EA Removes Taliban Label From Controversial War Game

Buckling to pressure from the media and military families, Electronic Arts stripped the Taliban moniker away from characters in its upcoming war game Medal of Honor.

EA drew fire when talking heads got word that the game would allow players to take part as Taliban forces in online play. CNN reports that the class of fighters formerly known as Taliban will now be called “Opposing Force.”

The game publisher released this statement, noting that requests from families of fallen soldiers sparked the move:

“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.”

The change doesn’t fundamentally alter the fact that gamers will still control members of the terrorist-friendly fighters. The renaming reminds me of when Tecmo Bowl had to work around a player’s union issue by calling the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback “QB EAGLES” even though it was obvious that the lightning-fast signal caller was Randall Cunningham. For those of you too young to remember who Cunningham was, imagine the exact opposite of Kevin Kolb.

Playing as ‘Taliban’ removed from ‘Medal of Honor’ game [CNN]

Previously: GameStop Pulls ‘Medal Of Honor’ From Stores On Military Bases Because Of Playable Taliban Characters

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  1. eccsame says:

    That’ll show ‘em.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    From what I gather from the article, the people who asked EA to modify the game actually wanted EA to remove the feature to play as the ‘opposing force’ altogether. EA just removed the branding and renamed them the ‘opposing force’ – I’m pretty sure that’s not what the people wanted, but I don’t think EA should have to fundamentally change the game because other games have been doing similar things for years.

    • Kitamura says:

      I seriously have to wonder in that case, what would the military (and these other people) find more offensive, that the players can play as the virtual Taliban in multiplayer and have them going at it with people who are virtual US soldiers, or virtual US soldiers shooting up another team of virtual US soldiers?

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a game in which you work as part of the US forces against other US forces. I think in that case, a whole lot more people would be offended. I think any kind of intentional “double agent” scenario involving the current war and US forces would be a really loaded issue and I don’t think anyone wants to take that on right now.

        • Kitamura says:

          Actually I was going more along the lines of, if they removed the Taliban from multiplayer, chances are this game only has character models for US military, in which case the only option would be to have US military vs US military, or else make the suicidal decision to simply drop multiplayer altogether, which might please all the military groups, but would probably causes some major issues with the gamers.

          • pop top says:

            They didn’t remove the Taliban, they just renamed them.

            • Kitamura says:

              I know, but I was reading somewhere else that the military would simply have preferred not permitting the “terrorists” to be playable at all. What does that leave you with for a multiplayer experience then?

              However, the fact that changing just the name seems to be appeasing these groups says a lot about how big of an issue they feel this really is.

        • DeepHurting says:

          Modern Warfare 2 has the main character and his mutton-chopp’d mentor killing scores of “Shadow Company” soldiers, who I always assumed were American mercenaries, PMC, or “Black” operation type operatives since they spoke English and were commanded by an American General.

          Heck, they even have you watching up-close as their eyes roll back into their heads as you slide a knife into their back.

          I’m glad this game is so popular with the kiddies.

      • watch me boogie says:

        I’m curious about that, too… I’m thinking about how kids have played versions of Cowboys and Indians forever, throughout the various wars we’ve had, and how they see ‘being the Bad Guys.’ I’ve been trying to come up with a logical reason why this is different, and nothing holds up. It just seems icky on a visceral level – not that there should be any laws or anything, just that game makers should have better taste. (I don’t have any military ties.)

      • PTB315 says:

        It’s the Taliban killing American troops. Both aspects combined are causing the issue. I know that killing American troops in Modern Warfare 2 is not a problem. I believe that a game involving the Taliban fighting the Russians during the cold war would not draw the ire of people concerned with the American Military, but such a game has not been even rumored at this moment. This controversy is exactly over letting players take the role of Taliban troops against Americans. (Though it would be a bit silly to pit the Taliban against anyone else in modern times, they are and have been engaged in war with America and America’s allies)

        Although, other games have let you play as axis troops in World War II, without results like this.

        It is specifically the presence of an easily definable and identifiable enemy that America is currently engaged in a war with. Assuming that is the case, if it were Iraqi insurgents instead of the Taliban, which are not part of an organization as easily definable and recognizable as The Taliban, I do not believe the backlash would be quite so bad. Specific to the current Iraq situation, our government is a bit more careful calling them the bad guys, which further cements them as freedom fighters to people who oppose America’s presence in Iraq.

    • PTB315 says:

      No, it’s the Taliban presence that caused this backlash. No other military themed video game that is set in modern times and involved killing Americans in multiplayer drew this kind of backlash. Modern Warfare 2 would be the best (But not only) example since until Avatar it was the highest grossing piece of media of all time. By default that makes it the highest grossing game where you can kill Americans in multiplayer.

