October 27, 2010

Need to be PC on the PC? Enemies in video games.

Alright, this isn't a topic I have thought about too much and I might not write much since my arm has decided to spazz out on me this week.  But it's something I was thinking about, and I want to apologize for the dry spell of writing.  Now to get back on track.

I am sure a number of you are aware of the controversy Medal of Honor suffered because they were going to use the Taliban as the opposing force in their game.  Many politicians and families of those lost in the U.S. Army's recent conflicts, were offended and outraged by that possibility.  They said it's "too soon".

So what the Medal of Honor do?  They just removed the name Taliban.  But it didn't remove the characteristics.  They're still insurgents in the Middle East.  You could argue that you're still fighting the Taliban even if they're not called that name.

I can understand the alterier motives for the army officials to some extent, but as a consumer I get screwed over.  I think a good number of us do.  Sure, I love fighting enemies in space or in fantasy settings or in alternative universes or even in the past.  But sometimes you want something more in the modern day.  Games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty try to provide that, but because of public perception and feelings you can't make it too realistic.

I'm an empathetic person.  If I were grieving a loss of a family member that served in the army, I wouldn't want to see any of these games.  I am not sure if I would be as publicly outraged or scorned as some of the people speaking out in the articles linked above, but that outrage can hurt sales.  You don't want your consumer feeling guilty when they go to the local store to buy his or her copy of Modern Warfare.

However, sometimes the better stories are soaked in truth and realism.  Video games cannot grow as an artform if public opinion is going to alter what's produced.  There are plenty of books, movies, and pieces of art that are offensive.  Some of them were created with the full intention of offending, and most of them weren't.  To have video games become a full part of art, we have to be willing to make games that will make people angry, even if you might lose a customer or two.

Another random point entirely--I would like more realistic enemies and organizations in general.  Call of Duty has a problem with bringing in the russians when they're no longer relevant.  To be fair, a good number of companies have a similar issue.  But if you want to tell a modern story, make it relavent to current events!  America is probably more worried about whatever China is doing than Russia these days.  Just a pet peeve.

Anyway, back to the original point-- there are a lot of people who want video games to be considered art.  It's an impossibility if we continue to conform the "artform" to the expectations of our culture's morality.


  1. It is a business before it is an art form and if the two, the business and the art, conflict, then business will win every single time.

  2. There are always two sides to a war, and it's never as black and white as we try to make it - that's why most wars develop in the first place. In this world of political correctness, i'm surprised that people are not lobbying for both sides of a war game to have equal footing! If you study early Star Wars games, it began with everyone playing on the side of the Rebellion. But soon fans started screaming for a game where you could choose to fight alongside Vader and the Empire! Nowadays, you can see games that contain an option to play as either side of your choice, or games completely dedicated to playing as an evil character. Now why should a game in a modern setting be any different?

    I understand that for some people who have lost someone close to them in Iraq or Afganistan, that the subject matter may affect their mourning or trigger sad emotions more than the average gamer. But your point is very valid - why would they buy and play such a game in the first place?

    I find it quite sickening that to have a game where you play as a US soldier gunning down 'Middle Eastern' soldiers is acceptable. But if the other side is represented then all hell brakes loose.

    I wonder if Medal of Honor took any opinions of the families from civilian casualties in Iraq and Afganistan, who were killed by invading forces?

  3. To respond to you Marco, I think Medal of Honor actually did talk to people who had been on the front lines. Their research is supposed to be solid, and I think that's part of the reason why the army officials didn't like making the Taliban a playable enemy.

  4. To be fair though - they don't seem too bothered about making the Taliban a playable enemy as long as they don't have a name?! They seem comfortable enough in letting nameless 'arabic dressed' insurgents kill Allied soldiers as long as no-one mentions the 'T' word...