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Video game replaces "Taliban" multiplayer option

The makers of the latest “Medal of Honor” game have removed an option allowing people to play as the Taliban, but they can still kill U.S. troops as the “Opposing Force.”

Concerns about allowing players to assume the role of the Taliban prompted the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to decide not to sell the video game in its stores or online.

“Out of respect to those we serve, we will not be stocking this game,” AAFES commander Maj. Gen, Bruce Casella said in September. “We regret any inconvenience this may cause authorized shoppers, but are optimistic that they will understand the sensitivity to the life and death scenarios this product presents as entertainment.”

AAFES has not yet decided whether the change in the multiplayer option from “Taliban” to “Opposing Force” would affect its decision, AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said Friday.

Electronic Arts Inc., the company that makes the game, issued a statement saying the change was prompted by concerns from friends and families of fallen servicemembers.

“We are making this change for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice — this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service,” game executive producer Greg Goodrich said in the statement.

The switch from calling the opponents the “Taliban” to “Opposing Force” would seem to put “Medal of Honor” on the same footing as the popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” franchise in which one side takes the role of generic Middle Eastern fighters who battle Americans.

But the fact that players can still kill U.S. troops is troubling, said Ami Neiberger-Miller, a spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit group that helps families of fallen troops.

“I think we appreciate the removal of the term ‘Taliban’ from the game … but I think at its core this is a game that desensitizes people to a very serious thing,” she said. “It’s still a game where an opposing force can kill U.S. soldiers and it allows players to visualize the deaths of U.S. troops.”

Karen Meredith’s son Army 1st Lt. Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq on May 30, 2004. Meredith has been a vocal critic of the video game, causing her to get plenty of hate mail.

She said the change does not go far enough.

“If the option is still killing U.S. soldiers then they’ve missed the point,” she said.

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