The latest Medal of Honor game is due out in a week or so, and in no way copying Infinity Ward, has upgraded it’s flagship title to the modern theatre of war. Back in 2009 with Modern Warfare 2 we are all horrified at the game because the single player campaign was shorter than foreplay when I’ve got an itch. Apparently the media had a problem with the slaughtering of innocent Russians about 10 minutes in. The only problem the rest of the world has was that we couldn’t load “MONSTER KILL” soundclips from Unreal Tournament in.

Screenshot from Medal of Honor, EA

The problem this time, according to Secretary of State Liam Fox, is that players can take upon the role of a Taliban militant. While he labeled it “shocking”, the rest of the balanced world noticed the words ‘multiplayer campaign’. It may be a surprise to some, but in a game where there are two opposing teams in a situational environment (i.e. where the teams are labeled as more than a simple colour), someone is going to end up playing the bad guy. Going back to MW2, the team that isn’t the US (and you know they’re the baddies because their team name is in red and not green) is Spetznaz: the Russian special forces. No one gave a shit then, and I fail to see why people give a shit now.

While due to current situations in the world, it may be insensitive and even immoral to glorify the Taliban, the whole argument once again stinks of the right media getting their claws into an issue that has raged since the early 1990s. Medal of Honor will no doubt be given an 18 rating here in the UK, which is absolutely correct. My issue here is that time and again games are ignored as a valid art form. We’ve come a long way since the days of the SNES where the main plot was ‘plumber rescues princess, eats mushrooms, fights lizard’. The current pinnacle of gaming plot development is Bioware’s Mass Effect series, which has not only created a plot element system that makes your decisions earlier in the game crucial to the story, but they’ve managed to this between games, making decisions from ME1 have serious repercussions in it’s sequel. The point is that gamers are still victimised as shut in’s with no concept of a decent story. Yes, the Taliban are evil, and YES we don’t want to glorify them, but with that same token how many people do you think have recreated the video below?

A Flight Simulator cockpit on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers on 9/11.

If we’re looking for insensitivity, we could probably do a lot worse than Hollywood itself. In Platoon, there’s a sequence in which a young girl is raped by American soldiers. Although obviously designed to show the dehumanisation of combatants in war, nobody spoke up and said “Hey, this is a bit too much. How about they just slap her around a bit?” Suddenly because it’s Willem Defoe getting riddled with bullets and not some virtual generic terrorist it’s not prone to criticism, but simply displaying the harsh realities of war?

Counter-Strike Source(1)

In ur base, shootin ur d00dz etc.

One, if not the, biggest online game today is Counter-Strike. The concept is simple. Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists, in a number of situations including hostage rescue, bomb defusal and, earlier in the game’s life, assassination of a VIP. A game that has been around since 1999 that if viewed under the same light as MoH is a blatant advertising tool for would-be terrorists. Here is a self-explanatory link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_1999

I have yet to hear Counter-Strike be labelled as a ‘terrorist-trainer’ or a ‘murder-simulator’ or any other crap that comes from an uninformed twatbag. EA’s Greg Goodrich said “Because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force” in a press release earlier today. Which is kind of amusing see that in previous Medal of Honor games, notably 2007’s suffixed Airborne title, multiplayer allowed players to play as Nazis. You know, the Holocaust guys. The fact that I’ve brought Godwin’s Law into effect is moot, otherwise it wouldn’t be illegal to give the right-armed salute in Germany. It still matters. If one was to take the pious road, it’s entirely possible to argue that we pack in historical media altogether at the danger of offending somebody. I’m pretty sure Jews didn’t go and see Schindler’s List for the fucking nostalgia.

The late 2000s and the early part of the 2010s are the era of realistic shooters. That means real situations, real weapons, blood and violence. Bad language, high speed chases, helicopter gunships. All the shit that makes a war game good. What makes the experience all the more immersive is when you have a bad guy that you can relate negative feelings towards i.e. one that actually exists and not just Blue Team/Opposing Force/Green Kitchen. The timing isn’t especially good, I’ll admit. It’s taken nearly 20 years for Infinity Ward to finally decide to let us have a crack at the Russians. Liam Fox is unfortunately being swept away by a knee-jerk reaction to what is perceived as an uninformed, deliberately insensitive move to push more units. The beautiful irony is that kids’ll go “Hey Jimmy, we can be Bin Laden in this one!” and now it’ll probably sell five times as well.

This article is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan.

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