November 7, 2003

America’s Army

by Scott Rettberg · , 5:53 pm

This is probably old news to most of you, but I just heard about the US Army’s latest recruiting tool, America’s Army. The army spent $4.5 million to develop the game, and is reporting that it has been wildly successful. In a Chicago Tribune story, the game’s project director, Col. Casey Wardynski, reported that on the night of Oct. 28 alone, “1.3 million games got played . . . At six minutes a game, that’s 150,000 hours of game play, where kids were virtually inside the Army.” Wardynski praises the game as a cost-effective recruiting tool. The game takes kids from basic and special forces training to virtual battlefield operations.

I guess it’s one way to keep those body bags filled.

What’s next? The CIA could be at work on America’s Effective Intelligence: Mission One — Learn to Translate Arabic. Maybe the State Department is working on America’s Diplomats: Mission One — A Nonviolent Solution.

Nah. Where’s the fun in that?

6 Responses to “America’s Army”

  1. Jill Says:

    “…kids were virtually inside the Army….”? That’s a phrase I don’t want to think too deeply on.

  2. Daniel Sobral Says:


    I’m so (not) in favor of any violent initiatives as any of you, I suppose, but I played Army Operations and found it (at least) interesting. At least it diminishes the mythical aura that surrounded the military service and exposed a (public – which can be biased, I know) image of the US military service. I found it very educational the medical training session, although I have some doubts in using it myself.

    About the CIA, I don’t remeber where but I have seen some news that the guys at the USC (the ones that did the MRE military training) are working with the CIA to prepare for a new training environment. So perhaps your remark is more close to be fulfilled than you might have thought.

  3. scott Says:

    I suppose I don’t really have as much an objection to a simulation of military training in computer game format as I do to the way that military recruitment is being marketed in general. There’s something about the fact that the site is advertising that the game is Coming Soon to a Mall Near You that really bothers me. I don’t think that it’s not a smart move on the part of recruiters (actually a brilliant marketing move). I’m bothered by the mentality that equates realworld battle with gaming, and actually in effect “promotes” eager teenagers playing a computer game from the virtual battlefield to a real one, in which their lives are actually in danger. I feel like the realm of play is in some sense violated here. I have nothing against military service and admire the people who serve, but people should join the military for other reasons than enjoying a videogame. I felt the same kind of queasieness when I walked into the movie theater to watch the last Lord of the Rings movie and was treated to a military recruitment ad before the feature started (one with lots of swords and valor). There’s something insipid about this invasion of the war on terror into the realm of fantasy, the realm of play.

    I followed the discussion on Gonzola Frasca’s September 12th, and think that the kind of political statement made in that piece is completely justifiable and necessary when the government itself is explicitly propagandizing in games.

  4. torill Says:

    I downloaded the game, but didn’t play it online yet. So far it is a pretty straight forwards first person shooter that doesn’t have much to do with war – just like training isn’t really about war either.

    For me, the problem is not that the game is warlike. After all, simulation games and strategic games have been used in recruiting, teaching and training for soldiers for ever. That is where the first strategic wargames came from. My problem arises when the war is game-like.

    The distance between the act and the result is a problem in the killing people business. I, for instance, do not have a problem with flying or driving a car, because my act of pollution and the death of the future generations due to cancer from a ruined ozone layer are so far apart that those future deaths do not really touch me. I would however have serious problems pulling the trigger of a gun, even one I positively knew was not loaded, while it pointed at an other human being.

    When war becomes a computer game and the dead are not really people, that is when war creates monsters who later climb a bell tower and shoot innocents. I would rather we did away with firearms all together, and went back to swords, as demanded by the compact of Darkover (Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books). All of us. Killing should be hard work and physical exercize. And messy, very messy, with a lot of bleeding, horrible sounds and scents and significant personal risk.

  5. andrew Says:

    Today being Veteran’s Day in the U.S., the NYTimes published some awfully sad and poignant letters home from soldiers that later were killed in action.

  6. andrew Says:

    Iraq war veterans are protesting America’s Army.

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