Medal of Honor Uncensored: The Fallout

Medal of Honor Uncensored: The Fallout

Sometimes, a highly-anticipated video game ends up being a disappointment. And once in a while, players perceive a game as an outright betrayal. According to Kotaku’s recent article A Year In Disappointments, this year’s Medal of Honor for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 turned out to be both. It was a mediocre game, and when EA caved to media pressure and censored the title, it alienated Medal of Honor‘s adult fan base.

Medal of Honor is an FPS “reboot” of a franchise that got underway over a decade ago, but the original game’s basic premise remains–more or less. The new Medal of Honor still illustrates the trials and horrors of war, but the setting has been shifted from the battlegrounds of World War II to the current ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The change rang a bit too true for various members of the military worldwide, whose complaints were picked up by the media. Of particular concern to the public was the fact that EA had plans to let players engage in multiplayer matches as a member of the Taliban if they so chose, which would potentially harm children (Medal of Honor is an M-rated game).

Before Medal of Honor hit the shelves, UK Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox called the game “Un-British,” and pointed out that “At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands.” Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay echoed Fox’s sentiments, stating that “Canada and its allies have fought far too long in Afghanistan and it’s not a game.”

EA responded by changing the Taliban to the “Opposing Force.” The game garnered average- to- positive reviews, and sold moderately next to Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Medal of Honor‘s lower-than-expected sales numbers can’t be blamed directly on the game being de-fanged to placate the media and military (not that it worked, as Medal of Honor was not sold on military bases). However, even if Medal of Honor still ranked as a so-so title at the end of 2010, could it have potentially been remembered as a game that took a stand, so to speak, for the industry?

War is an awful, messy, horrible thing, and the conflict in Afghanistan has been especially drawn-out and unpleasant. Nevertheless, war is a part of our lives, and as a result, it’s a part of our entertainment. A North American-produced war movie from the perspective of the Taliban would certainly be controversial, but chances are that it would still have a right to exist and be scrutinized fairly by critics. Such works are not necessarily developed to make the enemy appear sympathetic, but rather to make us think outside our own worlds. This is especially important as far as the war in Afghanistan is concerned, as most of us are not affected personally by it unless we have a friend or relative serving in the armed forces.

Of course, video games aren’t movies. Playing as a member of the Taliban in Medal of Honor would be different from passively watching a movie about the Taliban. At least, that’s how things might appear to upset defense ministers who are unfamiliar with the concept of the ESRB, unfamiliar with games in general, and might think Medal of Honor to be a bloodier, more realistic version of the war games kids play in their back yards.

Which is fine. Anyone who wants to see war abolished is going to take a second look at a game that lets players take up arms as the enemy. That’s where publishers have to stand their ground and say, “Video games are not just for kids. We have movies that show us the more unfortunate chapters in human history, and we shouldn’t censor games that let us play through them.”

It’d be a rough struggle, to be sure. But in the end, Medal of Honor fans would hopefully be treated like adults who know the difference between right and wrong instead of like kids who have to sneak into R-rated movies despite being old enough to drink.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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