Monday, October 18, 2010

War is not a Game- MOH, the battle continues

Clearly, gamers, especially those who play violent war games, get their panties in a knot when they feel a game is at risk of not being published.  There was much ado about the Taliban shooting US soldiers option available on Electronic Art's just released video game, Medal of Honor.  The Taliban shooting US soldiers option caused the game to be banned from AAFES outlets on 300 bases worldwide and in turn, Gamestop also said they would not stock the game on their outlets on military bases.  Less than a week before the game was released, the kerfuffle caused EA to pull the Taliban option of the multi-player game in honor of soldiers, but for $59.95 you, too, can now sit in the comfort of your living room and shoot and kill US soldiers for fun, you know, as in "it's just a game".

I have discovered a few things in these past several weeks about video games, gamers and the culture they live in, and it isn't pretty. Apparently the First Amendment applies to gamers, but not to me when I expressed my opinion that I wanted MOH to be pulled.  I still want Electronic Arts to pull the game because it is a tasteless, violent, disrespectful game that in no way honors the troops as they suggest it does, regardless of any proclamations to the contrary.  Greg Goodrich, the Executive Producer of Medal of Honor said in a statement, that after hearing from military families,
"because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.

While this change should not directly affect gamers, as it does not fundamentally alter the gameplay, we are making this change for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice - this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service.
To all who serve - we appreciate you, we thank you, and we do not take you for granted. And to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines currently serving overseas, stay safe and come home soon."
Except, Greg Goodrich also missed the point.  It wasn't the Taliban option that was disturbing.  It was that MOH allows gamers to virtually shoot at US soldiers.  It doesn't matter that other games allow the same options.  That MOH takes place in a current Afghanistan setting while real US soldiers are really dying, does not make EA any better than the rest of companies who do the same. And it shows the wide divide in this country between those who serve their country and those who don't.

I have found that when you don't have a good marketing plan that you are sure of and one that considers all scenarios, because you can't or shouldn't make it up as you go along.  Jeff Brown knows what I'm talking about because he came off looking patronizing, arrogant, stupid and unprofessional, but so did many other spokespeople for EA. Note to Jeff, if you write a letter to a grieving mother, you really should acknowledge the loss or don't bother writing at all, because if you don't, you missed that point, too.

I learned that when someone sends you an email and you respond, that doesn't mean it's an interview, regardless of what they say.   Especially, when I noted "I definitely do not take your questions the wrong way, I am always happy have a discussion with someone who appears to be reasonable.  What you do with my response, may be another issue.  I hope you will respect me and will use my words as intended. "  They didn't do either and that will never give you an ounce of credibility; you  know who you are, Anthony, and you should be ashamed of yourself.  The video game website, Beefsteak will never be the professionals that they purport yourselves to be.

As for all of the responses that were sent to me via Facebook, through this blog and other ways; it doesn't matter how horrible or juvenile or hateful the comments were; they were only words.  I have already had the worst day of my life, so your words did nothing to hurt me or to sway me. I published every post on this blog, regardless of the level of intelligence or profanity, and yes, I acknowledge that there were some responses that were thoughtful. 

Hard core gamers should have figured out that I don't care what gamers (and I do mean that in a pejorative way) think about the game, Medal of Honor, or what they think about my opinion of the game, or about how other games are the same, or worse, and why I am picking on Electronic Arts?  I don't care how gamers think I am impeding Freedom of Speech, or how my soldier son was fighting for the gamers freedom to play violent, objectionable video games, or how I am depriving US soldiers their ability to purchase MOH.  I don't care if you are 17 years old or 50 and that you waste your time playing violent First Person Shooter video games and therefore that makes it, what?  Right?  Because for all of the talk about Freedom of Speech, people seem to have overlooked the fact that I agree that EA has the freedom to release this game, I just think they shouldn't have.

And finally, I wish that people would stop saying that Fox News exploited me when they invited me on their show to talk about  MOH the day after the "Taliban shooting US soldiers" option was revealed, or leaked.  I am perfectly aware of how this media game is played.  I wouldn't have appeared on the show if I didn't know what I was doing or why I was doing it.  Fox gave me the platform and I thank them for the opportunity.

If gamers think I am the only person who doesn't like the game, MOH or other first person shooter games, then they are sorely mistaken.  Nearly all the people I spoke to about this genre of games were shocked and disturbed about the options available on these so-called games. Sadly, we are not the demographic that the gaming industry cares about, but if this controversy caused people to have a conversation about this game and this industry, then everything was worth it.  But mostly I do not think the final chapter has been written about this controversial game.


Ezra said...

