today's world, video war games are all the rage. The military knows
that video games make young men more interested in military service,
and can even make them better soldiers. As is so often the case, some
of the producers of these games have taken the simulation too far.
For the latest version of its wildly popular shooter game "Medal of
Honor," Electronic Arts chose to set the game in post-9/11 Afghanistan.
But now it also allows players to fight as the Taliban and kill
American troops. This was too much for the military. Army, Air Force,
and Navy bases have announced they will refuse to sell the game out of
respect to our troops who have been killed by the Taliban.
"You know how many of my friends have been killed by the Taliban?"
Staff Sgt. William Schober, a fan of the earlier "Medal" games, asked
the New York Times. "One of my friends was sniped in the head by them.
That's something you want to have fun with?"
It's another American popular-culture embarrassment.
In the international community, defense ministers in countries that
have lost troops to the Taliban have also experienced outrage.
Britain's Liam Fox said he was "disgusted and angry" and "would urge
retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this
tasteless product." Canada's Peter MacKay added "I find it wrong to
have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban."
The lifelike simulations of combat are manufactured out of a close
working relationship between game producers and the military. EA made
"Medal of Honor" with the consent and assistance of the Army, which
gave them access to a replica of an Iraqi village used for training at
Fort Irwin in California. But an Army spokesman insisted the Army
wasn't aware that users would have the capability of fighting against
U.S. troops and underlined the review process would be more thorough in
the future. But why continue a partnership when you've been conned?
An EA spokesman stressed that the game was intended to celebrate
American soldiers. But with the popularity of online multi-player
showdowns (where one guy in Virginia can play against another guy in
Idaho), game makers have increasingly offered users the options of
embracing the role of bad guy. EA's last version of the game, set in
World War II, allowed players to fight against the Allied forces.
As tasteless as that is, it's history. Right now, American boys are
dying every day. They deserve this nation's highest respect, not this
The amorality of these professional war-gamers can be astonishing.
Last year, hundreds of parents protested Activision's game "Call of
Duty: Modern Warfare 2" for a scene in which players could take part in
a terrorist group's machine-gun massacre of civilians at a Russian
airport. The player acts as a special-ops agent infiltrating the
terrorist cell that can either choose to join in the civilian-shooting
to remain "credible," or refrain from the bloodbath.
EA's Frank Gibeau complained to the media that video games are
unfairly singled out: "At EA we passionately believe games are an art
form, and I don't know why films and books set in Afghanistan don't get
flak, 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."
Here we go again, the scoundrel's final defense: It's "art." Video
games are amazing technological products, but they are not "stories"
like a book or a movie. Parents don't worry about their kids reading
Taliban books. I don't know of any movies where the Taliban are the
heroes. It's only video games where children enter an imaginary (but
most realistic and therefore, dangerous) world in which they are the
In a video game, every player is the author and the movie director.
The game maker only sets the parameters, and lets the player finish the
story. In this case, EA has created a plot in which children can be
absorbed for hours in the virtual reality of killing American solders,
the best and most honorable product our nation has to offer. The idea
that game makers just can't comprehend why this would be singled out
for condemnation is ludicrous. They know exactly what they're doing as
the thirty pieces of silver jingle in their pockets.