Electronic Arts bows to pressure, makes minor change to ‘offensive’ video game

Electronic Arts today announced that it has responded to pressure from veterans and families of soldiers and made a change to its upcoming Medal of Honor game, slated to be released Oct. 12.

The game, a depiction of the war in Afghanistan, in multi-player mode allowed players to be U.S. soldiers or Taliban fighters, who could shoot and kill Americans. The change would remove the name Taliban fighter and replace it with “opposing forces.”

Former congressman and unsuccessful 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis on Thursday sent a letter urging Colorado retailers not to sell the game.

His spokesman, Josh Green, said McInnis considered this a victory. “Getting the Taliban removed is a big deal. The nature of games like this is you’re going to have one side against the other, but having one side identified as Taliban was offensive.

Jeff Brown, vice president of public affairs for game maker Electronic arts, told us they were making the change.

“Medal of Honor goes back 11 years. It was created by Steven Spielberg. It has always respected the military and it has always been incredibly respected by the military,” Brown said.

He said the in single player mode, everyone plays the part of an allied soldier, usually an American, but that in multi-player mode someone has to play the part of the enemy, in this case the Taliban.

“Somebody has to be the bad guy,” he said. “But we got letters from soldiers and soldiers’ families saying that they did not like having the enemy identified as Taliban, so we made the change.

“We changed one word. In multi-player mode, you used to choose between playing for the Americans or playing for the Taliban. Now it is Americans or OPFOR, which stands for opposing forces.”

He noted that while previous versions of the game were sold on military bases, this one won’t be available. “We respect that decision, but I expect they will sell the game again,” Brown said.

“If you go in a video game store, you’ll see there are many very similar games, so a soldier might wonder why one is available and another isn’t, but that is their choice,” he said.

He said some people just don’t like violent video games or games about war. Brown said there have been many respected movies about war, including The Hurt Locker. “We don’t understand why video game creators can’t get the same respect as film makers,” he said.

“The game will be available in Colorado,” he said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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