EA’s Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a game that’s gotten more attention for its attempts to get attention than for the game itself. Which is hardly surprising. The game itself is an absolute by-the-numbers snoozefest of epically common proportions. But EA’s marketing missteps have been far more memorable than any attempt to shoot down an enemy helicopter with a conveniently placed rocket launcher.
Two months ago, seven active duty Navy SEALs were formally reprimanded and docked two months’ pay for divulging classified information when they were hired as consultants by Electronic Arts. Four former SEALs were under investigation for the same charges. EA uses “written by actual U.S. Tier 1 Operators while deployed overseas” as a bullet point in selling the game (“Tier 1 Operators” basically means any of the US special forces such as Delta Force or SEAL Team Six). The Navy reprimands aren’t EA’s fault, of course. Navy SEALs violating their NDAs has been the otherwise secretive group’s main claim to fame these days. But it got Medal of Honor: Warfighter far more attention than the game’s Metacritic score of 53.
More recently, Medal of Honor: Warfighter was featured prominently in a New York Times article that examined the link between videogames and firearms manufacturers.
Among [EA's] marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons.
Links on the Medal of Honor site allowed visitors to click through on the Web sites of the game’s partners and peruse their catalogs.
How did EA react to criticism of the direct links? They pulled the HTML links from the site. Not the logos. Not the partnership. Not the explicit relationship between the videogame and the real-world companies. Not the header that “EA is proud to partner with the following brands”. In other words, not the actual link. Just the HTML link. Now, instead of one click, it will require a Google search for someone to follow-up on Electronic Arts’ explicit connection to real-world hardware.
I don’t mean to get into a debate over gun control — suffice to say I believe precious few people have any business carrying a device whose sole purpose is to kill another person — but it’s disturbing that Electronic Arts goes beyond the fantasy of gunplay and into the realm of actual real-world gun ownership. I love firing pretend guns and I can dig on some hardcore virtual gun porn as much as the next guy. But I have as much interest in real world guns as I have in real world level-3 fireball spells, and it’s irresponsible for a videogame company to explicitly promote a firearm manufacturer. Videogames are fantasies and verisimilitude is no excuse to throw your lot in with the real-world gun industry. Electronic Arts should do the responsible thing and take their relationship with firearms manufacturers no further than whatever licensing deal it takes to keep their shooters from being legally actionable. Leave the business of selling guns to the companies who make guns.