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Bluth Banana Stand avatar 11:09 AM on 07.27.2010  (server time)
A matter of Narrative... (yet another MOH post)

I’m wondering about where the whole argument regarding the playable Taliban issue is coming from. Was anyone like, “Finally!” when EA made their playable Taliban announcement? It this something gamers have been clamoring for? Are those who take issue with this blowing it out of proportion? Are those who do not agree taking it too far in their responses by calling names and talking shit?

Some of the arguments are better than others. As per usual, the writers on the cblogs tend to have some very interesting content and ideas for both sides of the issue. Sans the first “open letter to Hamza” which was best described as a drunken xbox live rant…eh, Pyramid Head cried and quit. He won’t be missed. The reason I am writing is my personal question about the one theory that came up over and over in defense of the game. The playable Nazi argument which I call the Narrative Factor.

Now, let me start by saying the Nazis were unquestionably sick and evil bastards. But when people are yelling (rather stupidly in Hamza’s comments section) that we have no problems playing as Nazis so the Taliban should be fair game too, I'm thinking they mean in a FPS multiplayer mode or a RTS game like Company of Heroes. Now, that is no serious point to make against Hamza. It could be if they argued it correctly in that these two enemies are both put into disconnected, de-characterized multiplayer modes with no contextual reality to what is going on in the past or present. I haven’t seen that happen yet. In WWII games, you don't go to a book burning, torch a village in Belarus or run a death camp. I think something like that could be made, but it wouldn't be a game. It could be used moreso as an educational tool to make you really examine how evil people can be, learn from the horror of wanton destruction and question how far "following orders" goes. This would then cease to be fun or entertainment. The most anti-war war game ever. The same could be said of the 1985 Russian WWII film "Idi I Smotri/Come and See" regarding the futility and barbarism of war... (Absolutely Brilliant) But nothing in the video game industry does anything like this and it's probably better that way.

You're not part of the Einsatzgruppen or the Waffen SS; you're Wermacht (army guys) fighting the Rangers or the 101st Airborne (other army guys). So, while these people are yelling "you get to play as Nazis, Hamza's a fucking hypocrite, blah blah." They are pretty oblivious because they aren't really playing Nazis, even in a pretend manner. For God's sake, the Germans all speak English in Company of Heroes. Also, you're not really winning any symbolic victory for the Third Reich, it is a war that is over where the enemy was defeated and there is no narrative. *Side Note* One thing I always found strange was that many of the European releases of WWII themed games don’t have the Swastikas in them, as it is illegal to depict that symbol in an entertainment format. Meanwhile, American’s can’t seem to get enough of them, Wolfenstein comes to mind. I’m surprised there’s not a level where you fight a giant swastika on an even bigger rotating swastika platform while you dodge razor sharp swastikas, and they change the name form “Wolfenstein” to “Swastika”.

If someone wanted to make an even slightly better citation of a comparable game, I’d think “Battlefield: Vietnam” could work simply because they include the actual audio of Hannoi Hannah, telling you “Our bombers will find you!” and “They will pin a medal on you after you are dead, soldier boy!” That, in my opinion, is the most accurate touch in any war game. It really made we think, “Jesus, I can’t imagine fighting in a war with this blasting non-stop through the bombed out cities.” Some would call that insensitive, I think that they may be right, but I appreciated that touch of realism to a game I really thought was so-so otherwise.

Now this is the same reason I find Hamza’s argument is flawed. He seems to be having a knee jerk personal reaction which he is absolutely entitled to but I don't know his personal history so I cannot judge. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't like it. There is no narrative, you’re hand is not forced (No Russian), you are not given any choice (Good/Evil System). It’s essentially ”cops and robbers” with a modern war context. I would really see a lot more cause for alarm or anger if there was a narrative placed in this game where you are a Taliban fighter and you need to answer the call to prayer while you set up IEDs between terrorizing civilian tribes who are sympathetic to Americans. None of those things will happen in MoH. I'd be way more understanding toward people who had a problem with that but I'd actually give EA some credit for having substance behind the risk, even if it is substance many of us would rather not see. It would give us a new incite into the war because we'd see how bad these individuals are. Sun Tzu said, "To know your enemy, you must become your enemy" and a game I described would do just that. I would probably not play it but I'd definitely want to see what a game like that was all about…then again, that game would not get made since we saw what happend to “Six Days in Fallujah”. (Meanwhile, Full Spectrum Warrior came out with virtually no notice and the whole time I played that, I thought, "Iraq, Iraq, ummmmm Iraq.")

EA doesn’t do anything nearly that controversial. From what I gathered, they add some Taliban skin mods and essentially the same terrorist weapons from the Call of Duty multiplayer series. It seems like a cop-out to simply have claim to some controversy but not enough to do any real damage to their PR or sales campaign. We, as informed gamers, can complain about whatever we want and that's fine. But, I think we are lighting the torches way too early. If we should be upset about anything, I think it should be that EA is cheapening the longest ongoing war in American history where record numbers of our troops are dying. Each month’s death toll is toppling the last in this escalation. So, really, who would want to even pretend to participate in something like this? Eh, it's probably going suck anyway. Somehow I bet the Taliban Fighters in MoH will forget Pashti and all know English by the release date, to further add to the “realism”. I guess to the games defense, you also get to kill Taliban fighters too.

I think it was ES toys who actually got in deep shit for releasing something called “Baghdad Outpost Playset” for X-Mas in 2003 for the 12 inch Joe. If THAT was insensitive, what the hell is this?
I said it before and I'll say it again, a dev should just make a WWI shooter already. Then nobody would get upset and disagreeing gamers wouldn’t reduce themselves to insulting the hell out of each other. Unless…. We still have some sore feelings toward Otto Von Bismark. Damn those Krauts and their unrestricted submarine warfare!

Final Point: One thing I would love to know, what do actual people in the military think of this? Soldiers game all the time. What effect would this game have on these people and their families? What would a game like this do regarding PTSD or re-activating memories these people would rather not relive? Is it "just a game" and we are all looking way too deep into this? Are there any vets on these boards? I really want to know what you think of it.

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