Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games 0415996597, 9780415996594

These essays explore how modern warfare has been represented in and influenced by video games. They explore the history

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Table of contents :
Book Cover
Figures and Tables
Part I Historicizing the Joystick Soldier
Chapter 1 Living Room Wars: Remediation, Boardgames, and the Early History of Video Wargaming
Chapter 2 Target Acquired: America’s Army and the Video Games Industry
Chapter 3 Training Recruits and Conditioning Youth: The Soft Power of Military Games
Interview with James F. Dunnigan
Part II Representing War
Chapter 4 Behind the Barrel: Reading the Video Game Gun
Chapter 5 Wargames as a New Frontier: Securing American Empire in Virtual Space
Chapter 6 Future Combat, Combating Futures: Temporalities of War Video Games and the Performance of Proleptic Histories
Interview with Rachel Hardwick
Part III Producing Pedagogical War
Chapter 7 Mobilizing Affect: The Politics of Performative Realism in Military New Media
Chapter 8 A Battle in Every Classroom: Gaming and the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College
Chapter 9 A Battle for Hearts and Minds: The Design Politics of ELECT BiLAT
Interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski
Part IV Playing War
Chapter 10 “No Better Way to ‘Experience’ World War II”: Authenticity and Ideology in the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Player Communities
Chapter 11 “F ck You, Noob Tube!”: Learning the Art of Ludic LAN War
Chapter 12 Playing with Fear: Catharsis and Resistance in Military-Themed Video Games
Part V Resisting War
Chapter 13 Playing Against the Grain: Machinima and Military Gaming
Chapter 14 “Turn the Game Console off Right Now!”: War, Subjectivity, and Control in Metal Gear Solid 2
Chapter 15 Dead-in-Iraq: The Spatial Politics of Digital Game Art Activism and the In-Game Protest
List of Contributors
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Joystick Soldiers

Joystick Soldiers is the first anthology to examine the reciprocal relationship between militarism and video games.War has been an integral theme of the games industry since the invention of the first video game, Spacewar! in 1962. While war video games began as entertainment, military organizations soon saw their potential as combat simulation and recruitment tools. A profitable and popular relationship was established between the video game industry and the military, and continues today with video game franchises like America’s Army, which was developed by the U.S. Army as a public relations and recruitment tool. This collection features all new essays that explore how modern warfare has been represented in and influenced by video games.The contributors explore the history and political economy of video games and the “military-entertainment complex;” present textual analyses of military-themed video games such as Metal Gear Solid; and offer reception studies of gamers, fandom, and political activism within online gaming. This volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the relationship between war and media, and it sheds surprising light on the connections between virtual battlefields and the international conflicts unfolding around the globe. Nina B. Huntemann is Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. She produced and directed the documentary film Game Over: Gender, Race, and Violence in Video Games, distributed by the Media Education Foundation. Matthew Thomas Payne is a Media Studies doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. He has served as a coordinating editor for FlowTV (www., a critical forum for television and new media culture, and is a co-editor of the anthology Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence (Routledge, forthcoming).

Joystick Soldiers

The Politics of Play in Military Video Games

Edited by Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne

First published 2010 by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2009. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to © 2010 Taylor & Francis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book

ISBN 0-203-88446-9 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN10: 0–415–99659–7 (hbk) ISBN10: 0–415–99660–0 (pbk) ISBN10: 0–203–88446–9 (ebk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–99659–4 (hbk) ISBN13: 978–0–415–99660–0 (pbk) ISBN13: 978–0–203–88446–1 (ebk)


List of Figures and Tables Foreword by Ian Bogost Acknowledgments Introduction

ix xi xv 1



Historicizing the Joystick Soldier 1. Living Room Wars: Remediation, Boardgames, and the Early History of Video Wargaming




2. Target Acquired: America’s Army and the Video Games Industry



3. Training Recruits and Conditioning Youth:The Soft Power of Military Games



Interview with James F. Dunnigan




Representing War 4. Behind the Barrel: Reading the Video Game Gun SCOTT A. LUKAS

73 75

vi Contents

5. Wargames as a New Frontier: Securing American Empire in Virtual Space



6. Future Combat, Combating Futures:Temporalities of War Video Games and the Performance of Proleptic Histories



Interview with Rachel Hardwick




Producing Pedagogical War 7. Mobilizing Affect:The Politics of Performative Realism in Military New Media




8. A Battle in Every Classroom: Gaming and the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College



9. A Battle for Hearts and Minds:The Design Politics of ELECT BiLAT



Interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski




Playing War


10. “No Better Way to ‘Experience’World War II”: Authenticity and Ideology in the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Player Communities



11. “F*ckYou, Noob Tube!”: Learning the Art of Ludic LAN War



12. Playing with Fear: Catharsis and Resistance in Military-Themed Video Games NINA B. HUNTEMANN


Contents vii PART V

Resisting War


13. Playing Against the Grain: Machinima and Military Gaming



14. “Turn the Game Console off Right Now!”:War, Subjectivity, and Control in Metal Gear Solid 2



15. Dead-in-Iraq:The Spatial Politics of Digital Game Art Activism and the In-Game Protest



Gameography List of Contributors Index

287 294 298

Figures and Tables

Figures Figure Intro.1 The Virtual Army Experience at the Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, September 2008 America’s Army arcade cabinet Figure 3.1 Figure 4.1 Screenshot from Halo (2001) Screenshot from Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six:Vegas (2007) Figure 4.2 Figure 4.3 Screenshot from Max Payne (2001) Figure 7.1 The triage room in SASO-ST. Figure 7.2 Doctor Perez in SASO-ST. Figure 9.1 Preparation room in ELECT BiLAT Figure 9.2 Negotiating with Iraqi police official Farid in ELECT BiLAT Figure 9.3 Screenshot from The ReDistricting Game (2006) Figure 13.1 Close-up on Macintyre from Deviation Counter-Strike characters are unable to lower Figure 13.2 their weapons, even when conversing Figure 13.3 “Why are we here?” (Red vs. Blue, episode 1) Figure 13.4 A soldier’s dead body “rotting in the sun for all eternity” (Red vs. Blue, episode 8) Vietnam Romance re-enactment of the death Figure 13.5 scene from Platoon Figure 14.1 A conversation between Colonel Campbell (left) and Raiden (right) in the codec interface, MGS2 MGS2: Example of opening credit’s animation using Figure 14.2 molecular diagrams that transform into names MGS2: Menu screen with molecular diagram visible Figure 14.3 on the right MSG2: Cinematic shot of the big shell where the Figure 14.4 majority of the game takes place

