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EA takes 'Taliban' out of Medal of Honor game

Electronic Arts' upcoming multiplayer combat simulation will still have you engaging in ground combat in Afghanistan. You'll still be able to play as the American side. But if you take the other side, you'll no longer go into battle as "the Taliban"; instead, you'll be the "Opposing Force."


EA announced the change -- only 11 days before the widely-anticipated game's ship date -- in a post on the game's blog. (As at some other game sites, you'll have to vouch for your age to view it). Wrote executive producer Greg Goodrich:

... we have also received feedback from friends and families of fallen soldiers who have expressed concern over the inclusion of the Taliban in the multiplayer portion of our game. This is a very important voice to the Medal of Honor team. This is a voice that has earned the right to be listened to. It is a voice that we care deeply about. Because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.

EA had resisted earlier calls to de-Taliban-ize the game, saying that in any multiplayer game somebody has to play the bad guy.

This is not an easy issue, and I don't envy EA's publicists one bit.

Personally, I have zero interest in playing on the side of terrorists or those who harbor them. Two of my cousins served in Iraq and two friends served in Afghanistan; three years ago, a Post reporter was murdered by insurgents in Baghdad. I'm sure I've got company in that view.

(Let's set aside the certainty that I would not play effectively on either side in EA's game; I lost my game reflexes years ago.)

But: Doing something in a video game is not the same as doing it in real life. That's why perfectly sane people can and do enjoy the outlet of shooting, exploding, rocketing or dismembering other people in a game.

And yet: Game developers have generally shied away from letting their customers play as the worst of the worst. There have been games that let you play as the Nazis against the U.S., but I don't know of any recent releases fitting that description., such as Activision's Call of Duty series, but I hope that none have your character wearing an SS uniform. One upcoming title, Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad, will allow gamers to choose between the German and Soviet sides in multiple and single-player modes -- but Stalin's USSR was not exactly on the side of the angels.

Do you think EA should have stuck to its plan, did it finally do the right thing today, or is it still wrong to let people play as the Taliban under another name? How would you decide this issue?

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 1, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture, Games  
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Next: Microsoft sues Motorola. Forgive me if I'm unimpressed.


Did kids play "cowboys & indians" during the westward expansion?

Posted by: oldHockeyPlayer | October 1, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Actually I wanted to point out to the first poster that yes, children did play cowboys and indians during the westward expansion.
Many a young easterner read and enjoyed the dime novels of the time that described "great heroes of the west" after major skirmishes with the Indians who were defending their home. The first of these was published in 1860 and they continued well into the early 1900's.

Posted by: Yuuperguy | October 1, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"There have been games that let you play as the Nazis against the U.S., but I don't know of any recent releases fitting that description."

In Call of Duty multiplayer you could always play as Nazis. In the latest Modern Warefare you could take a leisurely stroll as terrorists in an airport and rip civilians to shreds.

Did it take 5 or 10 minutes of research to write this article?

Posted by: jerothb | October 1, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

We played Angels and Devils....don't recall if either group lodged a complaint.

Posted by: tbva | October 1, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Well EA Sports just ruined a franchise. I refuse to buy this now. Stand up EA have some balls for crying out loud.

Posted by: madest | October 1, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

@jerothb: I don't have a problem updating a post when somebody corrects me; there's no need to be a jerk about it. Please note the revision above. (I didn't address CoD: Modern Warfare because that doesn't feature a real-world terrorist group.)

Since you asked, I spent about an hour writing the post. The incorrect sentence was one of the last I added, which is usually when errors creep into stories.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | October 1, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I think there are plenty of players who love playing the bad guy god bless their souls.

Posted by: amiman1 | October 1, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Actually, in emphasizing the SS uniform, I realized you are somewhat correct. You play as a Wehrmacht soldier in COD, not as an actual Nazi. But with that distinction, you also don't play as a Nazi in the "Secret Weapons" example--you are simply a Luftwaffe pilot. I really don't see anything controversial in that at all.

Now, if a game was called "Death Camps of Poland," and you played as an actual Nazi, then yeah, that would be somewhat disturbing.

Posted by: jerothb | October 1, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mr. Pegoraro, ever heard of freedom of speech?

And guess what, you don't HAVE to play on the side of the Taliban, it's an OPTION. So can play the role of the righteous, pure, angelic American invaders to your heart's delight.

And to your comment about the upcoming Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad... are you so naive as to think that only Stalin and Hitler's armies committed atrocities? As someone who has been obsessed with learning about WW2 since the age of about 5, I can assure you that American troops shot plenty of POWs out of hand. Not as many as the Germans and Soviets perhaps... but at what point do you "draw the line"? At what point is one side "too evil" to play?

Oh and did I mention this is a GAME????

Anyways, EA are cowards for backing down, but then again, COD is a terrible series so I won't be buying it anyways. But you bashing on Red Orchestra, now that got me ticked off. Get off your politically correct high horse please!!!

