US Airman Defends Military’s Video Game Sales Ban

US Airman Defends Military’s Video Game Sales Ban
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Kotaku Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

First off, I am an active duty Air Force member.

It seems that this whole thing is being misinterpreted by the community based upon a possible misunderstanding of how the US Army and US Air Force Exchange Service works. Hopefully I can illuminate the situation. It is a series of retail outlets that serves ONLY military personnel. If you aren’t in uniform, they will ask for an ID card for every single purchase. This is largely due to a lack of sales tax and other savings. AAFES is supposed to exist as a benefit in return for our service. These stores are not comparable to Wal-Mart or Best Buy even though they look similar. The whole thing is run by the military, even the few on base GameStop’s operate as vendors with the permission of the military.

Why did AAFES decide not to stock Medal of Honor? Out of respect and sensitivity, as mentioned by Major General Casella. This is not about violence, censorship, political correctness, Jingoism, morality or anything else. If you walk around a BX or a PX, you will only see three types of people: active military members, retirees or immediate family members of servicemen. That means that the number of people affected by the war in Afghanistan is astronomically higher than in a civilian store. Those are the people who WILL be affected by a death in Afghanistan. A real world game might be too much to handle. Do you really want to see a little kid show the game to his mum and ask if that’s where daddy is? Absolutely not, but it could happen. Picking up Call of Duty: Black Ops? Completely different.

The difference between this game and other military shooters is that it is real and it is current. Fictional games are really no different than a summer blockbuster, and games set in real conflicts have always had at least a generation of buffer space between participants and audience. I wholeheartedly believe that Danger Close went to great lengths to make the singleplayer respectful. I appreciate the effort. The problem is that multiplayer can’t have that redeeming effect that story provides. It’s just a name change from CoD’s “OpFor” to Taliban, but that can be enough.

Keep in mind that this decision only affects military personnel. If someone buys this game on a base and gets upset, they are probably entitled to be. More than likely, they’ve been there or have been affected by operations there. Is anyone really going to tell a recently returned troop that they are being overly sensitive because they get upset watching Americans play as the Taliban killing other Americans? By not stocking the game on base it becomes a personal decision to buy it and keeps it out of the spotlight. AAFES doesn’t have to worry about impulse buys or scenes from veterans or complaints. They are choosing not to endorse something that might upset their clientele. Military life is stressful enough; they are merely trying to be sensitive to the pain of their patrons. It would be in poor taste to advertise a game where the player can kill Americans as the Taliban to an American who might be killed by the Taliban in the near future.

If we want to buy the game, going off base isn’t really an inconvenience. We aren’t confined to base, so access to the game is in no way being denied (except maybe in really remote locations). Most military gamers will probably still pick up the game and won’t have a problem with it. The gameplay mechanics won’t be any different than other recent shooters, but the locations might be more familiar. Probably not a big deal to most. But again, this isn’t about most gamers. This is about people with PTSD or anxiety over a deployed loved one or some other painful trauma. The BX is one of the first and last stops when returning from and leaving for a deployment. A soldier who returns from firefights in Helmand province should expect painful or insensitive reminders off base in the real world. But shouldn’t they be spared while on base?

Are the people playing as the Taliban playing any differently than in Modern Warfare? No. But it’s about the perceptions of that minority who fight the wars the rest of us turn into entertainment. What it comes down to is that AAFES doesn’t care what servicemembers buy; they just try to provide whatever it is that they want. This particular product won’t do a very good job of satisfying the customer if they find it offensive or disrespectful. In a normal retail outlet, publicly banning something under those circumstances would be unacceptable. Luckily, this isn’t normal.

As for me personally, I had already preordered the game from Amazon. I don’t have any problem with the content, but I certainly won’t show it around base. I actually deal with Operation Enduring Freedom everyday and expect to be deployed to Afghanistan within a year. I want to go. Anyways, sorry for the diatribe. I felt I could offer a rational military perspective on the issue. Please consider some sort of feature on reactions from warfighters. This is one of the only real video game news outlets that can run in depth opinion pieces. For an issue like this, a comments section probably isn’t enough.


  • I appreciate that you have published this. Before reading this piece I didn’t know about the game being banned from AAFES, but I can understand why it would be.

    Thank you for giving Ken a place to give the point of view of someone on the inside of these bases.

