In a USA Today piece last week about the wartime realism of video game “Medal of Honor”, the director of our Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab was asked to speak about game-makers’ use of current combatants–in this case, of the Taliban.
Tan argues you have to play the game yourself to come to a judgment:
Insurgents still look the same and the single-player story mode doesn’t change, [“Medal of Honor” developer Greg] Goodrich says. “As I have said a number of times, this is not a game about the Afghan war. This is a game about a community of warriors, individuals we wanted to pay tribute to and honor. It’s telling their story from their point of view, and everything else is the backdrop.”
Still, it is understandable some would misinterpret the game’s intentions, says Philip Tan, executive director of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Video games may be helping games regain their pre-Industrial Age importance “as something that could engage with issues of the day,” he says. Over time, games became frivolous, “so now when you have a game that is actually engaging with the issues of the day with a war that is actually currently going on, people are surprised.”
It’s unfair that the game was judged before its release, Tan says. “The game may be making a very poignant and important point about war with the Taliban,” he says, “but the majority of people who are commenting haven’t engaged with the game itself. … It also seems like we are judging modern combat games by the visual and audio fidelity. These are things that actually push games in the direction of Hollywood. What they are trying to be is more like movies, and movies are allowed to do that.”