Sunday, July 27, 2008

US Military recruits children through "America's Army" Video game

Video Game Violates International Law

In May of 2002, the United States Army invaded E3, the annual video game convention held in Los Angeles. At the city's Convention Center, young game enthusiasts mixed with camouflaged soldiers, Humvees and a small tank parked near the entrance. Thundering helicopter sound effects drew the curious to the Army's interactive display, where a giant video screen flashed the words "Empower yourself. Defend America ... You will be a soldier

The Army was unveiling its latest recruitment tool, the "America's Army" video game, free to download online or pick up at a recruiting station, and now available for purchase on the Xbox, PlayStation, cell phones and Gameboy game consoles. Since its release, the "game" has gone on to attain enormous popularity with over 30,000 players everyday, more than nine million registered users, and version 3.0 set for launch in September. "America's Army" simulates the Army experience, immersing players in basic training before they can go on to play specialized combat roles. Most of the gameplay takes place in cyberspace where virtual Mideast cities, hospitals and oil rigs serve as backdrops ( note the priorities) for players to obliterate each other. As a "first person shooter," the game allows players to "see what a soldier sees" in real combat situations - peek around corners, take fine aim, chose weapons that replicate those actually used by the US Army.

For the game's commercial developers, realism is one its strongest selling points. Console version programmers were shipped to military training facilities in Wyoming, where they ran boot camp obstacle courses, fired weapons at the shooting range and got whisked around on helicopters. Back at hip, safe San Francisco Bay Area game companies, Army weapons specialists worked with developers to ensure aim, fire, sound and reload functions for all of the game's weapons were as close to the real thing as possible. The Army also ensured that players learn real weapons skills such as breath control and the reload time for a M4 carbine. And in order to edge closer to the Army's goal of "realism" and "authenticity," several of the game's missions are based on actual combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the training simulators and firing ranges are modeled on the real life versions at Ft. Benning, Ft. Lewis and Ft. Polk. In a 2005 press release, Ubisoft, the multimillion-dollar publisher of the console version of the game, wrote that "America's Army" is the "deepest and most realistic military game ever to hit consoles," hoping that it gave players a "realistic, action-packed, military experience."

But, why?

But behind the fun and games is an attempt, in the words of a military booklet on "America's Army," "to build a game for Army strategic communication in support of recruiting." The Army spent $6 million to develop the game at the Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute (MOVES) before handing it over to private companies for adaptation to the console formats in 2004. As the name implies, the MOVES Institute is the military center for creating virtual training environments and simulators. A MOVES Institute booklet proclaims a later version of the game, "America's Army: Special Forces," was developed specifically to increase the number of Army Special Forces recruits. "The Department of Defense want[ed] to double the number of Special Forces Soldiers, so essential did they prove in Afghanistan and northern Iraq; consequently, orders ... trickled down the chain of command and found application in the current release of 'America's Army.'"(3)

Say what?! A video game to increase recruits for the Army? Why the US would never do that to it's own youth! That is the domain of despots, thugs and Islam. Right? (envision eyes rolling)

What the game's "realism" is attempting to do is to mask the violent reality of combat, and military experience in general, for very specific purposes. At a minimum, the Army hopes "America's Army" will act as "strategic communication" to expose "kids who are college bound and technologically savvy" to positive messaging about the Army

Phase one of the propaganda effort is to expose children to "Army values" and make service look as attractive as possible.

Phase two is direct recruiting. According to Colonel Wardynski, who originally thought up selling the Army to children through video games, "a well executed game would put the Army within the immediate decision-making environment of young Americans. It would thereby increase the likelihood that these Americans would include Soldiering in their set of career alternatives." To make the connection between the game and recruitment explicit, the "America's Army" web site links directly to the Army's recruitment page.

Isn't that convenient, and sick all rolled into one. The targetting, brainwashing and recruitment of kids in one slick video game! How many parents have bought their children this game??

But more then the fact that this is a perversion and any parents who may have bought this for the children, should toss this promptly in the trash only after smashing it to smithereens, of course. There is this........

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has found that Army use of the game, and its recruiting practice in general, violate international law. In May, the ACLU published a report that found the armed services "regularly target children under 17 for military recruitment. Department of Defense instruction to recruiters, the US military's collection of information of hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds, and military training corps for children as young as 11 reveal that students are targeted for recruitment as early as possible. By exposing children under 17 to military recruitment, the United States military violates the Optional Protocol." The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the Senate in December 2002, protects the rights of children under 16 from military recruitment and deployment to war. The US subsequently entered a binding declaration that raised the minimum age to 17, meaning any recruitment activity targeted at those under 17 years old is not allowed in the United States. The ACLU report goes on to highlight the role of "America's Army," saying the Army uses the game to "attract young potential recruits ... train them to use weapons, and engage in virtual combat and other military missions," adding that the game "explicitly targets boys 13 and older." In June, at the 48th session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee noted US violations of the Protocol and urged the United States to "ensure that its policy and practice on deployment is consistent with the provisions of the Protocol."(11)

this is just a few paragraphs of a really long, but good article.
I had to chuckle at the first comment, wanting more reality in the game

"a call for a more realistic game about U.S. military service, where you are thrown into combat with inadequate training and equipment, lose a hand and get PTSD, and return home to find no support for your multiple handicaps, and end up living out of a shopping cart."


  1. Hi Pen,

    I think the biggest problem with these games is the realism. It's not like World of Warcraft - or such - in that the 'setting' is clearly fantasy.

    Though I would wager for most kids - they can tell the difference - there will always be some who will succumb to the 'propoganda'.

    It's quite unsettling of course - but hey hun, 'We're the Good Guys' eh?

    I wonder if this is as bad as the Palistinian Mickey Mouse... ?



  2. of course it's not as bad , nothing the west does ever is, even when it's the same, or actually worse, it's still not bad (facetious)

    and don't you forget it ;)

  3. Yes Ma'am!!

    To be honest, there are only a few of these games I have actually played. I loved Zelda - what fun! Of course, the Buffy game was also a blast! (Had to play that one eh!) I've attempted Halo, but just can't seen to 'drive' out at the end! (hee hee women drivers!).

    Haven't tried Warcraft, though my son enjoyed it immensely for a while (before he got a gf!!).

    And one more guilty pleasure - Grand Theft Auto - what a riot!!

    When it's all in fun, then hey why not?

    Notice though - they are all fantasy - and clearly so (well perhaps GTA not so much). These 'war' games that feature real scenarios, whether WW2 based or ME based have never really seen the light of day in this house. I guess us Sci-Fi lovers prefer our fantasy worlds!