Army’s recruitment methods should be questioned


by Josh Bashara

“It was only a game.”

That’s a thought that may be shared by thousands of teenage boys in a few years, as they lie wounded and bleeding to death in some third-world country.

A moment before these children wonder how they went from high school graduation and summer parties to lying face down in a pool of blood, they will remember a video game that made them feel strong, confident and tenacious.

The game is America’s Army and it’s coming to an Army Recruiting office near you.

Col. Casey Wardynski of the U.S. Army had an idea: create a top-notch, first-person shooter-style PC video game that’s up-to-par with industry standards and give it away for free.

Developed by civilian programmers and powered by video game company Epic’s Unreal Warfare engine, America’s Army would be comparable to every $50 game on the market — but that’s right, this one’s free.

Starting in October, Army recruiting offices all around the country will be receiving thousands of copies of the game on CD-ROM to be given away to potential recruits.

Toni Harn, the Army’s chief of advertising and public affairs, said the game isn’t being endorsed as a recruitment tool.

“It may end up to be that way,” she said, “but it’s supposed to give a young person an idea of what the Army is really about — training and teamwork.”

America’s Army is designed to stress the importance of teamwork, leadership and squad tactics but action is definitely not lacking. Players will be able to train for and maneuver through a variety of different missions, most of which feature high-action levels of combat and assault.

A multitude of real-world weapons can be used, from the M16 assault rifle to the M209 grenade launcher.

Everything from muzzle flashes to the motion of enemy soldiers as they fall back from bullet wounds is painstakingly modeled after real-world physics.

Kids will love it. Approved by the Army, their parents probably will too. But is handing a violent video game out for free the most ethical way to get kids to join the Army? Will it give children the wrong impression of what the Army is really like?

“It’s not meant in any way to prepare them for true combat,” Harn said. “It’s just to give them an idea of what it’s like.”

Well, if clicking a mouse button at the computer in mom’s basement to mow down enemy soldiers with my SAW machinegun is what combat is really like, then sign my ass up now because it sounds fun as hell!

The majority of fervent, video game playing kids in our country are over or under weight teenagers with weak social skills (myself included). Is this really the variety of children the Army is trying to recruit these days?

In a time when our nation is at war and movies like Saving Private Ryan and Windtalkers are finally starting to display the horrors of battle to the general public, apparently so.

The problem I have with the “Army Game Project” — funded through 2007 — is that those who created it — the United States government – are those who’ve been trying to put a handle on this type of media for years.

From video games to television, the Sen. Liebermans of the world have been on a crusade to outlaw these violent, child-possessing sins incarnate.

Now that it’s the Army’s turn to entice our children with ideas of heroism and leadership (and firing an AK-47 on full auto), everyone looks the other direction.

The turn of the century has seen the Army desperately trying to change its image. Recruitment television ads featuring hard-rock music and depicting soldiers with sleek, high-tech weaponry is another example of the way the Army has been trying to latch onto our younger generation’s subculture.

The ads blatantly cater to a younger demographic, mostly young boys ages 12-18. Although some children aren’t old enough to enlist quite yet, the Army wants to make sure that when they come of age, they’re ready to sign on.

Reminiscent of now outlawed tactics used by cigarette companies, these advertising campaigns follow the same ideology of retired, fictional spokesperson, Joe Camel.

Someday Uncle Sam may learn to not view every high school graduate as a potential warm body to fill empty boots. In the mean time, we mustn’t forget that although there are “212 Ways to Become an Army of One,” there are an infinite number of ways to greet death. Why let Uncle Sam make the introduction?


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