Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Medal of Honor: Digital Dilemma
With Medal of Honor set for release in less than two months, the most recent edition of the game is becoming more and more controversial -- and for good reason.
The game is set in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. More shockingly, the game's multi-player mode allows players to assume the role of the Taliban and fight NATO troops.
It's a provocative and challenging element of the game, and has naturally elicited some strong reactions from political leaders in countries currently involved in the war.
"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," fumed Defence Minister Peter MacKay. "This is reality. I find it wrong to have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban. I'm sure most Canadians are uncomfortable and angry about this."
Britain's Minsiter of Defence, Liam Fox, took an even stronger stand; he wants the game banned, or at least boycotted.
"At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands," Fox spat. "I am disgusted and angry. It's hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game.
"I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product," he concluded.
A certain level of disgust with Medal of Honor may well be warranted.
Call of Duty: Worlds at War has already taken the nearly-unprecedented step of allowing players to play as Nazi Germany during its multi-player mode. It goes without saying, however, that it's no longer the 1940s, and that Canada is no longer at war with Nazi Germany.
(Thanks to Canada and its World War II allies, Nazi Germany no longer exists.)
In an electronic medium that has already allowed players to play as the most evil regime of the 20th century, it was only a matter of time before they had the opportunity to fill the shoes of the some of the runners-up.
Banning or boycotting Medal of Honour isn't really the answer.
For one thing, if the game presents an honest depiction of the Taliban and its tactics, the game could remind those who play it of exactly what is currently being fought in Afghanistan: theocratic tyranny at its most savage.
A suitably honest depiction of the Taliban will make it difficult for even today's tuned-out generation of video gamers to turn a blind eye to their true nature.
It's worth repeating that in the storyline mode of gameplay, the Taliban will remain the villain. Left-wing peacenik fantasies don't translate very profitably into combat-oriented video games.
Playing as the Taliban in multi-player mode wouldn't symbolize any sympathy for the Taliban or its goals. And for the prospect of turning video gamers on to the resolute evil of the Taliban, it's well worth the perversity.