Posted by: Noxx | October 1, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Oops, meant Medal of Honor. Oh well, Medal of Honor and COD are both horrible franchises.

Posted by: Noxx | October 1, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations EA!

I'll never buy another of your products.

The idea that representing bad guys as bad guys is somehow disrespectful of the fallen, is idiotic and transparent.

The only thing worse than making a bad decision, is lying to justify it.

Posted by: twoube | October 1, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually Noxx, if you play the multiplayer version you do not have a choice which side you play on. The players are divided by the game onto each team. You can choose to disconnect from the server anytime you are placed on the opposing forces team, but you can not make the choice ahead of time.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | October 1, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

EA didn't do anything worthy of condemnation. It was reasonable to have the game as it was originally intended, and it is reasonable of them to accomodate the wishes of the families of our heroes. They didn't cancel the game or alter the gameplay, they simply acknowledge the symbolism and removed the offending element.
Kudos for their tact and their salute to those who have sacrificed so much.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | October 1, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

So, now, we can't play as Nazis, Borg, or criminals, either? What's going to happen with GTA?

Posted by: brucewla | October 1, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

WOW - I didn't know the THOUGHT POLICE had us in their claws THIS tightly.

Posted by: oneStarMan | October 1, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

The fact that this issue is even up for discussion epitomizes the prevailing sickness of American society today. I ask: what's the point of fighting the ground war abroad when our enemy has already defeated us at home? American men and women die on the Afghani front each and every day in service to our Nation and our people. On the home front, the American "infotainment" industry profits from the war by churning our trash that divides our people and debases our foundation.. This is what happens when the political establishment fronts a war without formal Congressional declaration. EA profits, the Washington Post profits and our brave service men and women suffer... In Ancient Rome, the Imperial Court would hold games at the coliseum for the masses and throw them bread to prevent uprisings. Take a hard look around and you may realize that American society today isn't much different. The games may have changed, and High Speed Internet substitutes for bread these days, but an Imperial court is still pulling the strings.

Posted by: dpensley | October 2, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

p.s. I'm a gamer myself. I've bought dozens of EA titles over the years, including others in the Medal of Honor series. I draw the line at playing a game that offers the option of playing the enemy in a present day conflict. EA should never have issued the title with this option no matter how lucrative the opportunity. No civic conscience whatsoever... Mr. Pelegrino why don't you pretend to be an investigative journalist and chase down a comment from EA's CEO John Riccitiello thier President of the EA Games Label. I'm sure you didn't study journalism to post this type of regurgitated crap.

Posted by: dpensley | October 2, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

One of the first objections to this game from the outfit running army Post Exchanges.

I'd bet dollars to donuts that the objection didn't come from the thousands of military who enjoy first person shooters to enhance their 'warrior ethos'.

There is a sensitivity issue here but it doesn't come from the notion of gunning people down, or blowing them up.

It comes from the notion of only gunning SOME people down, or blowing them up.

Posted by: keviquin | October 2, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

@Noxx: I don't think Rob was bashing RO - just using it as an example. He is right - neither side on the Eastern Front was exactly "squeaky clean". Stalin just happened to be on the winning side.

That said, we take the view in RO2: Heroes of Stalingrad that we are representing the soldier on the ground. They may have held all sorts of political views - but that isn't the issue. We don't put units like the SS or NKVD in game (although modders have) for obvious reasons, even though both organizations performed perfectly standard and correct military duties, as well as their much more dubious behaviors.

Are EA right to remove the Taliban? Well, I think removing them is a mistake - they should have had the wit not to put them in the game in the first place. They are simply too "current". Their inclusion is bound to upset/offend someone.

Alan Wilson
VP, Tripwire Interactive

Posted by: alanwilson | October 2, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so I am in the Marines. I have deployed and will deplo again. LET ME JUST SAY. IT WAS AMOST A RELIEF TO SEE EA "stick to there guns" so much for that, but hey another company backs down to "the man" Whatever not going to stop me from playing the game, but they do loose some respect and CRAP what is our world coming to? really? i have had fellow marines die it happens they died for a cause that we obviously forgot about "FREEDOM" hmmm... how about the familys who have lost someone... let this be. let this be for them if not anything else. if anyone has an issue with this post email me we can talk (

Posted by: woodri47 | October 4, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Some of you do realize that the only thing changing is a simple string of characters displayed on screen. Instead of 'Taliban', it will now display 'Opposing Force'. THAT IS IT. Graphics are not changing. Gameplay is not changing. Story is not changing. So I don't get why people are up in arms over it and bashing EA. It seems to me like an extremely fair compromise. And I actually prefer it. I will feel a lot more comfortable playing in multiplayer under the banner 'Opposing Force' as opposed to 'Taliban'.

Posted by: J_Dub | October 7, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

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