Everyone, stand back. I’m going to fire up the Conflict-O-Tron. (Note: side effects of the Conflict-O-Tron may include inability to pin down an emotional response and also a sensation that feels like you’re about to sneeze, but you can’t, and it’ll never go away.) You see, EA’s announced a DLC map pack for the still-unreleased Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It’s doing the whole “free for pre-orderers and paid for everyone else” shtick, too, but that’s not the central issue this time around. Instead, this one’s a question of subject matter. On one hand, players will be tracing the supposedly piping hot tracks of Osama Bin Laden. Contentious! One the other, a portion of the proceeds will go to EA’s Project Honor veteran fund. There will now be a brief recess. Take it away, roving chorus of “hmms” and “harumphs”.
Here’s the official word on the multiplayer map pack from EA:
“The decade long hunt to find Bin Laden went through some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world. The Darra Gun Market is located in a tribal land where the rules are defined by only two principles – hospitality and revenge. No police are allowed to enter the area and all the laws are made by the tribal leader.”
“Chitral is another area of Pakistan thought for a time to be one of Bin Laden’s hideouts. A rural mountainous area filled with deep narrow valleys, it has many places that are inaccessible several months each year because of snow and road conditions. There are over 1200 small towns scattered throughout the Chitral district and finding someone who doesn’t want to be found would be next to impossible.”
It’s all part of a promotion with upcoming film Zero Dark Thirty, which is being headed up by “Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow. Her new movie is, of course, about the long, long, long search for Bin Laden. For every £7.99 purchase, £1 will go to Project Honor.
EA, meanwhile, also attempted to raise money for its charity by selling Medal-of-Honor-branded real-world weapons. After all sorts of outcry, it quickly gave the tomahawk-hawking promotion the tomahawk treatment.
So here’s the issue as I see it: this feels like a really not-great way to handle some seriously controversial subject matter. I mean, I’m all for videogames tackling real-world events, but – beyond numerous political and cultural issues/debates here that I’m not going to touch seeing as they’ve 1) already been discussed to death and 2) distract from the point I’m arguing – are we really addressing this gigantic topic with a DLC map pack? Is that gaming’s contribution to this discussion? A throwaway marketing tie-in? I mean, we’re not even talking about a single-player campaign or something that attempts to document the events surrounding Bin Laden’s eventual demise in a dedicated manner. Instead, we just get to shoot each other on a supposedly Bin-Laden-laden playground.
That feels pretty yucky to me. I don’t doubt our medium’s potential to handle hot-off-the-presses headlines without getting burned. This, however, probably isn’t the way to do it.