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Medal of Honor video game sales banned by US military
September 4, 2010 7:06 PM   Subscribe

EA's new Medal of Honor video game allows players to take the role of Taliban insurgents killing American troops. In response, the US military has banned sales of the game on all military bases, including in privately run businesses (such as GameStop) present on bases. Military members (who game) don't seem too happy about the decision here. (More military member comments, some pro, some against, can be found here.) You can watch someone playing as a Taliban insurgent here. (Warning: MoH gameplay is rated 'M' for mature.)
posted by GnomeChompsky (90 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
So they'll be calling off red vs blue training exercises, too?
posted by zippy at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's so stupid. I can't believe this is really an issue.
posted by gyc at 7:19 PM on September 4, 2010


I watched the video, that was totally awesome. That's just what I like in a war game, playing the underdog. You have inferior weapons and usually inferior numbers, so you have to win on tactics. But I am jealous, I don't have a machine that can play any of the new Medal of Honor games. So I will have to stick to playing the first 3 MoH games on my old Mac.. over and over and over.

I'm sure EA is jumping for joy over the ban. You can't buy this kind of publicity.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:20 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


In my world killing is killing. There is no moral high ground when it comes to killing.

This is a game. This is a game like cowboys and Indians. Sometimes a person playing a game wants to be a cowboy, sometimes they want to be a Sioux at the battle of Little Big Horn where Custer kinda deserved to get his ass kicked. The ideological ramifications of the banning are what I find troubling. It takes the play out of the game and elevates it to a status that I'm really uncomfortable with. Plus, in the same way that every sim-game develops its own economy, real tactics and strategy happen to aggregate with war games like this. Don't you think American soldiers might profit by this, learning the tactics of a guerilla insurgent force attempting to overthrow an occupying force? Or maybe do they fight better with their heads in the sand, like they did in Vietnam. After all, nobody ever thought about banning someone from playing the black pieces of a chessboard, did they? Its the same game from either side.
posted by isopraxis at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Assuming that the simulation is accurate, playing the enemy's part can give you a lot of insight into what sort of counter-tactics you should be using. So the upper echelon's decision is not just ineffective (since there are so many off-base sources for the game) it's stupid on several other levels as well.

Perhaps they are afraid playing the Taliban role will cause soldiers to defect?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:29 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh wow, look. It's a fucking game.
posted by marxchivist at 7:30 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are they banning the Civil War games that allow you play the Confederacy?
posted by COD at 7:36 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Quick, we gotta out-Call of Duty Call of Duty! I NEED IDEAS PEOPLE"

"I got it! You board an airplane, hijack it, and fly it into the World Trade Center."

"... Let's save that for Medal of Honor 2. But I like your style!"
posted by graventy at 7:37 PM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


And yet no-one minds the games where you play as a Nazi.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 7:37 PM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Clams vs Oysters. I'd play the shit outta that.
posted by isopraxis at 7:42 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Quote from an upset mom:

"And this country needs to have a conversation about the place of violent video games in our society, especially a game based on an ongoing war.''

Uh, is she aware that the US Army makes just such a game and gives it away free as a recruitment tool?
posted by Menthol at 7:50 PM on September 4, 2010 [21 favorites]


They're probably just bitter that America's Army flopped.
posted by kafziel at 7:50 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


IIRC one of thing things about America's Army (the US Army's video game) was that no matter which side you played on, your team looked (to you) like American soldiers and the other team looked like the bad guys of whatever map you were on.
posted by malthas at 7:55 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the real reason this needs to be banned is because it is tired, derivative, uninspired and frankly quite boring-looking. We've played this exact game several times already now. Here's an idea for an amazing game right off the top of my head: point-and-click adventure The 'Burbs. Or something saucy, like a first-person-peeper (press 1 for binoculars, 2 for night vision, 3 for digital camera, etc.), except it turns into a murder-mystery! Or an isometric turn-based strategy game about a manic depressive who just goes around saying increasingly outlandish things to people, really cries for help, and the idea is to keep him just happy enough to stay away from the Gillettes.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:03 PM on September 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


The military uses digital simulations for training that are essentially fancy video games. This technology is very important to them. I can see how someone in the high command (older generation probably) might mistake this product for something more serious than it actually is. I mean, check this article out. Brass takes this stuff seriously. To us, it looks like Big Brother banning Sith Lord costumes on Halloween, but to them it's "OMG they'll sympathize with and join the enemy."
posted by archivist at 8:04 PM on September 4, 2010


It's a game. It's fictional, even if it is based upon or inspired by real events.

Now, I'm a huge proponent of games as art and as emotionally affective experiences, but that doesn't mean that anything is or should be off limits, especially if the purchasers are adults. This isn't "think of the kids", although the military is treating its soldiers like children with this dumb ban.

Like others, I smell blatant hypocrisy and can't believe this is even an issue.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:05 PM on September 4, 2010


turgid dahlia,

Isn't that what the Leisure Suit Larry series was all about, more or less?
posted by GnomeChompsky at 8:05 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Make a patch that turns the US uniforms into 40th Army togs, problem solved.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the real reason this needs to be banned is because it is tired, derivative, uninspired and frankly quite boring-looking.

