The Army Experience Center (AEC) is a recruiting station for the US Army located in a mall in Philadelphia. The center—unlike the depressing and drab storefront recruiting stations often found in suburban strip malls—is shiny, comfy, and filled with Xbox 360s and gaming PCs.
The AEC was featured in a segment on the PBS program, "Frontline: digital nation"
, showcasing its use of video games to attract teenagers, who hopefully later join the Army.
Frontline also focused on the pickets against the AEC, under the mantra "War is not a game"
. Protesters interviewed accused the Army of using violent video games to deceive teenagers into thinking war is fun.
Now, I have my own bones to pick with Army recruitment practices, but I want to talk about why the protesters are wrong. I think they are simply making video games the scapegoat, once again.
Also, war IS most certainly a game. That's why it translates so well into video games. Let's look at the roster of video games that the AEC offers:
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 5
Gears of War 2
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
Madden NFL '09
World of Warcraft
All of these are war games. Yes, even Madden. Football is a war simulator. Most of these are ESRB "Mature" titles, i.e. 17+ years of age, but the Frontline video shows 14 year olds playing CoD, so whatever.
An Army recruitment center isn't going to put a veteran missing a limb manning a recruitment center. Taco Bell isn't going to show a depressed fat guy sadly snarfing 7-layer burritos. Microsoft isn't going to report the real statistics about Xbox 360 repair rates. This is marketing. Marketing is an industry of lies.
But what's most important is that these games are popular and free to play at the AEC. They get kids in the door and keep them coming back. Video games are fun. That's why the protesters want the place shut down. They think their kids are too stupid to not realize what being in the Army really means. What they don't realize is that if their kids are that stupid, they're doomed anyway.
I think it's summed up well by Maj. Larry F. Dillard, Jr. at the end of the clip: "I think [the protesters] are terrified that it'll work."
POSTSCRIPT: What really worries me.
Army of Griefers.