Playing as the Taliban: Why It’s Important

Playing as the Taliban: Why It’s Important

When I read that UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox was disgusted by Medal of Honor – particularly the appearance of the Taliban in it – I sighed. It’s exactly the kind of opinion that prevents video games from getting due respect. In this case, it’s also completely unfounded.

In a genre designed to let gamers experience some of history’s most important events firsthand – D-Day, the Battle of Stalingrad, the US Invasion of Iraq – it’s no wonder the new MoH turns to the war in Afghanistan for inspiration. The Taliban happen to be a key element of that war, and – because MoH is a series whose multiplayer mode includes both sides of a conflict – a very playable one.

The game does not seek to glorify the Taliban, or encourage sympathy for them: It offers them as an option, not part of the overall story. Granted, that option requires performing real Taliban activities like murdering American troops and civilians, but that’s what the Taliban does. Watering them down in a game based on a conflict they are participating in diminishes their impact upon our current history.

Gamers need to to play the Taliban missions in a way that properly reflects the organization, and also gain a comprehensive understanding of the group. If done well, that Taliban option can give gamers a whole new sense of respect for the men and women fighting them in real life. That would be an enormous accomplishment for anything – and in any media.

As with most gaming naysayers, Secretary Fox is disgusted more by the idea of what the game represents than by the game itself. On the British site TalkTalk, he stated:

“At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands. I am disgusted and angry. It’s hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game.”

I’m not quite sure what Britishness has to do with the Taliban, but his disgust here is aimed squarely at the terrorists. He may not know that they’re only in multiplayer mode. It might not matter to him; all that he sees is a video game that invites people to play as terrorists. As if that would inspire real-life terrorism.

Naturally, EA has bollixed the whole situation by refusing to own up to it.

“The format of the new Medal of Honor game merely reflects the fact that every conflict has two sides… in Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone’s got to be the Taliban.”

That’s a corporate non-answer if ever I’ve heard one, and incredibly irresponsible given the subject involved.

As recently pointed out in feature article Why Video Games Deserve More Respect, video games “change the way we, and future generations, experience life.” Part of that experience is interacting with our world in a way that makes it mean something to us, even if that interaction causes us to temporarily become terrorists. That’s how we learn. That’s why we need video games.

I applaud Medal of Honor for bringing relevance – and real cultural currency – to its genre. I just wish EA would support it.

About Laurie-Anne Vazquez
Laurie-Anne R. Vazquez writes all sorts of things – stage plays, screenplays, television scripts, short stories, etc. One day she’ll burn herself out. Until then she’ll write, play games (or her viola) and photograph her beloved Brooklyn. She’s the News and Culture Editor for 2D-X.com.

5 Comments

  1. Apparently our comprehensive knowledge of the Taliban could use some work.

    Afghanistan. The Taliban is in Afghanistan, not Iraq. A little Pakistan.

  2. “In a genre designed to let gamers experience some of history’s most important events firsthand – D-Day, the Battle of Stalingrad, the US Invasion of Iraq – it’s no wonder the new MoH turns to the Iraq War for inspiration.”

    Actually the game’s setting is a country called “Afghanistan”. The war in Iraq is a whole different story, even if some people might lead you to believe that it isn’t… 😉

  3. That’s a interesting point of view. I recently wrote a article about the same theme, but used a different argumentation. Your points really add up to my point of view.

    http://gamecomments.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/call-for-ban-on-medal-of-honor/

  4. I disagree with the anti-EA sentiment. I think they are just being blunt and I completely agree with them. No spin, no ‘sweet talk’, no BS.

    Straight up – theres two sides to war as anything else, MoH aims to be realistic, someone has to play each side. What else is there to say?

  5. thinkin they shud stay away from current conflicts.

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