If it sucks it should be allowed to fail based on that alone, but banning?

“Whether we believe the advent of violent video games adds anything of value to society is irrelevant; guided by the first amendment, we are obliged to recognize that ‘they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.'” Interactive Digital Software Ass'n v. St. Louis County , 329 F.3d 954, 958 (8th Cir. 2003).
posted by Menthol at 8:18 PM on September 4, 2010


As a vet who raised his hand, I will fall on the side of the First Amendment. I find it tasteless, and uncaring, and in incredibly bad taste.

While I know absolutely zilch about programming, this may possibly be a function of a 20-something programmer who figured out just sticking dark skin and a turban on a character adds a whole new gameplay. I understand that. My son has a few of these MoH games, and enjoys them not for the bloodshed, but for whatever historical context they add.

If you want to talk about the Medal of Honor, I would suggest some historical grounding.

I honestly dont mean to tip too far toward Godwin territory here, but; by way of First Amendment rights, John Wayne Gacy lived about a mile from me and I am developing a video game. Would you rather play Gacy, or the victim?
posted by timsteil at 8:24 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]



And yet no-one minds the games where you play as a Nazi.


Minds? Shit, that's probably what sold half the copies of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. And they'd have probably sold more if they allowed you to play Mechano-Hitler from Wolfenstein 3D.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 PM on September 4, 2010


And this country needs to have a conversation about the place of violent video games in our society

Uhh yeah, we wouldn't want our troops desensitized to violence.

She has set off a storm of protest against Redwood City-based Electronic Arts and its "first-person shooter' game, which allows players to pretend they're Taliban fighters killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

I'm pretty sure they will still be able to pretend if they want, no matter how much art you censor.

Look, no one is going to be brainwashed into sympathizing with the Taliban because of a video game, especially when those same Taliban are shooting at our real servicemen in real life. I was hoping taking arguments like this seriously went out with taking Jack Thompson seriously, but here we go again I guess.

The young men they are trying to recruit to the military aren't going to like having soccer mom like censorship of video games. Not at all.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:27 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it will keep the Jihad aspirants on couches eating Doritos and Tastie Kakes washed down with Coke, I'm all for it.
posted by parmanparman at 8:35 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


IIRC one of thing things about America's Army (the US Army's video game) was that no matter which side you played on, your team looked (to you) like American soldiers and the other team looked like the bad guys of whatever map you were on.

That is so terrifying. I've seen word of certain drones being pilot-able by XBOX 360 controllers.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 8:37 PM on September 4, 2010


That's profound, parmanparman. Not only does that keep Jihad aspirants from becoming terrorists, but it also drastically increases their chances of becoming morbidly obese while at the same time supporting America's economy by consuming American products.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


IIRC one of thing things about America's Army (the US Army's video game) was that no matter which side you played on, your team looked (to you) like American soldiers and the other team looked like the bad guys of whatever map you were on.

Jesus Christ, that's some George Orwell shit. Whoa.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


At 4m3s it looks like he goes in for the teabag and gets pwned, in the parlance of our day. Is this our player being cocky or trying to avoid giving away his position?

You have inferior weapons and usually inferior numbers, so you have to win on tactics.

Having a built-in disadvantage for one side would make it really difficult to put together a playable online match system -- players would flock to the other side. I'm guessing this is just about swapping fatigues for a turban and kurta.

“It is not like we have a lot of entertainment here as it is,” said [Pvt] Pettit

dude black ops comes out 11/9 and it has exploding Roombas and prolly only disrespects the russians
posted by eddydamascene at 9:41 PM on September 4, 2010


Treating video games like they are real life? Way to be, military.
posted by knowles at 10:21 PM on September 4, 2010


Next: Gamestop pulls sales of TIE Fighter off of stores located on Rebel bases.
posted by leviathan3k at 12:07 AM on September 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


They hate us for our freedoms.
posted by Marla Singer at 12:09 AM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


It looks like a depressing, soul-destroying game to play, but perhaps that's me as I close in on my fortieth birthday. Realism? Realism is not shooting soldier after soldier as they pop up from behind shipping containers or walls or whatever. Realism is perhaps setting of an IED while seated safely behind some mud wall 50 yards away. Realism is getting tracked on infrared by some helicopter or gunship and getting blown apart by cannon fire as you try desperately and uselessly to hide behind something or anything to protect you.

I probably would have played this game when I was in my late teens and early twenties (when I had more time) but not anymore.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 AM on September 5, 2010


This is a little tasteless. At least Capcom waited until 1984 before they made 1942.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:06 AM on September 5, 2010


Or something saucy, like a first-person-peeper (press 1 for binoculars, 2 for night vision, 3 for digital camera, etc.), except it turns into a murder-mystery

This came to mind the second I read that. It's almost inevitably about to become a murder mystery, too, judging by that screenshot.

