EA Removes Taliban Reference From Medal Of Honor

Bowing to pressure from those wary of disrespecting U.S. soldiers killed by the Taliban, EA has announced that they are removing references to that group from the multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor, due to be released in November. The Taliban will now be referred to as “Opposing Forces”, which is just generic enough to not offend anyone opposed to the change.

Executive Producer Greg Goodrich made no mention of any changes in behavior or gameplay, so it sounds as if it just a cosmetic change and no mention was made of removing references to the Taliban in the campaign, which would likely be a significant undertaking. Still, I can’t help but be disappointed that EA has caved. If video games are going to move forward as a significant art form and a medium, publishers shouldn’t back down if they truly believe in their artistic decision.

One thing I must mention is that it is just a name change. At the end of the day, people are still going to be able to kill U.S. troops in the game, so I am curious to see what the reaction from the “opposing forces” of Medal of Honor will have to say about this.

What do you think about the change? Is EA doing the right thing or should they have stood their ground? Do you think playing as the Taliban in a multiplayer game is disrespectful to fallen soldiers?

Source: Medal of Honor Blog

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Age: 34 PSN ID: Starkiller81. I've played games since before I can remember, starting with my dad's Atari and I haven't stopped yet. Keep them coming and I will keep playing them.

16 thoughts on “EA Removes Taliban Reference From Medal Of Honor”

  1. Totally agree with this:

    “If video games are going to move forward as a significant art form and a medium, publishers shouldn’t back down if they truly believe in their artistic decision.”

    While I loathe Rockstar’s occasional “Shockstar” tactics, at least they stick to their guns when it comes to free speech. I go back and forth on this specific occasion. I understand that this could rub people the wrong way, but on the other side of it, nobody is making them purchase this game.

  2. I see why they caved, but I’m a bit disappointed. This whole issue has been blown out of proportion and it’s no disrespect to our troops at all.


    If I wanted to kill more OpFor, I’d play CoD4 (btw I still love CoD4)! I second Eddy’s quote of you, Anthony. This is ridiculous. REMOVING THE TALIBAN FROM A GAME ABOUT THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN!? That doesn’t make sense! It’s–the fucking point! Ugh, these people who get offended at modern day shooters are just so ignorant. I’m not disrespecting the loss of your son or daughter, I just can’t stand it when people give video games the classic “kids’ toy” treatment. Once in a while, a company tries to make an interactive story that is serious!
    At least they haven’t removed the Taliban from singleplayer. This is the kind of bullshit that games must overcome!

  4. I’m torn on this one. As a soon-to-be soldier in the Canadian Forces (who are fighting in Afghanistan currently, and who have taken significant casualties)
    In one mind I’m fine with it as digital soldiers from all over the world have been fighting and killing each other just as if it were real life (granted, if I saw an Canadian uniform I would be more than a little jarred – ‘specially since no war movies are ever made about the Canadian Forces). Just like Russians are not offended by Russian soldiers in BFBC2, Americans shouldn’t be offended by their soldiers in games as well – lets not forget that movies have already depicted the current conflicts.

    On the other mind, I have friends who have served in Afghanistan and who have seen their buddies blown up by IEDs, civillians gutted in fire-fights, and have been pinned down by rocket fire for hours. One friend started shaking uncontrollably when he tried to play CoD4. The generation playing this game is the same generation that is fighting, dying, and being scarred by this war. My concern is that some players (not all) might take the war in Afghanistan for granted after playing through the game multiple times. It might sound corny, but war is not a game, and unless a game can accurately depict the sheer life-and-death horror of it, then maybe the game should focus on a more fictional battle. Opfor is a good way of doing that.

    Most soldiers won’t talk about what they’ve been through, but it is some seriously messed up shit.

  5. @Captain Canada

    That’s one of the most thoughtful comments I’ve read on this site. As someone that’s about to step into that life and that situation, how do you feel about developers doing something like this? Do you think it’s a case of “too soon”, or do you think that they should hold off the way we have for games of different time periods so these things aren’t as current or fresh in our minds?

  6. Eddy, to be honest, I really am torn between the two.
    Like most people, my earliest and more frequent exposure to the military was through the media in both movies and games – and I won’t deny that I like both.
    Then again the visceral horror of actual combat (which I have thankfully not experienced) is the reality of war that no game or movie can ever deliver. Some of the things my friends who have seen combat relayed to me were enough to literally chill my blood – such as spending a night stranded in ‘ambush alley’, or guarding the remains at a bomb site from looters and stray animals – and are the very same things that games (thankfully) omit.

    So how do I feel? Well, its important to me that developers remember that they are dealing with a real and ongoing war, and that players remember that people they grew up with are currently fighting and dying in the war the game is depicting.
    As for it possibly being ‘too soon’, I don’t think that there will ever be a ‘right’ time. Having fictitious soliders fighting in a war that is no longer – or never was – being fought is an easier pill to swallow as we all have dreams about battlefield glory against someone or another. Calling the enemy OpFor is generic enough that it removes it from the immediate context of the current fighting, I think.
    Then again, my friend who saw CoD4 was most distressed by the level with he AC-130 gunship, as he said the images with the tracer rounds exploding over human figures looked exactly like those that they saw on the nightvision display screen in their LAV.