As a combat veteran, I find that in honoring you sons sacrifice for freedom, You take away the freedom he fought for from his fellow troops, namely the freedom to enjoy a simple harmless product. Your son received the the highest military commendation that exists, and I respect him and his sacrifice for this country. That being said, you did not. You have never received any military commendation nor served our country in any real way. Freedoms and enjoyment are few enough on the front line, and now because your of your "outrage" and complete lack of understanding in a soldiers lifestyle you have deprived many of a harmless piece of R&R. The soldiers on the front line are not morons, these are fighting men who are selling their lives dearly for war that most of you don't even know why we fight anymore. They are grown men and women who deserve to enjoy what little downtime they get in what ever way they choose and because of your words you have taking something away from them. I am so angered by your utter disregard for the soldiers that are still serving in the military that I will personally be sending 30 copies of the new Medal of Honor game in a care package to our men and women on the front. I do this as a veteran who understands the sacrifices they make everyday as you never will.

Dustin Kochensparger said...

I am glad you have posted this second column to clarify your position. It is now much clearer to me where you stand in relation to the release of this game, and I can now say that I am in support of many of the points you reference. The freedom of peaceful protest is just as relevant as the freedom of speech, and you are perfectly within your rights to do so. My only hope is that my fellow gamers can learn to be respectful of those with differing opinions, and realize that they too can make the same kind of stand you have, in a respectful, courteous way. I feel that the gaming community as a whole owes you a sincere apology for the way you have been treated for your stand on an issue. I suppose the problem gamers have is the way they are extremely protective of their culture. Gamers are fighting an uphill battle with the rest of society, attempting to validate their new form of entertainment, much like the followers of rock and roll music when it was first released. It seems that gamers have a hard time respectfully voicing their opinions, but at the same time, it feels like they have been trying that for years, with no result. As a result, they have resorted to foolish and pointless assaults on all who threaten the medium. I guess that I wish to say that we are extremely passionate about our games, but have difficulty in expressing and supporting them respectfully. As someone who wishes to enter this industry some day, I encourage you to continue standing up for what you believe in. Let the community know what works and what doesn't. Maybe even work alongside game developers to create a more reverent military video game. But please, don't believe that all gamers are crazed maniacs that cannot stand for any form of criticism. I hope that we gamers will view the treatment of this situation in hindsight, and look at how we can better portray ourselves in the future. Remember: it's only a game...

libhom said...

I hope to live to see the day when it is socially unacceptable for game companies to make products where people pretend to kill anybody.

Anonymous said...

So, you're singling out and condemning ONE modern FPS for doing something that EVERY OTHER modern FPS does and even acknowledge that it "doesn't matter" that those other games do it, too? That's pretty hypocritical, if you ask me. And if you think MoH is so terrible, why don't you Google "No Russian Controversy".

But you wouldn't ask me, would you? I'm a gamer and you've even stated you don't care what gamers think because you don't care about gamers' right to free speech, all the while having the audacity to condemn them for showing you the exact same "courtesy" as you're showing them. Maybe if you'd show a little respect for my right to free speech, I'd be inclined to show some for yours. Because contrary to what you think, your son's sacrifice doesn't make your opinions any more or less valid than mine.

When you tell me to "F off", I'm gonna tell you to "F off". But when you show me respect, then, and only then, will I show you the respect you want to be shown. That's the way I was raised, what about you?

Joe said...

A game taking place in the Afghan conflict is just the most horrible thing on earth, yet you can massacre an entire airport full of unarmed civilians in Modern Warfare 2 and this supposed "Gold Star" mom apparently has absolutely no problem with it.

Lady, this game was made to honor our veterans and tell a story about what they went through. Or have you missed the fact that actual US Special Operations personnel aided in the development of it? If it's so disrespectful, why would those elite warriors see fit to do that? Personally I stake more faith in what the soldiers and Marines themselves deem respectful or disrespectful to them, than I do what you think is respectful or disrespectful to them. You don't speak for our men and women in arms---they speak for themselves.

Turn the steering wheel and get back in your lane.

libhom said...

I can't help but notice how childish and sexist the gamers posting on here are. It reflects poorly on the gamers and the mindset the gaming companies promote.

Ryan D said...

I am a gamer, a college student, and 20-soon to be 21. I have been playing video games before I was in Pre Kindergarten. I just want to say that I'm very sorry for your loss, and for the way that many gamers have treated you over the internet for voicing your opinion. I also disagree with a lot of what you have said in regards to games like Medal of Honor or Six Days in Fallujah, but I respect that opinion.

Video games are no longer merely "games." They are no different from movies and books except for they are interactive. They tell stories. They make you feel. They teach you. They are art. The way the story is being told does not take away from that.

Again, I'm sorry for the loss of your son. However, these two projects-projects that had hard-working men and women, developers, actual military consultants, stories from people who had been there, are stories that must be told. The fact your son had died in the war should not be a reason to be prejudiced against this form of story-telling. It should not be a reason to simply write video games off. I implore you to really look at one of these games being played, maybe to even pick up a controller and try one for yourself and see how you like them. Maybe then, I hope, your perception about the video game medium and gamers as a whole will have changed.