In today's world, video war games are all the rage. The military knows that video games make young men more interested in military service, and can even make them better soldiers. As is so often the case, some of the producers of these games have taken the simulation too far.
For the latest version of its wildly popular shooter game "Medal of Honor," Electronic Arts chose to set the game in post-9/11 Afghanistan. But now it also allows players to fight as the Taliban and kill American troops. This was too much for the military. Army, Air Force and Navy bases have announced they will refuse to sell the game out of respect to our troops who have been killed by the Taliban.
"You know how many of my friends have been killed by the Taliban?" Staff Sgt. William Schober, a fan of the earlier "Medal" games, asked The New York Times. "One of my friends was sniped in the head by them. That's something you want to have fun with?"
It's another American popular-culture embarrassment.
In the international community, defense ministers in countries that have lost troops to the Taliban have also experienced outrage. Britain's Liam Fox said he was "disgusted and angry" and "would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product." Canada's Peter MacKay added, "I find it wrong to have anyone, children in particular, playing the role of the Taliban."
The lifelike simulations of combat are manufactured out of a close working relationship between game producers and the military. EA made "Medal of Honor" with the consent and assistance of the Army, which gave them access to a replica of an Iraqi village used for training at Fort Irwin in California. But an Army spokesman insisted the Army wasn't aware that users would have the capability of fighting against U.S. troops and underlined the review process would be more thorough in the future. But why continue a partnership when you've been conned?
An EA spokesman stressed that the game was intended to celebrate American soldiers. But with the popularity of online multi-player showdowns (where one guy in Virginia can play against another guy in Idaho), game makers have increasingly offered users the options of embracing the role of bad guy. EA's last version of the game, set in World War II, allowed players to fight against the Allied forces.