School of Evil

The meta-commentary of Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

Point the crosshair at someone’s head. Pull the trigger. Watch the blood splatter. Move. If you pick up a first-person shooter, you likely already know how it plays. Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but early games in this genre did. However, with the emergence of Half-Life and the pursuit for more scripted and realistic shooters, the trend leaned into tutorial missions instead.

It’s 2002 and you’re in the US army, being molded into an efficient killing machine. You’re playing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. This is a standard training course, one you probably find boring, but ultimately accept as part of the high-budget Spielbergian war fantasy. So you shoot some circular wooden targets and never think twice of it.

Ten years pass, and now you find yourself in a dark, dusty room with barrels of inflammable liquid and Islamic fundamentalist propaganda posters. You’re given a gun and told “infidels are at our door.” This is a different kind of training course. Rooms extend into corridors, narrow and claustrophobic, with only a few rays of sunshine struggling to break through the thick darkness. As you proceed forward, you find yourself in a mock interior of a passenger airplane. The wooden targets are human-shaped. As you look through the reticle of your AK, you see that Medal of Honor has changed. War has changed. They called this entry “Warfighter.” And you can’t help but feel that in the last decade something has gone terribly wrong in the world.

After you learn how to be a terrorist in the eyes of Warfighter, the game puts you back in the shoes of your standard American soldier and expects you to do what you’ve been taught. Regardless of the game’s narrative, which paints American troops as heroic, this experience portrays that there isn’t much difference between the two warring sides. And as your outnumbered squad easily disposes of hundreds of enemies, you may start questioning who terrorizes whom.

That question becomes even more poignant in a mission fittingly called “Connect the Dots.” In it, your squad breaks into a terrorist stronghold. As you step inside, you realize it’s the exact same place you trained at. The people you’re shooting at now are you. Your mirror images. You have become what they are aspiring to be.

By Mike Arrani

Mike Arrani exists in a liminal territory and explores dimensions of thought and feeling. He can be spotted on Twitter @PrometheanBlood or contacted via

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