2006 September 18 Monday
Video Game Brings In Army Recruits

Never mind the general public's souring on the war in Iraq. The US Army has hit upon a high tech fun solution to soldier recruitment problems. Video games have a far more powerful effect on the teen male mind than television news casts.

With more than 3,000 US soldier deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, the use of a video game and incentives such as free iPods to recruit replacements is a strategy that critics call misguided, even abhorrent. But for the Pentagon, "America's Army" is proving a potent way to communicate military values directly to the messy bedrooms where teens hang out.

"America's Army" is "a sort of virtual test drive," says its creator, Col. Casey Wardynski. "What we are looking to communicate is the ethos of being a soldier ... leadership, teamwork, values, structure."

In a recent informal survey of recruits at Fort Benning, Ga., which was conducted by the Army's video-game development team, about 60 percent of recruits said they've played "America's Army" more than five times a week. Four out of 100 said they'd joined the Army specifically because of the game. Nationwide, the game counts some 7.5 million registered users, making it one of the Top 5 online PC games.

The Army announced earlier this month it expects to exceed its 80,000 recruiting quota this year after missing it in 2005 for the first time since 1999, and officials say a range of recruitment tweaks - including easing up on the tattoo policy and up to $40,000 signing bonuses - have played a role. But few other ideas have been as effective in galvanizing potential recruits as "America's Army."

If you click through on one of the links and as a result you enlist and end up geting your legs blown off by some Muj in Anbar Province, Iraq do not blame me. I'm telling you right now: If you can't handle it then don't click on it!

I'm betting the games are not doing much to increase female recruitment. Violent video games are far more appealing to boys than to girls. Maybe the Army should come up with a game where female Army civil affairs officers work with poor families in civil war hell holes to get drinking water clear of dysentery and to rebuild the local kindergartens after terrorists blow up schools.

The US Army is really getting its money's worth on this game.

On July 4, 2002, the United States' Independence Day, the first version of America's Army, named Recon, was released after three years of development and production costs of US $7.5 million. Distributed as a free download or CD it quickly became one of the ten most often-played online first-person shooters. The game was easily available, the gameplay was similar to Counter-Strike, and it had the then brand-new Unreal Engine as well as free servers sponsored by the U.S. Army. The Army currently spends US $3 million a year to develop future versions of the game and US $1.5 million annually for server support

Anyway, what to make of this? Teenage boys are a bunch of naive fools. Nothing new here. They can be sucked in by a game. They want to blow things up and shoot things. Their left-liberal teachers keep knowledge of gritty war away from them (gotta spent that precious class time reading feminist fiction about how men are the scourge of the Earth and how women are all Earth mother Gaia protecting trees, birds, and babies). So when they come across a war game on the web they are too unsophistcated to interpret it. I say teach the boys in high school using John Keegan's The Face Of Battle and then they won't be quite so naive about what they are getting themselves into.

The US Marines have their own game but made the mistake of releasing it for commercial sale.

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Command, Norfolk, Va. (October 6, 2004) – The Marines move with quickness and agility through the old, abandoned building in Beirut. It is not long before the Devil Dogs encounter resistance from enemy forces. The battle is fierce, but is over in mere moments, with the Marines emerging victorious. These Marines, however, never really fought this battle. The Leathernecks are virtual representations of Marines placed in a video game.

“Close Combat: First to Fight,” created by Destineer Studios, in association with Headquarters, Marine Corps, the 1st Marine Division and Atomic Games, is a new training tool to help Marines learn about combat, and show civilians the type of work Marine infantrymen do during combat missions.

“First to Fight” will be used as a learning tool to teach Marines about close combat in urban terrain. The player leads a four-man fire team in close quarters urban combat in the streets of Beirut. The game incorporates many doctrines that are currently in use by infantry units deployed around the world. More than 40 active-duty U.S. Marines, ranking from privates to colonels, who recently returned from frontline fighting in the Middle East assisted in the creation of the game, according the game’s official website.

The Marines ought to buy back full rights and give it away. US Marines recruitment would rise as a result.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 September 18 08:12 PM  Military Warrior Culture

John S Bolton said at September 18, 2006 11:23 PM:

If they're willing to spend several thousand per recruit, why not try offering treatments which would make the otherwise unpreferred become recruitable, such as anti-obesity operations?
If something is offered to underage, though, and the value is more than the game mentioned, shouldn't the parents have a veto on whether it can be accepted?
Supposing that parents approve and explicitly so, 17 year olds could be offered treatments like accutane a year before they would have to actually enlist.
To a teenager, the mortification to come a week later will feel a hundred times more important than some promise made to the government to join up a year later.
One of the advantages of the game is that they get some familiarization with the kind of life that awaits them if they do join.

Bob Badour said at September 20, 2006 6:49 AM:

Why on earth would the Marines set their game in Beirut? Isn't that like where they lost?

John S Bolton said at September 21, 2006 11:40 PM:

Maybe because it's a seaside city. If they want to promote a game which is found to be helpful, maybe they should award shirts, caps, badges and other wearable prizes to good players.

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