Uncle Sam Wants You to Play Video Games!

UntitledThe increase of technology has forced the United States Military to change the way our society thinks about and goes to war.  The military has been forced to adapt to the technology dependent culture of war, especially in recruitment.  This increase in technology has created the “cubicle warrior”: a military solider that fights from behind a screen using technology instead of on the physical combat on the battlefield.  Traditionally, military recruitment has targeted young men who do not know what they want to do after high school or college.  With the increase in demand for a “cubicle warrior”, the military has changed its focus on recruits who have the skills to use the new modern warfare technologies.  Therefore, the military started to use military developed video games, such as America’s Army and Full Spectrum Warrior, to attract these technology advanced youth and provide them with the “military experience”.  Although the use of video games in military recruitment seems like an effective solution for the search of the “cubicle warriors”, the use of video games misleads the youth of the realities of war and only glamorizes certain aspects of war.

Historically, military recruitment has been constant in rural areas and areas that have military bases.  Many of the recruits view the military as one of their few options to further their education and skills.  Although the rural area recruitment rates are high, Jon Hurdle, a professional freelance journalist, agrees that the military has a harder time recruiting from the cities.  One suggestion for this low recruitment rate in urban setting is the vast amount of other opportunities that are present in the cities.   Typical recruitment involved a United States Military recruitment officer who sat behind a large desk in his uniform and spread out information about the various branches of the Military (Hurdle).  However, now a potential recruit or any one over 13 years of age can go into a mall and go in to the new Military Experience Center a play video game while recruits walk around and answer questions about the center (Digital Nation, ch. 9).  As a result of this, the recruitment numbers for these centers and military video games have gone up.   Although this has shown to be an effective way of recruitment, can the military really provide an accurate “military experience” through the use of video games?

In military combat a solider frequently faces ethical and emotional decisions. One issue with the Military Experience Centers is that it takes the emotions out of war.  The idea of war as a game makes it into a competition.  This competitive atmosphere pushes the recruits to do certain things they normally wouldn’t do in a real life situation.  The recruits are unaware of the emotional and ethical decision that they will have to make in a real life situation.  William Lugo, a Sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, addresses the lack of ethical and emotional decision-making in the use of military video games: “virtually no women and children walk the streets”.  The lack of women and children take out the “possibility of killing innocent people” (Lugo, p. 13).  The lack of ethical decision-making increases the lack of emotion that is experience in the military video games.  Military video games also do not use actual names for the enemy.  Instead, the enemy is referred to as “Tango”.  This furthers the lack of emotion in the video games and shields the recruits from having to kill someone who is perceived as a person.  This only elaborated on the dehumanization that the recruits associate with war.  As a result the video game “military experience” is misleading the potential recruits from the harsh realities of war.

Another issue regarding the use of military video games in the recruitment centers is that these games specifically appeal and target the technology dependent youth.  With the increase in demand for the cubicle warrior, it makes sense that the military focus on a new youth demographic.  This can be seen with the appearance of the Military Experience Centers, in which they look like a “cross between a hotel lobby and a video arcade” (Hurdle).  Once inside, “potential recruits can hang out on couches and listen to rock music that fills the space” (Hurdle). This creates and environment that is friendly and appealing for the potential new recruits.  While many of the potential recruits have war played war simulating video games at home on their normal sized televisions, they have not play from inside a Humvee against enemies projected on a15-foot-high screen (Hurdle).  The bigger, louder, and faster video games that these military experience centers offer are very appealing to potential recruits. The use of war simulator experiences in the form of video games only glamourize war.  This glamorization misleads the potential recruits from the brutalities of war.

Despite these claims, the role of video games in military recruitment has become a successful tool in recruiting and preparing the potential recruits for military life.  James Paul Gee, the creator of America’s Army, suggests that the use of video games has helped prepare recruits better than the traditional recruitment process.  Gee acknowledges that not everyone is able to learn the same way: ”some educators do not do well in a lecture hall system, where they learn strategy” (Playing).   Those recruits who have not properly retained the information when learning strategy will be more likely to be killed or injured in the battlefield.  As a result, the use of military video games has helped prepare those potential recruits who have trouble in a lecture hall environment.  Ultimately, the use of video games in recruitment has helped saved lives on the battlefield.  Major Dillard also suggests that the use of video games in recruitment can effectively prepare the potential recruits for the military: “the violence in video games happens in real life war setting too” (Digital Nation, ch. 9).  The video games that are seen in the military recruitment centers mimic certain aspects of real life war and the hands on simulations help prepare the recruits for what to do.  The use of the reset button also allows the potential recruits to see what not to do and learn from their mistakes.  It is better for the potential recruits to experience these mistakes in the military video games than in real life.

Overall, the United States military has been a dominant force in history because the United States always adapted to their situation to succeed. As the world has become more technology dependent it makes sense that the military has become more technology dependent, especially in its recruitment process.  The increase of military video games and technology has led to the increase in recruitment rates, especially in urban settings, of the military. However, the use of the military recruitment centers and military video games has furthered the dehumanization of war and misleads the recruits through the glamorization of certain parts of the military.  In contrast, the use of military video games has helped potential recruits learn more about the military.   Nonetheless, the use of video games in recruitment will only further blur the lines of the realities of war. This change in recruitment is necessary for the United States to continue to attract new recruits, but there needs to be a balance of recruitment methods that stress the realities of war.



Works Cited

Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier. Prod. Rachel Dretzin. Frontline. PBS, 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Hurdle, Jon. “Army Recruiting at the Mall with Video Games.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 09 Jan. 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

Lugo, William. “Violent Video Games Recruit American Youth.” Reclaiming Children and Youth (2006): 11-14. Spring 2006. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Playing America’s Army. Perf. James Paul Gee. Frontline. PBS, 19 June 2009. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

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