      Specifically, you can play as Army Rangers, Marines, an international cooperative with Americans, Brits, Canadians, and other allies of those countries, but you could play against the forces containing Americans as Russians, somewhat vague middle easterner country, and I want to say Brazilians on the Favela map.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      I have very mixed feelings about this. First off, this is nothing new. Games like Battlefield II (an EA game) have allowed you to play as the “generic Arab bad guys” for quite a while, and in Counter-Strike you can play as various types of semi-generic terrorists. I have a lot of friends in the military, and I know damn well that they play both sides of the conflict in these games. I would really like to hear from an average solider who plays these sort of games what they think of this controversy – not just the words of some Pentagon flack.

      Than having been said, I think it was a bit insensitive of EA to specifically call these guys “Taliban” – they should have gone with a made up or generic name.

      • Willnet says:

        I’m pretty sure soldiers just want to shoot each other (virtually) and drink some beer when they get free time away from work.

        I don’t get it… If you are playing multiplayer online you will be killing Taliban or opposing forces as an American soldier. Yay! Go America!

        But you will also will be killing American soldiers as a Taliban. The Horror!

        If you take out the Taliban you have GIs killing each other! Noooo

        So the obvious solution is to take out the American soldiers. Then its just a free-for-all Taliban on Taliban slaughterfest.

        Or we could have completely featureless, colorless, shapeless, creature things running around. Weee fun.. No one is offended!

  3. dreamfish says:

    … and what about all those WW2 games where you can play as the Nazis? Something of a double standard (or simply rose-tinted historical view).

    • MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

      Too soon? LOL. My thoughts exactly as I’ve just finished Call of Duty: World at War

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      I don’t think it’s a double standard at all. People are still dying at the hands of the “OPFOR”. Using a war of generations past is definitely pushing the envelope, but I don’t see the WWll vets being in the target demographic of a video game.

      I just think it’s horribly insensitive and poor decision making to use a current war zone where people are still dying, in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is much, much too soon.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The difference is that there’s 40+ years of history between the events depicted in those games and the events depicted in this Medal of Honor game. A lot of people felt that it was just in poor taste considering that this is a current and ongoing conflict.

    • eccsame says:

      In which game can you play as the nazis? I’ve played a lot of WW2 games and don’t remember ever playing as the Germans – unless, of course, you were a spy for the allies.

      • minjche says:

        Day of Defeat, a Half Life mod, allows you to play as Allied forces or Nazi forces, but the game is 100% multiplayer (it has no single player campaign).

        I can’t think of a game off-hand where you play as a bad guy (Nazi, Taliban, or otherwise) in single player campaign.

        Well, there is Left 4 Dead, but that’s zombies …

      • KhaiJB says:

        Company of Heroes

        • eccsame says:

          I was thinking, specifically, of single-player games. In a multiplayer game, I’m guessing there have to be opposing sides so, in a WWII game, someone would have to play as an Axis power. But I still don’t think there’s a single-player game that allows you to play as the nazis.

          Then again, I don’t think this game would have let you play a campaign as the Taliban. It was likely just for the multiplayer modes.

          • KhaiJB says:

            Company of Heroes is mainly a single player game, with Panzer campaigns (Opposing Fronts) you play as the German Commander..

            unless you mean First person instead?

          • Kryndar says:

            Unless I am mistaken the Medal of Honor game is question only allowed you to play as the Taliban in multiplayer.

      • halfcuban says:

        Are you serious? How about every multi-player mode for every WWII game from here to kingdom come?

      • mac-phisto says:

        how about wolfpack – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfpack_(video_game)

        real old school – that was for windows 3.0, i think.

        you get to play as the commander of a u-boat. that game was hella fun. i singlehandedly won the war for the germans as commander of u-541.

        you could play as the commander of a destroyer as well & try to protect your fleet, but that wasn’t nearly as fun.

        • mac-phisto says:

          also, in battlefield 1942, you can play as germany, japan or italy. they don’t expressly call them nazis (or fascists or imperialists), but you’d have to be pretty thick in the head not to understand who/what the axis powers really were.

    • kajillion123 says:

      I don’t know why this always comes up. The same people complain about Nazis in games and they have to sanitize it for the German release.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Fine, crumble to the vocal minority.

    But did you really have to change it to “Opposing Force?” Couldn’t at least come up with something not to lame? “Terrorists” or “Enemy” would have been significantly better.

