"Taliban"-ned - ejronin Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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"Taliban"-ned

The news regarding the change from Taliban to Opposing Force brings mixed emotions. I reflect upon the classic tale of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in contemplation on what is in the name “Taliban.”

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Some terms and names are intentionally hurtful; the poorly received “N” word, for example. Try running down the street shouting it, and see if you make it to the other end alive. However, racial slurs and pejoratives are not politically correct, incite, do hurt, and largely unaccepted in most social circles – not to mention not protected by the 1st Amendment under “hate speech.” Does “Taliban” fall into this category? No. The Taliban is a group of non-fictional radicals currently operating in Afghanistan, hated by many people. Changing a name does not alter the reality. Therefore, in this sense, a name change simply coddles a minority group – but that minority group is valuable beyond any amount of money and is deserving of the utmost respect.

I understand that to a majority of gaming community, “it’s just a game, get over it” will be a staple remark. We, the gaming sub-culture, are largely unaware of what really goes on in the rest of the world. Most of us know the top executives of several game studios by name and image,  yet cannot list by name the sitting Supreme Court Justices or The Cabinet.  So many of us fight over hardware dominance, b*tch at the price of DLC, and get aggravated at having to wait two extra weeks for a game. I have yet to hear a fellow gamer in a non-game forum ponder the price of oil, worry about China’s economic stranglehold on the US economy and Korea, and haven’t remarked about waiting months to years for the troops to come home . On second thought, I guess it’s just easier to sit and revolt over a subscription fee and go verbally ballistic over an opinion about a CPU encased in plastic.

That said, my concern-o-meter toward the opinion of these people is dangerously in the red.  I have a very hard time taking into serious consideration the concept that “it’s just a game” when it leaves the lips of self-absorbed community members in relation to a small subset of dead self-less individuals and the people who remember them as living beings.  Someone who has never once stood and saluted during a 21-gun salute for someone they personally knew has little (if any), room to remark “it’s just a game.” I am sure that these people believe ‘that’ it hurts, and understand ‘why’ it hurts, but it is entirely different to know ‘how’ it hurts and still respect the intellectual laziness directed at soldiers as a matter of principle.

I understand EA’s move to change the name – personally, I would rather piss off a large crowd of uninvolved people than risk the emotional displacement of the very people I seek to honor. Leaving the name as was originally intended may scratch the integrity of the game slightly and it indicates that monetary gain fell to the wayside of homage. Principally, I agree with EA for protecting their honorees, or at least having enough conviction to double back and risk angering the larger consumer group for the sake of the minority. That is a bold move in my opinion, but strangely one I feel was by degree, incorrect.

Perhaps looking at this from the perspective of flag burning may be of some help. I do not particularly fancy burning the American Flag, nor do I smile upon those who would choose to do so in my presence. However, flag burning is protected under the Constitution and considered an expression, thus 1st Amendment issue.  Burning a symbol is in my opinion, a clear indication of intent to cause harm or incite. I stand in a legal minority on that issue; therefore, I must uphold and protect the right of a person to do so regardless of whether I agree (though, I may wrap them in the flag while it burns…win / win).

I begin to feel slightly uneasy toward the alteration however, not with EA, but with the angry mobs in either direction. Numerous sources point out that changing the name changes nothing. The” OpFor” is mechanically, objectively, and geographically unchanged. A seven-letter word reduced to a five- letter truncated conjunction is the only action taken – that is all. Why then would I agree with the principle of changing the name but also feel it was incorrect to do so?

Changing the enemy force in name alone, but not altering the set of actions performed sends the message that what we call something is more important than what it does. There is a serious ethical and moral disconnect in this disgustingly one-sided action. Apparently, it’s okay to shoot depictions of a US soldier (and I don’t condemn the game or the game creators for that), but it’s not okay to reveal who the shooter as a factual entity.

I wonder if the grandchildren of Nazis feel that despite the participation in the most famous acts of genocide the world has known, feel it a bit strange that it is perfectly fine to kill depictions of their ancestors and combat their heritage (as jacked up as it was)? I wonder if Japanese Americans felt strange playing as an American in WWII shooting their ancestral images. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Native American Indians will condemn Civilization 5 for allowing Washington to utterly crush Hiawatha (not to mention included “Manifest Destiny”) or if people would find it unacceptable to play in them in contest to each other.

The thing is, when creating something based on fact, honor hinges on accuracy and that’s why it was wrong, but understandable for EA to change "Taliban." They're caught between two important groups - one which impacts a nation and the other that sends a statement of ethics and morals used to govern that nation; truth or emotion? They chose emotion.

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