2 56 80 82 85 134 136 167 168 171 242 243 244 246 247 256 260 260 260

x Figures and Tables

Figure 14.5 Figure 14.6 Figure 15.1 Figure 15.2

MGS2: Dog tag embossing sequence MGS2: Example of footage of New York shown during end sequence Dead-in-Iraq, Joseph DeLappe (2006) Dead-in-Iraq, Joseph DeLappe (2006)

266 267 276 278

Tables Table 2.1 Table 4.1 Table 10.1

Video games used in U.S. military training. Video game weapons typology Support for the war in Iraq and general political attitudes of survey participants

42 79 195

Foreword Ian Bogost

We most often think of video games as an entertainment medium, one meant for leisure, distraction, or release. But there are other ways of understanding this medium. And as I argued in my book Persuasive Games, video games can make or express ideas by constructing models of how things work—or how they might work better, or differently. I called this type of argument procedural rhetoric, arguments built by modeling rules and behaviors rather than through words or images. Working under such a mode, today’s games also serve many other purposes, from enforcing an exercise regime (Wii Fit) to crafting empathy for refugees (Darfur is Dying) to advertising hamburgers (Burger King’s Sneak King) to educating potential recruits about army policies (America’s Army). How did we arrive at such a place? Let’s consider the question by analogy. History tells us that writing was born from the loins of commerce. In the fourth millennium BCE, people of the Near East used clay objects or tokens to count commodities, resources, and time as a kind of ledger, in much the same way that modern players of boardgames use tokens to represent units and resources. These tokens influenced the development of a more formal writing system, cuneiform, which appeared first in ancient Sumer by the early third millennium. By inscribing with sharpened reed into clay tablets that were later fired or sundried, the Sumerians used cuneiform to track agricultural trade, to mark property ownership, and to keep transactional and supply records. Originally pictographic, this system would develop over the next two thousand years into a complex, general, syllabic writing system used in half a dozen languages, including Akkadian, Babylonian, and Hittite. As video games evolved from tools of leisure to tools of education, industry, and art, writing did as well. Cuneiform expanded its function from accounting to other uses: first ceremonial inscription on gravestones and monuments; then records and histories of governmental, religious, and social practice; then education, specifically that of the scribal schools that taught inscription itself; then, eventually, hymns, myths, and one of the earliest known works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

xii Foreword

The origins of other media can be discussed in similar terms. We don’t fully understand the purpose of prehistoric cave and rock paintings, but their uses seem to have been ceremonial. Religious and cult applications have remained an important use of painting up through the present, although many other uses have emerged, from self-expression to advertising.Yet as history has progressed, the functional origins of new media become more complex. Film serves purposes similar to painting and theater, forms with histories millennia old themselves, but it also owes much to photography and industrial machinery, much newer practices which had already been put to use in far more varied ways than had writing at the time of Babylon. Video games too have a complex functional phylogeny. For one part, they emerge from cult tradition. The Royal Game of Ur, a game nearly as old as the cuneiform script its Sumerian players used, seems to have had ceremonial uses, although its exact purpose is unclear. The Indian game Moksha-Patamu (more familiar today as Snakes and Ladders) taught principles of Hindu, including reincarnation and the ascent to Nirvana. For another part, video games emerged from parlor and lawn games, which became popular during the Victorian era as a common leisure activity of the upper classes. Before cinema, radio, and television filled our downtime, gentlemen and ladies enjoyed parlor games like billiards, lawn games like croquet, and table games both old (Draughts) and new (Tiddlywinks). Some parlor games, including dominoes, billiards, and darts, became popular in taverns and inns, thus creating the tradition of pub games that led, eventually, to pinball and coin-op arcade video games. For yet another part, video games emerged from early experiments in computing, as researchers tried to figure out what acts they could make their mainframes and displays perform (often off-hours, since space wars were not necessarily endorsed uses of expensive time-sharing systems). Many early experiments in artificial intelligence, including A.S. Douglas’s 1952 implementation of a Noughts and Crosses opponent on the EDSAC computer, were adaptations of familiar parlor games. There are more influences, too: video games emerged partly from games of chance, a tradition that extends from the knucklebones of antiquity well past the midway games that inspired Nolan Bushnell to turn Tennis for Two into Pong. And video games emerged partly from games of skill, whether those be puzzles like crosswords, riddles like rhymed charades, or sport. But one source of inspiration for video games deserves particular attention: war. Just as commercial interest was instrumental in the progress of writing, so military interest was instrumental in the progress of video games. Weiqi or Go may have had its origins in a kind of practice battlefield or fortune-telling device for generals. Battle-themed tabletop games like Xiangqi and Chess have clearer military inspiration. And as Sebastian Deterding discusses in this volume, war and games

Foreword xiii

have become ever more intertwined since World War II, thanks both to the commercialization of wartime technologies (including the system that would become the Internet), and the technological mediation of war itself. A further conflation of influences ties war and games together just as the computer becomes viable (at least for research labs and universities) in the 1960s. Steve Russell and others created the first non-parlor, non-sport-inspired computer game in 1962. As its title implies, Spacewar! was a space combat simulator that pitted two human opponents against each other in the depths of space, at least insofar as a PDP-1 was capable of simulating such a thing and a CRT display was capable of rendering it. Spacewar! inspired innumerable revisions and reimaginings, from Atari founder Nolan Bushnell’s coin-op Computer Space to the first Japanese coin-op hit Space Invaders to more modern shooters like Galaga to games of today like Jeff Minter’s Space Giraffe. Meanwhile, only a few years before Russell and his cronies began tinkering in MIT’s computer labs, J.R.R.Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy had been published, establishing the genre of high fantasy fiction, a style founded on great military campaigns that pitted good against evil.Tolkein’s work would influence tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons at the same time as a new generation of military tabletop games emerged. The willing conflation of military unit movement, strategy, and fantasy would prove instrumental in the evolution of another popular video game genre, when Don Woods modified Wil Crowther’s text-based spelunking game Colossal Cave Adventure into what would become known simply as Adventure, the first dungeon-crawler.Warren Robinett’s creative graphical adaptation of this text-only game for the Atari Video Computer System in 1979 (his was also called Adventure) ushered in the genre of the action adventure, a type of game that remains among the most popular today. Indeed, the most common gameplay verbs from the earliest days of video games through today have remained curiously similar: fire, bomb, swing, punch, kick. Meanwhile, the U.S. military had been investing in role-play scenario training and, as machinery became more complex, full-scale equipment simulation since Vannevar Bush reformed military research in the 1940s. In 1980, the U.S. Army got into video games directly, hiring then-king of the industry Atari to modify the latter’s popular 3D vector tank game Battlezone into Bradley Trainer, a tool for training soldiers on the Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This artifact might also be responsible for the first important example of video game war resistance: Atari engineer Ed Rotberg, who had programmed the Battlezone coin-op, reportedly worked on the project under great personal dissatisfaction. Many engineers of the time had been youth during the counter-culture movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and they were more likely than their predecessors to let political opinions drive their professional decisions. But despite Rotberg’s reluctance, those at Atari who supported the Bradley Trainer project offered justifications very similar

