2006 September 18 Monday
Video Game Brings In Army Recruits

Never mind the general public's souring on the war in Iraq. 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 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 read 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.

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

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