    • mac-phisto says:

      i suppose there’s a reason. OPFOR is the name of americans unit charged with training US troops. there are 3 such units in the US. they arm as enemy combatants for training exercises.

      i guess the game is now trying to suggest that you’re playing as an OPFOR unit on the training ground.

    • Puddy Tat says:

      Or simply BAD DUDES? hahah I felt the same lame feeling.

    • Daggertrout says:

      What about Balitan?

  5. dolemite says:

    “Hello Mr. Bond, welcome to the lair of the “Opposing Force!”
    “…and just what does your organization ‘oppose’?”
    “Freedom of Speech Mr. Bond!”

    Ironically, by having to alter the way we do things, the people promoting the change actually gave the terrorists a minor victory.

    • minjche says:

      I’m not sure I see an action fueled by American families with the interest of being tasteful and respectful to the military as a “minor victory” for “the terrorists”.

      It’s subjective, really, what you consider a victory for the terrorists. I’m a bit less cynical so I see this as a victory for tasteful entertainment.

    • ttw1 says:

      “Ironically, by having to alter the way we do things, the people promoting the change actually gave the terrorists a minor victory.”

      Congratulations, you win “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Read This Morning” award.

      Freedom of speech prevents the Government from prohibiting speech. It has nothing to do with this.

    • ttw1 says:

      “Ironically, by having to alter the way we do things, the people promoting the change actually gave the terrorists a minor victory.”

      Congratulations, you win “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Read This Morning” award.

      Freedom of speech prevents the Government from prohibiting speech. It has nothing to do with this.

    • ttw1 says:

      “Ironically, by having to alter the way we do things, the people promoting the change actually gave the terrorists a minor victory.”

      Congratulations, you win “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Read This Morning” award.

      Freedom of speech prevents the Government from prohibiting speech. It has nothing to do with this.

    • ttw1 says:

      “Ironically, by having to alter the way we do things, the people promoting the change actually gave the terrorists a minor victory.”

      .

      Freedom of speech prevents the Government from prohibiting speech. It has nothing to do with this.

    • ttw1 says:

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

    • minjche says:

      For reference:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      So please don’t cry “freedom of speech” when it isn’t an action of Congress.

  6. El_Fez says:

    On the other hand, what about all the atrocities committed by the United States? I;m offended on behalf of all the innocent middle east civilians killed in our little shindig and EA should remove the term “American” from the game out of respect!

    • Chairman-Meow says:

      “On the other hand, what about all the atrocities committed by the United States? I;m offended on behalf of all the innocent middle east civilians killed in our little shindig and EA should remove the term “American” from the game out of respect!”

      Exactly what American “atrocities” are you speaking of Troll-boy ?

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        If you feed the trolls, they’ll just come back again.

        • El_Fez says:

          Ah, yes. The “America, Fuck yeah!” attitude.

          Thanks for that, I forgot about toeing the party line.

          • XianZomby says:

            Ah, yes. The “America, Fuck you!” attitude.

            Thanks for that, I forgot about toeing the Islamofascist party line.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Clearly you don’t keep up with ther news. Several soldiers have been discovered to have killed innocent civilians, with grnades no less. Other soldiers have been charged with conspiring to hide this information.

        So Americans aren’t all sunshine and lollipops either. We have evil citizens just like every other country, too.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Yeah, it’s pretty horrendous and shocking. FTR, I was referring to El_Fez as a troll only because his/her comment was irrelevant to the post topic, and it was not to imply that I was denying that such atrocities had taken place.

          • El_Fez says:

            How is it not relevant? The term “Taliban” was removed because it was deemed offensive to people fighting in a war. “American” is a equally valid term that could offend a group of people. But THAT group of people don’t buy video games, so EA doesn’t care about them.

            I didn’t mean it to be a political statement, it was meant to be a “Hey, if one is stupid, then then other is stupid too” statement.

      • dolemite says:

        Lol, you’ve got your head in the sand if you aren’t aware of all the stuff we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilian murders, death of children, war crimes…just one of hundreds of examples:
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/11/afghanistan.usa

        Blind nationalism is a dangerous thing.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Actually, nationalism in general isn’t a very good thing. It leads to zealotry and hatred of other nations. Anything with an “us and them” mentality inevitably leads to something bad.

      • El_Fez says:

        First of all, let me welcome you to the planet earth (And or welcome you back to society at large after your hermitage, and my scincere hopes that your cave for the last 10 years has been very comfortable).

        We invaded them. Not the other way around. We tried to boss them around, not the other way around. The whole situation occurred because America needs to be so gung-ho and interfering with everything. And yet we complain about sensitivity? Preach sensitivity to the thousands of innocents whose only crime was living in their own country.