xiv Foreword

to those described by Randy Nichols and Elizabeth Losh in this volume: if a game could improve soldiers’ safety, perhaps there was no harm in creating it. The military’s investment in video games continued intermittently after Bradley Trainer, including a 1997 modification of then-current first-person shooter Doom II for the U.S. Marines and, of course, the popular recruitment and communication game America’s Army, discussed extensively in this collection. Six millennia after the ancient Sumerians, writing remains useful for recording wheat harvested or dates traded.We still use writing for such purposes and many more, even if our method of written inscription has changed from reed on clay to ink on paper to magnetic recording on tape or disk. Understanding the origins of writing helps give perspective on how that method of inscription has influenced human experience. Such an understanding also helps us question and critique assumptions about received ideas. In the case of writing, two famous examples come to mind: Jacques Derrida’s demonstration that speech is no closer to truth than writing, and Marshall McLuhan’s argument that alphabetic writing and the printing press altered social values toward rationalism and away from communalism. The same can be said for this volume, which both embraces and resists the role of militarism in video games, and in so doing shows how the two have been, and become, stalwart brothers in arms, opponents in battles both real and rhetorical, and rebellious dissidents in one another’s causes.


The anthology before you is the brainchild of a Video Games panel convened at the 2007 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Chicago, Illinois. The editors thank the panel’s presenters and attendees for inspiring them to embark on this adventure, and Matt and Nina are deeply appreciative of each other’s patience and tireless work ethic throughout their long but always pleasant collaboration. The editors are likewise grateful to the contributors who appear in this collection for their thoughtful work and enthusiasm as well as the smooth processes of revisions and copyediting. The editors thank Matt Byrnie and Stan Spring at Routledge for recognizing the value of this collection and steering it through the publication process. For their generosity of time and willingness to share their insight, the editors thank James Dunnigan, Rachel Hardwick, and Colonel Casey Wardynski for granting the interviews that appear in this collection.The editors are also grateful to Mike Fleisch ( for volunteering at the eleventh hour to produce a compelling cover illustration. A special thanks to Ian Bogost who carved out time during his very full schedule to read the working manuscript of this book. The editors are honored that his words begin this collection. Nina thanks the College of Arts & Sciences at Suffolk University for a summer writing grant that assisted in the development of this collection. She also looks forward to returning the many favors owed to her colleagues in the Department of Communication and Journalism who graciously supported her need for time away from administrative obligations during the process of editing.Thanks as well to Ronit Ridberg for her expedient and error-free transcription services of the Dunnigan and Wardynski interviews. Matt is extremely grateful for the research support he has received from the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. In particular, he thanks Sharon Strover and Laura Stein for feedback on material found in the introduction, and appreciates that Joseph Straubhaar, Kathleen Tyner, and Michael

xvi Acknowledgments

Kackman always made time to discuss his projects. Finally, this anthology would not have happened without the unerring support of his life partner, Joanna Jefferson. The editors gratefully acknowledge the University of Toronto Press and the University of California Press for granting permission to reprint in this collection portions of the following publications: Chien, I. (2007). Deviation Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles. Film Quarterly, 60(4): 24–29. Leonard, D. (2004). Unsettling the Military Entertainment Complex: Video Games and a Pedagogy of Peace. Simile, 4(4).

Introduction Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne

The headline event at the Great State of Maine Air Show one gray Saturday afternoon in September of 2008 was an anticipated appearance by the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. But the widely recognized blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets were not to fly that day because of inclement weather. News of this cancelation did not dampen the spirits of the hundreds of visitors to the last remaining active-duty Defense Department airfield in the northeast, the Naval Air Station Brunswick. As the rain fell and some families headed back to the massive parking lot to search for their cars, many remained to hold their spots in a very long line. For these air show attendees, the main event was not in the sky but in a 19,500 square-foot structure that housed more than 70 flat screen display monitors and over 75 computers with 260 gigabytes of processing power connected by five miles of data cables:The desert camouflage beige 5,200-pound inflatable dome protecting this audacious display of digital technology from the elements announces to the soggy queue of mostly boys and men that they are waiting to enter the Virtual Army Experience (VAE). Created in 2007, the VAE is akin to a mobile amusement park ride and is described by the U.S. Army as “the America’s Army computer game, rendered with state-of-the-artArmy training simulation technology to create a life-size, networked virtual world” (VAE fact sheet, 2008).The simulation technology on hand consists of six modified Humvees equipped with M4 Rifles or M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, and two partial UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.The software that runs the VAE is based on America’s Army, the popular computer and console game franchise developed by the U.S. Army and first released in 2002 in order to boost recruitment. Like a popular rock band, for 15 months in 2007 and 2008 the VAE was on tour, stopping at air shows, amusement parks, NASCAR races, and music festivals across the country. And wherever the VAE played, people lined up to get inside. After more than a year on the road, the VAE had entertained 145,000 visitors. Upon finally entering the building and providing contact information to an in-take officer in the Registration Trailer, anxious visitors to the VAE warm up their

2 Introduction

Figure 1 The Virtual Army Experience at the Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, September 2008

skills on the latest America’s Army Xbox 360 or PC game. Proceeding from the game room, a dozen or so visitors at a time are briefed on the virtual rescue mission at the Joint Operations Center by a subject matter expert, who is often a former soldier. From there visitors are assigned roles and moved to the central simulation room, which is large, loud and dimly lit. Reminiscent of 1980s video arcades but on an increased scale only science fiction could have then imagined, the central simulation room is a phantasmagoria of video, audio, and haptic input.The vehicles buck and jolt over virtual terrain, the guns blast and rat-a-tat-tat at enemy combatants, and the theatric-sized screens that surround players on three sides flare with explosions and return fire.The entire experience lasts less than half an hour, only about 15 minutes of which is spent in the simulation. The effect, however, is nothing less than riveting—an adrenaline rush impossible to duplicate on the console system in your living room. It is no wonder the advertising and promotions industry has heralded the VAE as an exemplar in experiential marketing: no one will easily forget the experience or the brand behind it (Event design award winners, 2007). The Army’s foray into combing mediated play and military marketing did not end when the Virtual Army Experience tour closed in November of 2008.A similar but far more permanent facility opened its doors just a few months earlier. The Army Experience Center, modeled on the VAE, is located not on an air base fated

