Peter Singer has an article in Foreign Policy about something he calls the rise of “militainment”, or the increasing use of video games in military training and the blurry of any distinction between them and games designed specifically for entertainment.
America’s Army is a video game — a “tactical multiplayer first-person shooter” in gaming lingo — that was originally developed by the U.S. military to aid in its recruiting and training, but is now available for anyone to play.
…while America‘s Army is technically a publicly funded recruiting and training platform, its main commercial rival is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a game published by Activision Blizzard.
I think there’s some real potential to the use of computer simulations and improvement, even over the last few years, in terms of processing power by computers means you can get increasing levels of realism. And it’s not just good for the shoot ’em up stuff. You can do all sorts of command, control and communications functions as well.
But of course, the shoot ’em up stuff is the most fun and that’s where I get a bit creeped out at times. Once in awhile my unit hosts boy scouts or some youth type group (JROTC?) and, of course, the combat simulations are a bit hit. Still, I’m given pause that a system designed to help soldiers operate in a combat environment is being sold to kids in their early teens as basically an alternative to a party at Chuck-E Cheese.
I think Singer finds words for what makes my quesy feeling.
The real danger of militainment, though, might be in how it risks changing the perceptions of war. “You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” is how Ken Robinson, the Special Forces veteran who produced Army 360, put it in Training & Simulation Journal. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”