Why is it so hard for so many people to see the broader picture? Granted, the ramifications of EAs cowardly submission to the US military by making silly, superficial changes, are not exactly writ large, but so many people don’t even try to think. EA has long touted the factual accuracy of their contemporary military setting, going so far as to work on their campaign with a media liason division of the US military, yet relations soured when they discovered at the eleventh hour that EA planned to include the Taliban as a playable force in the multiplayer. It is not as though the Medal of Honour developers were scheming anything nefarious in withholding this information, the Taliban were merely included as a matter of course, highlighting a cultural understanding gap betwixt game developers and the military brass. Moreover, there was a communication gap, as developer Danger Close, the studio working with the military, were only responsible for the single-player portion of the game, and thus would not have felt the need to bring up multi-player design, since this area was the domain of DICE.
At any rate regardless of what transpired it is all the same now, and the result is a matter of record. After approximately a month of back and forth argy bargy between EA and the military, cowardly EA folded like a pack of playing cards, cowardly playing cards, and renamed the multi-player Taliban as ‘the opposing force’. While there was nothing the military could do to halt the project at this point, they were nevertheless able to flex their financial muscle by threatening to ban the game from all on base software retailers. For EA’s part, it is understandable that they made these extremely modest changes in order to safeguard their sales, and thus their revenue stream, and believe me when I say the changes are minor. Minor? Try superficial to the point of absurdity; the Taliban from the single-player campaign are still referred to as such, while the same insurgent models are used in the multiplayer but arbitrarily renamed as ‘the opposing force’, leaving little confusion as to their identity. To my mind this is the most outlandish attempt at a politically correct whitewash since the hamfisted de-NAZIfication of the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D, sans the comedic value. The substance of the game is essentially intact, and something so superficial as a name change is only likely to confound idiots and buffoons, which is why it stands every chance of placating military angst. Thus EA are essentially looking after their profits, as is their right, the military are appeased, and gamers are essentially getting the same experience as initially proposed; win-win-win, surely there could be no reasonable basis for complaint in this happy scenario, right? Wrong.
Because of the highly superficial nature of the changes, many gamers have met complaints with the lassitude of apathy, or even shrill outrage in the case with various authoritarian personalities. They see a game that is essentially unchanged, a perception which is substantially accurate, yet they see only the dots, and not the illustration of a weak and cowardly dog which is revealed by joining them. To be perfectly frank I care not a shit for Medal of Honour, and even less about competitive multi-player, so the fidelity of the deathmatch experience is entirely superfluous to me, and yet I still hold EAs back down as important and regrettable, why? The substance of this matter matters not half so much to me as does the way the medium is perceived, perceived not from within but from without by opportunistic, vapid politicians and the baying hounds of the media. Therein lays the relevance to all gamers. Essentially by lacking the courage of their convictions and being cowed into backing down from their former stance on the issue, EA have once again handed victory to the mewling complainists and ruddy faced indignant objectionists of broader society, allowing them to once again delegitimize our INDUSTRY and put us gamers back into our kiddy box, safe and subordinate. Thus is it reinforced yet again that video games are not the domain of legitimate albeit politically sensitive subject matter, no, such issues are best left to a serious medium such as [derisive-sneer] HOLLYWOOD MOVIES![/derisive-sneer]
EA’s changes to the Medal of Honour multi-player are not of any great import when viewed in isolation from the broader context of the place of video games within society, yet it is a rather large setback for people of the mindset that legitimate contemporary issues and social problems can and should be presented and maturely explored within the medium of video games. The Medal of Honour multiplayer will not achieve this to be sure, but it is setbacks such as this and the Six Days in Fallujah debacle that will prevent other games from doing the same. With each politically sensitive game that falls through or is forced to edit content, a case is increasingly being built for game publishers to reject out of hand independent studios with plans to tackle socially sensitive content in their projects, this will effect us all. If I were to draw a parallel, and if you dear reader were to indulge my prosaic latitude to do so, then I should say that what is at stake resembles nothing so much as the Ground Zero Mosque controversy. The location of the Mosque was never important to the Mosques planners until broader society told the Muslim community that they weren’t allowed to perform this perfectly legal and legitimate activity, at that point Mosque location became a battleground in the fight for the status of equal citizenship as opposing social quarters aligned to force them out of this public space. EA for their part wanted to make use of legitimate subject matter until they were compelled to recant by the voices of public propriety, the only difference between the two incidents (other than scale) is that EA did not possess the ideological inclination to stake this politically sensitive territory as legitimate and fertile ground for the video game industry. And thus we are once again a less serious medium for artistic expression.
Edit: It would seem that EAs superficial alterations were not enough to change the mind of the military, and so the ban shall remain in place despite EAs public kowtowing.
Ultimately it would be silly to argue that a commercial entity like EA should not look to maximise their profits by making the requisite concessions to repair their standing with the military, yet for all that their decision is no less important, relevant and regrettable for the gaming industry, but enough of my views. Have I overstated the importance of this issue? Have I understated the importance of this issue? Are there some things that are just improper to make a game out of? Discuss.