Introduction 3

for closure but in a suburban Philadelphia mall not far from stores like Banana Republic, Nike, and JC Penney. At the Army Experience Center, mall-goers of at least 13 years of age can enter the military-sanctioned gaming and simulation space with food court snack in hand and, according to the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren,“virtually experience many aspects of the Army” (AEC press release, 2008). Placing the Army’s latest “state-of-the-art education facility,” which was funded by public money (taxes), inside a private, commercial space fosters an intimately commodified relationship not only between the military and its would-be soldiers but between all civilians. In tandem, the Virtual Army Experience road show and the Army Experience Center’s new garrison in a suburban mall perhaps best represent the current and future state of mediated military might, as well as the key concerns of this collection. The grounded Blue Angels and the regiment of decommissioned bombers, jets, and tanks parked at the Brunswick airfield embody the customary manner in which we have experienced military-sanctioned entertainment for centuries—namely, as spectators. Indeed, symbolic exhibitions of martial power like the Great State of Maine Air Show are as old as pro-war films, military parades, and even fireworks. But the participatory spirit that fuels new media experiments like the Virtual Army Experience, the information and communication technologies that undergird these and similar media artifacts, and their unique contexts of play engender a militarized experience of a qualitatively different order than war movies or air shows. That is, instead of watching military professionals execute their routines and maneuvers from a distance, civilians are invited to play the military, using the very same technologies, tactics, and discourse employed by the Armed Forces in simulated and, more pointedly, real contexts. Moving from spectator to participant, from detached spectacle to immersive experience, has far-reaching implications for how citizens imagine the role of the military in contemporary society.We believe there is no media artifact that better illustrates the convergence of interactive media and national defense interests than the military video game. As the following brief and incomplete history attests, the interrelated processes of crafting, selling, and playing today’s military games have a digital heritage that predates the Army’s most recent experiments in 21st-century marketing by nearly half a century, and an analog ancestry that goes back a millennium. Video Games and the Military-Entertainment Complex Media and history of technology scholars have carefully documented the points of convergence between the U.S. military, private technology firms, and entertainment companies in the production matrix known as the “military-entertainment

4 Introduction

complex” that coalesced during the post-Cold War years (see Herz, 1997; Lenoir, 2000; Stockwell and Muir, 2003).While video games are a relatively new media form and are attracting scholarly attention from a range of disciplines, games are but a recent technological innovation with roots in a centuries-old defense culture. As historian and philosopher Manuel De Landa (1999) notes, “Given that modern technology has evolved in such a world of interacting economic, political, and military institutions, it should not come as a surprise that the history of computers, computer networks, artificial intelligence, and other components of contemporary technology is so thoroughly intertwined with military history” (p. 321).And video game historian J.C. Herz (1997) reminds us that the military’s contributions to video gaming are embedded in the very material fabric of the earliest of game technologies. She states: Lockheed Martin may be beating digital ploughshares into swords, but most of the technology that’s now used in videogames had its origins in military research.When you trace back the patents, it’s virtually impossible to find an arcade or console component that evolved in the absence of a Defense Department grant. It’s very easy to forget, when you’re contentedly playing with say, a Game Boy, that the twenty-year-old technology in its silicon guts was originally financed by the Pentagon. (p. 205) A quick survey of the world’s first video games will highlight these intra-industry connections. As is sometimes the case with “origin” stories, there is debate concerning video games’ precise moment of genesis. Were video games first created in an MIT lab when Steve Russell and his cohort developed Spacewar! for the PDP-1 computer in 1962? Did the first game emerge four years prior, in 1958, when American physicist William Higinbotham designed Tennis for Two (a.k.a. Tennis Programming) for an oscilloscope? Should Nolan Bushnell’s 1972 classic Pong, the first arcade coin-op game to gobble quarters on a grand scale (popularly commoditizing the gameplay experience) be the official “first”? Or, does Ralph Baer’s 1972 Odyssey home game console, which was the first system widely manufactured for domestic use on television sets, deserve the title of the “first” video game? The origins debate rests largely on the criteria one selects to define a proper video game or gaming experience.With respect to the aforementioned examples: Is it the opportunity for electronically mediated play? Must the experience be packaged and sold as a commodity? Does video gaming require a television set or avatars?Yet irrespective of where one comes down on these questions, the curious and consequential fact remains that an operative force in all of these gaming

Introduction 5

instances is the U.S. science and military communities.To wit, Higinbotham, who had worked on the first atomic bomb, was at Brookhaven National Labs when he designed Tennis for Two. Russell et al.’s Spacewar! was designed as a fun diversion from work in their DARPA-funded MIT lab. Baer worked for Sanders Electronics, a defense contractor, when he designed the Odyssey.And before bringing Pong to bars and arcades, Bushnell was enrolled at the University of Utah’s computer science department—a department that had secured numerous government grants for research in computer graphics. Imbricated in the production histories of all of these diversionary games are larger institutional forces, most of which are either directly connected to, or are but a step removed from, national defense interests and its considerable financial largess. During video gaming’s early years, the Pentagon functioned principally as a financier of military games, backing only a few select projects. The creation of Bradley Trainer is commonly cited as the instance best epitomizing the military’s early but uneven collaboration with the commercial gaming sector (see Kent, 2000; Halter, 2006). Atari’s well-received arcade tank shooter Battlezone (1980), noteworthy for its vector display and Spartan 3D universe (it was also among the first first-person shooter games), is an early instance of a video game moving from the commercial arcade to a military training facility.This project was not without its professional collateral damage, however. As Ian Bogost observes in this collection’s Foreword, the game’s lead designer Ed Rotberg left Atari shortly after completing Bradley Trainer, citing the firm’s dubious association with the military and its inhuman work schedule as primary reasons for his departure. Rotberg’s protests aside, the Battlezone project helped usher in an era where video games became “a ticket to virtual military jockdom” (Herz, 1997, p. 16). The Pentagon arguably “evolved” from being a more hands-off backer of game technologies into a considerably more active game producer with the emergence of the military-entertainment complex. Generally speaking, this amorphous hyphenate refers to the commercial and non-commercial linkages between the military sector and its defense firms, and the entertainment industry and its media and software companies.These associations run the gamut from Hollywood films, to “serious games” for military training, to computer-based war modeling software, to theme park rides, to TV programming about war and the armed forces (see Turse [2008] for a laundry list of the complex’s wide-ranging products).The sheer variety of entertainment goods complicates efforts to produce an easy roadmap of this network.Thus, unlike the military-industrial complex which describes the nexus of power and influence between defense contractors, the military, and lawmakers post-World War II, the military-entertainment complex is a post-Cold War phenomenon that enjoys considerably more opaque linkages between its numerous constituents, and generates texts that blur the line between entertainment and militarism.

