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Video Games for Recruitment?

By Aldanatech ·
Recently when I was checking, I found out that because the U.S. Army is now unable to get the necessary recruits for the military the old-fashioned way, they spent $16 million into a government-sponsored video game that blurs the line between fantasy and the reality of war. Can this be considered correct or ethical?


This is scary and maddening. Unable to get the necessary recruits for the military the old-fashioned way, the U.S. Army has sunk $16 million into a government-sponsored video game that blurs the line between fantasy and the reality of war.

The taxpayer-financed "America's Army" is so clever a mind game that even the military folks behind it get a little confused when talking it up. Time magazine said Major Chris Chambers, deputy director of the video's development team, had to stop and correct himself when he called the violence, combat and "death animation" in the game "real." "It's not real; it's simulated. But we're simulating reality," he said.

Got that?

The computer-based video game was rolled out as a recruitment and training tool -- primarily recruitment -- on July 4, 2002. And players can click a button in the game menu and go directly to an Army recruiting Web site, Time reports.

The military thinks there's nothing wrong with this. After all, Chambers says, "We treat it openly and honestly ... we don't sugarcoat it." But is it really "honest" when the game focuses on the adrenaline rush of the fight, and doesn't or can't convey the true human costs of war?

Sure, the game shows soldiers die in war -- thus the "death animation." But it doesn't show the thousands more who live forever maimed, with one arm, one leg or no limbs. It doesn't show the agonizing rehabilitation that often follows. It doesn't show the mental anguish of seeing a buddy killed in front of you, or having to shoot the enemy when you can look into his eyes. It doesn't show the hundreds of soldiers who battle post traumatic stress, or as a recent PBS documentary showed, the pressure to hide such injuries from the military superiors and comrades who call you a wimp for asking for help. "Suck it up," one soldier said he was told.

Military officials say the game is designed so these possible recruits understand the Army doesn't want them to be Rambos. There are game penalties for players who hurt noncombatants. And if you're wounded or killed, the game's over for you. But it sounded real Rambo-like when one military official said -- perhaps jokingly -- to a Time reporter playing the game, "isn't killing Afghans fun?"

Video games are supposed to be fun. There's no denying that. But war is not. "America's Army" is only helping confuse the issue for the young men and women who must fight these wars.

It doesn't take much to confuse some in the 13-to-24-year-old demographic that's the prime audience for the video. Many are consumed with playing video games -- the more violent, the better. They equate the virtual thrill they get from the video game to real-life situations. Some tragically play them out in real life. For too many, the game gives an illusion of competence and control over their circumstances that kids who lack self-esteem or live in challenging situations badly need.

"America's Army" preys on such vulnerabilities. The game is a hit on the Army's Web site, with up to 4.6 million registered players and 100,000 new ones signing up each month. According to Time, this summer the Army will roll out the game to gaming consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation 2 to reach a broader audience.

All's fair in love and war, right? Military recruiters are having problems. Most have failed to meet their monthly recruiting quotas. Even the Marines, accustomed to rejecting prospects because they got so many, recently missed their monthly goals. So it comes as no surprise recruiters are looking for innovative ways to catch recruits' eyes.

But this kind of "innovation" is troubling and borders on trickery. Critics already call the military deceptive in some recruiting practices. Posters and recruiters play up the positives and over-promise benefits, including the amount of money available for college tuition. They egg on recruits to sign up with provocative claims like this: "Where else can you get paid to jump out of airplanes, shoot cool guns, **** stuff up and travel, seeing all kinds of different countries?"

I'm not anti-military. The military is an admirable endeavor and joining has many legitimate benefits. Army officials are right to promote it as such.

But they are wrong to use video games to hoodwink naive youngsters into thinking of soldiering as a game. When the adrenaline rush is over from the video battles, you can put the game aside. In real life, the scars of war stay with soldiers forever.


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by awfernald In reply to Video Games for Recruitme ...

We let our kids play so many different games that are just as bad, and now we want to complain that someone actually has found a real use for them?

I don't have any problem with this. At least having penalties for "bad" behaviour (i.e. hurting non-combatants) is something that other more popular video games don't have. Most video games these days glorify and reward bad behaviour.

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I have to admit the realism is pretty cool in AA

by TomSal In reply to hmmm

I don't know if you played it (its free!) but its pretty neat the realism in it.

You actually do learn some things on how the army works. You have to pass basic training for instance, if you want to be a sniper you have to score high enough on your target shooting tests, the ordinance in the game is all real life stuff, no lasers, no made up fiction guns or equipment only real life stuff.

You have to re-load, ammo isn't endless (though in all FPS games this is true too), you take a test in a classroom as part of your training in whatever speciality you want -- its a real information not made up fictional stuff, and some of it is based on safety.

So there is, believe it or not, some educational value in this game for anyone who wants to know how the US army operates.

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America's Army -- Great Game (but OLD news)

by TomSal In reply to Video Games for Recruitme ...

This is old news, but I won't critize that too much -- I played America's Army when it first came out, but if you aren't a gamer I guess it would be some interesting news to post. I subscribe to 4 game related magazines (2 I pay for the other were freebie deals), and one of them ran an article in '02 about the controversy this game will most undoubtedly attract once the "general (non-gaming) public" finds out. Well its 3 years later and now they found out. lol.

I wish I had the article though, that is conflicting to what your posted source described -- it was not tax dollars that paid for the game, is what my article was stating. Rather the funds came by some technology companies that were funding the project to test out new software, hardware or some such thing. That was then, this is now -- maybe now taxes are maintaining the program.

I'm just relaying information as I recall.

The game is very realistic, way more so than most FPS shooters on the market. But even as a gamer, if our taxes are paying for this project now, that is something I would have a gripe about.

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General public

by Aldanatech In reply to America's Army -- Great G ...

I only play video games every now and then so I don't know that much of what's out there. I do know that there are quite a bit of war games, but what caught my attention about this one is that it involves taxpayer dollars and has a link to the U.S. Army recruiting web site. I decided to post this discussion because the source has its own view, and so does the U.S. Army, so I wanted to see what TR had to say about it.

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I actually stopped playing about a year ago

by TomSal In reply to General public

Because it was too boring to me with all the realistic features.

Its graphics are pretty, the game play is fun..but having to take tests and training for everything you do and then getting assigned to a squad (part of the training that is required before you move on) gets old if you are just in it for the pure game value and nothing else....which I am.

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Nothing new here

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Video Games for Recruitme ...

The armed forces have always been quite subtle on the recruiting front. If you join up you'll be shot isn't much of a career incentive. I had a short spell with her majesty's myself and dying wasn't mentioned once, come to think of it nor was killing.
If you fit in and make it, its a damn good career and very rewarding in others aspects as well. I got a good deal out of it even though I didn't like it all.
I see what you are saying but it's only a change in the technology used.
Join up and be the best.
See the world
A girl in every port.
All the girls like a uniform.
Marketing, that's all.

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