Military exchanges place ban on popular war video game


CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The latest version of the popular “Medal of Honor” combat game will not be sold at AAFES stores.

The action was taken at the request of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service after objections were made concerning the game, which allows players to take on the role of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The decision to not stock the game was made by the AAFES commander, Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, following “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.

“Out of respect to those we serve, we will not be stocking this game,” Casella was quoted as saying in the e-mail. “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.”

The game also has been pulled from AAFES’ “EX Game Zone” online store, which allows customers to pre-order games. “Medal of Honor” was scheduled to be released Oct. 12.

Any reserve or pre-orders placed through the online store will be canceled, Anstey said. Pre-orders placed through GameStops on Army and Air Force installations will be transferred to the nearest GameStop off base. It’s unclear how those overseas will be able to get the game. Video games sold in off-base stores in Germany, for example, will not play in American game consoles.

Officials at GameStop’s office in Grapevine, Texas, could not be reached for comment.

A Navy Exchange official confirmed that stores in Japan will not carry the game.

“As far as the Japan district is concerned, we will not be stocking the game,” said Lisa Ballejo, Navy Exchange Japan district manager.

The decision did not sit well with some soldiers who heard the news on Friday.

“They are not giving people the credit to distinguish fiction from reality,” said Pvt. Mitchell Blackburn in Bamberg, Germany. “People know it is a video game … just because you are playing as [the Taliban] does not mean you really want to kill Americans or coalition forces.”

Pvt. Steven Pettit said despite the enemy characters, it is only a game.

“It is not like we have a lot of entertainment here as it is,” said Pettit, who is also in Bamberg. “Even if you can shoot Americans and it has some kind of anti-American concept to it, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a game.

“I don’t think there should be any censorship,” he said. “We are censored enough as it is.”

But, Spc. Dandre Harrison agreed with AAFES’ decision.

“I think it should be banned because, I mean, we are in a war against the Taliban,” Harrison said. “It would not be the best idea for us to be playing as the Taliban, especially with us being U.S. soldiers.”

The “Medal of Honor” update has been getting criticism from other corners as well. In August, Liam Fox, secretary of state for defense for the United Kingdom, called for a ban of the game, calling it “tasteless.”

The game is marketed by Electronic Arts of Redwood City, Calif. The company’s president, Frank Gibeau, told the gaming website Develop (www.develop-online.net) that the game will be released on schedule as planned.

“At EA we passionately believe games are an artform,” he told Develop. “I don’t know why films and books set in Afghanistan don’t get flack, yet games do. Whether it’s ‘Red Badge Of Courage’ or ‘The Hurt Locker,’ the media of its time can be a platform for the people who wish to tell their stories. Games are becoming that platform.”

EA has sold more than 31 million “Medal of Honor” games worldwide since it was introduced in 1999, the company said.



This story has been corrected from the original version.