An anti-war group protested the offices of video game maker Ubisoft
in San Francisco yesterday to bring attention to the company's
ongoing work with the U.S. Army on "America's
Army", a video game that has been developed
specifically to increase the number of Army recruits.
In the absence of a military draft the Army has
turned to technological propaganda to meet it's recruitment targets.
The game immerses players in basic training before
they can go on to play specialized combat roles. Players travel
through Middle East settings using weapons that replicate those
used by the US army.
The United States Army and the Modeling, Virtual
Environments and Simulation Institute has stated of the game that
"The Department of Defense want[ed] to double the number
of Special Forces Soldiers, so essential did they prove in Afghanistan
and northern Iraq; consequently, orders ... trickled down the
chain of command and found application in the current release
of 'America's Army.'"
Since its release, the game has "recruited"
over 30,000 players everyday. It now has more than nine million
registered users, and a new version is due to be launched next
Watch video of the protest:
B. Reagan recently penned an excellent piece exposing
the game as not only a fierce form of propaganda but also as a
violation of international law:
Beyond its recruitment goals, the game serves
as a training device for both military tactics and weapons,
and to condition players for battlefield operations. To this
end, "America's Army" game assignments are designed
to simulate real world battlefield missions. For example in
one mission, "Special Forces fight alongside Indigenous
Forces they have trained. For this mission, [players] must rescue
and escort a wounded resistance leader who's escaped to a neutral
hospital for treatment - or hinder the escape of a wounded enemy
courier, depending which side you're on." Missions like
this shadow real world military actions such as the November
2004 seizure of a Fallujah hospital, a blatant violation of
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has
found that Army use of the game, and its recruiting practice
in general, violate international law. In May, the ACLU published
a report that found the armed services "regularly target
children under 17 for military recruitment. Department of Defense
instruction to recruiters, the US military's collection of information
of hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds, and military training
corps for children as young as 11 reveal that students are targeted
for recruitment as early as possible. By exposing children under
17 to military recruitment, the United States military violates
the Optional Protocol." The Optional Protocol on the Involvement
of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the Senate in December
2002, protects the rights of children under 16 from military
recruitment and deployment to war.
(Article continues below)
Furthermore, "America's Army" is not the only video
game the army has produced in an effort to vamp up recruitment.
A piece in The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the fact
that the Army has been touring an exhibit known as The
Virtual Army Experience for the past year and a half.
This giant videogame, currently stopping at amusement parks, air
shows and county fairs, has been in production since 1999 when
the Army fell short of recruitment goals.
Spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Douglas Smith,
admits that the game is a recruitment tool stating “parents
are less likely to encourage their children to consider military
Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Army’s Office of
Economic and Manpower Analysis at West Point has also described
the game as a tool to capture the public interest and “an
opportunity to shape their tastes”.
Of course, the graphic horror of war is completely absent in both
video games. Being hit by a bullet translates into a red puff
of mist on the screen and soldiers regenerate once they have been