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Controversy Arises Over Taliban Option In Medal of Honor 671

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-this-again dept.
eldavojohn writes "CVG is covering the controversy surrounding players' ability to play as a member of the Taliban in EA's Medal of Honor multiplayer. Fox News hopped on the wagon, interviewing a Gold Star mom whose son died in Iraq. She said, 'My son didn't get to start over when he was killed. His life was over and I had to deal with that every day. There's 1200 families from Afghanistan that have to live with this every day. And we live it — it's not a game... EA is very cavalier about it: "Well, it's just a game." But it isn't a game to the people who are suffering from the loss of the children and loved ones.' EA's response to this criticism of giving players the objective to 'gun down American troops' was this: 'Medal Of Honor is set in today's war, putting players in the boots of today's soldier... We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of us have been doing this since we were seven. If someone's the cop, someone's got to be the robber, someone's got to be the pirate, somebody's got to be the alien. In Medal Of Honor multiplayer, someone has to be the Taliban.' Of course the story recalls Six Days in Fallujah, which was dropped by Konami following similar controversy. It's clear at least a few people take issue with games surrounding modern conflicts."
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Controversy Arises Over Taliban Option In Medal of Honor

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  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:07PM (#33268182) Homepage Journal

    She said, 'My son didn't get to start over when he was killed. His life was over and I had to deal with that every day. There's 1200 families from Afghanistan that have to live with this every day. And we live it -- it's not a game..

    That's funny, I hear that's what the people on the other side said too, except possibly in another language.

    Last I heard, American soldiers were supposed to be fighting to preserve a way of life, a way which includes freedom of expression.

    • by Elektroschock (659467) on Monday August 16, 2010 @08:57PM (#33270592)

      When you are a solidier it is part of your normal duties that you could get killed in action. There is no moral argument in complaining about getting shot when you occupy a foreign nation and your nation attempts to impose your societal model on their nation. Many Afghans don't agree with Taliban opinions but many Taliban are Afghan while the occupying forces are not. I am not arguing that the invasion of Afghanistan is "wrong" because I don't moralize the military interests of the United States.

      Furthermore, soldiers are supposed to obey and do their duty, not to "fight to preserve a way of life, a way which includes freedom of expression" or pursue other personal political agendas. That is propaganda for the uninitiated. A military is rooted in the traditions when soldiers were like prisoners and 30% of them got killed in a single battle.

      Unlike warfare the current occupation of Afghanistan implies insignificant losses of coalition soldiers. That does not require all the mourning and respect for those killed in action [youtube.com], heroism tales and phrases like in a real war. Likely more Americans die in the making of the hollywood war movies about their heroes than in battle: car accidents, drugs, gun crime - you name it.

      Americans follow a strategy of their chess master Bobby Fischer and sacrifice the pawns of their opponents, even use machines to kill. I think war without risk leads to moral decay, it is not a fair fight. It is very useful that soldiers die because it reminds the nation that engaging in war should not be taken too easy and their leaders bear a responsibility for its military planning.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday August 16, 2010 @09:39PM (#33271042) Homepage

      I wonder how many enemy's sons her son killed...oh, wait, they don't count.

      • by Tom (822) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:19AM (#33273242) Homepage Journal

        In fact, once we have RFID bullets, I'm thinking about setting up an Internet site that brings mothers of soldiers in contact with the mothers of the enemy soldiers their sons have killed.

        It'll be interesting to see how long wars can last after that. War mostly works only because it is anonymous. And we've known that for a long time, it's one of the strongly emotional topics in "Im Westen nichts Neues" ("All Quiet on the Western Front"). We just don't yet have the technology to break through it.

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:10PM (#33268206) Homepage

    Movies, books, children's (non-computer playing-in-the-yard) games even. We don't like (and thus the kids don't have) toy weapons in our family, and guess what? The pine cones are BOMBS! now...

    Games are no different. Tasteful? No. But war never is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Soilworker (795251)

      Dear Mom,

      You're currently destroying all the effort your son made fighting a threat to your freedom.

      Thanks,
      The talibans.

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:10PM (#33268214) Journal

    ...he'd be playing war games (not necessarily on a computer) where he played the side of the Taliban.

  • uhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:11PM (#33268218)
    Was there any outcry when Battlefield Viet Nam came out? Because you can totally frag G.I.s in that game, and there are plenty of Viet Nam vets still around.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by linzeal (197905)
      No, but since the first Gulf War when they changed how reporters operate, pictures can be taken and statistics collected war has been sanitized of any moral ambiguity so much that people react to anyone the US bombs back into the stone age as Nazis. Oh wait, you can play Nazis in like 10 games.
    • by dunezone (899268)
      I remember seeing a letter sent to iD Software back when Wolfenstein 3D came out that was from a Vietnam vet. He explained that the game had actually helped him with his PTSD.
  • Too Soon, I Suppose (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BigSes (1623417) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:11PM (#33268224)
    I don't see it much differently than being the Germans, Russians, Japanese, or any other opponent of the US in a conflict. I appreciate the realism of a theatre of war when depicted in entertainment, I guess its too soon for those involved to handle.
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:29PM (#33268490) Journal

      There is a game called Red Orchestra: Ostfront 1941-45. As the name implies, it's a (multiplayer) FPS set on WW2 Eastern Front, with Germans and Soviets being two opposing factions. Naturally, it lets you play for either one. It is also fairly realistic, not just in gameplay, but in depictions of various things - i.e. all swastikas and such are in place where they should be, and so on.

      Now, forget Afghanistan, heck, forget even Vietnam - Soviet Union lost 10 million soldiers in WW2. 10 fucking million!

      Which does not preclude Russian gamers today - including those having WW2 vets in the family - from playing this game in general, or playing it specifically for the Germans. If anything, the game is actually strongly appreciated for being one of the few Western games that deal with the subject of Eastern Front (which bore the brunt of the war) at all - most Western movies and games about WW2 focus on Allied, and, more specifically, American involvement, to the point that it seems sometimes that war in Europe started with the landings in Normandy...

  • Counter Strike (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mantrid42 (972953) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:12PM (#33268230)
    You've been able to play as a Terrorist in Counter Strike since day one. It came out ten god damn years ago.
    • Re:Counter Strike (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Narksos (1111317) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:47PM (#33268710)

      When I used to play America's Army, which was created by the US Army as a recruiting tool, they had all of the multi-player game types written from both sides. I dug up an IGN article [ign.com] describing how this worked:

      The terrorists are holding a UN envoy hostage and you, as the Army team, must infiltrate the area and confront and defeat the terrorists. But the other team doesn't think they're terrorists. Instead, they get an Army briefing indicating that they've been asked to defend the envoy from possible abduction by an infiltrating terrorist force.

      That way everyone could play for the "good guys". Everyone could fight for the cause they thought was right, which is usually how war works anyway. There wasn't any controversy about you shooting at people who thought they were playing as "America", because while you played they looked like "terrorists".

      The system was clever, and probably appropriate for this application (I don't think the US Army wants to encourage people to shoot at them), but as we have games based around modern conflicts, people have to play both sides. It is "just a game". Cops and robbers would be pretty boring with no robbers. Should we not watch heist movies because it encourages people to steal money? Modern Warfare 2's No Russian mission (in which the player is undercover as a terrorist and has the option to massacre civilians with no penalty) created controversy in the US, but the overriding opinion was that it right to include it in the game. How is this any different?

      Oh right, this time we're shooting Americans.

  • HTFU (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smoke2Joints (915787) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:12PM (#33268234) Homepage

    I dont want to hate on Americans, but seriously, you have no problems with a game where Russians are the enemy, despite the fact that Russian gamers might be interested in the latest new FPS. The same could be said about any number of WW2 games, where Germany is the enemy. I know that it was based on a different era, political climate etc, but get over it - there are two sides of the story, as EA says, and you need to accept that. Dont like it? Dont play the game. Or dont play that part of the game. And in the process, stick to your beliefs that America is always right and only evil people have opinions contrary to yours.

    Newsflash: life isnt fair, neither is war.

