Government Pushes Propaganda Through Video Games

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Military Recruits Young People Through Misleading Games

We documented yesterday that American movies, television and news are dominated by the CIA and other government agencies.

The government also spreads propaganda through video games.

By way of example, former CIA director William Colby went to work for a video game company after he retired, and a former United States marine allegedly confessed to working at a video game company which was really a CIA front to create a game to drum up support for war against Iran.

The Guardian reports:

“For decades the military has been using video-game technology,” says Nina Huntemann, associate professor of communication and journalism at Suffolk University in Boston and a computer games specialist. “Every branch of the US armed forces and many, many police departments are using retooled video games to train their personnel.”

Like much of early computing, nascent digital gaming benefited from military spending. The prototype for the first home video games console, the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, was developed by Sanders Associates, a US defence contractor. Meanwhile, pre-digital electronic flight simulators, for use in both military and civilian training, date back to at least the second world war.

Later, the games industry began to repay its debts. Many insiders note how instruments in British Challenger 2 tanks, introduced in 1994, look uncannily like the PlayStation’s controllers, one of the most popular consoles of that year. Indeed, warfare’s use of digital war games soared towards the end of the 20th century.

“By the late 1990s,” says Nick Turse, an American journalist, historian and author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, “the [US] army was pouring tens of millions of dollars into a centre at the University of Southern California — the Institute of Creative Technologies — specifically to build partnerships with the gaming industry and Hollywood.” [The Washington Times reports on the link as well.]

It’s a toxic relationship in Turse’s opinion, since gaming leads to a reliance on remote-controlled warfare, and this in turn makes combat more palatable.

“Last year,” says Turse, “the US conducted combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. There are a great many factors that led to this astonishing number of simultaneous wars, but the increasing use of drones, and thus a lower number of US military casualties that result, no doubt contributed to it.”

The Christian Science Monitor noted in 2009:

In 1999, the military had its worst recruiting year in 30, and Congress called for u201Caggressive, innovativeu201D new approaches. Private-sector specialists were brought in, including the top advertising agency Leo Burnett, and the Army Marketing Brand Group was formed. A key aim of the new recruitment strategy was to ensure long-term success by cultivating the allegiance of teenage Americans.

Part of the new campaign, helping the post-9/11 recruiting bump, was the free video game America's Army. Since its release, different versions of the war game have been downloaded more than 40 million times, enough to put it in the Guinness book of world records. According to a 2008 study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, u201Cthe game had more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.u201D

***

That these efforts are unfaithful to war's reality has not gone unnoticed. Protesting the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, Sgt. Jesse Hamilton, who served two tours in Iraq and nine total in the military, expressed disgust that the Army has u201Cresorted to such a deceiving recruitment strategy.u201D

It's an approach that could have detrimental long-term effects. u201CThe video game generation is worse at distorting the realityu201D of war, according to one Air Force colonel. Although they may be more talented at operating predator drones, the colonel told the Brookings Institution, u201CThey don't have that sense of what [is] really going on.u201D

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George Washington blogs at Washington’s Blog.

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