6 Introduction

Exploiting Industrial Synergies The end of the Cold War brought with it significant changes for the U.S. military. To name but a few of these changes: During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the military’s simulation and gaming projects migrated from the periphery to the center of its training efforts; it exercised dramatically increased levels of influence and control over the creation of its games; and it aggressively exploited associations with its partner industries both young (i.e., software and computer firms) and old (i.e., defense manufacturers). As these production changes were unfolding, the more rigid but transparent military-industrial complex began to dissipate as a result of the Pentagon’s shifting procurement policies (e.g., the Federal Acquisitions Streamlining Act of 1994), its changing defense concerns (e.g., terrorist organizations and increased episodes of low-intensity warfare), and its belief in the efficacy of simulation and information communication technologies to mitigate U.S. losses of “blood and treasure.” The U.S.’s success in the Persian Gulf War (1990–1991), or the first “Nintendo War” as some journalists labeled it, encouraged Pentagon officials to view high-end communication and simulation wares as a veritable panacea for the Vietnam Syndrome, or the lack of popular, political will that attends wars believed to be lost causes. For all of the aforementioned reasons, the Defense Department moved away from its “historical reliance on contracting with dedicated segments of the U.S. technology and industrial base” (Lenoir, 2002–2003, p. 14). Instead, according to Stephen Kline et al.: Today, in the flexible, numerically downsized, partially privatized, but very high-tech organization of the post-Fordist military, Pentagon simulation makers constantly transfer technologies to commercial game making, while the military frequently contracts services from, adapts the products of, or enters into commercial co-development partnerships with civilian industry— making interactive gaming the most persuasive instance of what has been labeled the “military-entertainment complex.” (2003, p. 180) The rationale for these cross-industry partnerships is at least threefold. In its influential Modeling and Simulation:Linking Entertainment and Defense (1997), the National Research Council, the working arm of the United States National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences, found that the Department of Defense and interactive firms share many of the same simulationrelated needs, even if their ultimate institutional goals are appreciably different. Proponents of the symbiosis between these sectors (see Capps et al., 2001; Macedonia, 2002a, 2002b, 2005; Zyda et al., 2003; and the magazine, National Defense) typically forward three arguments for connecting these industries.

Introduction 7

First, defense and software firms are said to share common technological resources. The Pentagon and private interactive companies now benefit from a bi-directional flow of specialist personnel, a need to access similar gaming technologies, and a desire to exploit the other’s brand image. “The military can get a state-of-the-art system without spending years in development, while the licensing [networked interactive entertainment] company often sees military use of its product as a way to get its merchandise and technology exposed to a new group of people and thereby increase its market share” (Capps et al., 2001, p. 38). When the private sector’s computing and graphics capabilities surpassed the Defense Department’s in-house abilities in the mid-1990s, the private sector’s standards became the de facto military standards (see Maguire et al., 2003, p. 8). Second, both video game companies and the military fill their ranks with similar recruits. In other words, game firms need young wargamers, just as the Pentagon needs young warfighters.The military and interactive companies thus see the need to present a uniform gaming experience to the so-called “games generation” (Maguire et al., 2003, p. 5).This uniform gaming experience is described as having interactive texts that are immersive, realistic, and easy to use. Proponents of this tightening relationship argue accordingly that design, interface, and ludic elements should be standardized across platforms to guarantee that the “military’s virtual training experiences . . . compare favorably to the entertainment industry’s game experiences” (Capps et al., 2001, p. 37). Referring to the use of military games, simulation officer and Marine Lieutenant Scott Barnett adds, “Kids who join the Marines today grew up with TV, videogames, and computers. So we thought, how can we educate them, how can we engage them and make them want to learn? This [union] is perfect” (qtd. in Riddell, 1997, n.p.). It is no surprise then that games like America’s Army aim to fulfill expectations common to the first-person shooter genre, even if it deviates from standard shooters in important ways by injecting doctrinal “procedural rhetoric” (to use Ian Bogost’s term [2007]) into the gaming experience. The third mutual point of agreement between these sectors is the high financial demands of new media technologies.That is, while simulations save the military disaffection and capital by not risking lives and equipment, constructing, connecting, and maintaining virtual worlds is not a cheap endeavor,1 and the substantial price of hardware, software, and human ingenuity impact all organizations’ bottom lines.The Pentagon’s simulation bill is simply staggering, as recent figures demonstrate. For example, in a 2002–2003 article, technology historian Timothy Lenoir states,“the simulation budget . . . constitutes 10 percent of the U.S. military spending” (p. 14). The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), one of the Army’s lead research and development groups, will itself manage a $17.58 billion project over ten years, which is “perhaps the largest [contract] of its type ever issued by any