    • Re:HTFU (Score:4, Funny)

      by wjousts (1529427) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:17PM (#33268304)
      Yeah, but those Russian gamers will probably pirate it anyway ; )
    • Re:HTFU (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kitkoan (1719118) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:19PM (#33268342)
      Its not just limited to war games. The GTA series lets you kill cops and that really does happen in RL. As mentioned in another post, you could be a terrorist in Counter Strike. There are 2 sides to everything and some people just don't want you to see any side but theirs. Its how the US has slowly becoming a Nanny state because someone didn't like something they saw/heard/ect and felt that if they didn't like it, no one should see/hear/ect it.
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:13PM (#33268248)

    My son didn't get to start over when he was killed. His life was over and I had to deal with that every day. There's 1200 families from Afghanistan that have to live with this every day

    I feel your pain. Given our nation's involuntary draft, the servicemen who have died in the war thus far did so against their will. They did not know what they were fighting for, and what they were ready to give up to secure our freedoms.

    Oh, wait. They did. They bleed crimson red so we can maintain our way of life. They chose to join the service.

    You do a disservice to the fallen soldiers memories by acting like the very corrupt, anti-American terrorists. How dare you?

    They died for us. It's our job to keep on living and enjoy life. You've better things to do than to wallow about some videogame.

  • I have a Great Grandfather that died in WW2, do you think anyone in my family complains that everyother video game title out there centers on this conflict? How about games where you could be the Germans? I don't here a whole lot of gripping from Fox News about them. I don't get why this person wouldn't want her sons story, and the stories of all of the soldiers over there from every other country, to be told to the world in a form that the youth will acctually pay attention to.
  • by HBI (604924) <kparadine@gma i l . c om> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:15PM (#33268274) Homepage Journal

    I did a deployment to Iraq in 07-08. My sister was killed in the line of duty (Army). My parents have a triangular box with flag to 'commemorate' that. These games are fine. The woman complaining is an ass. Unless they started naming people and having you kill real people, the issue is moot. We all know there are enemies out there and they shoot to kill. Simulating it isn't a problem.

    • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:38PM (#33268596)

      This is the reaction I get from everyone I've talked to that does a stint overseas. There was one that I know that might have a few issues, but even then he wouldn't complain about them or stop anyone from playing a game(except maybe directly around him) and just avoid the stuff himself.

      I have a number of family members in the military and multiple family members that have done a stint in Afghanistan, the only consistent response I get from them and others I know through them is "We don't know why the fuck we're there. The majority of the people don't want us there and it would be easier to evacuate those civilians that want to leave than change the mind set of the majority."

      The sad part is several media outlets have attempted to report on this and have quickly been bombarded by public(read:political) outcry against it, and its quickly squashed. Interviews with soldiers that actually make it to being widespread throughout are generally of the sort where it is very easy to pick up that the soldier is basically reading from a script except for maybe a few heart wrenching moments where they recall actual experiences. Almost nothing I've seen in the media coincides with what I've heard from the people on the ground.

      • by HBI (604924) <kparadine@gma i l . c om> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:48PM (#33268718) Homepage Journal

        Hearing what people say on the ground doesn't sell newspapers/ad views. The truth is that anything the government does at a macro level is disorganized and spotty on the ground. In some places, the US presence did good and we got stuff done. In some places, it was not well received. The variable was generally the people involved. Quality officers/government employees got good results, the mediocre and uninterested got nothing done or made enemies for us.

        My experience was that Iraqis wanted life to be peaceful, orderly and to have control of their own destiny. We might not like their choices, but they are theirs to make.

        Soldiers never really understand 'what they are supposed to be doing' or 'why they are there' on anything but a slogan level (Fight Communism! Fight Terrorism! End Fascism!). I go all over the world and hear the same thing from soldiers everywhere. Their officers know better, but it seems to me that the officers often give a very serious briefing to their people (once) and assume that the mission brief means the same thing to the common soldier that it does to them. They are immersed in planning for said mission. It's their life. It's just some droning speech to the soldiers. If you read back to WWII or even before that, this is a common feature of military life, then and now.

        Afghanistan is a losing game and we all know it. Just waiting for the clock to tick now towards the ultimate withdrawal.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:16PM (#33268284) Homepage Journal

    ....Even if someone somehow forced you to buy the game, most servers have the option to let you choose your team. Don't like the Taliban, but don't have the time to be a real soldier? Join the American team! Kick some Taliban ass! We're now 10 years deep into the latest conflict. When can people start talking about this conflict as a reflection of our culture? It has to happen sometime.

