[Air-l] is this internet studies?
dsilver at u.washington.edu
Sun Dec 21 12:21:14 PST 2003
virtual environments, massively multiplayer computer games, first person
shooter games ... all brought to us via collaborations among US military,
US academia, and US entertainment and video game industries. considering
that institutions of higher education like USC can land a *$45 million*
grant from the US army, it seems to me that the field may have found a new
direction to follow. through my eyes, it appears that here in the states,
we've made the shift from .com to .mil. add to the mix the
transformation of silicon valley from ecommerce startups to homeland
which begs the questions: is this internet studies? is this US internet
studies? is this what we want internet studies to be?
December 14, 2003
The Pentagon Invades Your Xbox
A new and powerful form of propaganda aims to indoctrinate young video gamers.
By Nick Turse, Nick Turse is a doctoral student in the program for the history
and ethics of public health and medicine in the Mailman School of Public Health
at Columbia University.
NEW YORK In 1998, the band Rage Against the Machine decried "the thin line
between entertainment and war." Today, even that thin line is in danger of
In a new twist on President Eisenhower's concept of a "military-industrial
complex," a "military-entertainment complex" has sprung up to feed both the
military's desire for high-tech training techniques and the entertainment
industry's desire to bring out ever-more-realistic computer and video combat
games. Through video games, the military and its partners in academia and the
entertainment industry are creating an arm of media culture geared toward
preparing young Americans for armed conflict.
Such cooperation wasn't always the order of the day. In the late 1980s, the
creators of the combat-simulator video game M1 Tank Platoon weren't allowed by
the Army to even set foot inside an actual tank. But by 1997, everything had
changed. That was the year the Marine Corps signed a deal with MÄK Technologies
to create the first combat-simulation video game "to be co-funded and
co-developed" by the Department of Defense and the entertainment industry. A
year later, the Army signed a contract with MÄK to develop a sequel to its
commercial tank simulation game "Spearhead" for use by the U.S. Army Armor
Center and School and the Army's Mounted Maneuver Battle Lab. The military has
been gaming ever since.
In 2001, the Department of Defense drafted the video game "Tom Clancy's
Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear" into service to train military personnel in how to
conduct small unit operations in urban terrain.
In 2002, the Army launched "America's Army," a training and combat video game
developed at the Naval Postgraduate School with the assistance of entertainment
and gaming industry stalwarts including Epic Games and the THX Division of
Lucasfilm Ltd. The game, which is free to potential recruits either online or at
recruiting stations, cost taxpayers between $6 million and $8 million. It has
been, in the Army's eyes, a huge success, becoming one of the five most popular
video games played online.
This year, a sequel to "Rogue Spear," "Rainbow Six: Raven Shield," was
adopted by the Army to test soldiers' skills. The Army also signed a
$3.5-million deal with There Inc. to create a virtual environment for
warfare-simulation training. One project already underway is the creation of a
virtual Kuwait that can be used to train personnel to anticipate and defend
against an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City.
The Navy, not wanting to be out of the action, assisted Sony in producing the
video game "SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs," which was released this year.
Though initially the Pentagon saw in the video game industry only a means of
training young, computer-savvy recruits more effectively, the mission has
evolved into a two-way street in which the military has embraced entertainment
titles at the same time the entertainment industry has embraced the military.
"Kuma: War," developed by newcomer Kuma Reality Games in cooperation with the
Department of Defense and slated for general release next year, is being billed
as the first shooter game that will allow players to re-create actual military
missions, such as the raid that killed Saddam Hussein's two sons. Each combat
assignment will be introduced by television footage and a cable news-style
anchor. Kuma boasts a team of military veteran advisors, who "
make sure the
are as realistic as possible." A retired Marine Corps major general
leads the company's military advisory board.
Next year will also mark the release of the next generation in militarized war
games: "Full Spectrum Warrior" a video game for Microsoft's Xbox system. The
game is a realistic combat simulator that allows the gamer to act as an Army
light infantry squad leader conducting operations in the invented nation of
a haven for terrorists and extremists." And "Full Spectrum
Warrior" is not just any old military-themed video game. It was developed under
the watchful eye of personnel at the Army's Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Ga.,
and is actually a revamped version of "Full Spectrum Command," a PC game/combat
simulator used by the military to teach the fundamentals of commanding a light
infantry company in urban environments. Thus, unlike other shoot-'em-ups that
use violent imagery and military themes strictly for entertainment purposes,
"Full Spectrum Warrior's" pedigree is that of a combat learning tool.
The "Full Spectrum" games emerged from a new kind of partnership being forged at
the Institute for Creative Technologies, a $45-million joint Army/USC venture
designed to link up the military with academia and the entertainment and video
game industries. In addition to creating "Full Spectrum Command" and "Full
Spectrum Warrior," the institute is involved in a number of other military
projects. These include "Advanced Leadership Training Simulation," a partnership
between the institute and entertainment giant Paramount Pictures designed for
training soldiers in crisis management and leadership skills; and "Think Like a
Commander," a collaboration among the Army, the Hollywood filmmaking community
and USC researchers designed to "support leadership development for U.S. Army
soldiers" through software applications.
With military spending budgeted at nearly $400 billion in 2004, a video game
industry generating more than $10 billion a year, a transnational entertainment
and media industry with annual revenues of some $479 billion, and no public
outcry over the militarization of popular culture, the future of such
collaborations seems assured. Can the day be far off when the Department of
Defense gets a producer credit for a Paramount film and Kuma Reality Games is
granted office space in the Pentagon?
Before that happens, we need to start analyzing the effects of blurring the
lines between war and entertainment. With more and more "toys" that double as
combat teaching tools, we are subjecting youth to a new and powerful form of
propaganda. This is less a matter of simple military indoctrination than near
immersion in a virtual world of war where armed conflict is not the last, but
the first and indeed the only resort. The new military-entertainment
complex's games may help to produce great battlefield decision makers, but they
strike from debate the most crucial decisions young people can make in regard to
the morality of a war choosing whether or not to fight and for what cause.
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