It’s been weeks of kickback from various groups, people miffed about the inclusion of the Taliban as a playable enemy faction in EA’s Medal of Honor reboot. They claimed it was offensive and distressing to military families of those soldiers who had perished in the current Middle East war, but EA stood their ground. Using carefully worded responses, EA defended their rights:
“At EA we passionately believe games are an artform, and I don’t know why films and books set in Afghanistan don’t get flack, yet [games] do. Whether it’s Red Badge Of Courage or The Hurt Locker, the media of its time can be a platform for the people who wish to tell their stories. Games are becoming that platform.”
Yesterday, they backed down, changing “Taliban” to “Opposing Force.” Never mind the character models will remain the same, anyone with a lick of common sense being able to put two and two together. The tone within EA changed drastically:
“Does changing one word in the menu screen have any impact on the actual play of the game that takes place in Afghanistan?
That quote from EA spokeman Jeff Brown is is certainly correct; it doesn’t change a thing. What it proves is how meaningless the word Taliban was in the first place. What is the Taliban? An opposing force. Does it help the families of those soldiers who sadly lost their lives any more that players are now a generic Middle Eastern fighting force? What does that change?
EA’s decision could not have come at a worse time. In November, video games have their day in court, California’s violent video game law enduring Supreme Court scrutiny, the industry defending the medium as an art form, and now we have EA backpedaling because of some pressure. Apparently, “games are a platform” only when it doesn’t affect the bottom line and corporate bonuses.
Jeff Brown is 100% correct when he states the change does not have any negative consequences on the actual gameplay. It’s a meaningless change. Outside of the game, the repercussions are huge. Had the game industry bowed to pressure, Mortal Kombat would have been sanitized on every home console back in the early ’90s. You know what? The industry fought back, stood in front of congress, and we gained some legitimacy. It’s hard enough to justify an industry that thrives on chainsaws, violence, head ripping, and spine tearing to an audience who refuses to understand it. It’s even harder now.