Or an isometric turn-based strategy game about a manic depressive who just goes around saying increasingly outlandish things to people

I like to think of Mass Effect as this, in space.
posted by emmtee at 1:07 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is, as was suggested before, just the same kind of deliberate, manipulative bullshit marketing hook that the most recent Call of Duty game tried -- that one where you are playing one of the bad guys, gunning down civilians in an airport.

It's calculated and insulting, and it's depressing how many people just respond to the fucking red flag that's being waved in the air. The companies are hoping to get some free media attention out of it, and they know it works. They saw that, if anything, the manufactured 'controversy' around the Call of Duty warporn increased sales, and they're cynically trying the same goddamned thing.

In case you hadn't gotten the whiff of the wonderchickensian ire yet, let me be clear that unlike many of my game-enthusiast pals, I loathe the military simulation games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honour and Battlefield Bad Company, and of course, dream of a special area of hell for the propagandist scum behind America's Army. I think they are just wrong.

Mine is most certainly not a majority viewpoint among gamers, not even among adult gamers, but I believe the cultural issue of interest here isn't so much the growing outrage marketing trend that spawns threads like this all over the internet -- because that's just cynical manipulation that stupid people keep falling for -- but the kind of world we're creating for ourselves where simulations of military conflicts that are currently playing out (or set in some notional 'near-future') are the biggest-selling games out there. When your (assuming 'you' are American) government does all it can to keep photographs of caskets of dead American military personnel appearing in the media, but children and adults alike are encouraged to bullet-pop skulls in photorealistic combat sims, you know, something's out of balance.


Maybe I'm old, yes, but I'm an old gamer, and I say: fuck EA, fuck these games, and fuck the whole genre that depends on ever-more-realistically-presented simulations of military killing to spin the billions of dollars these franchises make.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:11 AM on September 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


As much of a gamer as I am, I can't help agreeing with stavrosthewonderchicken. There's just something unpleasant about these games, something a bit like the nastiness of the grand theft auto series but magnified because of the effect they must have on people who have actually lost relatives or friends in the current wars. I'd much rather be playing something like Halo where you just have to kill religious fundamentalists and zerg.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:22 AM on September 5, 2010


They should give you the option of being a soldier in the Afghan National Army, and then you could get hashish power-ups so you could take more damage while you were trying to fix your jammed up American carbine.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:22 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good thing the military never got wind of Project Reality. In it one of the roles you can play is as an unarmed civilian, acting as a scout for your team (others on your side get to pick from a couple other classes, all quite underarmed yet better at guerrilla tactics than the invading US force).

As a civvie, all you have is your binoculars and the ability to throw individual rocks. The rocks don't hurt the opposing team at all but are great for annoyance. If the US forces kill you, their score is reduced dramatically, as are their chances of winning. The only way they can legally relieve you of your freedom is by arresting you.

Oh, and there's suicide cars as well as suicide cab-trucks with giant bombs strapped to them.

And since it's an expansion of BF2 you can also play as MEC (Middle East Coalition) soldiers and kill US soldiers. Also the Chinese army's in there. AND the Brits! Lots of rage-fodder for people in charge.
posted by pyrex at 1:28 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


lol it's coming out a month after the new Halo and a month before the new Call of Duty.

This game is going to get crushed, Taliban 'controversy' or not.
posted by hamida2242 at 2:19 AM on September 5, 2010


Maybe I'm old, yes, but I'm an old gamer, and I say: fuck EA, fuck these games, and fuck the whole genre that depends on ever-more-realistically-presented simulations of military killing to spin the billions of dollars these franchises make.

You had me at "fuck EA."
posted by hamida2242 at 2:20 AM on September 5, 2010


One must realize, of course, that the US military spends hundreds-of-millions-if-not-billions of dollars on training programs designed to remove the social programming that keeps people from killing each other in such a way that they only kill those people marked 'Enemy.' A major point in that program - historically and now - has been the radical dehumanization of the enemy, be they krauts or gooks or towel-heads. Putting rank-and-file soldiers in the shoes of that Other is not the best way to reinforce that training. I can understand their reasoning. If you think this is fucked, well, hate to break it to you, but the military itself is fucked; this is but a tiny symptom. If you require a citation, I'll refer you to Vonnegut for starters.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:38 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


pyrex -- Project Reality sounds sort of like the Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare game that ONN reported on late last year.
posted by autopilot at 4:08 AM on September 5, 2010


Kevin and Kell

posted by hank at 4:34 AM on September 5, 2010


I'll refer you to Vonnegut for starters.

If there's anybody in this thread -- hell, if there's anybody on all of Metafilter -- who hasn't read all of Vonnegut -- hell, who didn't finish reading his entire output before their senior year of college -- I'll eat my metaphorical hat.

Then again, who fucking knows, with kids these days and their charming illiteracy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:58 AM on September 5, 2010


stavrosthewonderchicken,

Thanks for posting that. That's the kind of anti-EA commentary I was hoping for when I decided to make the post.

