Video Game Option to Play as Taliban Sparks Military Ban

Video game company Electronic Arts will miss out on one market when it's new Afghanistan-themed game “Medal of Honor” releases in October: military bases. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service and the Navy Exchange Service Command have refused to stock the game because its multiplayer mode allows gamers to play as the Taliban – fighting and killing virtual American GIs.

Other war-based games feature multiplayer modes in which players are assigned to Nazi teams, Japanese teams, or generic enemy teams. But “Medal of Honor,” scheduled for release Oct. 12, is believed to be the first game based on an ongoing conflict that allows players to play as America's enemy.

The Associated Press reported that Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, the AAFES commander, said they “regret any inconvenience this may cause authorized shoppers, but are optimistic that they will understand the sensitivity to the life-and-death scenarios this product presents as entertainment.” Soldiers and others who shop at on-base stores will be able to buy the game off base.

Casella told the video-game blog Kotaku that the decision was made “out of respect to those we serve,” referring to the “very unique customer base that has, or possibly will, witness combat in real life.”

While Casella implied the game's multiplayer feature might be offensive or insensitive to soldiers who've seen combat in Afghanistan or their families, he didn't go as far as other leaders in criticizing the game itself.

Liam Fox, the British defense secretary, called the game “shocking” and said he was “disgusted and angry.” Fox urged retailers to ban the “tasteless product.”

Peter MacKay, the Canadian minister of national defense, said, “The men and women of the Canadian Forces, our allies, aid workers, and innocent Afghans are being shot at, and sometimes killed, by the Taliban. This is reality. I find it wrong to have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban.”

Like this article? Sign up for "Culture Links," CMI's weekly e-mail newsletter, by clicking here.