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The Army and Video Game Violence

CNN reports that the Army is using a complex video game setup, which simulates combat, to entice people to join the military.  It’s called the Army Experience Center, and it’s in Philadelphia.  The article describes a high-tech setup that includes games for kids of varying ages.  This adds new questions to the controversy over a link between video games and violence.

I’ll start with my own opinions on this.  I have vivid memories of playing violent video games in my teenage years, including the Mortal Kombat series (arcade), and GoldenEye 007 (N64).  Mortal Kombat never made me feel violent or made me want to commit violence.  I played it for the cool special moves.  I should also note that the first game in the series came out when I was 10, and I played the series in the arcade through MK4.

GoldenEye 007, on the other hand, came out for the N64 when I was 15 and I probably bought it around 16.  I played countless hours of this game, often trying to find new and interesting ways to kill the enemy.  This game did make me feel violent.  In fact, I listened to so much music by Sublime while playing it that even now, a decade later, the sound of Sublime still makes me feel aggressive.

Now, I know there’s a link between feelings of violence and the video game I was playing, but I never felt like actually acting violently.  I have a firm grasp on the difference between video games and reality.

So now the military is using games to recruit kids, at a time when the need for troops is up, but the recruitment numbers are down.  This is a smart strategy for a few reasons.  First, video games train reaction time and hand-eye coordination in a way that few other things can.  Second, playing shooter-style video games gives people, especially teens, a taste for that sort of violence.  Third, and this is speculation on my part, I suspect that posttraumatic stress disorder is less in people with a long history of violent video games.  Their minds are much more capable of processing the things that go on in war.

That’s not to say I think this is a good idea.  Teenagers, as I recall from experience, do not always make the best decisions.  I worry that they’ll think the army really is just like those video games, and join up without giving thought to the injuries (physical and mental) that military personnel are sustaining in our current wars.

Most interesting to me, however, is how all of this applies to the controversy over video games and their link to violence.  I know that in past generations, movies, books, stage plays, and even dancing have been linked, by society, to violence.  A big part of this is technophobia, where the older generation fails to understand what the kids are into and attributes it to evil.

But the Army is actually counting on a link between video games and violence.  That’s at once scary, and impressive.



Comment from PcGamesGalaxy
Time March 20, 2009 at 8:37 pm

A game like Army should have violence scenes.Without them it’s awful.

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