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EA under fire over MoH multi-player

Mother of Afghanistan casualty brands publisher as "disrespectful" for focusing on current war

Electronic Arts has come under fire over its decision to use the current war in Afghanistan as the location for its forthcoming Medal of Honor title, in particular the multi-player elements that allow gamers to play the part of the Taliban.

One commentator on Fox News over the weekend, the mother of a soldier killed in the conflict, explained that she felt the move was "disrespectful," while some game critics have already voiced their unease at the move.

"We've just come off of the worst month of casualties in the whole war, and this game is going to be released in October - so families who are burying their children are going to be seeing this, and playing this game," said Karen Meredith.

"I just don't see that a videogame based on a current war makes any sense at all, it's disrespectful."

The Fox News anchor acknowledged that the average age of the person expected to buy the game was 39, and EA's statement in response to the controversy was clear about the reasoning for the option.

"Medal of Honor is set in today's war putting players in the boots of today's soldier... we give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of us having (sic) been doing this since we were seven - if someone's the cop, someone's gotta be the robber, someone's gotta be the pirate and someone's gotta be the alien," read a statement.

"In Medal of Honor multi-player, someone's gotta be the Taliban."

But while mainstream news channels address the subject of controversial content in videogames with some regularity - often holding the element of interactivity up as the key difference between games and other forms of portrayal - the gaming community itself has already begun to question the content, with DICE producer Patrick Liu admitting that people had a "fair point".

"Watching virtual Coalition troops gunned down by insurgents in the ruins of Kabul, I felt more than a little weird, especially since a friend lost his brother in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago," wrote Dan Whitehead in his preview of the game on Eurogamer.net.

"This is a real war that is happening right now, real blood is being shed, and simulating that for fragfest fun while being rewarded for kill streaks... Well, there's just something a bit icky about that. In single-player, there can be a story that adds context and meaning to the carnage. In multi-player, it's all just for fun. At least the World War II games have the distance of history, and the fact that their conflict has been absorbed into popular entertainment for over 60 years."

"I think it is a fair point," said producer Patrick Liu when asked whether statements saying that gamers will feel uneasy playing as Taliban soldiers are fair, in the latest issue of PSM3 magazine.

"We do stir up some feelings, although it's not about the war, it's about the soldiers. We can't get away from what the setting is and who the factions are, but in the end, it's a game, so we're not pushing or provoking too hard."

Last year Konami canceled plans to release the Atomic Games title Six Days in Fallujah following a public outcry, based on similar objections.

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Latest comments (23)

Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham9 years ago
To be honest, any game based on a real war is disrespectful. I imagine WW2 vets would be more than a little disgusted at some of the FPS games based upon it. That's not to say I'm in favour of censoring such games. If the content is clearly labelled then if you're offended by such things then you don't buy or play it.

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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix9 years ago
I'd be interested in people's thoughts on whether or not there's any difference between portraying an historical war (even if recent), or a current one. It's a very emotive subject for some, for obvious reasons.
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Iain Lowson Writer 9 years ago
I felt weird enough playing a previous WW2 game with sequences set in the North African desert - my Grandfather fought there, and he pointedly never, ever talked about it. The concept of playing through a conflict that's on the news almost every night is something I find more than a little uncomfortable. At the same time, I get that that's my opinion, that those are my feelings. Personally, I'm more disturbed by press coverage of the war (hello Fox News) than I am by the prospect of kids playing a game and 'missing the point', as it were.
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Show all comments (23)
Pierre-Léo Bégay Community Representative, Electronic Arts9 years ago
For conservative people who don't give a damn about our culture but try to get attention bey spitting on it, of course there's a huge difference : the amount of people that will listen to them.

As for people who enjoy gaming, it has been long since we leaned how to make the difference between games and reality, so I think there's no difference - as long as the player isn't relates to the conflict. At least that's how I feel.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Pierre-Léo Bégay on 16th August 2010 11:25am

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Lewis Mills Creative Partner, Ninja Beaver Studios9 years ago
39 years average age? That cam't be right...

Yep, fraid so:- http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Lewis Mills on 16th August 2010 11:39am

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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
I personally don't feel strongly about having MoH set in a current war, as opposed to playing the original Medal of Honor, Call of Duty: W@W, Battlefield: Vietnam, or any other war shooter.

But I appreciate that setting it in a current conflict might be wierd for some people -- people are still dying in Afganistan and the Middle East, and a lot of people will be directly or indirectly emotionally fragile about the region and its conflicts.

EA must have known this would cause controversy as the game approaches its launch, so I wonder what their responses and defence will be. Allowing people to play as the Taliban in the game's MP does seem a little wierd, no matter how you spin it.
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Kieran MacGough Studying Computer Games Design & Programming, Staffordshire University9 years ago
It's simple: Don't like it? Don't buy it! If people don't buy it, sales will be down, and EA/DICE *shouldn't* make the same mistake again. (In theory)
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Shane Sweeney Academic 9 years ago
Richard Westmoreland -> Any game that is based on a real war is direspectful just as much as any poem based on real war are disrespectful.

