Invisio

An American Perspective on the European Perspective of EA’s Medal of Honor – Warfighter

Much to our chagrin, late last week, game producer Electronic Arts caved to pressure from European bloggers regarding their tie-ins to real world companies that produce tactical gear and weapons. The assertions were asinine, especially coming from someone who writes about the gaming industry. In his editorial Author Tom Bramwell dumps all over his own industry as he shows how little he understands America or the freedoms we fought so hard for. He, very hypocritically, also sets the stage for making the case that violent video games lead to real world violence. Nothing like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Obviously, Tom Bramwell is a douchebag.

Nothing had ever been accomplished like EA had made happen, at least on this scale and we here at SSD were very impressed with what we saw going on. Not only was EA emphasizing accuracy, but also working with companies we know to produce licensed products. One of our friends discussed this phenomenon with us last week and asked us how we felt that this would go over with gaming fans. We responded that it might have a different effect and might actually raise interest in gaming from the opposite side, real world users. We know it had happened on our end that way.

Unfortunately, EA’s reaction to the issue resulted in a limited edition, licensed product would not be produced. The proceeds of the sale of this SOG Knives tomahawk were to go to Project Honor, which benefits the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the Navy SEAL Foundation. How sad that the European market was allowed to sway opinion so drastically that a charity is affected.

Another SSD friend, Jon Chang works in the gaming industry and offered up his perspective on the issue.

Over the past week, the folks at EA made a call to remove some relationships between the new Medal of Honor game and some companies in the defense industry. They made this call in response to a few opinion pieces, including one at Eurogamer.net.

“If we want the vicarious thrills of violent video games to remain morally justifiable,” whoah, stop right there. This is entertainment, or from where I stand, someone’s art. Art can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. The notion that any depiction of violence (or potentially sex) requires some kind of moral justification is – at best – frightening. The suggestion that art of any type needs to be morally justifable is a huge grey area; a grey area that takes choice away from the individual in the name of “morals”.

During an test screening of David Fincher’s film “Se7en”, two audience members were overheard saying, “The people who made that movie should be killed.” These audience members clearly didn’t think the film was “moral” or “artistic”, yet it’s one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen and I am a better person for having seen it. So forgive me, but I don’t need someone else to tell me what is “morally justifiable” in art and what is not. Thanks anyway.

The next gripe was regarding companion products to the game: “I want to draw attention to the fact they mean things like real gun attachments and tomahawks.”
The author goes on to quote Ryan Smith: “EA’s willingness to make a connection between a video game gun and an actual firearm is the strongest evidence yet that we’ve already let the wall crumble too much.”

Honestly, my first reaction to this: should the guns in games have fake names and lurid colors, like toy guns? If he is suggesting that having authentic looking weapons that bear the same names and are configured using the same components as real world weapons is going to lead to certain children becoming interested in the real world analog, welcome to the dawn of story telling.

Fiction, be it games, books or movies, are a form of wish-fulfillment and fantasy. Plenty of people go out and buy merch for games and movies. Others see or read about a character wearing a piece of clothing they like, driving a car that looks cool or a gun that “looks cool” and they will seek it out. People do the same thing with headlines, be it a special operations warfighter in a the news or a movie star pulling up to a red carpet event. Is there really a problem identifying those items by their real names?

The notion that branded versions of items will somehow inspire and drive users to violence is as ridiculous as the claims that listening to a Black Sabbath or Judas Priest song will send someone on a murderous rampage. If this is the case, where is the outrage for the officially licensed swords and daggers from Lord of the Rings books, movies and games? “Pitchforks and torches! To New Zealand, fellow zealots! It’s time to make a stand against the evil that is Peter Jackson!”

With about thirty seconds and Google I was able to find fully functional replica blades from D&D, Devil May Cry, Heavy Metal, Halo, Harry Potter and GI Joe. Most were fully licensed. Those that weren’t still carried the moniker. Are the officially licensed blades somehow more likely to inspire murder in the hearts of fans because they are official issue?

I’ve been down this road so many times in my life. Dungeons & Dragons will make me worship the devil and kill my parents. Heavy metal is turning people into devil worshippers and murderers. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is not appropriate to be read and should be removed from our libraries. Comic books aren’t literature and will destroy the moral compass of people who read them. I could go on.

What’s most disappointing in this instance is that creators and, worse, gamer pundits, have taken the position that video games are creating a generation of potential killing machines. What happened to personal responsibility or parenting? I trust people to separate fantasy from reality. I trust people to engage with my art and make decisions about what they experience. Call me crazy.

If a creator gives their audience a short cut and offers a collectors/branded version of something (car, jacket, flashlight, pocket knife, ax, whatever) to drive some additional budget to make their art, it’s not anything new (what’s the last movie you saw without any product placement?). What is new, is when a company offers those items and then donates all the profits to a charity for men, women and families that have suffered unbearable losses. Who have had things taken from them that can never be returned.

