Wednesday, August 25, 2010

War is Not a Game- Medal of Honor version

Electronics Arts will be releasing a new version of their video game Medal of Honor in October. By all accounts Medal of Honor is a pretty popular game.  According to Wikipedia, Medal of Honor was first developed by DreamWorks Interactive and published by Electronic Arts in 1999. The series, originally based on WWII, was created by filmmaker, Steven Spielberg.

The newest reboot of the game, set in current day Afghanistan, allows a player to take the role of the Taliban and shoot US soldiers in the multi-player part of the game.  No problem, says EA's Amanda Taggart "Medal of Honor is set in today's war, putting players in the boots of today's solder. We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of having been doing this since we were seven. If someone's the cop, someone gotta be the robber, someone's gotta be the pirate and someone's gotta be the alien. In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone's gotta be the Taliban." The game is a problem to me; my only child, 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed in combat in Iraq in 2004..

Last week, when I heard about the details of this game and the ability to be the Taliban and shoot US soldiers, I was shocked at the insensitivity to releasing this game as our members of the military fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This game trivializes the training and the service of members of the military.  Not surprisingly, a quick review of the executives at EA reveals none have served in the military. Most important, the release of the newest version of Medal of Honor at this time shows how far removed EA and the other 99% of our country is from the 1%, the military and their families who carry the heavy burdens of these wars. We, who have been affected by the war think about the war every day versus those who never (have to) give the war a thought.

Although I am not advocating for a ban of this game, First Amendment and all, I would be satisfied if MOH is pulled.  This is not without precedence.  In 2004, Sony pulled a game called "Shock and Awe", apologizing and calling it "an exercise of regrettable bad judgment."  In 2009, Konami Games pulled their support of a game being developed by Atomic Games, called "Six Days in Fallujah", based on the one of the bloodiest battles in Iraq for both Americans and Iraqi civilians.  If my speaking out causes people to think about the war, I'm okay with that.  If my speaking out causes people to question the intentions of these type of games or to question their values in playing such games, I'm okay with that, too.

Gamers are a surly lot when they feel threatened about their choice of video games. They feel entitled to graphically and vocally express their opinion, although my opposing opinion has frequently been called ignorant, just talking crazy, stupid, and disgusting and worse; the testosterone is palpable.  I have also been instructed to "shoot myself in the head over and over", "Kill myself" and "If she doesn't like the game she should not play it".  To be fair there are a few enlightened and empathetic voices, but they are the minority. It makes you wonder who plays these first person shooter games.

The hate and nasty name calling that has been directed at me is interesting and disturbing at the same time.  I might remind the gamers that I have already had the worst day of my life, so these sticks and stones cannot and do not hurt me. It just validates the level of and lack of maturity.

Let's lay out some facts, so that if anyone feels inclined to dismiss my opinion, they won't need to use these as their argument.
  • My son, 1Lt Ken Ballard did volunteer to serve his country in the Army and did so with honor
  • I will never get over his death
  • My son was killed in Iraq, not Afghanistan
  • I do not play video games, especially those that involve killing- anyone.  
  • I will not be buying or playing Medal of Honor or any game that involves killing- anyone.
  • I believe in the First Amendment, the Freedom of Speech
  • I do not want Medal of Honor banned
  • I have watched the trailer for MOH
The gaming industry is trying to put their medium on the same level of books and movies and with the same respect. From the EA web site one day “software worthy of the minds who use it” would be more important than traditional media like films and television. They suggest that all mediums are for entertainment, but I would argue that books and movies can be informational, and not entertainment. Books and movies have a finite ending, the same characters die at the same time, the same happy or sad ending occurs, regardless of the number of times you view or read.  Video games offer different endings depending on how the game is played. A player can pause the game, they can start over and replay, replay and replay, all of which are not available in the harsh reality of war.

My message to the executives of Electronic Arts is not a request to ban the game.  It is a request to understand and acknowledge the controversy and hurt they have caused to the many families of the fallen.  The cavalier responses from their PR staff are patronizing and arrogant, not in line with their stated values of  "Think of Consumers First" and listening and responding.  The values page on Electronics Arts website also asks “What must we do to be our best?”  If Medal of Honor is EA’s best, then they have failed.  EPIC fail!

 I have respectfully requested a meeting with Electronic Arts.  Although I am not hopeful for a response, just in case, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Welcome Home!

A young man by the name of Goobig Qp posted this video on his Facebook page. I don't know Goobig, but I know he's got a big heart.  His video is a 10 minute montage of military welcome home reunions. It is worth 10 minutes of your time to see the joy in the faces of the families, friends and even of the returning members of the military.  I wish everyone in the country and I do mean every one, would watch this video and see the faces of these children.  Because in that minute of recognition, in that second, every fear was gone, every bad dream had faded and the world that they had been living in had changed- Daddy/Mommy is home!.  

Of course many of us did not have that reunion that we dreamed of and that sustained us during the time our loved ones were deployed.  Instead, we welcomed home a flag covered casket.  But that is another story and I only mention it to remind you that there are other "Welcome Home" scenarios.

Enjoy these reunions, and while you watch, remember the military children.  They did not enlist but they endure and experience numerous deployments in their own way, just as their parents do.  I wonder what will become of these children?  What are we doing to these children and their future?  They, too are the cost of war.

Before you hit the start button, grab the tissue and settle in.

Thanks for sharing, Goobig!