If anything Wilfred Owen brought amazing insight into the horrors of war. Do you really think our medium can't be as powerful?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 16th August 2010 1:44pm

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Stefan Pettersson Specialist Consultant, Fat Tuna9 years ago
You have to be 18 to play EA games online. 39 average sounds very reasonable.
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Lewis Mills Creative Partner, Ninja Beaver Studios9 years ago
Kieran MacGough -> It's simple: Don't like it? Don't buy it! If people don't buy it, sales will be down, and EA/DICE *shouldn't* make the same mistake again. (In theory)

If only it was that simple. Then we wouldn't have to live in a world of McDonalds, Starbucks and battery-farmed chicken.
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Jack Nilssen Independent Game Developer, Dark Acre9 years ago
Having played in the MoH beta, being on the Taliban side of an MP conflict made me sick to my stomach.

Don't get me wrong, the game is beautiful and technically impressive, but realizing that I was playing an Afghanistani straw-man for someone's endless head-shots just turned me right off.

Too soon or has it come to this? What's next, an FPS where you can import and shoot your noisy neighbors or anyone else you don't get along with?
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham9 years ago
@Shane Sweeney, it's all about context. I'd agree that games are perfectly capable of depicting the horrors of war. But we know this wont be the case on a multiplayer Taliban Vs Allied deathmatch.

I'm not against this at all, I think the only reason people are picking on this over WW2 and Vietnam games is that the Afghan war is fresher in peoples' minds. I can see why people would be offended by these games, but I personally don't see this game as being any more offensive than other war games. People will vote with their wallets if they don't like the idea of it.
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Joe Bognar PR Lead, CCP Games9 years ago
@Shane: Very true! I would also add the songs and paintings about wars by many bands and artists!

I'd say, point your fingers and direct your hatred to those that are making soldiers go to that war and stay there! Try to find the real reason for that war!

The other thing, as some other people said it, if you don't like it, don't buy it! Why is it accaptable to kill Russians, Germans and whatever nations in games? That's disrespectful? I don't know. To be honest, I've got some German friends and I'm sure that they hate Hitler as much as everyone else, still their nation gets bad thoughts every day! So I would just repeat Pierre-Leo's thought: A game is a game and not the reality!

Please watch the movie called 'Stalingrad'! Every story has two sides! I'm sure that quite a lot of those Talib people don't want war either. Who thinks about their sons and fathers?

But let's forget this non-sense! Nice looking game indeed! :)
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Joe Bognar PR Lead, CCP Games9 years ago
@Christopher: Are you talking about GTA? :)
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 9 years ago
Instead of typing the same thing out three times, I'll just C+P what I've said on this issue for today's news:

As a veteran of the Iraq War, I have no intention of going back in time. That part of my life is done, I'm glad I don't have to go back, and my idea of fantasy and escapism is absolutely not to fight in a war I participated in as a member of the United States Navy. I don't even have reminders of it around my house; my medals and ribbons from my days in the service are locked away somewhere, I don't have any uniforms around the house, and the only reminder that I was even in the service is a picture I took of the area that would become Ground Zero from the deck of my last ship during 9/11.

That said, while the sailor in me has no desire to go fight the war again, whether in reality or fantasy, the gamer in me - the one that feels games are art, despite what Roger Ebert says - realizes that there is an artistic statement to be made about this war. There are two sides to most wars - I'll qualify "most" in a minute - and it's jingoistic to deny that, no matter what side you're on. To deny this is to be a propagandist. That "art" is lost once you go into multiplayer, where the only goal is shoot anyone that doesn't look like you, congrats, you win a trophy. At this point, you're no longer even paying attention to the whos and whats of the situation; you're only playing for points. Unfortunately, some 16 year old kid with his hand down his knickers isn't going to think about just who he's playing as as he's on the Taliban team, much like he wasn't thinking about it when he played the Source mod Insurgency. He doesn't think about how the Taliban implements Sharia Law - does he even know what Sharia Law is? - or the visceral results of that. And therein lies the problem: he's desensitized to something that has killed my friends and servicemates, continues to affect our lives daily, and is not being exploited for profit.

I saw EA's cavalier approach to this when I went to an event in NYC in July. One of the games they were showing off was the new Medal of Honor game, and there wasn't much to say about it as the engine was still in alpha stages. But I had to stand there as this guy went on about the consultants they brought in, and the things they couldn't tell us because they were secret, and how bullets make the dust kick up, and how amazingly "realistic" it was. It was all I could do not to scream "what the **** do you know about war, you ******". At the end, they gave out "pride patches", which were meant to simulate the patches soldiers, marines and sailors wear on their uniforms to denote who they serve with. I was speechless. And as I sit here, looking at these sharply-designed patches and comparing them to my own - just a little shoulder badge with "CVN-73 USS George Washington" on it - it's hard to even get mad at the guy. It'd be like getting angry at a dog for licking himself in front of company; neither one knows better. But don't think for a minute EA cares about anyone's opinion; they're going to make money off of the game, and are likely banking on negative reaction being a good thing.
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Pierre-Léo Bégay Community Representative, Electronic Arts9 years ago
"You have to be 18 to play EA games online"

That doesn't mean that all players / buyers are at least 18.
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Private Industry 9 years ago
While I do feel sorry for the people who lost someone in the war and the people who are fighting there, if the name would be changed to something else and it would still look like a Taliban and we all knew it`s a Taliban nobody would complain.