8 Introduction

U.S. military training agency to date” (Weirauch, 2008, p. 26). Given the perceived efficacy of digital games and simulators for the military’s training needs, the simulation budget will likely remain a significant part of the now $550+ billion annual layout for defense spending (Turse, 2008, p. 140). Despite these considerable sums, the military’s synergizing efforts are producing notable economic and symbolic dividends.The project leader for America’s Army, Colonel Casey Wardynski—who has been interviewed for this anthology—reports that, excluding the license fee for the game engine, the freely downloadable PC game costs the military only around $2.5 million per year to maintain, which includes its “initial development, the Website, running some game servers, updating the software and adding new missions, and support” (Tochen, 2005, n.p.). The game platform is proving to have additional cost-saving benefits for the military’s training and simulation budgets as well. As Wardynski explains in this collection’s interview, America’s Army is cheap to modify in order to fit the training needs of divisions inside the Army, other Armed Forces organizations, and State and local government first responder programs.This shift to in-house development challenges a well-established paradigm that ties the military to the proprietary software of private contractors. More critically, the game is a clear winner for the Army’s advertising and marketing metric (a “costs per person hour” calculator) since the game “delivers a cost per person of 10 cents, versus $5 to $8 for TV” (ibid.). It is little wonder, then, that Wardynski refers to the project not as a game, which has connotations of frivolity and triviality, but as a finely crafted piece of “strategic communication.” In addition to these three major economic and human resource justifications, let us not forget that game firms are likewise attracted to partnering with the military because they too perceive opportunities to profit from the military’s status as the world’s preeminent war machine.The U.S. saw a record high $9.5 billion spent on computer and video games in 2007 (ESA). The America’s Army website receives an average of 444,041 unique vists per month and the game has been downloaded over 43 million times since its launch on American Independence Day, 2002 (Mezoff, 2009). Game companies will likely continue to battle for a piece of the military’s brand, which is unquestionably one of the organization’s most valued symbolic resources. Military Modding The rise of the modification (or “mod”) game culture in the early 1990s presented a challenge and a boon to the video game industry that continues to this day. Game modding is a practice where players change one or more elements of a video game or gaming hardware, including (but not limited to) the game’s maps, audio files, and skins (the avatar’s appearance) so as to customize their experience or make

Introduction 9

political commentary (see Galloway, 2006; Lowood, 2008). Game researcher and journalist David Nieborg (2005), whose work appears in this volume, argues: by producing additional or replaceable game content, the agency of gamers goes beyond the mere interaction with the text itself. Gamers are able to change almost any aspect of gameplay of many [first-person shooter] games and by doing so, taking their agency to another level, rivaling but also cooperating with the culture industry. (p. 4) Not one to miss out on an inexpensive training opportunity, the Armed Forces officially joined the mod community in 1996 when the U.S. Marine Corps produced Marine Doom by altering the commercial off-the-shelf PC game Doom II (1994). Their mod transformed the high-octane, commercial first-person shooter into a communication-rich, tactical squad game (Richard, 1999, p. 341). Specifically, Marine Doom “taught concepts like properly sequencing an attack, protecting the rifleman, conserving ammunition, and observing the chain of command” (Macedonia, 2002a, p. 35).The significant modification of Doom II’s game mechanics in concert with how it was played by the Marines effectively changed the game from a first-person shooter into a tactical shooter.The success of Marine Doom as a quasitraining tool opened the military’s eyes to a wide range of commercial off-the-shelf in-house game development options. “In this environment the military has readily adopted a number of commercial simulations for its school curriculums and unity training.These simulations are used for a variety of purposes, such as understanding political strategy, exploring unit tactics, and learning command and control concepts” (Macedonia, 2002b, p. 7). During the intervening years, some commercial off-the-shelf titles have been dramatically modded to meet particular military specifications, while others have seen little to no change. Contrary to the participatory spirit that has fueled much of the mod community’s amateur development practices, the military has been reticent to release any editing tools for its branded products. It stands to reason that the military wants to keep its simulated wares under digital lock and key, even as it continues to benefit from an enthusiastic gaming community. Timothy Lenoir rightly questions the long-term viability of the defense community’s strategy of locking gamers out of their titles’ representational and ludic content. Speaking of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, a research division that develops military and education technologies such as the commercial tactical squad trainer Full Spectrum Warrior (2004), Lenoir states, the institute “has not followed the game-industry strategy of opening its game editor and level design software to the mod-developer community, but if their intent is truly to leverage the commercial market for military interests in the new era of

10 Introduction

cyberwarfare, that step cannot be far behind” (2002–2003, p. 16). Seemingly heeding Lenoir’s point, the Army recently released a level editor for America’s Army (the “AA Missions Editor”).Yet this tool has been criticized for being too restrictive (i.e., it does not give modders precise enough editing tools), and for requiring gamers to submit their user-created content to a review process before it is posted for public consumption.The Army appears to be gradually opening its game to its fans, though not at a speed or to a degree that some gamers would like. Perhaps America’s Army 3.0 (2009), which is slated for release after the writing of this Introduction, will offer gamers more sophisticated modding tools. Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games This collection emerges from the intersection of several key moments in U.S. history and culture. First and foremost, since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, the discourses of war and militarism have permeated nearly every aspect of contemporary life, finding pronounced expression in entertainment media.The publication of military-themed video games has increased since 2001, with a significant portion of these games focusing on terrorist/counter-terrorist conflict. For the U.S. military, the events of and following 9/11 hastened a shift occurring within the armed forces about how to better train and equip its soldiers for the realities of modern warfare. Part of this shift included renewing long-held relationships and creating additional partnerships with the entertainment sector, particularly film and video game companies. Simultaneously, academic attention to video games has increased, evidenced by the surge in books, journals, conferences, and professional organizations dedicated to game studies. However, no academic book has yet investigated the nexus between militarism and video games, focusing on what it means to produce and play military and war video games. Joystick Soldiers fills this void by exploring the multifaceted cultural, social, and economic linkages between video games and the military from a diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Over its fifteen chapters and three original interviews, the collection answers the interrelated questions of how war and the military are fictionalized and mythologized, how combat becomes remediated for a gameplaying public, and what it means to play past, current, and future conflicts. We elected not to orient the collection toward one discernible ideological perspective, methodological approach, or disciplinary tradition, so as to encourage a conversation among designers, players, scholars, military personnel, critics, and fans about the complex and complicated meaning of war video games. As academics and gameplayers ourselves, we are perpetually working on and teaching through the ideological and ethical implications of war video games.With authors

