam Fox expressing 'disgust' at the shooting and bombing of real, live Afghan civilians?" ( ).
Let's play devil's advocate for one brief moment, and ponder whether Dr Fox actually has a valid point (or at least a partially valid one). He makes the comment that "At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands." and, through all the jeering he has received, you really have to stop and wonder whether those who have lost loved ones to the war are for or against the game.
So far Eurogamer has interviewed the military advisor for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games, who stated: "People are always looking at something to throw at the gaming industry – it's all cracked up bad." Yet no-one has asked the families who have been affected, or even one of the soldiers who are over there right now.
Indeed, asking one of these people would be seen as highly disrespectful and hence no-one has done so - but does that not simply back-up Fox's theory? Some would counter this by saying that the majority of these people won't be exposed to the game, but then again does that make it right?
Many gamers are also mocking the Defence Secretary after it emerged that the game features no UK troops whatsoever, and only those from the US - yet this doesn't change the fact that, for some tragic families, players will able to assume the roles of those who killed their loved ones.
Surely they could replace the Taliban with a fictitious party - perhaps a rebel group which used to be Taliban and have now formed their own alliance. See, it's the name that people are objecting to - not the idea of fighting in the Iraq war. Does an authentic experience with real names really matter that much to gamers? I'd wager most players don't even think about it when they're shooting each other in the face. I know I don't.
This isn't the first time this sort of controversy has occurred. In early 2009, Atomic Games announced Six Days in Fallujah, a third-person shooter which focused on soldiers fighting in the Iraq war. Not only that, but the story was based on a real-life operation which was still on-going at the time of development.
The father of a lance corporal who had been killed in action in Iraq slammed the game, branding it "very poor judgement and bad taste".
Reg Keys said: "These horrific events should be confined to the annuls of history, not trivialised and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out, over and over again, for ever more."
Weeks later, Konami announced that it would no longer be publishing the game, and distanced itself from the development. Since then, Atomic Games has continued to look for a publisher but had no success.
Hence, the question presents itself: has enough time gone by - a year since Six Days was dropped - that this scenario is now deemed appropriate? Or is it simply that, as mentioned previously, no-one has bothered to ask the opinion of those affected? Make no mistake, it's a dicey subject - but while Liam Fox's comments were partially built on ignorance, they definitely should not be taken lightly.
Make no mistake, it's a dicey subject - but while Liam Fox's comments were partially built on ignorance, they definitely should not be taken lightly.