Check out local news footage here. Seven people were arrested at a war protest in Northeast Philadelphia this early May at a $12 million military gaming center at a mall which uses simulators (a-la America’s Army) to lure in potential soldiers at age 13 and up.
So far the center has recruited twice as efficiently as rival, non-digital centers.
“War is not a game!” “You can’t simulate the heat. You can’t you know the cries of people who are getting killed. You can’t simulate the noise when things are exploding around you,” said Jesse Hamilton, an Iraq War Veteran who served in the Army.
The Army Experience Center presents the teenagers with video games in hopes that they might learn about life in the military. At least the Army believes games to be be educational!
“…You get to touch and feel about the Army here…plus we have 23 active duty soldiers here who can share their Army story with you,” said Capt. Jared Auchey the commander of the Army Experience Center.
With this abstraction from the realities of bloodshed, American citizens are further from the tools they need to arbitrate their beliefs on contemporary military activities, including unmanned drones carrying out possible illegal actions on foreign soil. Due to a lack of civic responsibility (and voice) as to whats going on, war consists of far away actions and further and further simulated training.
(no draft -> no actual danger -> no perceived death penalties -> socially accepted ignorance).
Implying that combat simulations educate young children about the realities of war is intentionally misleading. Video games are compelling because they only include the positively stimulating aspects of combat. The “fun.” Perhaps 13-year-olds should be shown war hospitals instead.
I spent hours killing virtual enemies as a teenager and can say both that it was fun and that if I had lived near the “experience center” as a kid I would definitely have gone. Tactics, play-combat and shared adrenaline with friends were keys parts of growing up for many of us.
But I can’t say that I wasn’t affected by the games I played or that I wasn’t influenced by them to see war in a different way. A part of me has been led to believe that I know what combat is like, that it could function under Counter-Strike circumstances based on the “experiences” I’ve had with “combat” within those systems.
But that part of me is obviously dead wrong. Sure, I experienced play-conflicts, I felt the excitement that game designers so expertly cultivate, but I DO NOT KNOW WAR. Video Games, due to their amazing ability to convey experience, hold within them the ability to mislead and persuade players. Why else would the Army be trying this? The military is wrong to present simulations as reality here. It’s not the real thing. There are no moral ramifications (yet) for killing in-game enemies.
Protesters are calling for the removal of the Army’s “pilot program” because they know that the center has been wildly successful; it will likely be reproduced elsewhere because video game suggestion works.
So what do we do?
Either 1) This center needs to be taken down and simulations kept psychologically separate from reality 2) The simulations need to be made more real, or 3) the American populace needs to reclaim ownership of a war effort that has become simulated and largely abstracted from both real world dangers and the population that it claims to protect.
Otherwise we’ll just keep killing because players think they know the fun of war.