Running any company in the gaming industry requires a lot of talent, and a lot of personality. The talent makes the games fun and memorable, while the personality sets the stage for the kinds of games that will be delivered. Developers become known for a particular style, like Bioware for their RPG's, or Bungie for anything related to Halo, but with publishers it's a different story. They're just in the game to try and make a buck after all, and part of that means acquiring games based on success ratios rather than what kind of attitude it brings to the table.
So why do I find myself disappointed at EA's choice to remove the Taliban from Medal of Honor? It's because I'm offended that this decision even had to be made, and it's very clear who it was targeted at: non-gamers.
In the long run I suppose this can be considered a smart move for EA, they save themselves being declared unpatriotic by the typical uninformed American housewife and at the same time get the keep their insurgent-looking forces in game. But even still, there's something about the whole scenario that disappoints me. Middle Eastern enemy combatant's have been in gaming for years, perhaps without a direct name, but anyone who has half a brain can piece things together. Modern Warfare (both 1 and 2) brought terrorists to the playing field in a massive way, featuring rebel forces from just about every part of the globe.
What's even more offensive is that somewhere out there, someone is appeased by this action. Like removing the label 'Taliban' means that the characters being fought in multiplayer look no less like terrorist forces.
Simply slapping on the label of Opposing Force isn't really enough here, even if they were just called Bad Guys players would know who they were playing as. Who is EA trying to kid? Not gamers, and that's what's so disgusting in this situation. Medal of Honor has worked so hard up to this point to be taken as a very serious turn for the IP, as a legitimate looking glass into the world of Tier One combatants. I would assume that sort of realism and intensity carries over into the multiplayer, and we would treat the subject with the same respect. Opposing Force doesn't really do that.
Had EA decided to stand by the use of the Taliban in multiplayer, it would have shown a pretty strong backing for both the product and intelligence in the face of ignorance. But a clear line was drawn unfortunately, one that shows how out of touch EA just may be with modern gamers. Anyone who's been looking to get this game, to enjoy this game, has been playing against and alongside terrorist character models for years. Giving them a name doesn't make them any more or less dangerous, or really any more or less offensive (if you happen to be offended by that sort of thing). Medal of Honor suffers a loss not because the gaming community complained, but because a minor amount of criticism caused a stir. It's also worth noting that clearly the operatives that advised on this game didn't have a problem with the Tabiban being mentioned.
It makes me wonder how many games would be subtly changed if those developers buckled to minor public pressure. Should Mass Effect have less sex? Maybe Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit should be changed to two cops just driving fast instead of a bandit fleeing. Dante's Inferno was about a poet diving head first into Hell itself, where was the censorship there? Who knows, perhaps when the next Medal of Honor comes out EA will actually take a stand and defend their developers. In the meantime, watching them hang fans out to dry (much like they did to Bioware during the 'alien sex' fox news blowout) is as embarrassing as it is insulting to gamers.