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Medal of Honor: Warfighter pushes the boundaries of realism again

As I’ve pointed out in my previous articles, “A look at the authentic war universe of Medal of Honor” and “Medal of Honor Warfighter: Snipe like a pro”, Electronic Arts (EA) is going beyond the call of duty to add a frightening element of realism to the gaming experience. With the release of the latest MOH: Warfighter video from EA, the studio once again sets out to hit gamers right in the gut with an overdose of real life event simulation.

September 11, 2001 is a date etched into humanity’s global memory bank. It forever changed and marred us. The pursuit of revenge has put at least one superpower on a collision course of conflicting views both domestic and internationally. It’s now eleven years down the line and we are still paying the price for the horrific events of 9/11.

With Medal of Honor: Warfighter DLC, Zero Dark Thirty, gamers are offered the chance to walk that road of retribution as they join the search for Osama bin Laden. 

Darra_GunMarket.jpg 

According to the official MOH: Warfighter homepage, this is what gamers can expect from Zero Dark Thirty.

The decade long hunt to find Bin Laden went through some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world. The Darra Gun Market is located in a tribal land where the rules are defined by only two principles – hospitality and revenge. No police are allowed to enter the area and all the laws are made by the tribal leader. This small town in Pakistan is home to dozens of back-alley shops and self-taught machinists who are in many cases building guns by hand. Almost no outsiders ever see this town. What better place to hide than where only locales and known tribal members are allowed to enter.

Chitral is another area of Pakistan thought for a time to be one of Bin Laden’s hideouts. A rural mountainous area filled with deep narrow valleys, it has many places that are inaccessible several months each year because of snow and road conditions. There are over 1200 small towns scattered throughout the Chitral district and finding someone who doesn’t want to be found would be next to impossible. Medal of Honor Warfighter steps into the boots of the soldiers who led the hunt for Bin Laden and takes you to the locations where only the most elite dare enter.

I have mixed feelings about stepping into those boots.

I have all these questions milling around in my head. Do I want to revisit the trauma of that day (or any other real life tragedy), within the medium of video games? Is it respectful or disrespectful to the victims to portray their suffering through a video game? Could it be possible that video games can serve as not only entertainment but could it also add therapeutic value? Jane Mcgonigal did extensive research on the subject of harnessing the power of games to solve real-world problems. I just don’t see a first-person shooter (fps) featuring on her list of “games as world problem solvers”.

This dilemma that MOH: Warfighter created in my mind forces me to take stock of the very reason we play video games. We immerse ourselves into fictional worlds as a break from the harsh realities of daily life. It’s our escape pod that transfers us for a few hours into worlds where we can explore the magical, reach for the stars or join our friends in majestic battles. It’s not the place where we want to be reminded of the horror and evil that taints the human soul.

Or is it?

The games that I cannot shake from my mind, which embedded a small part of itself into my being, are the ones that confronted me on deeply personal and emotional levels. Games like To the Moon and Dear Esther gently led me to confront some of my personal demons. It was able to speak to me in a way that made it easy for me to look into the mirror of my own heart. Then there’s Eve (Urdnot Bakara) from Mass Effect 3, the conversations I had with her on Normandy instilled such a deep feeling of empathy and respect for the struggle the Krogan race went through, that I will probably remember her as I long as I live. It reminded me of the Apartheid struggles we faced in our own country. How about Mordin that gave his life as a sacrifice to correct the mistakes his species made with the genophage? Video games allow us to experience situations that we would never go through in real life. We can face conflict and have the space to think about it without real life consequences or stress. That might just be a good thing. Who is to say that MOH: Warfighter Zero Dark Thirty won’t have a positive impact on a players’ life?

Up until recently I have always viewed games as completely detached from real life. It is an escape, a fantasy and nothing that happens in my virtual world matters. But isn’t it true that no matter what genre we play, a bit of our real selves joins in the journey? Could adding more realism to that journey actually add deeper value to the experience than just entertainment?

What do you think?

MOH: Warfighter releases on October, 23 for PC, PS3 and XBOX 360. If you pre-order the game from Origin you will also receive access to the Battlefield 4 closed beta.

Check out the MOH: Warfighter Zero Dark Thirty trailer and drop me a comment on your view regarding realism in video games.

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