Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Last week a story broke that floated around on a few video game news blogs as well as a couple mainstream media sites — the Army and Air Force Exchange Service banned the on-base sale of the upcoming video game Medal of Honor that is currently being developed my EA. The reason supplied as to why it was banned is that in the game you may play as Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. When questioned by the video game news blog Kotaku, the commanding general of the AAFES said “Out of respect to those we serve, we will not be stocking this game.” He went on to mention that his customer base (the US Army) will most likely experience combat in real life and that this is a major factor in banning the sale of the game.

While video game violence has always been a touchy subject in the media, this specific incident of banning a video game depicting violence is interesting one. This isn’t about banning the sale of certain games to minors — it is about banning a shooter from those who likely will engage in such violence in real life. It is that very thing that I find very silly, and if I was a soldier I’d imagine I would be quite irritated by the decision.

The main problem doesn’t seem to be the violence, though — it seems to be that it is the ability to play as a member of the Taliban. Someone higher up apparently thinks that this experience would be damaging or offensive to troops. Here I have to ask a very simple question: Why?

The knee-jerk response is that playing as the Taliban makes the game “sensitive” or traumatic, but dissecting that very statement proves to be troublesome. After all, what is the traumatic part? Playing as the “bad” guys? In video games when people compete versus one another there always has to be two groups. Good guys vs. bad guys, cops vs. robbers, Americans vs, Russians, counter-terrorists vs. terrorists — such things have always existed and honestly, they are usually forgotten. Whenever playing any sort of shooting game who I am playing as doesn’t matter so much as the competitive nature behind it.

The argument, of course, is that the Taliban is a current enemy that we are engaged with and that this somehow makes it a faux pas because soldiers might be playing against (or as) the very enemy they are fighting in reality. The army holds that seeing Americans playing (and killing others) as Taliban might be shocking and offensive to some. Keep in mind though, that it is just a game and that in reality the “enemy” is still your buddy who is sitting next to you. It is still a video game and nothing more. This isn’t footage of the Taliban killing soldiers, it is a couple of people playing against each other in a virtual world. So what’s the fear?

Besides, isn’t it a little ridiculous to ban a military shooter when the military develops its own shooter and actively uses to recruit soldiers? America’s Army is set in a current, modern setting — and troops can fight and “die” in that game as well. Originally it was meant to simulate actual conflicts, even going so far as to make you go through boot camp.

More so, isn’t it a little questionable to ban something citing its violence or content, claiming to be “caring about those we serve” when these same soldiers are, well… soldiers? Shouldn’t those who fight for our country be allowed to enjoy whatever legal entertainment they please in their downtime?

If the army is so worried about soldiers seeing things that might spark trauma in them then why aren’t other forums of entertainment under scrutiny? Why just this video game?

Whenever you start to stretch your fingers out into the grounds of censorship under the guise of “protecting people” questions are always raised. This case isn’t any different and while it only impacts a very small percentage of the population, it still is something that we should keep an eye on as it possibly has implications for all of us.

3 thoughts on “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

  1. Props on the title, even for someone who uses ICAO spelling alphabet, it slipped past me the first time.

    As a military brat, who continues to get half his wardrobe from the AAFES even though the mall with the Old Navy is JUST DOWN THE ROAD, this could indirectly inconvenience people I know who might have to get their preorders from the Gamestop ten miles away instead of the one on-base.
    More seriously, this is surprisingly backwards when, in my experience, even the most conservative servicemen I’ve known have been appreciatively forward-thinking. And I know this is an actual denial of ability to obtain the game to deployed troops. I mean, aside from personal feelings from beta that they aren’t missing much, to put this in context, who do people think they’re playing as when playing OpFor on Karachi in MW2? Because they’re a generic paramilitary force of brown people that makes it better?
    Addressing the point more directly, a great counterargument to this is another article Kotaku did a few years back about a Rabbi who overcame his fear of Nazis through CoD:WaW.


    • I wish I could say that I didn’t see this coming.

      It is unfortunate, but the loudest group often gets the most attention — and the US Military knows how to make quite a noise.

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