Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said today that the company is "incredibly proud" of its upcoming Medal of Honor title, despite controversy over the ability to play as the Taliban in the game's multiplayer modes.
Responding to a question at the 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, which Gamasutra listened in on, Riccitiello stressed that the title "deeply honors the effort of American troops fighting in Afghanistan" and "stays well within the boundaries of what's good entertainment."
"We've had deep involvement with the military from the beginning, including active military from Afghanistan," he said. "They and we feel it's a game that any player would be proud to play."
Saying the controversy "kind of caught me by surprise," Riccitiello noted that being able to play as the opposition in a multiplayer mode has been a tradition through countless first-person shooters. "There's always the other side -- the good guys and bad guys, the cops and robbers," he said.
Noting that the game had been available in beta for several weeks without any controversy, Riccitiello noted the media's role in creating the story, which broke last month when grieving mother Karen Meredith told a Fox News reporter that she felt the game was "disrespectful" to her son and all the troops that had died in the Afghan war.
"I think it says more about the newspaper industry than the game industry," Ricitiello said. Still, Riccitiello added that he's sensitive to the imagery challenges the controversy represents, and that he realizes non-gamers might not fully understand the situation when it's laid out, especially if it's explained by equally ignorant journalists. "It tends to incite a bit of angst," he acknowledged.
Major retailer Gamestop has decided it will not stockMedal of Honor in any of its stores on military bases when the game released later this year.