Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

Summary: It's a game. Our troops know it's a game.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Anyone who knows me knows how much I respect the skill, dedication, intelligence, and patriotism of our troops in uniform. Most American soldiers face life-threatening challenges on a daily basis and succeed in spite of the best (such as they are) efforts of the enemy.

That's why it's so disappointing to see the Army & Air Force Exchange Service ban the latest of the wildly popular Medal of Honor video game series from U.S. military bases.

This is both a political and human interest story.

It's also wrong-headed, underestimates the drive of our soldiers, and takes away a possible training tool from our troops.

Most video games have both a single-player mission. This is the version of the game that tells the story and the player plays through on his or her own.

Most modern video games also have a multi-player system, where groups of players get online, trash-talk each other, and frag nOObs.

In the upcoming Medal of Honor, set in Afghanistan, the single-player missions have the player taking on the role of Americans against the Taliban. No problem there.

On the other hand, the multi-player game modes allow players to play as both Americans fragging Taliban and -- and here's where the virtual shiite hits the fan* -- as Taliban fragging Americans.

This is where the whole thing started to go downhill.

According to the Air Force Times, this whole mess may have started because of a grieving mom:

Gold Star mother Karen Meredith told Fox News in an Aug. 14 interview that EA was “disrespectful” for basing a game on an ongoing war. Her son, Army 1st Lt. Kenneth M. Ballard, 26, was killed in a 2004 firefight in Iraq.

Before I go on, it's important to pass condolences on to Ms. Meredith and thank her for her son's service to the country.

But let's be clear here. One of the things American troops fight for is freedom.

We've been at war in Afghanistan for a very long time -- the longest of any war America's ever been in -- and one of the ways we can help give Americans back home even a small taste of what our troops experience is through modern media, like video games.

To block out the war we've been in since the days of the Nintendo GameCube would be to block out a massive chunk of contemporary American history.

Then the Brits got into the game. British Defence Secretary Liam Fox called the game the worst insult he could possibly think of. He called it "un-British".

In any case, the concerns of parents and politicians eventually ganged up on Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, the guy in charge of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, and an edict was issued.

There would be no copies of Medal of Honor in base PXs. There would be no copies of Medal of Honor sent to troops via pre-order. And there would be no copies of Medal of Honor stocked in GameStops on base.

First, have you seen the stuff that is stocked in GameStop?

Do you know that there are characters running around shopping malls in drag, beheading zombie women and children with double-sided chain saws? This is the same store that stocks Barbie Horse Adventures. This is a store that stocks Fallout 3 (awesome game, by the way), that shows all of Washington D.C. completely destroyed?

Did Maj. General Casella not think these might have a psychological impact on our troops?

American media can be disturbing. We produce Real Housewives of NJ where, in a perfect world, there'd be nothing on television but always-new episodes of the very British Top Gear running on all channels, 24/7.

The thing is, American troops can take it. To single out one game like Medal of Honor and ban it because we're afraid some real, actual soldiers might play little, fake, virtual made-up Taliban for a night or two is nothing short of ludicrous.

It also sends the wrong message to our troops. America is about choice and if our troops don't want to play Medal of Honor in multi-player mode and don't want to play the Taliban, they don't have to. No one is forcing them to plunk down sixty bucks for the game.

Casella is also sending the message that our troops might be swayed or disturbed by some silly images on their game consoles. Do you know what they see, every day, for real? The idea that our troops can't take the imagery or that we're softening them up on the enemy through a video game is equally wrong-headed.

It's a game. Our troops know it's a game.

The only message Casella is sending is that he doesn't have confidence in the men and women of America's military to tell the difference between a video game avatar and the actual bad guys they face during their work day.

They can tell the difference.

Oh, and one more thing. Drilling and training is at the core of much of an individual trooper's skill set. Drilling creates strong instincts so when the fur is flying, the natural, ingrained reactions that take over are the ones that have been drilled into each soldier.

In Medal of Honor, troops have the option of playing the enemy, playing against the enemy, and playing out game scenarios against the enemy. Taking away a simple, cheap training tool from our forces is unwise.

Man up, General. Your troops are far smarter, far stronger, and far more dedicated than it seems you give them credit for.

TalkBack below. This is bound to be another one where those of you outside the U.S. need to weigh in. You're welcome to, but please identify your country of origin and be polite.