        Seriously if ten seconds of surfing on Google cant come up with enough to make you outraged, your not paying attention.

  7. PTB315 says:

    Nice zinger on the Kolb comment by the way. Tecmo Bowl references are the best video game related nostalgia, that game was legendary.

  8. Gulliver says:

    It amazes me that the families of people who are supposed to be upholding the American way of life, want companies to change because THEY don’t like something. If there were no market for it, people won’t buy it. If nobody wants to be the OPFORCE or Taliban then it will be a wasted piece of the game. I guess military families should get to decide on everybody else’s rights.
    I suppose cop families can now go after Grand Theft Auto, and the families of football players can stop Madden 2011.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      There is a vast difference between being able to play as a Nazi in a WW2 game and playing as the Taliban (or whatever moniker they want to rename them to) in current day. Its disrespectful. For all you know, while you’re playing as the “Opposing Force” online, US soldiers are being killed.

      Its just poor taste.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        So is protesting about gays in the military at a non-gay soldier’s funeral.

        But poor taste is still free speech.

        • minjche says:

          “Free speech” applies to actions of Congress. There’s no law saying a private group of people can say “we don’t like ____”.

          For reference (since I love pasting this):

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

          • Big Mama Pain says:

            Either I am misunderstanding you or you are reading that wrong. If Congress can’t make laws that inhibit free speech, that in turn means all citizens have free speech. The lack of any laws in turn gives us that right, get it? Congress decided it was a basic human right, not to be toyed with by laws. That’s why it’s called the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Not-Laws, or whatever it is that you’re interpreting.

      • Gulliver says:

        If you are playing as a US Soldier people from other countries are dying too. I guess they are “lessor” and do not matter. You can not address Grand Theft Auto which kills cops as well. Cops get killed all the time. Poor taste to YOU should not prevent others from doing what they want. It’s in poor taste to watch Jersey Shore, but thats the thing about freedom. Poor taste is PROTECTED, except by military families who do not understand this concept.

      • pop top says:

        For all you know, while you’re playing as the “Opposing Force” online, someone’s grandma dies!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Why would families of football players want to stop Madden 2011? That example makes no sense. And you seem to be confusing “request” and “sending letters” or “voicing a complaint” with “decide on everybody else’s rights.” Huuuuge difference, btw. I have no problem with anyone voicing a complaint – that’s the nature of having the right to voice an opinion. I don’t have a problem with EA changing the name, either. That’s their right to do so.

      You also can’t assume that everyone who complained was a family member of someone in the military. I have many friends who voiced their concerns and who don’t know anyone in the military.

      Also, in a more general sense, just because it’s a right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise good judgment. You may have the right to talk about politics in your office, but whether you should and how you should go about it is a whole other matter. I think people in this particular case simply felt it was in poor judgment.

      • Gulliver says:

        The families of football players don;t want to see their family members hit and carried off the field in Madden games. That is the point. Any idiot can complain about anything. Here is a solution. If you do not like it, DONT BUY IT. DONT PLAY IT.

        • dolemite says:

          Er…except in just about ANY video game you need an antagonist. Some games its the German, Russian, Japanese, Afghanistan, domestic terrorists, IRA…

          Now tell me why the “Taliban” should be elevated above the rest of these, as far as how we treat them?

          Honestly, it shows them we are afraid of them, and it is sad we allow them the power to change what we do, due to their name. It gives them a victory over us, that we consider them more terrifying than anyone else in history, apparently.

  9. Larraque eats babies says:

    Eh. Obvious publicity stunt is obvious. It’s been 3 years since the last game bearing the Medal of Honor brand. The last game – MoH:Airborne released to mediocre reviews, and I don’t believe it was a strong sales leader. The MoH brand as far as First Person War Simulation Shooters go is behind both the Battlefield: Bad Company and Call of Duty series now. Not to mention the Halos and Gears of War games that it also has to compete with.

    I don’t think I would have even known a MoH game was coming out if not for the ‘controversy’. Also — the game is coming out in SEVEN days. Presumably there is voice talent that they would have to bring back in to do some last minute edits, the programmers who would have to replace all references of Taliban with “opposing force”… that’s not a simple find and replace job.

  10. Rudiger says:

    As absurd as this is, people have the right to complain about whatever they want. In the end this comes down to EA making a decision that they believe is in their best financial interest, which is their responsibilities to share holders. You can’t expect corporations to grow a pair and stand up for things.

  11. odarkshineo says:

    Take that freedom of speech!