That said, I agree with a lot of what you say regarding the marketing bit, but I'd probably not characterize the inclusion of playing as an insurgent as "manipulative bullshit." I have a slight (and admittedly slight) inside insight into the situation as I know a couple of people at EA very peripherally involved with the project. If I were a betting man, I'd say that the designers first made the decision to make the game about Afghanistan because 1) They thought it would resonate with kids and young people growing up with Afghanistan as one of the defining issues of their lives, and 2) Games like Call of Duty and Battlefront already beat the Russians and "Mideast Coalition" to death. The Chinese have also been used as enemies in games (though less so).

It's interesting to note that you can't play a Taliban insurgent in the game's story mode. The storyline is unrepentantly pro-American (as basically all these games are). The decision to allow players to play insurgents is mechanically necessary once one makes the design decision to make the Taliban the enemies. Every single one of these first person shooter games has a multiplayer mode where players can either play the good guys or the bad guys. I mean, look at a game like Counterstrike. You either play the terrorists (hoping to kill hostages) or the counter-terrorist agents trying to save the hostages. I don't remember any media (or continued) controversy about that. This whole issue didn't even become controversial until extremely late in the game development process, and it hasn't been a secret to people who follow gaming.

More important, I think, is your (and others') comment about the value of this game or anything like it. I do vehemently hold that the creation of such games is protected by first amendment rights, but I also fervently hope that the industry moves beyond its obsession with hyper-realistic first person shooters. I understand their draw -- there's definitely a certain thrill involved and an even intellectual application of tactical and strategic thinking that's quite stimulating -- but there are ways to do this is much less dehumanizing (and even fresh) contexts. I wouldn't like to see such games completely yanked from shelves, but it would be ever-so-nice if they weren't constantly flooding the market.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 5:10 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And this country needs to have a conversation about the place of violent video games in our society

This is such a parental thing to say, and in the worst possible sense. What it means is "this country needs to do what I say".
posted by WPW at 5:50 AM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the ire here. I don't play video games (except for Flight Simulator, occasionally), but who cares what other people are playing? Studies haven't shown that these games make people more violent, right? So they're not a danger to society.

"but the kind of world we're creating for ourselves where simulations of military conflicts that are currently playing out (or set in some notional 'near-future') are the biggest-selling games out there"

Boys play war games in every culture, and always have. These video games aren't creating anything. They're a reflection of a natural instinct.

Also, stavrosthewonderchicken, eat your hat, because while Vonnegut is good, he's not the be-all end-all. I've read a lot of his books, but there are more trenchant and compelling critiques of war than Vonnegut. War and Peace for starters (but I'm not eating my hat if someone here hasn't read it).
posted by luke1249 at 6:03 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I probably wouldn't want to refer to a writer who served, primarily as a POW, in a conscript army 65 years ago for a guide to the workings of the modern volunteer US Army, personally, regardless of Metafilter's familiarity with same.

GnomeChompsky, help me out here. When you say:

Thanks for posting that. That's the kind of anti-EA commentary I was hoping for when I decided to make the post.

Is that sarcasm? That is, are you thanking STWC for proving a point, or did you sincerely post the original link in the hope of attracting people who would make anti-EA commentary? I don't entirely follow.

Updating Medal of Honor to a modern-day setting is clearly an attempt to bulk up a franchise with a lot of historical affection to try to compete with the Modern Warfare juggernaut, while Activision is still off balance. The multiplayer is taking advantage of having multiplayer FPS specialists DICE on the books. This is just business, just like EA's distribution of the very unmartial and hugely successful The Sims is business. As Gnomechompsky says, you can't release a game intended to compete with Modern Warfare 2 without including multiplayer, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is one of the jewels in multiplayer's crown - you'd be insane not to have its creators make your multiplayer gaming experience if you had them under contract. Of course, since the singleplayer and multiplayer games were being developed in different engines on different continents by different developement teams, and are played on different maps, you could have made the multiplayer somehow fantastic or unreal - but if you are marketing the game on the strength of the realism (for some values of realism) of its single-player mode, why would you?

The moral panic - well, moral panics are protected by the First Amendment, just like games. There was a bit of a moral panic when Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Day of Defeat allowed players to play members of the German army in multiplayer, and there is clearly something uniquely morally dangerous about the first-person perspective, since the same moral panics did not apply to pre-computer war games where somebody had to play the Axis forces. The fact that this is an ongoing combat really does change things somewhat - one could ask why Six Days in Fallujah was dropped and effectively killed by its big-name distributor, whereas a big-name distributor was OK with developing this. However, much like the Ground Zero Mosque(tm), I'm not totally sure what the line running through the objections is - is it that this mocks the sacrifice made by the US military in Afghanistan, by making the death of US servicemen a gameplay objective rather than a tragedy, or that players might look at the ruined cities through the gunsights of their Taliban perspective character (insofar as you have perspective characters in multiplayer FPS, which I'd say is not very far at all), and start to empathise with the inhabitants of Afghanistan, even those currently battling US forces?

My instinct is that video gamers are a lot more able to divorce their experience of gameplay from the context of the game than non-gamers.
posted by DNye at 6:48 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My son has a few of these MoH games, and enjoys them not for the bloodshed, but for whatever historical context they add.

If you want to talk about the Medal of Honor, I would suggest some historical grounding.


