By Jared Newman | Monday, August 16, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Over the weekend, Fox News kicked off a controversy by asking whether the upcoming Medal of Honor goes too far in letting players fight as the Taliban.
The debate on Fox News and the angry comments from Karen Meredith, a Gold Star Mom, don’t surprise me in the slightest or interest me all that much. Anyone who’s kept an eye on the first-person shooter since it was announced last December could’ve seen the outrage coming from a mile away.
What interests me is that even some game critics, who as a group usually rally to defend the morality of violent video games, realize that Electronic Arts might’ve crossed a line with Medal of Honor.
“This is a real war that is happening right now, real blood is being shed, and simulating that for fragfest fun while being rewarded for kill streaks … Well, there’s just something a bit icky about that,” Dan Whitehead wrote in his multiplayer preview for Eurogamer.
Even in single-player, Dan Howdle at NowGamer was unsettled. “Whether Tier one special forces or the almighty grunt-hammer, players are forced to play through the eyes of Americans in a conflict that is currently happening in the real world and taking with it hundreds of lives every week,” he wrote. “And excuse us just a little if that doesn’t leave a bit of a bad taste in our mouths.”
After writing a story about the Fox News report, Gamasutra News Director Leigh Alexander remarked on Twitter, “will i be beheaded as an enemy of all video games by a ruthless screaming mob if i say i kinda agree with this?”
Note how carefully all three writers phrase their unease — “a bit icky,” “a bit of a bad taste,” “i kinda agree” — as if they’re just as uncomfortable opposing Medal of Honor’s premise as they are with the premise itself. The games industry’s natural defense against controversy is to downplay it, because in most cases the controversy is undeserved. Not this time.