NPR had an excellent essay yesterday from a US Marine Corps officer, Benjamin Busch, on the topic of Medal of Honor allowing people to play as Taliban in its war sim first-person shooter. Even though the name of the enemy team has now been changed from Taliban to Opposing Force, the game still allows players to take the role of a US soldier or an insurgent soldier.
My grandfather fought the Nazis and was wounded. For years afterward, my father recreated that war in games in his Brooklyn neighborhood, where some of the children playing had lost their fathers overseas. War games always require two sides, and someone in Brooklyn always had to play the Germans.
When I was a boy, I was given plastic army men. I arranged them in the sandbox behind our house, and I killed them. I voiced their commands and made the sounds of their suffering. I imagined their war — and I controlled it. But I lost those magical powers as a Marine in Iraq.
You can continue reading the essay over at NPR, Why A Video Game Does Not A Soldier Make.
You can also listen to a reading of the essay embedded below.