Okay, you're completely going the wrong direction about what these "realistic" video games are all about. These games are only loosely based on history. They are almost entirely based on movies. The very first MoH game starts with a detailed re-enaction of the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan." Throughout the first 3 games in the series, there are detailed recreations of scenes from other famous WWII movies like "The Longest Day." The games are designed for people who are not veterans of WWII, so they can only compare it to what they've seen in the movies.

Other video games have been modeled after media coverage. Modern Warfare 2 was criticized for its scenario where you are the terrorists that attacked Mumbai. From the play videos on YouTube that I've seen, it seems to have been inspired by news videos taken during that attack.

I haven't played the newest games that are modeled on current conflicts, but I'd suspect they are all modeled after contemporary broadcasts of those events. I'm sure they realize there are many veterans of these current conflicts playing these games, and surely the abstraction of their experiences is a strange comfort to them. They can play without getting killed, or having to bear the other burdens of combat.

And this is the classic problem of war games. I recall reading one board game's manual, it had an essay about how games can never be realistic, or nobody would want to play them. They would be too difficult and unplayable, and have cruel, dissatisfying events in the gameplay. So they model after the "pleasurable" events in war that will amuse the player, while laying on just enough historical veneer to make it look real. For players that insisted on realism, he suggested two possible games that would be more "accurate." First, he suggested getting a map of Europe, soaking it in gasoline, then dropping a match on it. Alternately, for players that wanted tactical gaming, he suggested two players get pistols, they stand facing each other, holding the muzzles against their opponents heart, point blank. Then on the count of 3, you both shoot.

This problem of abstraction is perhaps best illustrated by that opening scene in the first MoH, the landing at Omaha Beach. It starts out as a long boat ride to the beach where you can do nothing but look around. I gradually realized I've seen this before in a movie. I know how this is supposed to turn out. Finally the LST hits the beach and I can move for the first time. I rushed out of the LST to the beach, and every single person in my boat gets machine gunned and dies, including me. Game over, start again. It took me about a dozen attempts to get on the beach. It was frustrating, but I know how this is supposed to end, I've seen it in a movie. That kept me from thinking too hard about the real events of that day. Many guys never got off their LSTs, they were gunned down by the "Beast of Omaha Beach." This is even more "accurately" modeled in another game, I think it's a MoH spinoff "Call of Duty" that recreates the Omaha landing again and you have to snipe the machine gun nests that are killing everybody.

Other scenes from famous movies, especially Saving Private Ryan, are recreated within MoH and other games. I really don't know how they can get away with this, it is such a blatant copy. I would think that the movie studios would object, even though the video game is a derivative work.

Anyway, the movies are much of the source material for the new generation of visual video games, something that was never possible in the previous generation of board games, or even earlier, primitive video games (think: Castle Wolfenstein on the Apple ][). I think it's incredibly interesting that these games are leveraging the pseudo-realism of war movies to create an atmosphere of "realism" in these video games that is even more removed from reality.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, DNye! That wasn't really clear.

I was hoping that people would comment from multiple perspectives, including anti-military and anti-EA. I know that line made it sound like I personally took the anti-EA position. I don't have strong feelings toward the EA or the military, but I do feel strongly that a) the military should respect freedom of speech (and choice for its members) more, and that b) EA (and other game companies) could do a better job of using a bit more creativity in their creative process so that the big, hot games aren't predominantly ultra-realistic shooters.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2010


Modern Warfare 2 was criticized for its scenario where you are the terrorists that attacked Mumbai.

Yes, but they included some interesting choices to the matter. You could:

*Kill the passengers

*Shot into the air to "go along" with the plan without killing anyone

*Don't shoot at all

*Skip the level at any time (including an option to pre-emptively skip it before you even start the game)

The makers could have added a little social experiment by tracking who shot the passengers and who didn't (for the people who have online service for their consoles, at least), and then publish the numbers in an article titled "optional mass-murder in video games: how well did you raise your kids?" Few people would have cared because it's a video game, and the level was basically created to drum up buzz in any case, but there you have it.

It worked too, because it wound up being one of the most profitable entertainment releases in any medium, and now a month before its even more heavily marketed sequel (which promises to fix its many flaws), EA is trying to compete using the same 'controversy' advertising method. And they're going to fail, miserably. Too bad too, because there's probably some merit in the campaign (unless they take the easy way out and try have it both ways by making Taliban missions skippable). I won't be buying Medal of Honor, but I think it'll probably worth a rental.
posted by hamida2242 at 1:21 PM on September 5, 2010


The linked video was a simulation of an American(?) playing a video game, which is a simulation of a first person view of a simulated man in a simulation of current battles taking place in a simulated place on the other side of the world.
I took part in this simulation by pressing play on the video and thereby creating the interactivity that is at the heart of this evil that is being perpetrated.

Pressing buttons...

the horror.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:25 PM on September 5, 2010


Other scenes from famous movies, especially Saving Private Ryan, are recreated within MoH and other games

All I got to say is watch Hamburger Hill. A copy of a copy of a copy of a... war.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2010


Oh wow, look. It's a fucking game.