Pundit Bramwell sees this as, “a video game about war, and it helps pay for the families of people who died in wars to have a slightly better standard of life. Obviously it’s all phrased in the most nauseatingly mawkish language imaginable, but anyone who has ever listened to a politician refer to his or her armed forces is used to that, and the unique way America regards and salutes its military institutions wherever possible is one cultural signifier that is at least transparent to most of the rest of the world.” It’s really hard for me not to take this personally, but I will try.

Like Danger Close, the shop I work at makes games and graphic novels set in near-future/modern conflicts in recognizable settings based on real events. I’ve developed close relations with many people who have spent years overseas at war, away from their families, and by extension we work with the companies that support them. Not all of those “consultants” are still alive. After three years, I still can’t bring myself to take their names off my contact list, because I want to see their names at unexpected times. They were amazing people and I never want to forget them.

So giving back, as Danger Close and their partners chose to do, is a personal thing for many of us. Not a cynical marketing line.

On an emotional level, I’d love for these pundits to actually sit down and meet with some of the kids who never get to see their parents again or the guys who are covered with scars on what’s left of their bodies, and tell them why it was their moral duty to push EA to terminate an entire charitable program that would maybe help pay for physical therapy or perhaps a college education. But pundits never do that. Pundits are about making headlines and selling advertising.

I will conclude by saying this: freedom and personal choice are something I deeply believe in. If the writers were so offended by a tomahawk or a branded MoH flashlight(because that’s really what we’re talking about here in terms of branded product) being released, then it’s certainly their right to write about it, but it’s frightening to me when any creator is forced to bow before mobthink. EA made a call. I don’t agree with it, but I have that luxury.

It’s a struggle to get up every day and try to make something great. I am fortunate enough to work with very talented people to create content. Some people even like what we make. We trust our audiences to be able to think, feel and make decisions about our work. I hope other creators will continue to do the same.

Jon Chang
jchang@echelon-software.com
Creator : Black Powder \\ Red Earth
President : Echelon Software

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30 Responses to “An American Perspective on the European Perspective of EA’s Medal of Honor – Warfighter”

  1. R.Anderson says:

    Well said Jon!

    While there is the old saw “beauty is in the eye of the checkbook holder,” that holds true regarding “what is art,” EA appears to have found their conscience after cashing the check.

    Poor form.

  2. clynch says:

    I think I’ll give the $60 I was going to pay for this game to Project Honor instead.

    • Duke says:

      Word.

    • Reseremb says:

      You Sir, have a fantastic suggestion which if you don’t mind, I will follow.

      EA… FUCK YOU, no more videogames from your company (and me and my buddies buy a lot, like most of the guys in the military, LE and security communities).

  3. Duke says:

    Will all of this enable EA to make a game where campaign play will actually last longer than episode of one of my kids’ favorite half-hour TV shows? Tie-ins, no tie-ins -all a worthwhile discussion. However, if your product is all dazzle, and no substance worth the $64.99, you could give away free guns, but your product is known to over promise and under perform, leaving the customer unsatisfied.

    I can only run up the same trail with Dusty, killing the same Muhj and Chechens so many times, no matter how life-like the EoTech reticle is or how great the sound effects on the Glock are, before I am bored to tears because a)the game is on rails (again), and b)the game had a play span measured in minutes.

    If this distraction has any positive effect within the product development, I hope it returns attention to the game being a game and worthwhile product, and not just a commercial.

    • Destro says:

      dude, you fucking naled it. Outstanding game, way too short. Even playing on the hardest level…it just gets boring with the what? 9 missions?

  4. eva05 says:

    Duke

    I enjoyed the MOH campaign as it was. Could it have been better? Absolutely. But overall, it was one of my favorite military campaigns in a game to that point. I think these games are really driven by guys who are passionate about the subject matter on many levels and this(the tie-ins) was an expression of that.

    That said, it’s a tough sell to get me to walk away from BF3 LOL

    j

  5. ODG says:

    Great piece Jon, I couldn’t agree more. I am extremely disappointed in this news. Who do we email at EA to tell them their moral compass needs calibrated?

    • eva05 says:

      Honestly ODG, I have no idea. I left a comment on their FB page. I know EA keeps tabs there. Might be worth rallying around?

    • eva05 says:

      Thanks for the kind words ODG. RE EA, honestly,I have no idea. I left a comment on their FB page. I know EA keeps tabs there. Might be worth rallying around?

  6. john says:

    There goes our freedom. Freedom that people died for.

  7. Strike-Hold says:

    I’m not a gamer, but I’ve watched this story with a mixture of shock, disbelief, utter bafflement, bitter disappointment and sheer anger.

    It was bad enough that one fat-assed, self-fellating, pin-head put his RSI’d fingers to keyboard and proved the old adage of “its better to keep silent and be thought to be an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” – but that EA would give in to the whinging of this one in-duh-vidual and a few sycophantic wannabes beggars belief.

    The real tragedy of course is that this little band of dribbling c***s has managed to a.) get so much air-time, and b.) steal money away from a truly worthy cause. They should all rounded up and dropped off at the ass-end of Helmand Province – let’s see how long they last in the real world.

