Medal Of Honor: Okay To Release A Game Depicting Current War Events?

By Mary-Lynn McLachlan on October 15, 2010, 9:47PM EDT
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In efforts not to beat a long dead horse, today's topic will not be based on the relevancy of EA's decision to change the name of the "Taliban" in Medal Of Honor to "Opposing Forces" in its multiplayer, nor the validity of Jack Thompson's claim to have single-handedly defeating EA games, but rather to highlight on the brooding question that keeps popping up from many gamers and non-gamers alike: are people ready for a game depicting a current war, or political event?

EA games reported that they received many complaints from families of lost loved ones and friends to the current  war in Afghanistan pleading that the nature of the game was insensitive and inappropriate. Being in EA's shoes probably would have been uncomfortable, choosing between the gaming user-base and common man's decency and respect for the all to fresh memory of recently fallen soldiers. The choice was obvious, and a nice gesture on EA's behalf, although the wound will likely sting with many of the offended for quiet some time. It could be that current war events are a "no-no"for games, and deemed indecent by too many people for most developers to find valid reasons to publish them.

Medal Of Honor bares controversy not for being a reenactment or depiction of war, there will always be people who are offended by such titles, as they have been popular and thriving for decades. Many games realistically portray aspects of war, and some developers even do research in bases and in the field to learn about weaponry so that they can place appropriate mechanics into the games. The controversy was in the depiction of the current war in Afghanistan. Now, it would be difficult to say at this point that Medal Of Honor is a game of artistic calibre that would merit acknowledgement for the preservation of current events in Afghanistan, as this would seem unlikely for the genre. Traditional art pieces and music, even those with anti-American sentiment seem to be causing less of a panic than this video game. It would be easy to argue that this game does not preserve the memory of fallen soldiers, therefore it only really serves as a form of entertainment.

Even the modern theatre of war (for the few blockbusters there have been), seems to be getting away with their titles and money, leaving some wondering why do these rules of decency seem to only apply to some forms of entertainment and not others?  It could be because traditional art and cinema have already won this battle. Artists before modern era were often punished for their depictions of political events during their time, and the moving picture was used to document, and relay World War footage home. So people are already desensitized to seeing war in the news, and in movies where the characters are poised more sympathetically. It could be that EA has only just broken the ice and opened the doors to new war game entertainment, should people become desensitized to the idea.

It's ironic the ways that the gaming industry pushes the envelope, without people even realizing it. There are so many negative connotations associated with video games and many people that have yet to find any value in gaming itself. The word 'game' puts a stigma on any war, because wars are not a game. So why do we make games about wars? Because games are entertainment, and war is a popular topic for literature and film, and thus it carries through. While it may not be unfortunate, it would appear that the world is just not ready for their current wars or political events to be depicted or simulated through the form of a game. That's likely where publishers, for the time being, should leave things.

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