It`s multiplayer, what are the other options? Americans shoot Americans? Also I`m surprised that so far nobody made any game that shows the other side. Not the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but i.e. WW2 where you would play on the Japanese side to see the other side of the story instead of showing only always one side. Many where fighting in WW2 because they had to not because they wanted (on all sides) and those sides are never shown only always the heroic soldiers.
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J B Technical Artist, EA Sports9 years ago
I applaud the leadership EA has taken with this move. Witnessing and participating in simulated violent acts should make people feel uncomfortable. The military censors war footage for a reason, because it creates unfavorable opinion of wars amongst the public, e.g. Viet Nam. Bringing the reality, even if only simulated reality, of an ongoing conflict closer to home can only help end it.
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Lewis Mills Creative Partner, Ninja Beaver Studios9 years ago
Whoah......! Dude! Are you serious? Is my sarcasm meter off?

For an industry that is built upon killing people and various species in myriad ways I don't see how bringing in "reality" will deter anyone from playing these kind of games any time soon.
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J B Technical Artist, EA Sports9 years ago
@Lewis, if you response refers to mine, you misunderstand me. I have no interest in deterring people from playing war games. I like war games, they are a great way to practice high stress situations and split second decision making skills as well as hand eye coordination and small motor skills. They also are a great way to satisfy our desire to blow sh*t up, in a non-destructive way. I think that games simulating reality are a great way to impress on people what that reality would be like. So, creating a game that mimics an actual ongoing conflict can only help to end the actual conflict, not the game version.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 9 years ago
@JB:

I get what you're saying, but that "reality" is going to be lost in a multiplayer mode that emphasizes and rewards kills for the sake of kills. It won't be "reality" at all. The single player campaign might prove what you're talking about, but this isn't like Six Days in Fallujah. This is a single player campaign being processed with multiplayer. In short, this is a marketing, not artistic, decision.

If they were to simulate "reality", show REAL reality. Show the Sharia Law that is being put forth by the Taliban and similar, extremist Muslim organizations (note my use of the word "extremist"). Note the girls with limbs cut off because they tried to escape, like on the cover of Time Magazine (here: http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,... Note the very real tactics they're using to suppress and even kill civilians. Put someone in the position of beheading Daniel Pearl. If you do these things, then I will get behind this on artistic merits. But to have "yay, you killed five American SEALs! That's a killstreak!"... no. That's not acceptable to me.
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J B Technical Artist, EA Sports9 years ago
@Christopher. Your point is well taken. I would only offer that reality can only be simulated so far in a video game and we certainly aren't going to see EA make games that portray the events you are describing. As far as I know those brutal acts aren't what we are over there fighting anyway, as they have been going on for much longer than you or me have been around to comment on and the US didn't do a thing about it before. If the US went after groups for human rights violations by declaring War, we would be at War with many more groups than the Taliban. For US to be the moral police of the world is problematic when the world doesn't share our moral code, heck we can't even internally share a common moral code and that really is what makes us a free nation. I would never condone a belief system that allows for the horrific treatment of women that Sharia law does but is that the War we are fighting? What is the War we are fighting? and why? Maybe W should have outlined an actual objective before stating mission accomplished or maybe not having one is a blessing in disguise because we can leave without having to claim victory or defeat.

My point is, having a simulated War experience that makes the players consider real ongoing conflicts while they are playing them will only help to spur debate and create questions about where when and why we are doing what we are. In no way do I think it will solve the morality issues. I would be much more supportive of a War that actually made morals not minerals its objective, but when has there ever been a War fought over morals instead of economics.
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Joe Bognar PR Lead, CCP Games9 years ago
@ Christopher B: You are most probably from the US and most of the soldiers fightning this war is from the US. Therefore I understand that you're upset! But then as I've mentioned it before and now even JB shares my point of view, the main problem about this war is that other than oil, there's no reason to fight! I'd understand more if you'd fight against the Shaira Law or any kind of ridicoulusly brutal 'religions'!

As again, I've mentioned it before and Werner N was writing it too, there are always two sides of a story!
Following his thoughts, there was no other way of making the multiplayer to make it look and have the same feeling as the singleplayer and the gameplay in general which can be easily considered as the trademark of the MoH and CoD games!
Should the American soldiers fight with 3 legged and 4 faced aliens with guns hanging out from their chins? MoH: Too Modern Warfare???
I don't think so!

This is a game and that's it. Enjoy! If you don't like multiplayer, don't play it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Joe Bognar on 18th August 2010 12:36pm

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