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AAFES shelves lined with plenty of violent entertainment

STUTTGART, Germany — Despite the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s refusal to sell the video game “Medal of Honor,” shoppers there can find plenty of other titles that allow a player to assume the role of a fighter who kills American troops.

Last month, AAFES officials decided not to sell the upcoming Electronic Arts game in response to “well-documented reports of depictions of Taliban fighters engaging American troops” in the game, according to an e-mail from Judd Anstey, an AAFES spokesman.

Despite some changes to the game, the ban stands.

Earlier this week, Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, AAFES commander, said the move was out of respect to troops and their families, and he expects that AAFES shoppers will understand the decision not to carry the game.

The move baffles avid gamer Cpl. Aaron Hostutler.

“In ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,’ you can play as several different countries’ forces and often you’re playing against and killing Marines or our allies,” said Hostutler, a Marine stationed on Okinawa. “I don’t understand how ‘Medal of Honor’ is any different.”

In the “Modern Warfare 2” multiplayer mode, players can become virtual Islamic militants who kill American troops in a desert country.

Players also are given the choice to participate in a terrorist attack in an airport. Armed with a machine gun, players either watch — or join — a Russian militant group as it kills innocent travelers by the hundreds as they run and hide. But that level can be skipped, giving the player the choice of not taking part in the extreme violence. Players have the same choice in the banned “Medal of Honor” game.

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“Modern Warfare 2” isn’t the only violent game AAFES has sold.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” is on AAFES’ shelves, too. In that game, players can run around a city causing all kinds of mayhem. There is virtually no crime too taboo for this game. Players can steal a car, pick up a prostitute and find a secluded area. Later, players can kill the prostitute with a gun, baseball bat or their bare hands and take their money back from the corpse.

AAFES did not answer a Stars and Stripes query asking whether games like these would also be pulled from store shelves.

Gamers have watched the enemies of the United States kill Americans since the beginning of shooter-video game history. During the Cold War, “James Bond 007” was released depicting Russian agents trying to kill Americans. As in movies, video game enemies are usually based on current or past real life enemies of the U.S.

Video games aren’t the only form of entertainment that might be a little too close to real life.

The 2009 movie “Brothers” depicts Marines dying in Afghanistan and one Marine being forced, by an Islamic extremist, at gun point to bludgeon his fellow Marine to death with a metal pipe. It is on AAFES’ shelves now.

Hostutler said he believes the decision not to sell “Medal of Honor” was probably made by “a commander who doesn’t play video games and hasn’t caught up with the times yet.”

“Do I want them to censor my shopping?” Hostutler said. “Of course not. If the game offends you because the war has personally affected you, then don’t play it.”

By selling the game, AAFES isn’t suggesting that you play it, he said.

“They sell alcohol and tobacco too, substances that actually hurt people when they choose to use it. But it is their choice.”

peacew@estripes.osd.mil

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