  7. Wow, Captain Canada, that’s deep. I liked hearing from someone who’ll be experiencing the war in Afghanistan first hand, it really made me think. I was originally going to be single minded on this point but hearing what you said does make me put it into perspective. While I’m sad that EA bowed to the pressure (even if it seems to be just the multiplayer component the Taliban references were removed from) I guess it may be inappropriate to do this whilst the war is ongoing.
    @ Eddy, when you say, “do you think that they should hold off the way we have for games of different time periods so these things aren’t as current or fresh in our minds,” I have to ask: When DO we use certain events? When is the best time? In a recent Sesslar’s Soapbox (entitled ‘Tali-Banned?’) Adam Sesslar was saying how he couldn’t attend family reunions as, during the Holocost, most of his family were killed. When WW2 games came out he chose not to play them as he felt it was a tough idea that he could be “plaing a Nazi”, which he swiftly changed to “German troop.” As he pointed out, that’s “two generations detached from something.” Clearly he still felt some sorrow and bitterness. I brought that up as your comment reminded me of that and I was curious what you and others think because, frankly, after Captain Canada’s comment I don’t know WHAT to think anymore (and I’m usually opinionated enough to have a thought on anything).

  8. What troubles me is that people apparently seem to think that you can just remove the name “Taliban” and everything will be okay. In my opinion, that doesn’t change anything at all. We all still know who the “Opposing Forces” are supposed to represent.

    This decision has less to do with disrespecting American soldiers who served in Afghanistan and more to do with helping American consumers to ignore the reality that we’ve been at war there for almost ten years. By removing the name, an important layer of reality is removed from the experience. I guarantee that many players (but certainly not all) would be morally uncomfortable with players running around as the “Taliban,” especially considering that there are enough insensitive jerks out there who will play up the Muslim guerrilla fighter stereotype while they’re playing. But by removing the shock of the name “Taliban,” most players probably won’t stop to think about who those “Opposing Forces” represent, even though only the name has changed.

    Consumer psychology is a very nuanced thing. Names and labels absolutely matter to people on a subconscious level. The word “Taliban” is loaded with symbolic meaning and it’s usage provokes a very specific set of intellectual and emotional responses. Contrary to the complaints of the anti-political correctness crowd, words have a lot of power and some of them must be used with the utmost caution.

    This change will probably save Activision a lot of controversy, but, at the end of the day, they’re just passing the buck to consumers. By removing the name, they’ve put the pressure on the consumer to decide whether or not the game’s portrayal of an ongoing war is inappropriate or offensive. Given that they’re allowing players to take the role of a military force that is responsible for the deaths of Americans almost on a daily basis, there should be some controversy. The change of the name, however, will allow people to think of the game’s “Opposing Forces” as some fictional entity that doesn’t necessarily have a direct basis in reality.

    Activision got scared, plain and simple. They made a questionable decision and now they’re trying to avoid taking responsibility for it. Activision didn’t make this decision out of respect for American soldiers; they did it to avoid controversy that might affect their bottom line. I think it would have been better to stick with using “Taliban;” at least then we could still have a conversation about whether or not it was appropriate to do so. Now we can just avoid the issue all together and pretend nothing is wrong.

    Incidentally, I’m not against the game because it allows players to assume the role of the Taliban in multiplayer; I just think that it’s a problematic situation that needs to be discussed for the sake of the games industry and the gamer community. Furthermore, I’m not necessarily opposed to a game that portrays a contemporary, real-world conflict, but let’s not pretend that such a portrayal is “no big thing.”

  9. [quote comment=”13770″]@ Zayven: EA, not Activision.[/quote]

    Skuba, surely you are aware that Activision is at fault for 97% of all the world’s problems? I stubbed my toe this morning and you know what I said?


  10. Whether they call them Taliban or “bad guys”, people who have been through war would have a hard time playing it or watching it regardless. Just like Captain Canada was saying.

    The pressure comes from the media and this “idea” that’s out there about war games, not from the gamers or (usually) from the soldiers themselves, as far as I’ve seen anyways.

    I say do what you need to do to make everyone comfortable without sacrificing the gameplay. They could paint all the terrorists blue, they’re still “terrorists” and we’re still killing each other.

  11. This has brought about a lot of good discussions, viewpoints, and arguments. To be honest, I think that this was sort of a silly ordeal. I think it is based on media reception, perception of the company itself, and business moves. Being afraid to show a truth, or an interpretation of the truth due to media backlash that is most likely largely biased, a fear of giving yourself a bad name as a company (i.e. “those inconsiderate developers”), and then loosing numbers of sales do to the above reasons and then some.

