Political Promise

Minister Criticises Afghan-Theme Video Game

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has called out for a ban on the upcoming video game Medal of Honor. Is he right? Scott Murphy finds out.

He has branded the game “disgusting” and “un-British”, as the game purportedly allows you to play as a member of the Taliban during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

In a certain sense, Dr Fox is right. The game is very “un-British” – Electronic Arts, the game’s developer have stated that there are no depictions of British personnel in the game. In light of this, Dr Fox’s suggestion that the game allows you to murder British personnel is misguided and implies a clear lack of understanding of the subject matter.

Perhaps instead Fox should condemn the game for not portraying the British contribution to the war?

His argument is weakened slightly by the fact that the only opportunity to play as a Taliban insurgent is in the game’s multiplayer, the mechanics of which require two opposing sides. It is of course desirable for the Defence Secretary to act judiciously upon any work which could result in young British people becoming inspired by extremist ideas, but in this instance the idea of the game in question being used as a terrorism recruitment tool is fanciful. Players, surely, will be more intent on pitting their wits against those of other players than on any notion of furthering an extremist agenda.

That said, it is understandable to understand why the game has been maligned. It is bold for the developers to namedrop the Taliban – other games set in similar theatres of war, such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare, feature unnamed Islamic antagonists. The timing is not altogether in good taste, though for a Defence Minister to attempt to stifle depiction of an on-going conflict paints him as an ‘Information Minister’-like character.

Dr Fox’s politicking on the as-yet unreleased game is very much unguided and potentially harmful. To hear the man decree for the sake of decorum for a video game portraying a game to be banned is very inconsistent when read against his description of Afghanistan as a “broken, 13th century country”. It is also irresponsible for a leading governmental figure to attempt to damage the video games industry in a period of economic down-turn – notwithstanding that previous political furores over “controversial” games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty have coincided with massive commercial success.

Interestingly, the department of culture, media and sport has distanced itself from Fox’s view; that they have correctly identified the consumer solely responsible for buying or rejecting the game illustrates a more up-to-date attitude to video games as an entertainment medium.

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