Update: EA spokesman Pete Nguyen returned our request for a comment on this situation:
Medal of Honor: Warfighter is an authentic depiction of combat operations in the war on terror. More than 20 combat veterans have actively contributed to the game. They offered advice on weapons, tactics, and other elements. It was not our intention to betray secrets or threaten national security in any way. We are not aware of any rules that oblige EA to vet the game with the Department of Defense, and we don’t know if veterans who consulted on the game have been in contact with the Department of Defense.
A major aspect of the Electronic Arts media campaign for the first-person shooter Medal of Honor in 2010 was that real top-level soldiers consulted on the game.
EA lauded the involvement in promotional materials: “A small group of these men acted as consultants on the development of Medal of Honor, infusing the game with their experiences and contributing ideas that make it the most authentic and relevant combat experience to date.”
Using a military expert to legitimize the authenticity of a work of fiction (be it a game, movie, or book) is not unusual.
Things are a bit different for Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and it’s because of one man: Matt Bissonnette. Under the pen-name Mark Owen, Bissonnette authored a nonfiction account of the raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. He was a member of SEAL Team 6 when it conducted the operation. Bissonnette has since retired from the U.S. Navy.
The book, No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, hit stores on September 4 and drew scrutiny for potentially revealing classified information about the military tactics used to kill the world’s most-wanted terrorist. Typically, publishers submit nonfiction accounts of military duty like this to the United States Department of Defense (DOD) for approval. Bissonnette’s publishers skipped that process.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bissonnette — again under the name Mark Owen — consulted on Medal of Honor: Warfighter with two dozen other retired and active-duty SEALs and other special operatives. The Department of Defense requires that military personnel receive permission before consulting in the media.
The DoD claims that no requests for approval were ever made for the Medal of Honor: Warfighter project.
“The Department of Defense has never asked to vet the games or the contributions of veterans and active-service members,” Electronic Arts spokesman told the L.A. Times.
We’ve contacted EA about Bissonnette’s involvement in the production of the game and will update with its response.
That brings the entire situation back to Bissonnette and a Department of Defense that is afraid to allow the author off without some sort of punishment.
“I cannot as secretary send a signal to SEALs who conducted those operations, ‘Oh, you can conduct these operations and then go out and write a book about it … and/or sell your story to the New York Times,’” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in an interview on September 11 broadcast of CBS This Morning.
So while Medal of Honor: Warfighter may not include any sensitive information, and Bissonnette’s specific contributions could be negligible, that isn’t really the point.
“How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?” Panetta asked rhetorically.
EA plans on releasing Medal of Honor: Warfighter on October 23. The sequel picks up where the first game left off and follows the team of “tier-1 operators” as they travel to dangerous locations around the globe.