You’re EA. You’re releasing a modern-warfare themed videogame which will feature both sides of ongoing conflicts in which US soldiers are currently serving. There’s going to be multiplayer, and thematically one of the sides is going to have to be the Taliban or Al Qaeda. You know that the media will take the idea of fighting for the Taliban and bang it into the ground. You, presumably, don’t mind this happening a little bit for publicity, but not to the point where stores are refusing to stock your product.
So what do you do? You could try arguing that it’s just like kids playing the robbers in cops and robbers, or the Nazis in WW2 games, but the difference is that the Taliban are killing hundreds of US soldiers now.
Well, I’d have thought the answer was obvious: you do exactly the same thing that the US military’s very own America’s Army game does: you skin the player’s team as the US, and the enemy as the Taliban. This is being displayed by a computer, and there’s no reason why the system can’t render a player differently to opponents as to him or herself and allies. Whatever side you’re on look like US soldiers, sound like US soldiers; and any hostile players are rendered as the Taliban.
Did that just genuinely not occur to EA? Isn’t it an absolutely obvious solution?
UPDATE (2/10): EA has backed down and renamed the Taliban in the multiplayer mode as “Opposing Force”.
Well, glad that’s over. Now, to tackle the diabolical Need For Speed developers who are proposing to let players DRIVE CARS OVER THE SPEED LIMIT AND EVADE POLICE OFFICERS.