Medal of Honor Scandal

Once again, another scandal has struck yet another modern first person shooter.

Recently Gamestop announced that they were “voluntarily” pulling all marketing materials and ceasing pre-orders for the upcoming military shooter, Medal of Honor. In an internal memo to Gamestop, employees were told that, if someone came in to pre-order the game, they were to  direct them to another Gamestop location off the military bases. The game and marketing materials had been pulled due to players being able to play as Taliban forces in the multiplayer portion of the game.

This news has soapboxers polishing up their finest preaching boots, and is leaving many a gaming soldier left scratching their heads. When I first came across this bit of news, I was immediately appalled and taken aback. I have family members who have served in the US Military and, while they were on active duty in Iraq, I couldn’t bring myself to play a modern shooter period, let alone one that allows you to play as the very organization claiming the lives of men and women today.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I misunderstood the  brief news posting and believed the game to be putting you in the dust-covered boots of a Taliban soldier in the campaign portion of the game, in which you gun down American soldiers while learning the “plight” of a misunderstood extremist. It goes without saying that I was furious and already had my preaching boots to a high polish.

As I began to look over various news sources, I came to realize the game only featured the Taliban in name, as bland stereotypical enemies in the multiplayer arena, and found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I’ve already expressed that I have family who served their country, but I am also an artist and the struggle to express oneself regardless of who it might offends is an important and sacred thing. I  believe that in our wonderful country, anyone should have the right to express or share anything they feel is of importance while still respecting others. On the other hand, as a consumer, I choose not to purchase the game – as is my right – because I don’t feel that naming the Taliban was in good taste or necessary in this case.

The Military seem to share this latter opinion and were the ones responsible for Gamestop pulling the game from their military base locations. As more details came to light, I feared this was a case of censorship, which is always a brier patch of dead ends and wrong turns but, the more I thought on the subject, the more I came to see where they might be coming from.

An army’s primary function is as a war machine, with each soldier a cog in the overall machine. Soldiers and their families who have lost or faced being lost to hostile forces overseas are right to be sensitive to the idea of Taliban soldiers, in name and stereotypical likeness, being used in a form of entertainment as downtime. This could potentially threaten the cogs of the machine and is, therefore, bad for everyone.

I believe this could be considered somewhat of an overreaction to the inclusion of Taliban in the game, but then again, I haven’t had the misfortune of losing a loved one to war.

As the fires of indignation begin to simmer and then go out, I can see both sides of the conflict and sadly I don’t believe there is one right or wrong side to things. Gamestop has every right to make decisions as to what they will or won’t carry in deference to their consumer base, just as their consumer base, and by extension the rest of us, has the option to purchase or not purchase the game.

From all that I’ve been able to find on the subject, the game itself doesn’t appear to be banned on the military bases, they’ve just asked the major game retailer to not promote something that could be seen as disruptive or disrespectful to those who gave their lives for our country.

Censorship is always a tricky subject, the road to hell and all that, but if Gamestop did actually pull the game voluntarily and weren’t pressured into it, I can support that. What do you think? I would welcome any comments or thoughts on this matter.

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