    • ThinkerTDM says:

      You are an ass. Freedom of speech that you so glibly quote is based upon the government- the US government- being able to stifle the expression of thoughts.

      Exactly how does that fit in here?

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      There’s been no prohibition to anyone’s freedom of speech here. I don’t understand what you’re referencing here.

    • minjche says:

      The first amendment prohibits any government (federal/state/local) from limiting speech.

      There’s nothing stopping a private group of individuals from saying “We’d rather you not do/say that” and another private group obliging.

      • minjche says:

        Correcting myself, replace “government (federal/state/local)” with “Congress”.

        Here’s the text of the amendment:

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  12. StuffThingsObjects says:

    How in the world is it offensive? Sure, there are American Soldiers dying, but I don’t see how being able to play as the Taliban makes any difference whatsoever. I can play as a million other ‘factions’ and still kill American Soldiers.

    Now, if only there was a game where you play as a cartoon IED and blow up passer-bys.

  13. AngryK9 says:

    Some crafty 12 year old will make a mod to put it back the way it was.

  14. The Marionette says:

    Honestly I see no problem with them having the taliban on the game. There’s been plenty of games before 9/11 that have had terrorist, after that we suddenly don’t have the balls to make a game without someone bitching about it. What next, do they want any war shows taken off the air because it has a group that the us has fought? I’ve got family and friends in different parts of the military and non of them were offended that the game was going to include taliban, and in fact were actually looking forward to play the game.

  15. Alvis says:

    You know who I want making decisions about what goes into games? Game developers. Know who I don’t? People who knew people who were soldiers.

    • XianZomby says:

      It was EA that made a decision, not people that knew people that were Soldiers.

      If you’re opposed, then vocalize your opinion. Not here behind an anonymous screen-name, but out in public. Get your name and face out there on the news, in the papers and in letters to EA. Gather your friends, stand in front of a TV news camera, and let them know you want to role-play as misogynistic terrorists that kill American Soldiers. Let them put your name under your face on the TV screen. Otherwise, your voice will never be heard.

  16. Phineas says:

    The terrorists have won.

    • jason in boston says:

      Hi – OIF vet here. You are indeed 100% correct.

      What games do you think the front line troops play when they have downtime? Games like this because they are damn good. I am insulted that EA would bend to a small minority that would not even buy the game in the first place. Some people like realism in games, others apparently like Zelda.

  17. VOIDMunashii says:

    So they are caving into pressure by just changing the name? So I can still be a “bad guy” and kill American soldiers? So they really aren’t changing anything? I guess I won’t be buying this game.

    It’s not that I find the subject matter offensive, any FPS featuring American troops and multiplayer is going to have a mode where you are killing American troops, it’s that I find their caving into the pressure offensive.

    I know my personally not buying the game doesn’t mean much to EA, but it means something to me.

  18. Macgyver says:

    It’s only a game. People need to move on and stop complaining.

    How about all these other war games. Where you killing the Vietnamese, or the Japaneses, or Nazis, or who every else.
    How is this any different, it’s only a damn game.

  19. JlGomez says:

    Isnt this old news.. Didnt I read about this last week or was I dreaming…

  20. Kanjimari says:

    This changes nothing. Everyone knows the characters are The Taliban. Changing the name doesn’t change anything. It’s pathetic that they feel they need to change it and it’s pathetic that the people they’re doing it for think it needs to be changed, or tha simply changing the name makes anything about it any different, regardless of how you feel abou tit.

  21. minjche says:

    For reference in debates over “free speech”:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  22. DeepHurting says:

    If only people got this upset about the Taliban killing ACTUAL U.S. soldiers…

  23. Jasen says:

    So the American Taliban won out, eh?

  24. CookiePuss says:

    Thanks for protecting us talking heads! The last kid I knew who played a terrorist on an online game woke up the next day with a full grown beard, a sudden urge to buy a camel, and an obsession with 72 virgins. Then they’d masturbate while dropping a nuke in Modern Warfare 2.(not on Japan though, that wouldn’t be considered an act of terror).

    Talibanned. The world is now a safer place. Durka durka.

  25. Megladon says:

    Yea, look for the taliban to be a playable group after a week or 3 when someone hacks the game just like that sex stuff in GTA, except people know this is here, so it should be found faster.

  26. Chief CL says:

    I have killed at least 23492859 cops in grand theft auto….. Just sayin.

  27. kriswone says:

    this game is over-hyped. have yet to see a review that praises it.

    Medal of Honor games where never any good anyway, its what you played when you were waiting for the next Call of Duty or BattleField to come out.