Stop it hippies! You’re fighting the wrong battle.
Let me start by saying I whole heartedly support our country’s right to peaceful protest, which is precisely what hundreds are doing for a second time at the new state of the art $12 million Army Experience Center in Philadelphia.
The Army Experience Center (let’s call them AEC) boasts a relaxed atmosphere where potential army recruits aged 13 and up can talk to recuitment officers, go hands on with the latest military technology, try out humvee and apache simulators, and (and this why it is relevant to us) play America’s Army with fellow recruits on networked PC’s and XBOX 360’s. For those not familiar with America’s Army, it is a video game developed by the Army to simulate battlefield scenarios, encouraging real world tactics to survive and proceed.
Unsuprisingly, this has caught the ire of peace loving anti-war citizens across the nation. It is quite understandable why they would be displeased at the Army’s use of a video game to encourage recruitment into a military currently fighting a war in two countries.
On May 2, the date of the original protest, the marchers carried a banner proclaiming that “war is not a game.” Obviously. So obvious in fact, I dare you to find one member of AEC who would argue this fact.
You may recall a little matter of a game (that was supposed to be) called Six Days in Fallujah in which you re-enacted the real world battle of Fallujah as told through the eyes of the allied soldiers, as well as the insurgents, that fought there. The game came under such public scrutiny that Konami, the game’s publisher, dropped the title. Those who remember when I was a member of the podcast team may also recall my argument at the time that the title should have been given a chance. Why? Because games don’t always have to be fun. Sometimes they can just be a digital experience. “Experience” carries a much different meaning than “game.” Experiences can be used to teach, to train, to prepare, and to improve one’s self. Games are entertainment. Would we run into these dilemnas if video games were instead called digital experiences? Hard to say, but to the Army’s credit, their $12 million attraction is called the Army EXPERIENCE Center. I know of nobody who would protest a flight simulator. However, flight sims can be found on the same shelves as World of Warcraft and other games. Does that mean that a flight sim is a game?
However, my argument for the AEC differs depending on the protester’s reason for his or her protest. I will list every possible objection I can think of and, in my own endearing way, tell them and you where they are wrong.
The Army Experience Center is glamorizing war.
The first thing you’ll hear when you load up the above youtube video is a bullhorn wielding demonstrator saying this very statement. This is where actually being armed with some knowledge of the video game industry comes in handy. Those with the bullhorns and the picket signs have probably very little or no knowledge at all of the juggernaut Call of Duty franchise, the most popular of which is subtitled Modern Warfare. Nearly everyone who plays it loves it. However, none of those gamers are under the delusion that it does indeed accurately depict modern warfare. If there is someone out there who believes that you are denied air support until you kill five enemies in a row, I would love to meet them. What is my point? If the Army truly wanted to draw in the masses and glamorize war, they would throw the wildly fun Call of Duty up on their big screens, not the slow paced, thought provoking realism of America’s Army. America’s Army all but glamorizes war. It is a tool in digital experience form.
I am completely Anti-War
Ok, I can respect that. I think you’ll find very few people who enjoy war. By all means, protest war. What you should NOT do is protest soldiers, or protest the recruiting of soldiers, unless of course…
I am anti-military. If there were no military, there would be no war
You’re an idiot. If there were no military, how long do you think this country would be here? Who would protect us? You would have to be the most naive person I have ever met to think that we wouldn’t need protecting.
This is just an attempt to increase enlistment
Well, yeah, but what’s wrong with that? This country needs all the soldiers it can get. Why? Because I’m not signing up! I know the risks, and you better believe that the people talking to recruiters do too. However, contrary to popular belief, the Army does not snag every warm body willing to sign their name on the line. You must pass an aptitude test. In other words, you are tested physically, mentally, and psychologically to prove that you would be an asset, not a hinderance on the battlefield.
I am eternally grateful to those who are willing to go and die for me and you should be too. It is up to the recruiters to go and find them. The only problem would be if it were somehow possible that these recruiters were duping these young innocents attending their experience. Which leads to another possible objection.
The Army is using video games to conform impressionable young minds
Again, the army doesn’t take everyone. If someone passes through the door that is naive, they are shown the same door. However, I believe their use of recruiting tools is very telling. If they are indeed forming an impression than they are undoubtedly doing everything they can to form the correct one. Instead of scoring points in Call of Duty and having the benefit of endless respawns, you are instead put in as close to a life or death scenario as the law permits. Instead of being presented with an endless enertainment extravaganza, you are shown real world weapons used in real world scenarios. Instead of a recruiter telling you in words what may happen, you EXPERIENCE it.
Certainly nothing will ever substitute for actually being in combat, but would you rather just throw a fresh recruit out there and see what happens? I would think you’d want to present that recruit with as much realism as you can to ensure that they know what they are potentially getting themselves into. Will it always work? Certainly not. There will always be soldiers that wish they had made another choice. The Army Experience Center, however, is the best way I can think of to weed as many of those individuals out as possible.
What do you think?