Matt Ryan
August 25, 2010

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There is a new edition of Medal of Honor coming out that lets you play the Taliban in Afghanistan fighting American and allied forces. Electronic Arts has taken the stance that, “Somebody has to play the robbers in cops and robbers.” While this paradigm is true, the question facing many potential gaming consumers and some soldiers is whether or not this is in good taste.

“While we respect and support the developer’s right to free speech, the nature of any game where you are blurring the lines between gruesome reality and fantasy in this manor is in poor taste and sets a dangerous trend.” said Alex Jones during a discussion after hearing about the new Medal of Honor release.

Soldiers returning from the battlefield and the families of the fallen have weighed in on mainstream media outlets around the world. In the video below, the sentiment is generally that it’s too real, too soon.

First-person shooter video games have been developed by the military to aid in recruitment and encourage youth to enlist in armed services as well as local law enforcement. America’s Army is a free simulation depicting basic training at an Army boot camp. In the game, your virtual soldier is trained on grenade throwing, assault rifle fire, battlefield first aid and more. While America’s Army has little actual violence, it was developed with recruitment of first-person shooter fans in mind and thus far is on its third edition indicating the results have been on target. Reports detailing the Pentagon’s use of video games in recruitment and training have been widespread throughout the media. While the idea of using video games to aid in recruitment doesn’t seem initially negative, many games of the genre are riddled with torture and other unethical and unlawful forms of warfare.

The blurring of reality and fantasy has been made more and more possible by advances in graphics technology. In the early nineties, games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom allowed players to face off against pixelated sprites representing everything from Nazis to hell-spawn demons that made up the beginnings of the 3D gaming experience. Games like these were hardly realistic as the 3D technology of the time was extremely limited and sound effects were a garbled mess. These games gained immense popularity, however,  and the first-person shooter genre has since exploded in to the largest genre being developed today.

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The debate over whether or not Electronic Arts should be allowed to release a title that reflects a battlefield where war is being waged today comes down to first amendment rights. It is up to the consumer to decide if they want to support the development of future versions of the series by purchasing the game. Outrage over the ability to virtually combat our own troops has raised the question as to why there is little outcry over other games that glorify torture, prostitution, drug use, and murder. While it is within the developer’s first amendment right to create the story and release it to the public, it is certainly within the same rights of consumers to voice their opinions about it.

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