AAFES Still Says No to M.O.H. on US Bases, Even After EA Removes “Taliban” Label

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Video game developers and production studios and publishers are no strangers to controversy over video game titles and content. In the past few weeks Electronic Arts and Danger Close have been under fire from the military organization AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) about their new Medal of Honor (MoH) title. The new game has a multiplayer mode, where you can choose to be on either the American Force or the Opposing Force — which in the game was formerly called the “Taliban”. When the game was initially announced, AAFES made the call to ban MoH from all military installation sales in the base exchanges and any GameStop’s affiliated with the bases. The General in charge of AAFES, Maj Gen Bruce Casella, stated “Out of respect to those touched by the ongoing, real-life events presented as a game, Exchanges will not be carrying this product.”

The only other instance of a game recall that I can remember is when Konami pulled the title “Six Days in Fellujah.” This game was a little more centralized to a single battle in the conflict, and not so general as to have “Taliban” as the opposition.

After the announcement to ban MoH was made, EA decided to change the Taliban side over to “Opposing Force” and engaged AAFES again in hopes that they would understand the modifications to the game, and once again allow its sale on military installations. MoH is set to drop this month, and it’s still unclear as to whether our troops will be able to buy the game on base or not. This decision would also affect our troops fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other hot-spots around the world.

So let’s step back from the Taliban or “Opposing Force” debate for just a moment, and consider that most First Person Shooter (FPS) games are about a conflict between a “good” and “evil” side, whether they are zombies, vampires, Nazis, or an “opposing force”. This game really is not different from any of the other hundreds of games which have already been released. Most of our world conflicts have been recreated through video games, and a good number of the available FPS titles are about conflicts and previous wars in the past.

So why is AAFES making such a big deal on this particular game? Is it only because this war is so fresh? Are they worried about offending the current troops and their families? Do we not care about offending people or families who were touched by the Nazi’s in WWII? Has anyone expressed concern over all the Vietnam titles, a war in which we lost tens of thousands of soldiers?

I understand that this is a very sensitive topic in the news because we are still “winding down” the Iraq Conflict and ramping up our operations in Afghanistan. We send men and women of the Armed Forces overseas every day to fight for the “greater good” and to defend the freedoms of this country against perceived threats from everywhere. Is it somehow off-limits to recreate current scenarios when gaming?

As you all know, through war soldiers suffer injuries and they sometimes die, changing their lives and the lives of their families  forever; I am especially sensitive to this issue since I’ve seen it first hand. But I have to disagree that a video game could somehow disrespect the families of those lost.

Having been deployed overseas for the military three times in the past seven years, and as a current member of the National Guard, I can tell you first-hand that when soldiers get any downtime in the desert, they are likely playing video games or watching movies to pass the time and keep their moral up. All new games are welcomed by the troops, because they use them to keep their minds occupied on downtime, whether  they are virtually fighting against the “Taliban” or not. I think it’s the media that has turned this topic into a moral issue, and it really only hurts the troops by preventing them from buying this game.

And it’s not like troops won’t be able to get this game if they want it. Ordering things online almost becomes a hobby for many soldiers, and getting a copy of the new Medal of Honor within two weeks of its release really won’t be too hard to do. So if troops want to play the new MoH, they will find a way to get it. It would be a big convenience however, to be able to run into the shop on base and pick up a copy of the MoH game without having to wait for a mail order.

Nothing is yet final with the decision of AAFES, and hopefully they will reverse their decision, letting MoH ship to stores overseas and on bases everywhere. This game is fun, even in its beta form, and it is sure to be even better once the full title is released. I’ve had a chance to check out the MoH Beta, and I have to tell you it’s one of the best First Person Shooters I’ve yet played. If you want to try it, you can download the open beta now for free and play until October 8th.

As always, my hat is off for our men and women in uniform. Support our Troops! It doesn’t matter if you support the war or not, the troops still need and appreciate your support.

Medal of Honor is available for pre-order now, and the game will release on all platforms October 12.
Download the Open Beta, here

Via Joystiq, Medal of Honor

Message from Executive Producer Greg Goodrich:

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.

Greg Goodrich
Executive Producer
Medal of Honor