Introduction 11

from different academic disciplines, countries, and industries who assess various moments and components of video wargames, this collection represents our intention to share the breadth of concerns we have faced together at conferences, and independently in our research and in our classrooms. As a contribution to game studies, we hope that this book challenges game researchers to think past game mechanics and storylines when considering the implications of games and culture. Ludology and narratology have an essential place within larger textual histories, but this collection is motivated by, and logically organized according to, a critical commitment that extends beyond close readings of game rules, aesthetic design, and narratives.This editorial decision is no refutation of textual analyses (indeed, we are pleased with the close readings included herein), but is instead an aspiration to unpack military games from a variety of methodological positions that make sense of military-themed video games’ historical, political, economic, production, and play contexts. Readers may also note the lack of “media effects” research in this volume.While there may be several reasons for this, including the dearth of submissions received in this area, the bulk of media effects research on video games does not consider military-themed games as a significantly different artifact from, for example, urban-based mafia or gang-related games.Thus, the effects of violence on players in the Medal of Honor series are measured within the same scheme as violence in the Grand Theft Auto series. As this collection attests, military-themed games are a discrete type of game, perhaps a genre with many subgenres, which deserves particular attention because of the themes addressed in war video games, and the global contexts within which the games are created and played. Part I: Historicizing the Joystick Soldier It is fitting to begin this collection with a genealogy of wargames that traces the contemporary digital version of military-themed games back to the vibrant and creative board wargame developers of the post-WWII era.Though an exhaustive history would fill the pages of this book, Sebastian Deterding’s account, which starts in the late eighteenth century with Christian Ludwig Hellwig’s Kriegsspiel, highlights key developments in commercial wargaming, acknowledging its military ties, technological innovations, and hobbyist roots. Using the lens of Bolter and Grusin’s (2000) theory of remediation, Deterding explains how contemporary video wargames reveal the links to their cardboard predecessors through the aesthetic conventions, gameplay mechanics, and ideological assumptions present in today’s digital incarnations. Randy Nichols’s contribution examines the production history of America’s Army and locates the game within a rapidly widening global market. This freely distributed PC game makes for a particularly fascinating case study because of its

12 Introduction

multifaceted utility as an adverting, recruiting, and training device. Yet while America’s Army is unquestionably a remarkable achievement, it is hardly alone. Nichols discusses the industrial and economic logics that fuel similar collaborative ventures between the armed forces and interactive firms, generally. More importantly, though, the author explores what this intra-industry synergetic collaboration means for its gaming public. David Nieborg’s chapter investigates America’s Army, considered by many to be the military-entertainment complex’s pièce de résistance, as an adaptive and interactive propaganda platform in a wider U.S. strategic communication campaign aimed at cultivating favorable attitudes towards the military and garnering support for military interventions.As a collection of games, action figures, apparel, arcade and amusement products, America’s Army is significantly different from and more influential than previous war entertainment artifacts that passively address viewers. By inviting players into an engaging, branded virtual world, Nieborg argues this soft-power approach effectively taps into popular culture by becoming culturally popular and taking advantage of existing trans-media production networks such as online gaming communities, fan sites, and collaborative play. The final chapter in this first section is an interview with James Dunnigan, a prominent figure during the vibrant years (late 1960s to late 1980s) of U.S. war boardgaming. Dunnigan most famously in 1969 founded Simulation Publications, Inc., which published the top-selling wargame hobby magazine, Strategy & Tactics, and was responsible for distributing (along with rival Avalon Hill) the majority of war boardgames available in the U.S. As a designer, Dunnigan also created many well-known games including the best-selling PanzerBlitz (1970). In this interview, Dunnigan recounts the lesser-known history of SPI’s foundation and demise, the tension between the wargame hobbyists (grognards) and “casual” gamers, latenight gaming sessions in a Manhattan basement, and the inevitable passing of war boardgames to video games. Part II: Representing War The first contribution to the Representing War section examines what is arguably the foremost emblem, if not the main character, of innumerable video games across genres—the virtual gun. The gun is a cultural signifier of profound impact, according to Scott Lukas, because it is so deeply embedded into contentious debates ranging from delinquency to violence, to identity politics, to virtuality. With the aid of survey data and a rich textual history, Lukas challenges anti-gaming critics’ reductive analyses that conflate and stigmatize all virtual guns without attending to their narrative, gameplay, or social contexts. Instead, Lukas finds that the virtual gun functions for video gamers as a semiotic vessel whose meaning, while often problematic, changes with its play context. Only by attending to the

Introduction 13

difficulty of the virtual gun’s contingent signification can we appreciate how it reflects diverse issues of representation, gamer agency and meaning-making, as well as worldly violence. Richard King and David Leonard argue that video games participate in creating mental maps for citizens who will never step foot in places where the U.S. military trek, and, in doing so, depopulate the landscape of civilians while painting the environment as barren, lawless, and in need of foreign intervention. As such, the colonization by U.S. forces of spaces and places highlighted in military video games, namely the Middle East, becomes normalized, rationalized, and justified in the “real” Global War on Terror. To counter this ideological assumption, the authors propose a critical pedagogy that uses Edward Soja’s (1996) concept of Thirdspace to draw attention to the inseparable relationship between the imagined spaces of video games and real-time spaces of warfare. Bringing a critical performance studies approach to bear on game studies, Josh Smicker analyzes the differing ways in which military video games’ representations of history and futurity support the Pentagon’s current and emergent weapons systems, and contribute to the militarization of everyday life. Smicker’s three-part typology of historic wargames—re-enactment, revisionist, and proleptic—offers a productive lens for understanding how these games’ differing narratives and gameplay logics position the player to experience a “historically accurate” patriotic conflict (re-enactment); revisit lost battles so they can be resolved differently and thereby contain any resulting cultural trauma (revisionist); or take up techno-arms in near-future, postmodern warfare that justifies a discourse of inevitable military preemption and intervention, effectively foreclosing the possibility of peace (proleptic). In the collection’s second original interview, video game producer Rachel Hardwick discusses the creative and logistical steps behind bringing the America’s Army experience to a home game console. America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier (2005) for the Microsoft Xbox was the first for-profit sequel to the freely downloadable PC project, and it required a close working relationship between the Army’s content experts and the game’s private development experts. Hardwick explains how her team brought the Army’s vision to fruition, the challenges of working within unconventional design constraints, and how she understands the title’s role within the wider textual universe of military games. Part III: Producing Pedagogical War The first chapter in this section travels to a demonstration room at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies for a peek at how the entertainment industry, the military, and computer programmers strive for verisimilitude in interactive simulations for training military personnel.

