Counterpoint: EA, guns, real-life and our community
Over the last 24 hours Electronic Arts have come under criticism… again. Now I say this not as some way to make fun of the publishing giant and insinuate that they are somehow the ‘devil’ in the gaming industry, but more-so to highlight just how trivial things seem to be getting. Let me explain: over the past few years, I’ve come to notice that EA are treated somewhat like a punching bag; the one company that everyone seems to want to take a hit at, whether it be journalists, bloggers or just the members of the gaming community at large. Whether it’s how one of their studios have decided to end their own game or their decisions on how to release DLC, nothing seems to please the folks out there… and it appears they’ve managed to outdo themselves yet again! Below, using a recent article posted by GameSpot Australia as an example, I take a look at the latest fiasco surrounding EA and suggest why it’s all becoming a little ridiculous and childish.
For those who haven’t heard, the reason Electronic Arts are in hot water this time around is due to their decision to mention real-life weapons and accessories companies as partners for their upcoming FPS title, Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Pushing to make the game as immersive and realistic as possible, the developers have decided to include versions of actual guns and weapons in the game and as a result, have decided to list the companies that the guns come from (in addition to blogs being made about the companies and the guns themselves) on the Medal of Honor website. The argument that is being made is that EA are crossing moral guidelines in the process – promoting actual weaponry and blurring lines between fantasy and fiction.
In considering this topic I figured it would be important to analyse EA’s decision. The company are pushing to make Medal of Honor: Warfighter as realistic and immersive as possible. To do this they’ve included real weapons and accessories within the game. On face value, what’s the problem? If a racing title includes real-life vehicles and the game depicts illegal and dangerous driving behaviour – is there a difference? Since the guns are real they’ve decided to mention the companies that produce them. Is it wrong that the website for a racing game mentions Lamborghini and includes links back to their website? Greg Goodrich, Executive Producer for MoH had written a series of blogs about the companies and mentions you can purchase the weapons featured in the game in real-life. By contrast, would it be wrong if the Executive Producer for a racing game wrote a blog about the cars in the game and mentions you can purchase them in real-life from dealers? Used inappropriately both cars and guns can be dangerous and deadly, just because a gun may be used to cause more devastation, does it necessarily make it significantly worse?
I think it’s important to realise that this game and its website are intended for adults, not children. I must be honest and say that when adult content is suddenly considered inappropriate for adults, we’ve got a problem. It’s also problem that we seem to ignore the target audience for this product just because we know parenting is so pathetic and practices from retailers are so poor these days that kids are playing titles like this (just think of Call of Duty and how often we make jokes about 13 year olds playing online). If Electronic Arts is making a shooting game and they are trying to make it realistic as possible by including real-life guns and in-turn, they discuss those guns and mention that they are available for purchase, what is the problem when it’s adults they are talking to?
Let’s continue by contrasting this game to Call of Duty (or any other FPS that isn’t "unrealistic" like Halo or Mass Effect). Does the inclusion of a gun which is available for sale in real-life make Medal of Honor: Warfighter any more worse than Call of Duty 2, which has weapons that are based off actual guns? Just because the very gun itself doesn’t actually exist doesn’t mean someone can’t find a similar weapon on the internet and purchase it. Consider the recent events that took place at Colorado. Someone was inspired by the Batman trilogy to go on a murderous rampage with the belief he was the Joker. We never get told the name of the guns that the criminals use in the movies but that didn’t stop someone from being crazy enough to purchase something similar. Are we suggesting that just because the game mentions the names of these weapons and that the websites of the manufacturers are available online that somehow it’s going to make more people go online, order the weapon and start playing a game of ‘shoot-em-up’ in real-life? Are we really going to make such ridiculous assumptions? In the GameSpot article Parker writes, “[MOH is] coming dangerously close to glorifying not just the bravery of individuals, but the concept of war itself” – but can’t the same be said for every other war game? Was the same hoopla made for every past CoD game? Each past Battlefield game? How about with every war film that has ever been made? Do they not glorify war just as much?
Another important fact to consider, the weapons are for sale in America, the same country I remind you, whose Second Amendment tells its citizens that they have the right to bear arms! If I may use my car analogy again, it’s akin to people getting angry at the developer of Need For Speed for mentioning the manufacturers and cars of the game, just because they CAN be used to speed and drive dangerously. It isn’t as if the guns can simply be bought online and shipped to any store across the world. Laura writes, “It feels wrong even with the understanding and acknowledgement that that there are carefully-enforced restrictions and background checks in place, or that it would be just as easy to seek out and buy these weapons without EA’s help”. So is she saying it feels wrong that EA isn’t doing anything that a civilian couldn’t do themselves? Seems like she has a problem with the law itself and if so, why not touch on the core of the ‘problem’ and discuss the ridiculousness of America’s gun culture then? Given the fact she lives in Australia, I’m finding it hard to see why she should be so offended and moved about this entire ‘situation’?
A major problem I have with the criticisms that are being hurled towards EA regarding this debarcle is this assumption that the company is somehow suggesting people should play the game, buy the guns and then go out and shoot people in the streets. This idea that everyone is a crazed killer, that everyone with a gun wants to murder people, is much like the ridiculous notion that everyone with a high-powered vehicle speeds, drives recklessly and breaks the law. Parker writes, “Promoting weapons (not just promoting, but being excited at the very idea that a Medal of Honor: Warfighter player can use a virtual weapon to kill another player as a form of entertainment and then turn around and order the real version of the same weapon online), feels wrong." Again she reminds us about how "wrong" this all feels: “player[s] can use a virtual weapon to kill another player as a form of entertainment” – has she never played a shooter? “[Players can then] turn around and order the real version of the same weapon online” – again, is this on the assumption all buyers are interested in killing others? That they are psychopaths? She mentions a sentence later that there are “carefully-enforced restrictions and background checks in place” – it just seems contradictory to me. If you are going to praise the system, what is it that feels wrong and why is EA being criticised for it? EA aren’t putting guns in the hands of people for crying out loud. Once again, this all just seems like one example in a long history of vitriolic attacks on the company.
Am I wrong for assuming that most people who visit this site, that most people who play this game would have simply seen these blogs and pictures and made nothing of it? A gun enthusiast would be across all of this all already and for the rest of us, we wouldn’t really care. We often ignore the fact that guns aren’t just used for killing people – there are those who use them for hunting and others for target practice, its perhaps not something I understand or see the point in, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to group all gun-owners together as being violent. Laura’s article proves to be little more than a puff-piece to make more out of a situation than needs to be – hell, to make something out of situation that really shouldn’t even exist! The fact of the matter is, all of these guns were available for sale before MoH and they’ll be available for sale after MoH, people will also get their hands on weapons without a game "promoting" them, and most gun crimes (because let’s be honest, the only thing people are trying to suggest is this will all lead to more people with guns killing each other) will take place with guns that aren’t purchased legally to begin with! Just remember, only adults should be viewing this material to begin with and I’d like to think adults should be able to make their own decisions on what to buy and want to do. I’d like to think I don’t just speak for myself when I say I’m over diatribes against Electronic Arts.
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Today's Counterpoint is republished with the permission of Nicholas Simonovski. It has been reproduced from its original posting on his website, CaptainIntelligent.com.
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