Medal of Honor Does it Again…

Back in 2002 (or so) when Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (MOHAA) was released there was murmuring about how it was an insult to those who died in World War Two by being able to play as Axis (read: Germans). This was a bit of controversy and allowed all the wind bags to pipe up about how video games are the work of the devil and the biggest threat to humanity after Global Warming.

So here’s a quick bit of history for those not familiar with the original MOHAA game. In the single player game you play as an Allied soldier and you essentially battle through D-Day starting with the Normandy landings. Personally, the beach landing brought it home to me how tough a job the real heroes of D-Day had. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ did a good job of dramatising it, but this gave you the chance to be “part” of it. Obviously a keyboard and mouse is nothing like the real thing, but it’s the closest most of us will ever get to the horrors of war.

The game itself follows the historical route of the D-Day landings and simulated some of the scenarios faced by the Allies as they turned the tide of the war. The controversy was the multiplayer aspect – you could choose to play as….. *gasp and swoon* THE NAZIS! They weren’t referred to in the game as “the Nazis” at any point, with EA choosing the more acceptable term: ‘Axis’ (of EVIL…). But that was where the wind bags had the problem. “Choosing to play as a Nazi!? It’s an insult to all those brave men who died!”

Actually no. But when it comes down to it you’ve got a multiplayer game where the objective is to kill each other, you have two sides which means that one side has to be the Allies and the other has to be….. Axis. An insult would have been a multiplayer based on UK vs USA – there was plenty of blue on blue during WWII but not really appropriate in any game.

The main issue seems to have been because the game was based on events from living memory. There were no such qualms about the RTS games of the time featuring historic battles from the Napoleonic era. There were no newspaper articles filled with such nuggets as “My great-great-great-grandfather didn’t die at Cape Finisterre so that you could play video games about it!”. So that seems to be the touch paper – propinquity. How close to the present is the depiction in the game to cause “offense”.

Considering that ‘The War on Iraq/Afghanistan Terror’ is still ongoing it was only a matter of time before the politicians started filling their windbags with hot air ready to blow in Medal of Honor’s direction. Although it’s fairly obvious that they have no concept of the games industry, or what is going on otherwise they would have been “offended” prior to the imminent launch of the game.

On Sunday, Mr Fox said he was “disgusted” by the game, which allows players to adopt the role of the Taliban in the Afghan war.

“It’s hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game. I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product.”

Hmm…. what other side should you be able to choose? You have two sides! You have to be one or the other if you want to have a multiplayer game. It’s about war – a war that Dr Liam Fox backed from the start (voting for both the invasion of Iraq AND Afghanistan) so surely he should be pleased that the electorate can get each other virtually killed without having to travel thousands of miles at the taxpayers expense. EA are doing him a favour by creating a marketing and recruitment tool not seen since America’s Army in 2003. After all, games have been shown to be an excellent recruitment tool so there should be plenty of people signing up to continue the war that Dr Liam Fox helped create and perpetuate.

If anything it should also cut down on the insurgency (or at least the amount of people planning on becoming insurgents) when they realise how shitty the Taliban weapons and uniforms are compared to the US equipment. But no. The politician’s thinking probably went like this:

1- Go on YouTube looking for Hannah Montana in concert
2 – Related videos ‘Medal of Honor’
3 – Watch ‘Medal of Honor’ trailer
4 – Thinks….’hmm maybe I can get an Xbox on expenses….”
5 – Reads the IGN review….. WHAT?! YOU CAN PLAY AS THE TALIBAN! /ban mode activated

Films (and later, games) that graphically portrayed events in Vietnam suffered similar criticism when they were released in the late 70’s and early 80’s with the same reason given: It’s an insult to those who died. Personally, I think it’s an insult to those that died, and especially to those that survived to attempt to prohibit works – whether they are film, games or even art – that present a perspective on events that have already happened. As I said earlier, prior to seeing Saving Private Ryan and playing MOHAA I’d never really given any thought to what it was actually like to have been there – I’d seen pictures, old film and read about the events, but it was never “real” to me. Those events changed that for me and gave me a new respect for those who were involved – on both sides of the war.

Politicians: pointless windbags who only urinate whatever way the wind is blowing and spend so much time concentrating on the direction of the wind they lose touch with reality. Here’s a reality check. Medal of Honor will probably have an ESRB rating of 18. The age of majority (for voting) in the UK is 18. The average gamer is aged around 18. It’ll be interesting at election time.

But let’s not forget something important – these are video GAMES. Games! Not real. No matter what they are based on.

For your information – I support every single service person who is sent wherever our politicians send them to do the shitty jobs that they would never touch themselves. I do not, and never have supported the invasions of Iraq and Afganistan based on the reasons given by the politicians (yes, Saddam and the Taliban needed to be gone, but that was not the way to do it). In general, politicians are not worth the skin on their backs. And both my grandfathers served in WWII, one in the Merchant Navy and the other for the Polish forces (who was caught and escaped twice from PoW camps before making it to Scotland).

2 thoughts on “Medal of Honor Does it Again…

  1. Excellent post. I hadn’t heard any of the controversy until it appeared on the BBC website but I can imagine the Daily Mail are/had a field day with this did they?

    Like yourself I hadn’t given much thought to what all the people involved went through but after seeing dramatisations of conflicts they bring home to me what happened in ways a dry history book couldn’t.

    • Probably, I don’t read daily newspapers, and especially not the Mail. I like my news to be predominantly factual and non-biased rather than designed to incite ‘Incensed from Basingstoke’ to burn down their local Indian Takeaway, or boycott Musical Theatre because of Civil Partnerships.

      I get the feeling that Liam Fox maybe got his “facts” from The Mail thinking about it….

      But, about the war (and conflict in general) – my grandfathers never spoke about their experiences so I never had any first hand information about it. It was also one of those things you weren’t supposed to ask them about. Too late now though.

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