SAN FRANCISCO — Anti-recruitment groups are slamming a US Army deal to sponsor a computer war game channel, charging that real war is no game.
In June, the Army is set to sponsor a channel at the Global Gaming League website, a popular spot for Internet computer game lovers.
“It is part of this campaign for the last 20 years to invade youth culture with militarism,” Project on Youth and Non-military Opportunities co-founder Rick Jahnkow told Agence France-Presse.
“It affects the way young people think. It affects their world view. That is a very dangerous thing.”
A first-person shooter game based on the army training manual will be a centerpiece of the channel, which will feature other games in the same genre.
The “America’s Army” game was released about five years ago and ranks in the top 10 most popular computer games of its kind, according to McCann World Group vice president Anders Ekman, who is handling the project for the Army.
Play at the channel will be free, but agreeing to “additional contact from the Army” comes with signing up as a player.
The Army’s investment, estimated at $2 million, is aimed at finding potential soldiers among gamers in the cherished recruiting age range of 17 to 24.
Oskar Castro of the “admittedly anti-war” American Friends Service Committee said it is wrong for military recruiters to use technology and pop culture to entice young people to enlist without showing them the ugly sides of service.
“If it is virtual reality, why don’t you see people screaming for their mother while they die?” asked Castro, who said he had played America’s Army.
“If you are going to show what war is like you should show what war is like. You don’t have ‘game over’ and start again. ‘Game over’ means you come home in a body bag and a casket.”
Castro recounted meeting young gamers inspired to be soldiers by their love of playing America’s Army.
“It was really bizarre to actually see that,” Castro said. “They had every plan to go into the military and they didn’t have a full vision of how the military works.”
Army recruiters resorting to online games is the newest development in a pattern that has “alarmed” Jahnkow since the United State eliminated the military draft near the close of the Vietnam War.
The military began using mass marketing and sophisticated sales techniques that not only win recruits but make US society more accepting to war as the way to deal with problems, according to Jahnkow.
“The emphasis went from asking people to join military as a patriotic gesture to more along the lines of the ways companies sell toothpaste,” Jahnkow said.
“Having the military making and marketing entertainment and computer products has never been their mission in our society.”
Recruitment ads that depict soldiers as valiant knights in shining armor and computer games in which battle is exhilarating glamorize militarism as opposed to democracy, Jahnkow said.
“Soldiering is being popularized when in fact we are supposed to be teaching people from an early age that civilian democratic rule is the ideal,” Jahnkow said.
“I can only imaging what James Madison and George Washington — all of the founding fathers — would have thought. They must be turning over in their graves right now.”
Jahnkow cited the war in Iraq as a “prime example” of the result of letting the military use games and advertising to sell soldiering to the public.
The US launched a war in Iraq even though there was no threat to the United States and no connection between Iraq and the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington, Jahnkow said.
“You need to influence people from early childhood to have people grow up and support those kinds of war,” Jahnkow said. “It is really a question of militarism; not whether there is a military.”