I must be inside the bubble, because the idea of playing as the Taliban in Medal of Honor multiplayer didn't hit me as particularly controversial. Fox News noticed. Though it did treat the subject reasonably, the woman they interviewed doesn't.
This segment aired on Fox & Friends yesterday and, despite the network's poor rep with gamers thanks to past treatments, its handling does come in pretty fair and balanced. They didn't have to pick this subject, of course, and it may not be news to us, but I'll allow that it is to the general public.
Anyway, here's Karen Meredith, a Gold Star mother who lost her son in Iraq six years ago. Her beef with Medal of Honor is, more or less, that it's disrespectful. And that it's coming out at a time when the U.S. is having a bad month in Afghanistan.
"Families burying their children are going to be seeing this and playing this," she alleges. I seriously doubt anyone in the throes of grief will choose to pay $60 to be hurt by this war again.
The Fox News anchor does point out the Taliban component is part of the game's multiplayer mode, and that the average gamer age is 35 - 39 for someone buying this particular title. So, no B.S. about this desensitizing children to violence or war.
Although he doesn't differentiate that the singleplayer game - the story being told - is entirely the U.S. perspective, I'm not sure that detail would mean much to the majority of his audience, or to this woman.
Fox read a pretty candid statement from Electronic Arts' Amanda Taggart: "Most of us have been doing this since we were seven. If someone's the cop, someone's gotta be the robber, someone's gotta be the pirate, and someone's gotta be the alien. In ‘Medal of Honor' multiplayer, someone's gotta be the Taliban."
I'm not sure this woman gets it that the multiplayer only concerns the hat you wear; Taliban fighters in MOH multiplayer are not fighting for a cause, and neither are the Americans. The alternative to a playable Taliban is, what, U.S. soldiers shooting each other?
Meredith, naturally, mentions the abortive "Six Days in Fallujah," as some kind of evidence that games publishers can be shamed into showing respect for the current war. "Six Days" ran into a buzzsaw because it invoked a specific, brutal conflict and then, Atomic Games did the extremely stupid thing of bragging it had Iraqi insurgents as consultants on the project. To my knowledge, Medal of Honor concerns fictitious operations in Afghanistan and its military advisors are entirely American, or at least not Taliban.
But Meredith's problem seems to be that any game would be made about a current, ongoing conflict. World War II games are fine because "that's far removed, that's not based on real people." Well, neither is Medal of Honor, to be honest.
Fine. I think trying to convince her of this game's legitimacy, and the respect gamers still have for the armed forces despite (and perhaps because of) playing it, would be like talking to a stop sign. She's done a very good job of going out of her way to be offended by something she doesn't consume, and then relying on her martyr status to get her way.
Video Game Lets You Be The Taliban [Fox News, thanks Robert R.]