Riccitiello: MOH outrage "says more about newspapers than it does the game industry"

EA boss calls out the media for role in 'surprising' Taliban controversy

EA CEO John Riccitiello has blamed the media for the hullabaloo surrounding the publisher's upcoming Afghanistan-set Medal of Honor reboot.

"The controversy... kind of caught me by surprise," he told attendees and investors at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in California yesterday.

He claimed that, despite the running a public beta for some weeks, "no-one noticed" the option to play as a Taliban soldier in multiplayer "until a journalist decided to put the game box in front of a mom who'd lost her son in Afghanistan to create some controversy.

"I think that says more about the newspapers than it does the game industry. Having said that we're incredibly sensitive to the challenges that a non-gamer who doesn't really understand what I've just described might imagine when a journalist who also doesn't understand a game describes it to her.

"It tends to excite a little bit of angst."

Riccitiello claimed to be "incredibly proud" of Medal of Honor, and convinced that it stayed "well within the boundaries that are good entertainment."

He went on to admit that despite decent pre-orders, the game would not be able to best Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach this year.

However, "we expect to significantly increase our share in FPS this year. It's 2011 that we've always felt we can have a reasonable shot at recapturing the leadership. And from when we said that till 2011 that now seems possible."

The CEO was evasive on whether EA's partnership with ex-Infinity Ward staff's new studio Respawn would play a significant part in that 2011 fight-back.

Reaffirming that Respawn's first project would be a new IP, he commented that "We feel great about that parternship - it looks like a good one."

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Latest comments (9)

Peter Law Freelance Game Designer and Unity Developer, Enigma 2310 years ago
I find it hard to believe this "caught him by surprise"
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 10 years ago
Agreed. I don't believe that they hadn't considered this might cause controversy, throughout the game's development. However, given the media furore that has surrounded the title, it has probably done a great deal to raise the game's profile; the sort of marketing which could prove invaluable to its success.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 16th September 2010 12:05pm

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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 10 years ago
"...'kind of' caught me by surprise"

War games always have a debateable level of controversy in them anyway, but what made him think that doing a game on something so recent and ongoing wouldn't cause even a small uproar? I mean people flipped over Wolfenstein back then in the days and that was well after the World War.
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Show all comments (9)
John Denton Studying Developers Course, Train2Game10 years ago
Well in these modern media days, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the journalist had a "push" to do the stunt from EA themselves. You must know the old adage, "Any news is good news, even bad ones." with the bad press they are in the public mind more and that really can't hurt their sales any. Just look at, as Kingman said, Wolfenstein. That was given so much bad press people flocked to buy it to see what all the fuss was about. It then went on to be a cult classic.
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Abraham Tatester Producer 10 years ago
I suspect it was all a ploy to cause controversy and boost sales—trying to go one better than MW2's "No Russian".

And it's not about newspapers. I know several [older] non-gamers in the US who find the idea of "playing Taliban" highly offensive/outrageous without the need for editorial incitement.

Riccitiello's claim to be surprised at the controversy means either he is utterly oblivious to the state of politics and culture in this country, or simply lying through his teeth. I'm inclined to believe the latter, never mind that it's unethical for him to lie to his company's investors.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic10 years ago
I believe the point he was making about the media is not that there aren't people outside the media who would be offended, but that 90% of them would never hear about it if not for the media throwing it in their faces to get a story out of their reactions.

There are plenty of books, films, paintings, graphics novels, etc which which would cause extreme offence if thrust into the right peoples' faces, yet it's games that many journalists, politicians, and bad TV shows like to generate reactions over these days.
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Wooah, easy there with the daggers and the cloaking :P I can swallow that EA exec perfectly understood that Afghanistan was a risky backdrop, but why pick on the fact that the Taliban are in the game as the 'sick' part? I think what was controvertial about the new MOH was setting it in a live shooting war. All other gameplay decisions flowed from that decision so I doubt that having the Taliban in the game was the biggest call these guys had to make - it comes part and parcel with the setting and suggests itself.
And why are the Taliban controversial to Americans? Al-Quada specifically declared war on the US and plotted to bring terror to civilain populations the world over. Fair enough they got their asses handed to them, you reap what you sow. The Taliban didn't bomb America, they're on no holy war to convert the west, and though throwbacks by our standards they are an entirely local group with local concerns. The only reason they are shooting at US soldiers is because, well, the US invaded their country, lest we all forget. If that poor womans son was killed by the Taliban, it was because he was trying to shoot some poor Afghani womans son. Sure the Taliban are repulsive but it's hard to split the moral difference when one side is in their own country shooting out, while another is in somebody elses country shooting in. When MOH comes out there's going to be US kids (we've all met them on XBL...) absolutely loving that they can shoot the shit out of the Taliban. Do we think some middle eastern kids aren't going to revel in shooting US soldiers too - in the same game, online, together? Amongst the fantastic cynicism of this game idea, trying to pick a solid moral case just ends up looking like so much posturing, or as someone noted, marketing.
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Tom Hillman Games Editor, Square-Go.com10 years ago
To be honest I don't have any problems with it being in Afghanistan. For quite a while now it's been a bit of a forgotten war in the UK and I think it's good if it draws people's attention to it. Furthermore it's topical, real and happening right now.

Nor do I have a problem that in multiplayer you'll be playing as the Taliban. People are so quick to denounce it but it's perfectly all right if you play as the Nazi's in other games or perhaps OpFor (aka Iraqi's) in Modern Warfare..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Hillman on 16th September 2010 7:49pm

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The problem here is that we're now stepping on peoples toes. Nobody minds shooting thousands of Nazi soldiers, because 99% of FPS gameplayers have no direct connection to WWII, and history tells us that the Nazis were wrong. Nobody minds shooting alien zombies or mutant wolves because 100% of players have no relationship with these things in the real world, hopefully. However, as Barry said, 'If that poor womans son was killed by the Taliban, it was because he was trying to shoot some poor Afghani womans son' and thats the main reason why we should move back to historical enemies or imaginary characters - this kind of thing may upset lots of innocent people in many countries.
wrt Riccitiello, he knows well enough that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
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