US, UK Military Ban Video Game that Let’s Players Shoot at US/NATO

September 8th, 2010 - by admin

Anne Flaherty / Associated Press & Nick Cowen / The Telegraph – 2010-09-08 23:51:37

Military Bans Sale of Violent Video Game
Anne Flaherty / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (September 8, 2010) — Military bases across the US have banned the sale of a new video game that lets a player pretend to be a Taliban fighter and “shoot” US troops.

“Medal of Honor” by Electronic Arts, a major game developer based in Redwood City, CA., hits stores October 12.

But after public protests, including one by British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, US military officials decided not to stock the game in any of the nearly 300 service exchange shops on bases across the country.

Gamers are scoffing at the decision, saying that advanced technology has made it commonplace in the gaming world to let a player switch sides and play the bad guy.

Medal Of Honor Controversy Analysis
The Defence Secretary’s call for a ban on Medal Of Honor is both ill-judged and “un-British”

Nick Cowen / The Telegraph

LONDON (August 25, 2010) — Whenever a book, film, television, painting or music album becomes the topic of heated debate, a critic who is an expert in that field is called in to provide context. If a video game makes headlines, it seems anyone from any field, regardless of their experience, can pass judgment on not only the title up for discussion, but the entire games industry.

Whether or not these pundits have any first-hand knowledge or experience of video games is seldom mentioned. In the rare instances video games experts are called upon for their expertise, they’re usually shouted down or dismissed.

This week, Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, kicked open a proverbial anthill by calling for the forthcoming first-person-shooter (FPS), Medal Of Honor to be banned. Fox branded the game “un-British” over reports that it allowed players to take on the role of Taliban soldiers and kill British troops.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, in which he expressed his outrage and disgust, Fox called on video games retailers not to sell Medal Of Honor “to show their support for the armed forces”.

The Telegraph hasn’t yet received a preview copy of Medal of Honor and as far as I am aware Fox hasn’t seen the game either. In a statement released in the wake of Fox’s comments, EA pointed to factual inaccuracies in the Sunday Times article over the involvement of British troops. “Medal of Honor does not allow players to kill British soldiers,” said an EA spokesman. “British troops do not feature in the game.”

Fox has since defended his position; according to the BBC, he said the fact that players can assume the role of Taliban soldiers in the multiplayer mode is the main issue. But this sort of thing isn’t unheard of in FPS multiplayers.

If Medal Of Honor is unfit for public consumption on these grounds, then what are we to make of last year’s Modern Warfare 2, where the multiplayer mode cast players as South American terrorists and militia members from the army of Ira… sorry, from an un-named Middle Eastern nation.

Why has nearly every WWII game with a multiplayer, in which one side of players are Nazi soldiers, been allowed to pass classification from the BBFC without comment? In light of some of these past examples, Fox’s call for a ban looks more than a little extreme.

There may be a sensible debate to had about the merits of using a current, ongoing conflict as the subject matter in any entertainment format. But a ban is not condusive to this. A ban stifles any chance of reasonable discussion and simply maintains the status quo.

This also seems to be the opinion of the Department for Culture Media and Sports which moved to distance itself from Fox’s comments, brushing them off as his “personal view.” It also cited the fact that there is a ratings system in place, and that Medal of Honor was awarded an 18 classification which means it should only be sold to, and played, by adults.

The BBFC for their part, asserted that the game is fit for release and sale — in an interview with CVG a BBFC spokesman said the ratings board “gave [Medal Of Honor] a cautious 18-rating, but it’s not as strong as other comparable games.”

What’s more, the Defence Secretary’s comments will probably influence the game’s sales; it’s just more than likely they’ll have the opposite effect to that which he intended. Whenever a high-profile figure condemns a video game it usually causes pre-orders to increase exponentially.

Any notoriety a game earns ahead of its release date almost always attracts attention from outside the title’s core fan base; calls for an outright banning of the game, as has happened in this case, simply attract more prospective punters. Before Fox’s comments, Medal Of Honor appealed primarily to franchise loyalists and FPS fans.

Now, a much larger number of gamers will be attracted to it to find out what all the fuss is about. By condemning the game, Mr Fox has simply pushed raised its profile Medal Of Honor further into the public conscience. He may as well have paid for EA’s billboards in every major city in the UK.

Such are the consequences when people who do not play games attack them. As a section of society used to the scorn and derision of others, mainstream condemnation simply makes something more attractive.

Some might say that this shows the immaturity of gamers, but in the end, when attacked from all sides by people who don’t even have the decency to pick up a controller and form their own opinions, it’s not surprising that we have little time for overly-dramatic (and often factually inaccurate) accusations.

There will be segments of society which share Fox’s disgust at the Medal Of Honor’s content. They may even share his desire for a ban. I can’t speak to their mind-set, but I can say that I for one, consider it “British” to be able to make up my own mind. One of the joys about living in a democracy is that we are allowed to make our own decision about the worth and appeal of art. Then, if we have issues with it, we can vote with our wallets. That’s what living in a free society is all about.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.