Gamers who were expecting to face off against Afghanistan’s Islamic extremist faction in EA’s highly-anticipated FPS will be getting something a little different. It’s a common trope to let players choose from the heroic and villainous factions in shooter games. However, there’s been a controversy over allowing the Taliban–Medal of Honor‘s bad guys–to be player-controlled avatars in the game’s multiplayer portions. This morning, EA announced that they’re changing the name of in-game Taliban to Opposing Force. Here’s the statement from Greg Goodrich, the game’s executive producer:
In the past few months, we have received feedback from all over the world regarding the multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor. We’ve received notes from gamers, active military, and friends and family of servicemen and women currently deployed overseas. The majority of this feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For this, the Medal of Honor team is deeply appreciative.
However, we have also received feedback from friends and families of fallen soldiers who have expressed concern over the inclusion of the Taliban in the multiplayer portion of our game. This is a very important voice to the Medal of Honor team. This is a voice that has earned the right to be listened to. It is a voice that we care deeply about. Because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.
While this change should not directly affect gamers, as it does not fundamentally alter the gameplay, we are making this change for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice – this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service.
To all who serve – we appreciate you, we thank you, and we do not take you for granted. And to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines currently serving overseas, stay safe and come home soon.
Medal of Honor
EA’s come under fire for the inclusion of the Taliban from multiple fronts. British Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox called for the game to be banned in the UK and EA’s Frank Gibeau responded by saying that games should have as much right to draw from the real world as other media do. Shortly therafter, the Army and Air Force Exchange Services divulged that they wouldn’t be carrying the game on military bases.
While the name change is clearly in response to a vast array of concerns, the problem with this eleventh-hour change is that everyone still knows that Opposing Force is the Taliban. Especially since those same character models will continue to be called Taliban in the single-player portion of the game. Moreover, if EA was really as committed to the idea of games as a storytelling medium as valid as books or movies, then they should have by all means stuck to their guns. Yet, the present-day political reality–where American and allied forces are still fighting battles against the Taliban–makes such a position extremely untenable and possibly even unprofitable.
Would do you think, Techland readers? Should EA have left Medal of Honor unchanged or does the switch to Opposing Force in the game’s multiplayer lessen the criticism they stand to face?