So was RapeLay and "Concentration Camp Rat Hunt".
posted by iviken at 2:35 PM on September 5, 2010


I wonder how many soldiers who want to buy this game (but can't, because of the ban) will receive copies of it as gifts.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2010


I can't improve on this comment I read elsewhere:

How about we keep the video games and stop sending 18 year olds off to die?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I just wanted to clarify that my profanity-laced primary concerns above are not about the violence per se -- that's another, separate-but-related argument. I play Left 4 Dead 2 frequently and enthusiastically, for example, and the violence in that game is over-the-top and upsetting, at least until you stop noticing it (itself an issue worth discussing (yet again)).

What bothers me is the irruption of militarization into culture, not just in gaming. What bothers me is war as light entertainment.

We know war is killing. Those of us who've lived through it know it better than the rest of us. War is primitive and a horror and a final resort, and, for my part at least, to paraphrase good ol' Stevie Daedelus, I think war is a nightmare from which we as a species should be trying to wake up. There are no respawns in actual warfare, there is only destruction and death.

When war doesn't seem all that bad -- like fun, in fact -- when it's sanitized in one part of the media and turned into entertainment in the rest, we end up with an electorate that doesn't recoil from the very idea. That worries me.

This is not an anti-soldier stance. It is just the opposite.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:06 AM on September 6, 2010


All I got to say is watch Hamburger Hill. A copy of a copy of a copy of a... war.

I know I've seen it, but I only vaguely recollect it. All those war movies start to look alike. I have a vague memory of people climbing up the muddy hill and sliding back down, finally making it to the top, accompanied by a Phillip Glass soundtrack. That's in some war movie or other.

Anyway, if you want a really good war movie, watch "Castle Keep" by Sydney Pollack. Made in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War, it's a satire on WWII movies, which camouflaged its intent as an antiwar movie. The movie mercilessly mutilates every war movie cliche, it is highly unrealistic, but evokes the mood of war more clearly than most war movies.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:17 AM on September 6, 2010


It's interesting to note that you can't play a Taliban insurgent in the game's story mode. The storyline is unrepentantly pro-American (as basically all these games are). The decision to allow players to play insurgents is mechanically necessary once one makes the design decision to make the Taliban the enemies. Every single one of these first person shooter games has a multiplayer mode where players can either play the good guys or the bad guys. [...]This whole issue didn't even become controversial until extremely late in the game development process, and it hasn't been a secret to people who follow gaming.

This bears repeating. You've been able to play moustachioed 'terrorist' forces, complete with kheffiyehs and UnSpecifiedistan accents for years. This is not new. This is marketing.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:42 AM on September 6, 2010


Thanks for the clarification, GnomeChompsky.

Potentially interesting, if tangential, reading - Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games.
posted by DNye at 5:44 AM on September 6, 2010


What bothers me is the irruption of militarization into culture, not just in gaming. What bothers me is war as light entertainment.


It's been around since the invention of fiction.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:47 AM on September 6, 2010


The Insurgency is a free mod for HL2 with the same idea that's been out for a few years. You can't buy it on military bases, either.
posted by heathkit at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2010


It's been around since the invention of fiction.

Dur. Do you think you're telling me something I don't know?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:02 PM on September 6, 2010


If you think less war video games would change anything, yes I do.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:02 PM on September 6, 2010


Fewer war video games, perhaps.

Guess we'll have to disagree that the effect of, say, The Iliad on classical culture can be considered to be the equivalent of Call of Duty, say, on our modern society.

I think that's a laughably reductionist stance to take.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:29 PM on September 6, 2010


I'd say that the effect of Homeric poetry on Greek culture was probably a lot stronger than the effect of video games on ours, since it had a much more overt didactic aspect. Those stories were meant to portray how a man should behave, not just how certain men behaved. Odysseus was the ideal.

Any didactic aspects of video games are purely incidental, and more a product of the culture than a producer of it...though there is a certain circular aspect to any cultural artifact.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:02 AM on September 7, 2010


I'd say that the effect of Homeric poetry on Greek culture was probably a lot stronger than the effect of video games on ours, since it had a much more overt didactic aspect. Those stories were meant to portray how a man should behave, not just how certain men behaved. Odysseus was the ideal.

If that is the case -- and I am certainly not arguing against it -- then my point is, if anything, strengthened.

I don't think it's a question of the strength of the influence on a culture of a given artwork or artifact or 'cultural product'.

I'm not even sure how you'd begin to quantify something like that, given our saturation in a constant maelstrom of media, something that we can't really say about life 2400 years ago, or even 50, for that matter.

Homer and the ancient Greeks, War and Peace and 19th century Europeans (and others), Bridge on the River Kwai and 1950's Americans (and others), to choose a random set of possible examples -- I don't know that we have the tools to measure the relative cultural impacts of these things, or if we did, what useful conclusions we could draw.

But, veering back to something I think we could perhaps measure better, I'd submit that the experience of playing a first-person shooter war simulation is a far more visceral and intense experience than listening to the bard sing the tale, than reading the book, or than watching the movie, and though a natural extension of the trend of the intimacy of the experiences, psychologically distinct from those experiences in some important ways.