  • I understand why this mother would be upset, she lost her son and that's sad.

    Race car games let you bump others into the wall. Baseball games let you throw beanballs. Basketball games let you recruit a posse and commit all kinds of off-the-field shenanigans. Maybe what we need is more padding for our children, that way they can live safely and without fear of something terrible happening. Sounds like a great way to motivate children to live life to its fullest.

  • but i believe that I played on the Russian army side of Bad Company. Or as a Colombian drug lord. No ones up in arms over that.

    I know, let's just outlaw violence, that way only only governments and outlaws will use it. Imagine a world where kids don't get into fights. Adults can all go to arbitration. As a matter of fact Mr. bin Laden has an appointment with me and my arbitration people, early next week.

  • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:19PM (#33268350) Homepage
    Clearly Uplink is insensitive to server admins who have lost data due to hacking. They didn't get to start over when their server was owned and they had no backups, and their families have to live with that every day. It's not a game... Introversion is very cavalier about it: "Well, it's just a game." But it isn't a game to the people who are suffering from the loss job.
  • What the fuck ever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:20PM (#33268364)

    Yuppies are die hard hypocrite pussies. Wake me up when a game contains the following plot:

    1. A foreign invader bombs your village and drops leaflets about liberation
    2. You lose one cousin to an errant bomb, another is killed by a rival tribe
    3. The electric grid starts to fail. Riots take over the streets, and you can no longer go to school or even visit family across town
    4. Finally, your mother is forced into prostitution because your father was abducted, tortured, and killed by the invaders
    5. You completely lose your mind and embark on a mission to kill at least one foreigner in retribution for the suffering you have endured

    When that shit happens, video games will be art, and they will start to matter. Any complaining about obviously pro-American games like Medal of Honor is the most pathetic and empty endorsement of patriotism I've heard this week. And trust me, there's a lot of competition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:23PM (#33268410)
    I totally agree with this woman. Anything that can be linked to personal loss in video games should be disallowed. My son died in the 80's because a giant L-shaped girder fell on his head. People are unaware of the amount of construction accidents that happen everyday and affect the lives of so many, these game developers can be so insensitive!
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:24PM (#33268418) Journal

    For the express purpose of losing and mocking the dumb SOBs. All through the match I would warble and scream like a Taliban fighter and would yell out "Allah Fubar" or "Admiral Akbar", before getting sniped, as I was getting sniped I would scream, "I can see heaven and my 72 virgins, oh crap they are star trek nerds!!" before respawning.....

  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:26PM (#33268450)

    For those who feel that playing the Taliban is offensive, I order you off the property because I am releasing the Dickwolves [penny-arcade.com] and you better hope you are not caught.

    If this offended you, please read Gabe and Tycho's response [penny-arcade.com] while you are being herding to the mines.

  • by TheDarkPassenger (1840942) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:28PM (#33268476)
    :)
  • by cbelt3 (741637) <cbelt.yahoo@com> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:33PM (#33268540) Journal

    I'm sure some people will be offended, but gosh darn it.. any trained soldier will tell you that training to 'think like the enemy' is a good thing. It lets you anticipate him and kill him before he kills you. If the soldier's mom is offended, I'm sorry to hear about it, but it is distinctly possible that some of her son's squad may find their lives saved at a future date by playing simulations like this one.

    I hope that someone takes her aside and explains that to her.

  • Um, no (Score:5, Informative)

    by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@@@jasonlefkowitz...net> on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:34PM (#33268546) Homepage

    If someone's the cop, someone's got to be the robber, someone's got to be the pirate, somebody's got to be the alien. In Medal Of Honor multiplayer, someone has to be the Taliban.

    Not true. America's Army [wikipedia.org] solved this problem rather elegantly: there were two teams in any given match, and no matter which team you were on, your teammates were always displayed to you as Americans and the players on the other team displayed as Bad Furrin Terrorists ("OPFOR"). So nobody had to play as a Bad Furrin Terrorist; the BFTs were always the other guys, not you. Given how effectively this approach removes the issue of "playing as the Taliban" I'm a bit amazed EA's developers didn't use it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Geldon (444090)

      Interesting. I didn't know that...

