If you are a service member on deployment or stationed overseas you may find yourself limited in the ways that you are able to spend your free time. You could spend your time doing PT (physical training), studying for exams, doing PT, maybe doing college work online, doing PT, or, if you are a gamer, spending some quality time with your console or computer and your choice of n00bs to pwn. Because there are always n00bs to pwn.
But for military personnel are can be a limited variety of games available, especially if you are in a location that is dependent upon an Army, Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) for the purchasing of goods. DVDs, CDs, and video games could possibly come in limited supplies, and depending on the titles and ratings, they may never come at all. You might wait beyond a release date for a long-anticipated new game. Or, in the case of one particular game, you could find yourself extremely disappointed.
Last Fall the release of Electronic Arts’ (EA) most recent iteration of the Medal of Honor series sparked much debate by allowing gamers to engage as either U.S. or Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Mind you, a past version of the game, set in World War II allowed you to play as either U.S. or Nazi soldiers, but this game, predictably and understandably for many, hit a little close to home, with their family and friends actively engaged down range. Now, being a military spouse, myself, I can understand perfectly well why some people were plenty put out by Executive Producer Greg Goodrich’s idea, and not mollified by his edit to change the game to replace “Taliban” with “Opposing Force.”
What got me going, though, was AAFES Commander Major General Bruce Casella’s decision to bar the game from all military bases. Over 300 bases worldwide and 49 Gamestops located on military bases banned the game from their stores, “out of respect for the men and women serving and their families.” Well, I am not a believer in censorship, least of all when the best someone can do is come up with a half-arsed excuse such as that, and not at all when I am one of those women who both served and is part of a family. They are not mutually exclusive, and furthermore, violence enacted against women in entertainment media is sold in AAFES stores every day.
See, scanning through my own games (along with some other titles that can be purchased in AAFES stores, because there are many games and entertainment media that have similar themes that can still be purchased there), many of which were purchased in AAFES locations, I came up with a list of those that contain material that are not respectful to all of these people serving, nor to their families. I found many instances, for example, where graphic violence against women is posited as entertainment, or as a way for the playable character, in most instances a male character, to rack up some achievement or XP (experience).
[Trigger Warning for descriptions of violence]
Grand Theft Auto: (We don’t actually own one, but I have have played one of the earlier titles that my brother did.) In any of these delightful games you can run all willy-nilly through the sand-box style game, killing anyone you want. Elderly women, police officers, pretty much anyone who happens by you. And make sure you kill that sex worker after you have had your fun, because you can be certain to get your money back. I have never had more of an aversion to a single video game franchise. Ever.
Dead Rising 2: Contains an exciting and thoroughly fun scene where the playable white dude watches as two magician dudes use a table saw to cut a woman named Madison Laney in half in the name of entertainment. Noted is how the dude PC doesn’t step into the cut scene until the woman has been garishly cut in two while screaming, then states the obvious, that “Hey, that isn’t magic, you killed her!”. Also, the very busty Asian television reporter, Rebecca Chang, is shot in the head just as she is about to call her news team for help. But, she is rather aggressive and mouthy, and I am sure she had it coming. The entire Zombie Uprising in the first Dead Rising is unleashed because a woman who is posited as too stupid to exist can’t live without her poodle, so I am not surprised that they would up the ante with this sequel. Despite the fact that you supposedly can’t go wrong making your evil characters zombies, these games have serious flaws.
Red Dead Redemption: I’ll tell you what, Rockstar Games really knows how to treat a lady! Sex workers are frequently dragged away and beaten on their way to an attempted rape as a means for the Playable Hero to earn Cool Points by saving them from a grisly death. You don’t even have to kill the sex worker yourself anymore, Rockstar Games is so advanced! In one quest you go on to save the life of a nice Mexican woman who has been forced into prostitution and kidnapped. You arrive just in time to see her murdered anyway.
Dragon Age: Origins: While any menfolk who are captured by the darkspawn are usually killed, and dismembered, in this dark fantasy RPG their bodies are forcibly fed to any women who are sometimes captured and taken. Women are held captive in this manner and fed and violated until they grow into abominations known as “broodmothers”. These broodmothers are large, tentacled, and basically piles of immobile breasts, and are what, erm, spawn tainted darkspawn monsters in hives.
Bioshock: (and hey, Bioshock 2) Who wants to kill little girls? You do? Go ahead! Run around, yank out that symbiotic sea slug and chug it down as a power shake if you want, drain them of their life force (called ADAM)! When you get around to Bioshock 2 you have to beat up the Big Sisters. I’ve never been less of an Ayn Rand fan since discovering these games, or until reading Faith of the Fallen. It’s still a toss-up. But no love lost, really.
I could go on. Word counts that I frequently dismiss and all…
Remembering that women still make up part of the military, about 15% on average across four branches plus the Coast Guard (and about 40% of the current gaming market), and not taking into account several other factors that would look at video game treatments of other oppressions, I am failing to understand what is so appalling about this particular game that it called for barring it from the shelves of military stores if they allow all of these other titles to remain on shelves. Sure, the Major had every right, I suppose, to decide what will and will not be sold in AAFES stores so long as he didn’t bar service members from owning the game and thereby infringing on EA’s free speech rights.
It’s a question worth asking, as we remember that upper-echelon military brass are well-known for privileging the feelings and sacrifices of one group of their rank and file over others. I wonder why it has been that some violence in entertainment has long been OK (you know, killing brown people, or faceless foreigners), but now that it is depicted against the model soldier it suddenly must be hidden from sight.
Photo from Medal of Honor Wiki