I've played all of the games I mentioned, and enjoyed the hell out of them, but I also found them exhausting, for what it's worth. I'm far from a won't-someone-think-of-the-children hysteric and I'm not a proponent of censorship in any form. I'm fully aware that every new thing that's come down the pike since time immemorial has made little old ladies and avuncular pastors flutter and moan and wag fearful and admonishing fingers, made senators give speeches to denounce it, made the cover of Time and had 20 million parents crap themselves, and that 5 years later, every one of those new things were just another part of the background noise that nobody really noticed.

I just think it's worth considering, as with many things -- the ludicrously easy accessibility of porn, for example, these days, or goddamned Twitter, or, yeah, gaming warporn -- to stop and think occasionally about what it's doing to us.

Until the next thing comes along to knock us another rung down into the idiocracy sumphole.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:54 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


But, veering back to something I think we could perhaps measure better, I'd submit that the experience of playing a first-person shooter war simulation is a far more visceral and intense experience than listening to the bard sing the tale

With respect, I think you're probably wrong there, or more precisely that your frame of reference is wonky. One thing that comes across very clearly in reports is that Classical (defining the term as the period between the establishing of Athenian democracy and the death of Alexander the Great) Greek civilisation experienced drama and spoken performance very profoundly - quo vide reports of the City Dionysia in democratic Athens, and the account of the rhapsodic performance at the court of the Phaiacians in the early books of the Odyssey. Speaking personally, I'd say that my response to experiencing Homer was a lot deeper than my response to Day of Defeat. Intensity is a fiddly metric, though.

I think that misses the more important point however, if we're talking about effect, that drama and rhapsodic performance was generally a citizen experience. Citizens of democracies were generally also the standing army, so many of the people listening to a public performance of the Iliad would have experience of fighting in battle. The interesting thing about Medal of Honor, it seems, is that many of the people likely to play it are not going to experience the war it's describing except through media.

Interestingly, one comment on Gamasutra said that they experienced these games essentially as nothing more than recruitment material for the armed forces, and therefore the more realistic the setting the better. I can see that point, but I can also see why usually the moral panics are about Grand Theft Auto or similar - in general, our kids(tm) are more likely to be in a position to steal cars than go to Afghanistan and join the Taliban.
posted by DNye at 7:59 AM on September 7, 2010


But, veering back to something I think we could perhaps measure better, I'd submit that the experience of playing a first-person shooter war simulation is a far more visceral and intense experience than listening to the bard sing the tale, than reading the book, or than watching the movie

It has been measured and the data doesn't support that idea.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:49 AM on September 7, 2010



Guess we'll have to disagree that the effect of, say, The Iliad on classical culture can be considered to be the equivalent of Call of Duty, say, on our modern society.

Ok, Ebert.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2010


Intensity is a fiddly metric, though.

Fair enough, and possibly not one worth considering. It's a blind alley, anyway, since it is not something that can be measured -- how profoundly the experience of hearing the poems recited had an impact on the ancients.

I'm not sure -- although I should be used to it, this being Metafilter -- why people are keen to pick at the scales of my argument rather than address the delicious meaty insides. Fine, though, I didn't come into the thread to debate anything, just to say my piece, basically.

I think that misses the more important point however, if we're talking about effect, that drama and rhapsodic performance was generally a citizen experience. Citizens of democracies were generally also the standing army, so many of the people listening to a public performance of the Iliad would have experience of fighting in battle. The interesting thing about Medal of Honor, it seems, is that many of the people likely to play it are not going to experience the war it's describing except through media.

Most assuredly. I thought that was implicit in my choice of that example in response to furiousxgeorge's witless sally. But again, it was just an example plucked from the air, and may not have been the best one to support my point.

It has been measured and the data doesn't support that idea.

Cite or it didn't happen.

Ok, Ebert.

Oooh, lazy insults couched in sarcasm. Way to be all that you can be! Look, you started us down this path, smart ass. You can either step up with substantive comments, or I invite you to take the smartenthehellup bus right into tryharderville.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 PM on September 7, 2010


Well, if your meaty insides are "I am not sure what sort of impact this has on our culture, nor is it possible to tell, just as it is not possible to tell the impact of (historical cultural artefact) on (historical culture), but I wish there were fewer games lionising the modern military", or something to that effect, then, sure, noted.

I think one can make at least conjectures about the impact of poetry on Classical Greeks, because there are records talking about the impact of poetry on Classical Greeks - Plato's Ion, for example, is a dialogue between Socrates and a rhapsode. Nobody was hooked up to a heart monitor during a performance, and certainly there are more anecdotal accounts of playing Call of Duty, but it's not a wholly dark 180-odd years. However, I am sorry if I upset you. I think the more important point might be that The Iliad is not light entertainment - it's one of the greatest and saddest stories ever told abut life at war. Even the most self-consciously iconoclastic Media Studies lecturer would hesitate, I think, before putting it in a box with Call of Duty and saying anything more than they were both narratives in which soldiers fight.