      I do appreciate the existentialism, though. I mean, in the end, doesn't every side of a battle see themselves as the patriots and their opponent as the "bad guys"*?

      *Insert whatever the term of choice is for the conflict in question. Whether it's Fascists, Commies, Terrorists, or Borg, it's still "the bad guys."

  • To be fair.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:34PM (#33268552)
    I can't watch the video, so this is based solely on the summary. It is entirely possible that the 'Gold Star Mom' (huh?) now objects to all depictions of war as entertainment. The summary doesn't say she thinks it's OK to play the US side, but not the side who killed her boy. It just says she objects to war being portrayed as a game.

    This is not a viewpoint that I share, but she's welcome to it.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:40PM (#33268604) Journal
    It's gotta be rough playing Taliban where your only hope of anything is to shoot quickly than run, and hopefully you'll kill someone before you die, if you're lucky. Where if you ever begin to get the upper hand in any fight, your opponent calls in a helicopter that you have no defense against, or even hope to have a defense against. Where your only chance of winning is if your opponent decides to go home. That would be so depressing.
  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:41PM (#33268626)
    ...offended. Tagged "thinkofthechildren". Faux News sensationalism strikes again and were it not for them, the parents of dead soldiers would probably never have even heard about the game, let alone: "The Taliban Option". So who is the real villain?
  • by apparently (756613) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:43PM (#33268654)

    A's response to this criticism of giving players the objective to 'gun down American troops' was this: 'Medal Of Honor is set in today's war, putting players in the boots of today's soldier... We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of us have been doing this since we were seven. If someone's the cop, someone's got to be the robber, someone's got to be the pirate, somebody's got to be the alien

    Cops and robbers, sure, but who the fuck ever heard of playing pirates and aliens? Who's even the bad guy in that scenario? EA should've gone with the analogy all of our father's at one point impressed upon us: "If someone's the pitcher, someone's got to be the catcher, son. Now let daddy see your mitt."

  • by Torodung (31985) on Monday August 16, 2010 @06:02PM (#33268922) Journal

    EA should do something really controversial. I'll buy the game when I can play and/or shoot Muhammad.

    --
    Toro

  • Ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Monday August 16, 2010 @06:49PM (#33269380)
    Her son died in a war to "Protect Freedom". And yet she belittles his death by complaining about a game that allows the players the freedom to be whoever they want in the conflict.

    Lady, your son signed up because he believed it was the right thing to do, he died for his beliefs. The least you can do is respect what died for.

    I don't agree with this war but I respect those who at least have the balls to put their lives on the line for their beliefs. Its far more than most of us will ever do.
  • by ronaldmigahil (1403923) on Monday August 16, 2010 @07:07PM (#33269528)
    I think hearing this song can help. DEVO - Freedom of Choice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jVoroHx3IU&playnext=1&videos=IibK1CODwX4 [youtube.com]
  • Freedom of Speech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <.slashdot. .at. .uberm00.net.> on Monday August 16, 2010 @07:46PM (#33269874) Homepage Journal

    You can't silence it, but you don't have to listen.

  • easy solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @03:44AM (#33273136) Homepage Journal

    And we live it -- it's not a game... EA is very cavalier about it: "Well, it's just a game." But it isn't a game to the people who are suffering from the loss of the children and loved ones.'

    Easy solution: Don't buy it, don't play it. There, solved that for you.

    Really, we as a society need to get out of this stupid tribal mindset that we are offended by things that other people do with no effect whatsoever on ourselves. I'll admit up front that it isn't the same level of evil, but it is in the same category (semantically) as Taliban who are offended at other people being in love with each other.

    And yes, I say that to a griefing mother. Grief makes you irrational, and irrational people should not be the ones who decide how society works. They deserve our support and comfort, but they don't deserve to dictate policy.

  • by Satanboy (253169) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:45AM (#33274474)

    While I disagree with EA's addition of this option in this game, I cannot say I agree with taking away their right to put it out there.

    I think it is in bad taste and is showing a lack of compassion and respect for our troops and their families. I will just vote with my wallet, as I would hope anyone who feels as I do would.

    I don't think it's right to tell an artist they cannot produce art that I disagree with, I just won't support an artist for doing so.

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