PTSD (maybe death) is finding out war isn’t like it was in the army’s hot fantasy combat video games

Note: Excuses for all the graphics. But that’s what this post is about.

Sheldon Rampton’s War is fun as hellarticle, posted at AlterNet, begins…

Years of writing about public relations and propaganda has probably made me a bit jaded, but I was amazed nevertheless when I visited America’s Army, an online video game website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In its quest to find recruits, the military has literally turned war into entertainment.

“America’s Army” offers a range of games that kids can download or play online. Although the games are violent, with plenty of opportunities to shoot and blow things up, they avoid graphic images of death or other ugliness of war, offering instead a sanitized, Tom Clancy version of fantasy combat.

I went to the America’s Army website, which as of last night has 170,764 registered users, to grab some screenshots and look at the fare there.

If you want to see how you might return home from the Middle East, they do have a game of some sort called “Combat Medic” where you learn how bloody warfare gets.

“Evaluate casualties and apply life saving techniques” is the caption here. The next pic (I was looking at screen shots as I didn’t want to download the game) has a soldier in the same condition (the clothes aren’t even torn) and warns you there may be multiple casualties.

You’re even warned there will be civilian casualites. “Civilians will often come under fire in combat”. Glad everyone makes it to the hospital to be treated in as pristine condition as this guy. Whatever.

But war is fun, you get to ring the courtyard bell!

And when you blast someone, it’s BOOGA time.

Who’s in the army? And what the hell is the army?

Seems the army is now all about game development. There’s a supplemental video on it at the website. “How to spot a video game developer”.

Yeah, you spot a video game developer by his night vision glasses, his pocket protector and his computer (at that point they show some computer on the helicopter onto which all the army guys have boarded, ready for their hot gun night out on the town).

Speaking of glasses, you’ll be able to recognize the army recruit by his fashionable Oakleys, which are indispensible in the field.

Not sold yet? The Oakleys don’t do it for you?

Then meet the Frag Dolls. There’s a supplemental video on them there as well. But I couldn’t hear what they were saying as the sound would cut out after the first two seconds. Same with all the other videos I tried to watch last night.

The Frag Dolls are professional gaming girls you get to play against in America’s Army game shows.

No one has ever won against them. So, boys, get out and try your skill!!!

U.S. Army Invades E3–With helicopters and Humvees, the Army offers a real-life look at its video game

Erik Larkin, Medill News Service
Friday, May 20, 2005

The U.S. Army is out in full force at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles this week.

In a tent outside the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Army is offering video game enthusiasts the chance to stand atop a Humvee and use a real (albeit modified) machine gun while playing a part of the America’s Army – Special Forces game, projected on three walls at the expo.

Earlier this week, the Army released the latest version of the game, updated with a new mission for players, called the Q-course. America’s Army – Special Forces, first released in 2002, has more than 5 million registered players. The game is used to “educate the American public about the U.S. Army and its career opportunities,” according to the game manual.

“The technology is what we use for actual training,” says Major Chris Chambers, who directed the E3 presentation for the Army. “We brought it to E3 because it’s also really cool.”

Across the street from the Army’s Humvee tent outside the expo, the Army is putting on a real-life demonstration of the game. Every morning, a group of “Golden Knights” parachutists jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at 2500 feet into a parking lot across from the expo. And each afternoon, actual Special Forces soldiers use a converted auto dealership next door to run through a “grab mission” taken from one of the levels in the game with “real equipment, weapons, and uniforms,” Chambers says.

The Humvee machine gun, which has been modified with a laser to let it become part of the America’s Army game, runs all day nonstop. Each person is allowed to play for two to four minutes.

‘Frag Dolls’ Rule

The Army’s booth inside the expo is a bit more mundane, but still tries to make an impression.

“The booth looks like a mud-brick fortress that you might find in central Asia,” Chambers says. At the front, gamers can play the “America’s Army” PC game at 10 kiosks, and another eight kiosks have a sneak peek of the upcoming “Rise of the Soldier” console game for the Playstation 2 and Xbox, Chambers says.