  • Where’s your essay about Counterstrike’s long standing “Play as Terrorists” option? And the many, many other games that let you play as the “opposing force” from Nazis to Storm Troopers. Playing the BAD GUY is an essential part of conflict based shooters. Otherwise, we’d all just be RED vs BLUE.

    • Did you bother to read it?

      “Picking up Call of Duty: Black Ops? Completely different.

      The difference between this game and other military shooters is that it is real and it is current. “

    • Obviously you didn’t even bother to read the fucking article. He explicitly states that playing both sides of a conflict is natural eg Nazi/Japanese in WWII games, but a generational buffer is required. Because the events in MoH are very current, happening now and are still affecting plenty of people directly.

    • I can understand where your coming from however, as the author said, you wouldn’t want an 8 year old picking the game off the shelf and saying “is this where daddy is?” The article isn’t about whether we should just play as ‘red vs blue’, as you suggest, rather the article is about why they don’t sell the game in campus stores. It would be extremely disrespectful to do otherwise. It’s about respect for military personnel and their families. Not about banning games from featuring terrorists, nazis and the vietcong

  • I disagree wholeheartedly. Despite his objections and denials it is purely political correctness.

    Being offended is NOT something we should be protected from. Ever.

    “It would be in poor taste to advertise a game where the player can kill Americans as the Taliban to an American who might be killed by the Taliban in the near future.”
    Yes, send the kids outside to play “cowboys and indians” or “cops and robbers” instead.

  • “By not stocking the game on base it becomes a personal decision to buy it and keeps it out of the spotlight.”

    Oh, I didn’t know Gamestops located on military grounds keep you from leaving the store unless you to buy realistic military shooter depicting a current war once you’ve entered their stores.

    “But again, this isn’t about most gamers. This is about people with PTSD or anxiety over a deployed loved one or some other painful trauma.”

    Yeah, because people suffering from PTSD are that likely to buy a game that clearly depicts a similar looking war. Score: one for military “intelligence”.

    Also, how is anything other than an outright ban of the game (which would be ridiculous at this point) going to result in any less offended soldiers? By stocking the game outside of military grounds only ensures that service men who plan on getting the game will need to go out of their way to get a copy, it doesn’t ensure that other soldiers who think the game’s disrespectful would cease think so. Sooner or later, a soldier will buy and bring this game back to base, offending those who are offended anyway.

    The only difference is, you’ve made them expend more fuel than otherwise necessary.

    Make no mistake, this IS political correctness.

  • Respect to Ken for standing up to the obvious flaming that will occur from those who do not know better, and have never been, or risked being, in the situation described by him in the article. I can completely understand where he’s coming from. Just as you don’t put a bar in an AA meeting hall, you don’t put something that might remind soldiers of a traumatic experience right where they are most likely to go.

    They are not being denied access to it or protected from being offended. Some of the things that happen over there are traumatic enough without seeing reminders of it when they come away from there, and that appears to be the reason why this is happening.

    And that is a reason I think anyone ought to be able to respect

  • kizaru you are a ignorant little prick. how about we drop you in a live combat zone and see if you still post disrepectful comments like that again. go back to you hole you stupid rat. and anyone else you trys to be a smart ass know it all who thinks thier veiws and thoughts actually matter should stick thier thumb up thier butt and go back to thier moms basement. political correctness my ass. the only thing this has anything to do with is respect for people who have given something that matters to this country. but i guess turds like you will never understand anyway.

  • I’m sorry, I am a current soldier deployed overseas and I own the new MOH game and previous CoD games.

    I bought the game and beat the entire single player with in a matter of hours. Great story line, then I directed my attention to the online game and played for a few hours there as well.

    This game doesn’t have any different affect then playing CoD(Call of Duty) or CS(Counter-Strike) or DoD(Day of Defeat).

    But if you’re main point is that it depicts a “realistic picture” of todays warfare. What about games like Grand Theft Auto that depict real-life situations where the player can beat up, shoot and kill police officers. Should we ban those from stores where Cop’s or their loved ones might shop?

    How far do you go with this before you realize how ridiculous this is.?

    I’m an active duty soldier and I have no issues with them being labeled Taliban or Op-For, just gives me more satisfaction when I pop them in the head and get 15 points for the kill + headshot.

    Last I checked I fought for my freedoms and my freedom to buy what I want where I want, why is that freedom being taken away from me?

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!