That goes for everyone. This could be a fascinating discussion as long as everyone's cool.

*Actually, the Taliban aren't Shiite, they're Wahhabi, a Sunni sect. But "Wahhabi hitting the fan" wouldn't have worked as well.

Topic: Mobility

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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105 comments
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  • I agree

    I agree, especially since I know so many Iraq/Afghanistan veterans as I live near Ft. Hood. They know the difference and such a game could assist the "what if?" musings in their heads. It would be great to hear from any vets that see this.
    To other readers who may comment: This has NOTHING to do with the question of whether or not we should be in Afghanistan or anywhere else! Stay focused on the core question.
    ebrown@...
    • Yes, they should think

      @ebrown@... <br><br>Yes, it does. If games like this make troops 'think' more than the idiots in command who got us into this WAR OF LIES in Afghanistan want them to? THAT'S A GOOD THING!<br><br>Might make them REFUSE (like they really should have) to deploy to a country that has not directly attacked us!<br><br>Before people say it: Yes, I think that troops SHOULD in some circumstances REFUSE to deploy to a foreign country to fight.... actually, in every case where we are not part of a peacekeeping effort or that country has not attacked us directly or one of our allies directly...... REFUSAL!

      I was going to join the Armed Forces at one time, but when I put those HARSH questions to the person who was recruiting me in high school... I realized that our Armed Forces as they were are nothing more than mercenaries and hired killers.
      Lerianis10
      • I think you mixed up your wars.

        @Lerianis10

        The Taliban took credit for 9/11. In what way was that not a direct attack specifically against a civilian target?

        Anyway, to the point, while I don't think that clicking a mouse helps in training for trigger pulling, I think the games, setup properly help train people to coordinate better. It's a training tool that shouldn't be arbitrarily denied our troops, and frankly makes more sense than company paintball outings.
        tkejlboom
      • RE: Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

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    • RE: Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

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  • The game need to tweeks

    You should be able to kill islamist terrorists in the most painfull way possible.
    Mectron
    • To keep the game realistic

      @Mectron ... there should be a mode where US forces indiscriminantly murder Afghan civilians, and save body parts as mementos.
      Then there should be a mode where US generals lecture US civilians on the kinds of speech they may and may not engage in or else they're harming the troops.
      Then there should be a mode where Congress passes a 'supplemental appropriation' of a hundred billion dollars so it doesn't show up in an auditable budget. Then the player can siphon off a few hundred million for Hamid Karzai's Swiss bank accounts.
      HollywoodDog
      • Our soldiers saving body parts?

        @Mectron

        And you know this how, you fool? Are you commenting from Kabul right now, or are you just buying the MSM reports out there? Geez, people like you really need to get away from the keyboard.
        SAStarling
      • I get my news from the developed world; BBC

        @HollywoodDog ... but the body parts thing is alleged in the US military's charging documents. These soldiers face the death penalty.
        HollywoodDog
      • Please provide us some proof, HollywoodDog

        otherwise your claims are baseless, and would have to be logiclly viewed as falsehoods.
        :|
        Tim Cook
      • US military charging documents

        @HollywoodDog ... all charges and specifications against the US soldiers are here: http://cryptome.org/dodi/afhan-kill-thugs.zip

        The documents have been redacted by the military to block the names of the accusers. The names and actions of those charged are shown.
        HollywoodDog
    • RE: Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

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  • Sigh..

    More political correctness running amok creating chaos and ruining lives.

    Down with P.C.
    People
    • RE: Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

      @People sad isn't it?
      Mcleary316
    • Yup, exactly

      @People

      So this video game is dishonor to a fallen Soldier, but, putting a mosque at ground zero? That's OK?
      SonofaSailor
      • Yes, that is okay

        @SonofaSailor

        Putting a mosque there is NOT a dishonor because it was NOT Islam that attacked us. It was Islamic RADICALS and terrorists.
        Lerianis10
      • Thank you for proving the original point, and...the fact that:

