News has emerged that the next Medal of Honor game, EA’s wannabe answer to Acti’s Modern Warfare, will permit gamers to play as the Taliban in multiplayer mode.
At which point, various people (including me) raise an eyebrow and conclude that this is quite deliberately intended as a media stunt (as was Modern Warfare 2’s infamous airport level). So no doubt there will be a media firestorm, which apparently has already been kicked off by Fox News.
But – and this is the reason for me writing this post – it does make me wonder whether games companies are fully conscious of the fact that, by using these kinds of stunts, they are courting increased regulatory scrutiny of games in the future. Yes, there may well be a valid explanation within the context of the game, and in any event you can always point to that old hoary old chestnut, the “it’s just a game” argument, but most non-games playing people won’t understand.
And generally it’s non games-playing people who write the laws and regulations by which games have to abide. One of the most important of those are games classification laws, which govern how and when a game may be given an age rating and sold in a country. More importantly, they are also the people who will apply those rules to actual games. Now, in the West these days games classification rules are unlikely to ban games altogether, but they add a further level of necessary bureaucracy for devs/publishers. And things can be quite different elsewhere in the world, where games classification rules are increasingly being used for political purposes.
In brief, as I’ve written about several times before (see here and here), there is a rising tide of hostility to games when it comes to classification regimes, and I don’t think this kind of behaviour helps. Here’s hoping therefore that the furore over this latest stunt is muted.
Image credit: EA/Softpedia