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Elite SEALs Reprimanded for Consulting on Video Game

Elite SEALs Reprimanded for Consulting on Video Game

Seven members of the elite SEAL Team 6, which took out Osama bin Laden, may have suffered a major career setback just for doing a little consulting work on the side. The team members are in trouble for showing game designers some of the specialized equipment their unit possesses. They received letters of reprimand and lost two months of pay.

By Richard Adhikari
11/09/12 3:30 PM PT

Seven members of SEAL Team 6, the U.S. Navy's elite unit whose accomplishments include the killing of Osama bin Laden, have been disciplined for providing input for a video game, according to CBS.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter
A screenshot from "Medal of Honor: Warfighter"

Another four are under investigation for similar alleged violations. All are on active duty.

The seven SEALs were disciplined for using classified Naval material while serving as consultants to video game maker Electronic Arts for its first-person shooter game "Medal of Honor: Warfighter."

The game portrays realistic missions such as an attack on Somali pirates, and EA boasts that it was written by actual U.S. Tier 1 operators while deployed overseas.

What the Fuss is About

SEALs, whether on active duty or retired, possess highly sensitive information about military tactics and techniques, and have to sign nondisclosure agreements while in service and when they leave.

The main complaints against the seven SEALs who were punished were that they didn't seek the permission of their command to participate in the video game project, and that they showed the game designers some of the specially designed combat equipment unique to their unit, a senior military official reportedly said.

"As a Navy veteran, my opinions on this matter are strong, biased, and not something that should be published," David Riley, director at the NPD Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Crime and Punishment

Each of the seven SEALs convicted reportedly received a punitive letter of reprimand and forfeited part of his pay for two months. The discipline is likely to damage their chances at moving up in their military careers.

The seven SEALs punished are "people with inside information who stepped over the line professionally or legally," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.

However, their act might have been more in the nature of a blunder than a betrayal.

SEAL Team 6 has received considerable publicity of late in the media. Further, a movie about SEAL Team 6, "Act of Valor," was shown in theaters in February. There's also a television show about the unit. This might have blurred the lines between what's acceptable behavior and what's not for the SEALs in question.

Providing input to EA may have seemed to be in line with the publicity blitz, and "It sounds like what probably began as a relatively innocent exercise just stepped over the line," King suggested.

The Lure of the Gamer

It's not surprising that EA solicited input from members of SEAL Team 6, because video game sales have been falling and "vendors have been trying to do pretty much everything they can to differentiate their games and make them up-to-the-minute," Pund-IT's King pointed out.

Video game sales fell 13 percent year over year in September, NPD's Riley stated. Excluding the top-selling game for the month in September 2011 and September 2012, sales of the remaining top 10 titles fell 18 percent year over year.

The "Medal of Honor: Warfighter" fiasco may not deter game makers, who "are fairly aggressive in trying to push the envelope, although it's likely to give pause to anyone who might be tempted to cooperate with them," King opined.

"We have no plans to alter the content contributed by combat veterans [and] there are no plans to recall 'Medal of Honor: Warfighter' from store shelves," EA spokesperson Peter Nguyen told TechNewsWorld.

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