  8. Strike-Hold says:

    P.S. Also, having lived in the UK for the past 15 1/2 years, and other parts of Europe for 5 years before that – this isn’t really such a “European” vs. “American” thing. There are plenty of Brits and European who would disagree with the dribblings of these so-called pundits. Its really another skirmish in the Douchebag Apocalypse – and Douchebags can be found everywhere.

    • Nic says:

      I, being dutch, agree with Strike-Hold. Please understand that this is ‘A’ European perspective, not ‘THE’ European perspective. And by the way, the point he’s trying to make about video games making people more violent is just nonsense. I don’t believe that Adolf Hitler had a playstation or xbox in his secret command bunker?

  9. Bob says:

    I don’t take much stock in the opinions of “Europeans” and their morally superior ways… they did nearly annihilate themselves twice in the past century.

    • banner man says:

      There are over 500 million Europeans, we have as diverse a mentality as the US does….Some people got into a tizzy over this, I did not.

      • bob says:

        Fair enough, one asshat on my side of the pond does not necessarily speak for me, and the same goes for you guys.

  10. gilk10180 says:

    Nice opinion, great write up. Well thought out and logical. Too bad its well known that violence in the media does indeed cause desensitization in RL. http://www.killology.com

    • eva05 says:

      That’s funny. Should I go find the Frick comics showing that it’s well known you’re going to hell for using the Internet 😛

      • eva05 says:

        Damn typo, that was supposed to be Chick Comics ^_^;

        • gilk10180 says:

          Im assuming you are not familiar with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s work, or have evidence to the contrary?

          • OIF/OEF VET says:

            There is MUCH evidence to the contrary, regarding the effects of violence in the media, and there has been much discussion regarding the asinine assertions of Mr. Grossman.

            Good God man, get out there and do some research… that or continue to be a Grossman koolaid drinker.

        • SSD says:

          I think it’s important that we establish that LTC (Ret) Grossman is of the “video games bad” ilk. http://www.killology.net/tricitynews.htm

          • gilk10180 says:

            My point exactly.
            “What’s most disappointing in this instance is that creators and, worse, gamer pundits, have taken the position that video games are creating a generation of potential killing machines.”

            Dont get me wrong, Im a huge BF3 fan, and a video game lover of all consoles/genres. But there are large amounts of evidence that point to the simple fact that violence in the media (games, news, movies…) is at the least, unhealthy for a developing mind, and at the worst a tool of desensitization that may aid in the ability of a select few who may or may not commit violent crimes. And when you make statements like the one above you discount a lot of information from the scientific community. I agree wholeheartedly about the ability to produce “art” and please, by all means necessary, use every freedom that this country provides. But lets not kid ourselves into thinking that you can raise children in a society where violence in the media is emphasized and think that there will be no ill effect.

  11. Bobbydavro says:

    An article written by a rival developer mmmmm.
    As with all involved in the weapons and associated industries life is a tightrope walk, even military recruitment videos have to be moderate, I don’t think that jumping on the band wagon to crucify EA will do anything to change this fact and anyone who does think this needs a reality check EA have done a lot, and I’m sure donated a lot to support the mentioned charities, and don’t go blaming the ‘Europeans’ there has been a similar reaction stateside but it simply isn’t reported as it would look bad.
    Oh yeah and for you less than educated Americans, morally superior ways? lol get a grip and take a look in the mirror, we move on you are obviously still in the 1800’s (this comment can be disregarded by 99.9% of decent, educated, brothers in arms over in the US of A

    • eva05 says:

      Why are we rival developers? I think of Danger Close as peers or fellow creators.

      • bobbydavro says:

        rivalry creates competion, cometition creates advancement which can only be good, peers or fellow whatever support each other in the eyes of outsiders and deal with issues behind closed doors which again is a good thing depending on the area you work in. you can be one or the other, never both. if you truely belive EA are bad do something better and push the envelope.

  12. Sean says:

    Frankly I am still planning to get the game. Thou i do share the concerns of some of the previous posters about the quality of the story. However that is not what we are hear to talk about. I am very upset that some idiot with a keyboard can have sooo much sway that they can get something like this canned. What exactly was this guy going to do with his moralistic outrageous outrage? Was he going to pound on his keyboard until he caused an earthquake out in California? I don’t think so, so I really don’t understand why they ended up caving on this. What exactly was going to happen if they didn’t cave??? This smells like a decision made by power point after a briefing from some lawyers and PR people. Frankly I think EA is going to end up looking WORSE at the end of this because they pulled the support from this product. Classic case of knee jerk reaction.

  13. VbunX says:

    I knew this was coming after reading an article on Distructoid. The author of the article tried to say that the product links (about 11 at the time) all pointed to Gun retailers were you could pick up a weapon with your daddy’s credit card in 2 clicks, where in reality only 2 of them did, with the rest being gear and accessories.

    I’ve stopped going to the site since, I have no place for sensationalised media whoring websites or authors trying to make a name for themselves with lies.

  14. Tim says:

    Please don’t think there is something like “The One European Perspective”, there is a reason we started 2 world wars.