This article won't be gaining me many friends (PS I couldn't think of a title):
When I was fourteen, my high school put on a performance of the highly-controversial play The Laramie Project
. The play depicts a true story of a gay man in High School who gets beaten to an inch of his life, and is then left on a barbwire cross to die. This of course is a play about acceptance of new life styles, and the ever-growing problem with homophobia in America. What’s more important, is the fact that while this play was being shown at my school, Reverend Fred Phelps
and his followers stood across the street holding “God hates fags” and “You’re all damned to hell” signs. I’ve always been fascinated with how these people think, so I got to speak to one of them. These were of course the cream of the crazy crop; I couldn’t ask anything without being insulted and assured that I’d be going to hell.
These people hate what they do not like, and exclude themselves from activities they find immoral or outside of their comfort zone for acceptance. There are plenty of these types of people at varying degrees of acceptance. Jack Thompson
doesn’t like video games, America doesn’t like communism, my mom doesn’t like death metal and some people don’t like mixing real life with their entertainment
. The difference between those picketers and my mom is that one attempts to rationalize, and explain their irrational knee-jerk emotional overreaction. Reverend Fred Phelps says “homosexuality ruins our culture.” Jack Thompson says “video games teach our kids to kill.” Hamza CTZ Aziz said in his Medal of Honor article, that he believes playing as terrorists “means I’m helping the bad guys.”
Now before I completely alienate the entire community and become the most hated man on the internet. I have a lot of respect for people like Hamza who can say their opinion when they know a lot of people will disagree with them. I can believe the emotions he described happened genuinely and he wasn’t trying to be offended (as many people do today) but that doesn’t make his opinion sacred and immune to criticism. Frankly, Hamza’s article not only sets up a double standard for the entire industry, but also likely contributes to developers and publishers hesitation to do anything meaningful with their games.
Let’s get the facts straight. Medal of Honor
is about the Afghan War from 2001-2003
, its main focus is about the elite special ops group dubbed “Tier 1 Operatives.” Electronic Arts Los Angeles has said they really wanted to make a game based on these guys lives and not fabricate it in any way. This includes using the real names of their enemies, namely Al-Qaeda. Medal of Honor does not have a Modern Warfare 2 inspired kill everyone in an airport scene. The only time you play as Al-Qaeda or The Taliban is during its multiplayer mode. This multiplayer has no context, no story, no set up, no explanation. There is no “role-playing” of any kind, EALA did not intentionally use these factions to make a point, and they are simply models and textures being reused.
The video game industry has a precedent of using two sides of a conflict as the multiplayer teams. Whether it is Nazis vs. Allies in Call of Duty, or (the frequently forgotten) Terrorists and Counter Terrorists in Counter Strike, each side is put in the same neutral light, neither side is better or worse than the other. Despite Counter Strike’s very obvious usage of the word terrorist, this goes into a point made in the original article: “these people are very real, and the fact that they are explicitly named is the key distinction as to why I’m so upset by this game. Other terrorist-driven war games, like Modern Warfare 2, don’t cross that line -- they dance around as fantasy extremist groups at best. “
This quote seems to be promoting the idea of ignoring real life conflicts. War is real so we should ignore it? Pretend it’s not there? Should EALA rename the group “Sal-Faeda?" The basic core essence of this Medal of Honor game is to create an accurate representation of what the troops fighting from 2001-2003 went through, but we should ignore that and spit on their real-life experiences in favor of hoping people don’t get offended? I find that
notion to be unbelievably insulting and disrespectful. If anything, I was disappointed to hear that EALA was avoiding any type of conflict arising with their game, and their insistence that they didn’t want to make a political statement. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity to declare some sort of meaningful statement about modern politics.
Video games should
make you angry; they should
be able to generate some kind of emotion outside of glorifying headshots and combo counters. But your emotions shouldn’t be aimed at the creators who are basing this on real life; they should be directed towards the real-life groups that caused you, your family, or your friends any kind of suffering. Pointing the blame for this group’s actions on the developer of a video game is not just absurd, but frankly it’s childish. Everyone likes to say “this is just my opinion,” and I’d like to believe that a lot of people respect opinions equally. But this is community of people who crucified Roger Ebert for being down on our hobby, and frequently wish Jack Thompson would heel over and die due to his actions. Saying games shouldn’t use real life history as inspiration for a concept is just as degrading and censor-filled as banning games altogether. I don’t believe connecting it to personal history allows someone to illogically hold a grudge against a game and its creators.
Every nationality has its chord, but every person chooses what offends them. My nationality is Polish, and in 1939 England went against their defensive pact agreement and allowed Poland to be invaded
by Germany and the Soviet Union. Do I have hate seeping through my veins when I see Civilization 4 allowing people to play as Churchill
, or Stalin
?)? No. The game didn’t make history. The game doesn’t glorify their actions or betrayals. I don’t blame Stephen Spielberg for the Holocaust, I don’t blame EA for September 11th, but I also don’t close my eyes and hope the world goes away. Even if a developer ever gained the courage to make a game that expresses an unpopular opinion, or tried to show a humane side to the terrorists, one thing needs to be remembered:
“If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don't like. Stalin and Hitler, for example, were dictators in favor of freedom of speech for views they liked only. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”
I respect people who can express their opinion when they know many will disagree, and that is their right. But unless Hamza can see the perspective that the thought of censoring their game in hopes less people are capable of being offended, he’s no different than Thompson’s refusal to see reason and learn more about video games, or Phelps refusing to overcome his prejudices and social taboos.
I apologize if this article seemed to be mean-spirited, my intention was not to degrade other people’s opinions, but instead respectfully challenge their viewpoint. Alright my home phone number is 123-456-7891, call me up and tell me how I should die.
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