Electronic Arts Inc. will no longer allow gamers to play the newest edition of its military-themed video game "Medal of Honor" as Taliban fighters "shooting" U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the video game publisher said Friday.
In a posting on the company's "Medal of Honor" blog, EA said that it is renaming the "Taliban" team "Opposing Force" in the wake of concerns voiced by friends and families of soldiers who have died.
The option to play as the Taliban was to be included in the multiplayer mode of "Medal of Honor" that is coming out Oct. 12.
The game is set in modern Afghanistan, where some 140,000 U.S. and NATO troops are fighting the Taliban. The story is told through a small group of characters known as "Tier 1" operators, elite fighters who take their orders directly from the president and defense secretary.
Redwood City, Calif.-based EA said the switch won't change how the game is played.
The change was made "for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice — this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service," EA wrote.
Past versions of the 11-year old "Medal of Honor" game have been set in World War II, allowing players to act as either members of the Allied force or the Nazi regime.
Military bases across the U.S. had already banned the sale of the game, while gamers scoffed at the decision, saying that advanced technology has made it commonplace in the gaming world to let players switch sides and play the bad guy.
After public protests, including by British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, U.S. military officials decided not to stock the game in any of the nearly 300 base exchange shops. The game also will not be sold at any of the 49 GameStop stores located on various U.S. military bases. Troops will be allowed to own copies, but they would have to buy them off-base.