The Time To Think Twice (On Video Games)

The new Medal of Honour game, to be released this October, has hit the news with its plans to allow players to take the side of the modern-day Taliban in the conflict against US forces. When I heard about this gameplay I was shocked. I have always been a firm defender of video games content, whilst political figures have voiced their ill-informed opinions that violent video games cause damage to our society. But this time, EA Games has crossed a different boundary. They’ve crossed the boundary of respect, turning an active war into a piece of entertainment, and giving players the opportunity¬†to play as some of the most evil people in the world, shooting at our own troops that are out there right now.

Supporters of the video game will proclaim that game developers have the right to freely develop and publish games involving any content, and that gamers have the right to enter the fantasies of the digital world, a place far from reality, and enjoy that experience. This argument would typically hold against games such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2, and Counter Strike: Source, as well as many, many other games. It does not, however, hold in the case of shooting at NATO troops. Every week come back the reports of the sacrifices that have been made in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban, every week families are affected, and every week we live in a safer world for their valour.

Defenders of the game then become keen to point out that I’m happy to play Call of Duty 2, and other world war games. Is it really that different to be playing a modern conflict than a historical conflict? Well, yes it is. Because historical conflicts don’t affect our lives right now.

Where does the boundary lie in what’s acceptable video game content? How far will game developers continue to push the limits? What makes a video game disrespectful? Will next year’s Medal of Honour game involve players flying airplanes into the twin towers?¬†For me, the boundary is about to be crossed for the first time in October. I never believed that I’d be disputing the content of a video game. But I never would have imagined a developer would make such a tasteless game like this.

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