This thread seems to have taken a bit of a turn to the bad-tempered. Would it be inappropriate to blame video games?
posted by DNye at 4:02 PM on September 7, 2010


Cite or it didn't happen.

Crime down, videogames up.

Go figure.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2010


Well, if your meaty insides are "I am not sure what sort of impact this has on our culture, nor is it possible to tell, just as it is not possible to tell the impact of (historical cultural artefact) on (historical culture), but I wish there were fewer games lionising the modern military", or something to that effect, then, sure, noted.

More or less, yeah.

However, I am sorry if I upset you.

Not at all. I think we're increasingly not talking about the same things, but I don't disagree with you on anything you've said thus far in any real way.

Crime down, videogames up.

Well, as the bartender said to the donkey, correlation isn't causation. Also, that's not the kind of thing that P.o.B. was claiming -- as I understand it, he was suggesting that research exists that supports the idea that playing first person video games are not more involving experiences than reading or watching film.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:09 PM on September 7, 2010


correlation isn't causation

I'm not saying video games prevent crime, I'm saying that if Video Games Cause Bad Things, then they certainly don't show up in the crime statistics where you might expect them.

I really can't see where bing involved in an experience is a Bad Thing. Nor do I think that your experience of reading equates with mine, since I can drop in and out of video games more easily than I can out of a good book.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:45 PM on September 7, 2010


he was suggesting that research exists that supports the idea that playing first person video games are not more involving experiences than reading or watching film.

Your hands aren't broke, Google it. To tell you the truth I probably have a couple of the studies sitting around somewhere in my house, but you're making bold statements based upon how you feel. I'm not so sure that entitles you to have me cater to your whims.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:46 PM on September 8, 2010


Bullshit. You brought it up, you fucking Google it. What goddamned planet do you come from where the onus is on me to support your unsubstantiated arguments?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:56 PM on September 8, 2010


How do you measure "involving?" What are the units?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2010


As I suggested earlier, I haven't the slightest idea. That's why I'm challenging P.o.B. to show me this research that he claims exists.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:52 PM on September 8, 2010


But, that said, I don't really care, because whatever the results it might show, if it does exist, I suspect it wouldn't in any way invalidate my main points. It's more a matter of the principle at this point.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:54 PM on September 8, 2010


As best as I can recall, your main point was "I don't like it, I just don't like it!" Not something that can be argued one way or the other.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:15 PM on September 8, 2010


You'll notice upthread that that's basically what I said, and I gave reasons for it. You'll notice that I said I wasn't looking for a debate.

But people insist on trying to find things to debate me about, for some odd reason. Because it's Metafilter, I guess. Shrug.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:15 PM on September 8, 2010


Perhaps it's because your justifications for "I just don't like it" seem so indefensible to us.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:30 AM on September 9, 2010


So it goes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:14 AM on September 9, 2010


You brought it up, you fucking Google it

The point is, I don't have to. I've read the studies and I am aware of what they say.

I suppose I could tell you my opinion of watching hundreds of testers play FPS' for eight hours a day for months and I've never noticed any adverse affects at all, but I felt it's a bit more pertinent to say that there is data that says the very same thing and that if you really wanted a nuanced opinion to look into them.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2010


The point is, I don't have to. I've read the studies and I am aware of what they say.

Well, no, the point is that you absolutely do have to, in a public conversation like this. It's kind of lazy and intellectually dishonest to do otherwise, and remarkably solipsistic. It has been a tenet of discussion at Metafilter for more than a decade that if you want to support your argument whatever it may be with research, waving your hands around and merely claiming that that research exists has about the same value as anecdote in supporting a broad point: not much.

That said, you needn't trouble yourself to actually do so unless you're keen for others to see it, because me? I'm kind of past being bothered either way at this stage.

At the risk of continuing this even further past the point where I stopped giving a damn, though

I suppose I could tell you my opinion of watching hundreds of testers play FPS' for eight hours a day for months and I've never noticed any adverse affects at all

you could do that as some sort of anecdotal evidence of something, but I don't know why you would in response to anything I've said, because I haven't claimed that, nor do I believe it to be true. (Other than the probable aquisition of excess adipose tissue from sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, I guess.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on September 11, 2010


I agree this conversation is past the point of usefulness, but I will point out it is a bit gauche to lay all that on somebody and manage to merrily skip around doing any of it yourself.
I never said you don't have a right to your opinion, just as I have to mine, but you lack facts. Full stop.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2010


Here's the difference: I say 'Here's my opinion. I don't intend to support it, it's just What I Reckon.'

You say 'Research proves that I Am Right about X, which isn't really even all that germane to what you are saying, but I've decided I want to argue with you about this minor subpoint, and I have research to back me up. But I'm not going to show that research to anybody because it's SEKRIT.'

I can skip merrily around (and god knows I love doing that!) because I haven't claimed the authority of academic investigations to back up anything I've said.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:00 PM on September 12, 2010


Hyperbole is hyperbole.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:30 PM on September 12, 2010


Heck, without hyperbole, 70% of my comments here over the year wouldn't exist!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:07 PM on September 12, 2010


+s
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:07 PM on September 12, 2010


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