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 Medal Of Honor  Draws Controversy For Real-World War Content

Medal Of Honor Draws Controversy For Real-World War Content

August 16, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

August 16, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

In the commercially-competitive first-person shooter genre, Electronic Arts has chosen its angle with a real-world present-day setting for upcoming Medal of Honor -- a decision that's now courting mainstream media controversy, as when players take the role of the enemy in its multiplayer modes, it means they're able to play the Taliban.

Fox News hosted commentary from the mother of a soldier killed in the war -- she was concerned that the launch of the game, following a high-casualty month in the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict, would be insensitive to families of fallen troops.

"War is not a game, period," Karen Meredith said in the recently-aired news report. "Families who are burying their children are going to be seeing this.... I just don't see that a video game based on a current war makes any sense at all, it's disrespectful."

"Medal of Honor is set in today's war putting players in the boots of today's soldiers... we give gamers the opportunity to play both sides," said Electronic Arts senior PR manager Amanda Taggart in an official response.

"Most of us have been doing this since we were seven... if someone's the cop, someone's got to be the robber, someone's got to be the pirate and someone's got to be the alien. In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone's gotta be the Taliban."

"I just find this unrealistic, to compare cops and robbers to the Taliban and U.S. soldiers," Meredith responded. In a departure from similar mainstream criticisms of video games, the report acknowledged that any dispute with the game's content didn't hinge on its target audience -- that Medal of Honor is intended to be played by adults -- but on the appropriateness of its content in general and its treatment of a real conflict as a game.

"My son didn't get to start over when he was killed," said Meredith. "His life is over, and I have to deal with this every day... it's just not a game."

With so many hats in the ring for the first-person shooter crown, setting becomes the key differentiator; Activision divides its two Call of Duty settings according to historical versus modern incarnations of the brand, for example, while companies like Bungie, Crytek and Guerilla Games (for Sony) aim at the futuristic genre with their Halo, Crysis and Killzone franchises respectively.

By selecting a real-world setting for Medal of Honor, EA takes on Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare, the dominant modern-setting shooter brand (and arguably the dominant shooter brand as a whole). Notably, however, Modern Warfare only alludes to the settings and climate of the present-day's real armed conflicts, suggesting them without grounding them in literal concepts.

The last widely-publicized title to confront a real-world war setting was Atomic Games' Six Days In Fallujah, which was promptly dropped by publisher Konami just three weeks after it was announced, amid controversy about its subject matter -- despite the fact the studio said it worked with real Marines to ensure a faithful presentation. As yet, that project has not yet found another publisher.

Medal of Honor, developed by the EA Los Angeles team recently re-titled Danger Close, launches October 12 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in the U.S. and in Europe on October 15. It's a reboot of EA's long-standing franchise, and is a key component of the publisher's slate for this year: "We're not going to be happy until we've taken the leadership back in the first person shooter category," CEO John Riccitiello has said.

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