A group of “Frag Dolls,” paid female professional gamers, take on all comers. Chambers says they’re undefeated against all challengers–including Special Forces soldiers.

Another part of the booth is set up for a “virtual urban combat experience,” he says. The virtual soldiers start out with real-world equipment, including Kevlar vests and helmets, and M4 assault rifles. After a combat briefing, “we let them kick the door in, and they’re jumping through this room and the enemy is shooting at them,” Chambers says. Of course, that shooting is coming from projected screens, again from a part of the America’s Army game.

The Army is giving away the game at E3. It can also be downloaded at no cost from the Army’s Web site.

This expensive show, run by a team of 30, is not a recruiting event, Chambers insists. It did spark the interest of one young man, a member of the staff running the convention center, he says. “He started getting pretty fired up about the possibility of joining the army,” Chambers adds.

But Chambers says he is at the expo for the same reason as the other exhibitors: to showcase the game.

“We intend to be a major player in this industry for a long time,” he says.

Source: PC World

If you live in Salina, Kansas, head out to the Tri-Rivers Fair August 10 thru 14 where you’ll be able to try your hand at the game with “on-site recruiters and plenty of fun”.

Event Details:
August 10-August 14, 2005 – Tri-Rivers Fair, Salina Kansas; KILS-FM The Zoo 92.7 & KQNS OZ 95.5 Radio Stations will be hosting the Americas Army Online Game Wireless Network with 5 Computers on site for the public to tryout AAO and receive a Free copy of the PC CDROM & AAO T-Shirts. Live Radio Broadcast, Wireless-G Free-Access to the AAO Game Server, on-site Recruiters and plenty of fun. [NOTE: Due to the Nature of the Americas Army Game, Rated T, only Age 16+ will be allowed to play. Parental Discretion is advised for viewing the Server in live action.]

Just so you know. War is big boy stuff. And plenty of fun. Thus the parental discretion warning and only over 16 need apply. Irony of ironies, I bet if you toted up an Afghanistan or Iraqi child to an America’s Army Online booth, they’d say, “Too young”. Too bad that doesn’t protect them at home where they get to experience its horrors live.

And too bad the boys who are convinced that war is a video game will be learning over in the Middle East about the body bags and amputations and brain injuries and the other fun stuff we don’t get to see on television here. Or in the newspapers.

And certainly not in the America’s Army games.

Image (by Tom Sherlock) of man cleaning gravestones in preparation for Memorial Day from Arlingtoncemetery.org.

Frag Dolls. It just now occurs to me that they’re named for defragging as in defragging a disk drive, and not for frag as in shell fragments, frag wounds etc.

Sigh.

Note: Or maybe they’re not. Maybe they are named for blowing things up.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

5 thoughts on “PTSD (maybe death) is finding out war isn’t like it was in the army’s hot fantasy combat video games”

  1. If frag dolls had to do with disk drives, it would mean their data was scattered and slow, which would make no sense. (Or else it would have to be defrag dolls, and that doesn’t make sense either.)
    So it’s about blowing things up.
    I doubt if this stuff will sell the Army, even with teen-age gamers. (As one of our state legislators said of some obnoxious pending legislation that no one was voting for on the floor of the state senate, “the koolaid is in there, but no one is drinking.”)

  2. Jim, see the post above. It’s to do with things that go boom, as per their website.

    Even if they get one recruit through this insanity it’s one recruit too many.

  3. The game looks like a training tool which can sharpen the skills of a soldier. Finding training that keeps soldiers interesed is hard. Why don’t ya’ll leave the video games to the little boys and girls (frag girls) and come on over to Iraq. If you can’t hand the stress then keep complaining online.Have a nice day. are you butt hurt that the girls beat you at a video game.

  4. I usually don’t approve anonyous comments, but I forgot to put in the new template when I upgraded that I don’t and the above anonymous comment came from a Naval installation in Baghdad so I went ahead and approved it.

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