One Marine officer's case against war video games

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An unarmed Marine walks through Marjah, Afghanistan, on Feb. 17, days after portions of it were destroyed in a Marine assault. (AP Photo)

Video game violence has made headlines regularly for years. However, the argument to curb it has taken a sharper edge recently in light of video game maker Electronic Arts unveiling a new “Medal of Honor” game that allowed users to target U.S. forces in the game as the Taliban.

The Taliban detail was eventually pulled from the game, EA officials told colleague Phil Ewing in an exclusive published last week. Still, it raises questions over what our sensibilities are and should be. Have things gone too far, or are people over-sensitive to modern pop culture? Or — perhaps more realistically — is it some of both, depending on the situation?

In an essay published by National Public Radio yesterday, a former Marine infantry officer and Iraq veteran offers his take on the flap. Benjamin Busch writes that even with the name change in the video game, he still isn’t thrilled with the concept. An excerpt:

The power of controlling your situation, to be able to stop the war and rest, is something that our soldiers are quietly desperate for. For those who patrol the valleys of Helmand, it is a way to impose limits on the uncertainty of war and the constancy of vulnerability. A video game can produce no wounds and take no friends away. The soldier understands the difference.

We live in a world in which it’s difficult to draw lines sometimes.

On one hand, movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and TV series like “The Pacific” have been widely praised for their realism, despite the fact that they show U.S. service members.

On the other, the development of “Six Days in Fallujah,” a video game depicting the violence of one the Corps’ largest urban battles in recent years, was shelved last spring after facing steep criticism from the families of some troops who died in the Iraqi city. Based on this May interview, it appears it still may be produced, but the negative sentiment it faces from some is clear, even if Marines were involved in its development.

What’s the difference? In part, perhaps it’s time. The wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan are still healing for thousands of families who have lost loved ones there in the last decade. Tens of thousands of other families still worry about their deployed service members every day.

Still, allowing video game users to play as the Taliban took it to an entire new level. Some service members may not take offense to it, but it’s hard to fault those who found it crass, insulting and degrading. IF EA officials didn’t see that then, they certainly do now.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

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