        @Lerianis10<br><br>You sir, are an idiot.<br><br>The original point: "More political correctness running amok creating chaos and ruining lives". Been paying attention lately? There is quite a bit in the news of the turmoil this Mosque at ground zero is creating, and this idea is only being entertained because of PC.<br><br>Yes, while putting a mosque at ground zero technically falls under the Bill of Rights, in reality? It is completely assinine. We are by no means the first country to fall victim to Islamic radicals' terrorism, but we may be the <b>first</b> to construct an Islamic temple at the site where the terrorism occured. You might as well piss on those 1500 people's graves.<br><br>The joke used to be "(Islamic Radical): We blew up the World Trade Center, and all the USA did was get rid of curb side check-in"<br><br>Imagine if this assinine idea actually gets the go ahead..."(Islamic Radical): We blow up the World Trade Center, and the idiot US builds a mosque at ground zero in memorium to the fallen jihadists who sacrificied themselves in those planes to bring death to the infidels!"<br><br>Maybe if your life was dramatically affected personally by an event like 9/11 you'd think a bit more before jumping to a polically correct conclusion. Or, maybe if you just pulled your head out of your a$$. Politically correct thinking only extends as far as that person's life experiences. It's easy to say abortion is wrong or right, until you have a 16 year old daughter that's pregnant or your wife gets raped...then, what do you do? Your soapbox isn't worth much then. Your argument states: "...it was not Islam that attacked us. It was Islamic Radicals..." Ok, by your rationale, you should have no problem sending your kids to a Catholic Church or School where known sexual assaults took place, because "it wasn't the religion, it was the act of a few". Or, eat your own words and the next vacation you take, go to a country in the Middle East, and tell us how warmly you were welcomed.<br><br>There is a place for political correct thinking, and Ground Zero is not that place.<br><br>
        SonofaSailor
      • RE: Medal of Honor game banned from U.S. military bases and why that might be strategically unsound

        @Lerianis10:

        Short clip. Subject: 3 things you may not know about Islam.
        http://www.visiontoamerica.org/story/3-things-you-probably-dont-know-about-islam.html?09112010

        Don't be so damn gullible - They're ALL radicals.
        Spikey_Mike
      • Does not equate

        @SonofaSailor

        Have a coffee, chill, and then be practical. Say for a moment that you're right, and we're at war with 1.5 billion people instead of 50,000 radicals. By your logic, at our current rate, we'd get around to rooting out the individuals that took responsibility for 9/11 shortly after the death of the sun. So, even if you believe what you say, pick your fights, and spare us your rhetoric.

        Also, why do people keep calling it a mosque? There are rooms for prayer in many if not most YMCAs. Are we now going to designate those as churches. I have a Jewish friend that had a prayer room. Is his house now a synagogue?
        tkejlboom
      • Make up your mind...

        @tkejlboom<br><br>First you tell me to spare you my rhetoric, then you ask me a question. So, since you and Lerianis are so fond of Islam, I will follow Qur'an protocol when contradictions arise, which says to ignore earlier passages, and pay attention to later passages (which, by the way, the "peaceful" passages are the earlier passages of the Qur'an, and the more voilent passages are the later passages...again, the Qur'an states when contradictions arise, ignore the earlier passages and mind the later).<br><br>Why do I keep calling it a mosque? well, because pretty much every news agency that has covered the story over the last few months has called it a mosque.<br><br>Why do I have a problem with one being constructed at Ground Zero? If I <i>have</i> to explain it to you, I have no desire to explain it to you, because you are an idiot, and won't understand anyway.<br><br>However I will spare you any more rhetoric and instead defer to Pope John Paul II, whose comments below are about a completely unrelated and past matter, but are very much relevant:<br><br><i>The 9/11 site is not a holy site, but inasmuch as it is mass grave of innocents, it is hallowed ground. As such, special sensitivity is needed.<br><br>As an example of latter, Carmelite nuns sought in the 1980s to establish a convent at Auschwitz, a massive cemetery filled overwhelmingly with the remains of Jewish victims of Nazism. Even though Nazism was a profoundly anti-Christian movement, it drew, among other things, on a history of Christian anti-Semitism and its ranks included many professing Christians. The late Pope John Paul II understood that building a Christian institution on a mass Jewish grave would be an unacceptable act of appropriation. He called upon the Carmelite nuns to relocate.</i> <br><br>This excerpt taken from:<br><a href="http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/opposition_to_mosque_near_ground_zero_not_islamophobia.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/opposition_to_mosque_near_ground_zero_not_islamophobia.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/opposition_to_mosque_near_ground_zero_not_islamophobia.html</a></a>
        SonofaSailor