    Personally I think this is a very large blow to games. We cant depict soldiers righting and dying in wars we are fighting now. It IS easier to depict WWII or Vietnam where the war is over, and we have moved on as a nation. But todays lifestyle is different. Media, including videogames, will want to show our own forms of patriotism with these games. Back in WWII, movies, books, and comics were the form of media support. Videogames have not really come about for any major war, except this one. So naturally we will want to show our support. Developers try to show as much of the reality of war as they can, but they have to do it in a special way. It IS a game. Not the war, but the game itself. Some of the real horrors of war even movies do not want to delve to far into. Games are just the same. Videogames now want to showcase their own form of media support for our troops through games like this. We, the good guys, come out heros. Its only natural. John Wayne and our comic book soldier heros of the WWII erra weren’t loosing and dying left and right. They suffered calmer more heroic deaths. Today, we want realism, because war IS real and it IS harsh. Developers want to show this as best they can in their games.

    Choosing not to call them the Taliban, is a very poor choice. As it has been said, soldiers still die in the game, no matter what they are called. They LOOK the same too, it was just a name change. To be on the other team in multiplayer, the terrorist team (the bad team) doenst make much of a difference in the way you play. Its still the same. I understand what people mean though, as Captain Canada said, that it is hard for some soldiers & others to play games like COD4. I would not be surprised. For someone who is raped, sex may be a hard issue for them. For soldiers, killing and war games/books/movies may be something that is difficult for them to handle, justifiably so. But even so, you cannot censor this from everyone. Dont play the game, dont read the book, until you are ready. We cannot be afraid to show the reality of this war or the realities of life. I respect our soldiers, all of them, as do many others, developers included. But to deny the reality that they were out there fighting the Taliban, to deny that that happened, is ludicrous. Changing the name does not solve the problem or the issue, it just eases he pain and minds of those who are most truly affected. This cannot be a trend though, reality will be shown and should be shown, in media, in books, and in games (multiplayer or otherwise)

    Good luck in service Captain Canada

  12. You’re probably right, Sean, that the media is making a bigger deal out of this than it is, but ultimately I think EA made a good choice in choosing to use OpFor.
    As for showing ‘reality’, I would be more impressed if a game came along and focused on what really matters most to soldiers in the field: getting all their buddies through the battle safely home again.

    Thanks for the well wishes.

  13. @lovetheladies Great link! It’s interesting that none of those interviewed seem to have any problem with the game themselves. It seems like they are gamers though, and understand how this sort of thing works. I like the idea of “calling a spade a spade”. Totally makes sense.

    @Skuba Interesting bit from Sessler’s Soapbox. I can totally appreciate his viewpoint on the whole thing, and I don’t begrudge anyone that takes that stance. It makes sense to me on that kind of level.

    @Zayven Really great contributions here. You’re right, this kind of move is totally passing the buck onto the consumer. I definitely think this is an issue that needs to be discussed and decided upon within the games industry. Where is the line, what do we do and how do we handle games that do this kind of thing?

    @Sean I had never really thought about the idea of WWII and the media of its day, but you’re probably right: media was a way of showing support. How should/could games be any different.

    And I think everyone agrees when we send our best wishes to Captain Canada. When does your service begin?

  14. Whoops! Activision or EA, EA or Activision? Can’t believe I got my military fps publishers mixed up! My bad!

    As for what Sean said about WWII era media, it’s important to remember that these media were blatant propaganda machines. Read any WWII era comic book; 9 times out of 10 it features Captain America/Batman/Sub-Mariner/Human Torch/etc beating the crap out of Nazis or the Japanese. In retrospect, these comics, as well as the movies that portrayed soldiers as experienced, middle aged men who clearly understood the greater stakes and objectives of the war, seem incredibly naive.

    Furthermore, since the media from that era doubles as propaganda, it had a clear message. I forget which WWII movie has the scene with the chaplain talking to the men before some battle about whether or not this was a “necessary” or “good” war (I think the movie is “Battle of the Bulge” or something like that), but movies like this helped to shape the conception of the war in the American consciousness. I’m not sure what a game like Medal of Honor is trying to communicate to its audience other than it’s fun to shoot the bad guys (and your friends), especially when they’re dressed like the Taliban.

    Then again, I don’t know that this is any more problematic than comic books targeted at children where the heroes were draped in red, white, and blue as they battered Nazis and “Japs” senseless. Sure, Superman or Sub-Mariner might not be killing anyone, but that’s only because comics usually didn’t portray anyone getting killed because they didn’t want the censors to come down on their heads. The “enemy” was rarely portrayed as anything other than as emotionless ogres who followed orders of their megalomaniacal leaders without question.

    Author Michael Chabon once pointed out that the irony of silver age comics heroes was that they fought fascism with their fists, but the belief that you can solve all problems with violence is itself the essence of fascism. Are we seeing the same basic premise with video game portrayals of warfare? After all, the narrative flow of most games involves solving problems with violence; it’s not like Medal of Honor is going to have missions where you have to sit down at the negotiating table with foreign diplomats to iron out the details of a treaty to resolve your differences (although that might actually be fun!). Much like the old silver age comics and WWII movies, the situation comes down to: We have a dispute, we fight, I defeat you by force, I win.

    I don’t know how to feel about this, to be honest, but I think it’s something that we need to at least be conscious of as video games move deeper into our cultural mainstream.

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