Video game letting players ’shoot’ US troops drops Taliban label amid protests

By Anne Flaherty, AP
Friday, October 1, 2010

Video game drops Taliban label amid protests

WASHINGTON — The makers of a new video game based in Afghanistan said Friday they have removed the option for players to call themselves members of the Taliban when pretending to shoot at U.S. troops.

Electronic Arts, a major game developer based in Redwood City, Calif., said it has dropped the Taliban label from a version of its “Medal of Honor” video game after families of troops complained it was offensive.

Military bases across the U.S. had banned the sale of the game in reaction to those family protests.

“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,” wrote Greg Goodrich, the game’s executive producer, in a blog post on the game’s Web site.

“This franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service,” he said.

Karen Meredith, who lost her son in Iraq in 2004, said she appreciated the patriotic tone used by Goodrich. “But we still feel strongly that the option for shooting and killing U.S. troops is wrong,” Meredith said of herself and her friends.

Past versions of the game have been set in World War II, allowing players to act as either members of Allied forces or Nazi troops.

The latest version, scheduled to be released on Oct. 12, is set in modern-day Afghanistan, where some 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops are fighting the Taliban.

The game’s story line is told through a small group of characters known as “Tier 1″ operators, elite fighters who take their orders directly from the president and defense secretary.

As is common in many video games, players can switch sides to play the bad guy.

Electronic Arts said the art and graphics for the game would remain the same, including realistic depictions of fire fights between U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan insurgents.

Spokesman Jeff Brown said the only difference will be seen in the version of the game that allows multiple players. When opting to play as part of the anti-U.S. force, the player will select “OPFOR” — a military term for opposing force — instead of “Taliban.”

Brown said it was the Taliban label that seemed to upset consumers most.

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