14 Introduction

Specifically, Dan Leopard observes the attempt to model emotional content in order to create “preformative realism” that, like the final battle in Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction novel Ender’s Game (1985), strives to erase the distinction between the virtual and the real.The author argues that while the ultimate goal is perfectly simulated human interaction, the current result is a fairly narrow and reductive representation of human behavior. Jeff Leser and James Sterrett’s co-authored contribution offers an insider’s view on the efficacies of using simulations for training students at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College.These military educators explain the evaluative criteria by which games are selected, how these technologies are applied in the classroom, and the pedagogical ends they serve.The authors contend that strategic games such as Decisive Action (2001) and TacOpsCav (1999) not only have significant financial benefits (e.g., reduced overhead) but, more importantly, allow students to participate in decision-making exercises where they can learn from their tactical errors without incurring the all-too-real costs of actual combat mistakes. In Chapter 9, Elizabeth Losh closely examines the production discourse around the design of ELECT BiLAT, a government-funded ICT software product that trains Army personnel to conduct successful negotiations with key Iraqi power brokers. Employing a media archeology approach, Losh sheds light on the complex and often contentious design process that is usually erased from the final project’s mythology. In doing so, Losh crafts an important production history, which challenges assumptions that civilian personnel who work on military projects do so as either dupes or greedy creatives.The debates that occur during production reflect the concerns and anxieties about applying video game and simulation technologies to military missions that are present in critical analyses of the militaryentertainment complex. Completing Part III is the third original interview included in Joystick Soldiers, featuring U.S.Army Colonel Casey Wardynski, project originator and director of the America’s Army project. Facing decreasing enlistment into the Armed Forces at end of the 1990s,Wardynski and his team at the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy created an innovative and, arguably, controversial campaign for convincing young people to join the Army. In this interview Wardynski discusses the development of the first America’s Army game and its subsequent far-reaching influence on how the Army now thinks about brand management and community outreach, and its diminishing reliance on private sector contractors for training and simulation materials. Part IV: Playing War Joel Penney takes on the under-examined assumption that the extremely popular genre of the World War II video game operates as uniformly pro-military

Introduction 15

propaganda in the minds of its users. After comparing the survey responses of World War II and science-fiction video game fan communities, Penney finds that the presence or absence of realistic, historical content affects how players generate meaning. In particular, science-fiction gamers tend to emphasize the importance of novelty and escape, whereas the World War II group are predominantly attracted to their preferred genre’s historical authenticity. Penney’s analysis is a preliminary but much-needed step towards assessing players’ complex political relationships with their video games. In the second chapter on players, Matthew Thomas Payne reports on his participant observations of a gaming center to explore the social codes and conventions present in a commercial play space. Payne’s ethnography finds that the dynamic gaming environment is shaped as much by the war-oriented texts as it is by the devoted players who frequent the gaming center. The “ludic war” experience that Payne details highlights how militarism and gaming technologies influence play behavior that dominates a semi-public, shared play space. Nina Huntemann’s contribution examines, through focus group and participant observation, the meanings video game players create and share about the warthemed games they play, and the real world contexts from which the games’ narratives are drawn. Huntemann finds that military video games operate as a cathartic outlet for players’ fears about personal and national security and provide a degree of empowerment through virtual participation in a war that often leaves players feeling, in the real world, powerless. Part V: Resisting War In the collection’s first chapter on gaming resistance, Irene Chien analyzes how the emergent art form of machinima (a portmanteau of the words “machine” and “cinema”) offers gamers-turned-filmmakers a new media expression for opposing military game culture. By transforming war gameplay into short films about war— effectively changing the participatory play of wargames into a non-interactive narrative about war—machinima-makers can critique wargames’ manifold pleasures of death and destruction. Chien argues that it is the self-reflexive nature of machinima as a video game-based art that grants it particular potency as a form of anti-war resistance. Tanner Higgin examines how Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) offers a resistant and subversive counter-history of military engagement. Ostensibly an action-espionage game, Metal Gear Solid 2 glorifies combat and violence, even as its convoluted narrative and unconventional gameplay logics critique the very networks of biopolitical and informational control that comprise the postmodern military, and posthumanity generally. The game purposefully manufactures frustration and negative affect, according to Higgin, to highlight

16 Introduction

the typically unexamined codes, conventions, and hidden pleasures of the military game genre. In the collection’s final chapter, Dean Chan examines performance artist Joseph DeLappe’s ongoing and hotly debated in-game protest project, Dead-in-Iraq, in which DeLappe enters an America’s Army game server, lays down his virtual gun and types the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Chan uses Dead-in-Iraq as a case study not only to discuss the valence of DeLappe’s protest to raise awareness about U.S. causalities and the human cost of war but also to consider culture jamming in virtual spaces as a powerful and still-relevant form of political resistance.The project, Chan argues, draws attention to the spatial politics at stake in mediated spaces, like online games, which are increasingly privatized and regulated by corporate codes of conduct, not civic rights and responsibilities. At the end of Joystick Soldiers we include a Gameography of the video games cited in this collection.While certainly not an exhaustive list of all war-related video games, it reflects the evolution of game platforms from the Apple II and TRS-80 to Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii; it represents the growth of an industry from independent game developers to media conglomerates; and it provides a quick-glance history of U.S. military engagement from World War II and Vietnam to Bosnia, Somalia, and the Gulf Wars.The popularity, ubiquity and endurance of video wargames through more than four decades of technological, economic, political, and social change is evidence of the compelling role that gaming plays in how a culture imagines, contends with, resists, and celebrates military power. It is our hope that the chapters in this collection encourage thoughtful attention to and rich conversations about the nexus of video games and militarism. Note 1. But simulations are still far cheaper than live exercises. According to the National Training Systems Association, “Flying an F-16 costs an estimated $5,000 an hour, compared to $500 in a simulator. Driving a tank cost $75 per mile; a tank driver simulator, $2.50 per mile. Operating an Apache helicopter costs $3,101 per hour; a simulator, $70 per hour” (qtd. in Kennedy, 1999, n.p.).

References AEC press release. (2008). U.S. Army opens army experience center in Philadelphia. Available at: .pdf. Accessed January 22, 2009. Bogost, Ian. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Bolter, J. David and Grusin, Richard. (2000). Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Introduction 17

Capps, Michael, McDowell, Perry, and Zyda, Michael. (2001). A future for entertainmentdefense research collaboration. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 1: 37–43. Card, Orson Scott. (1985). Ender’s game. New York: T. Doherty Associates. De Landa, Manuel. (1999). Economics, computers, and the war machine. In Timothy Druckrey (ed.), Ars electronica facing the future: A survey of two decades (pp. 319–325). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ESA (The Entertainment Software Association). Industry facts. Available at: Accessed January 22, 2009. Event Design Award Winners. (2007, December 5). Event Design Magazine. Available at: Accessed January 22, 2009. Galloway, Alexander R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Halter, Ed. (2006). From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Herz, J.C. (1997). Joystick nation: How videogames ate our quarters, won our hearts, and rewired our minds. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Kennedy, Harold. (1999, November). Simulation reshaping military training. Technology jumping from teenagers’ computers to pilots’ cockpits. National Defense Magazine. Available at: Kent, Steven L. (2000). The first quarter: A 25-year history of video games. Bothell, WA: BWD Press. Kline, Stephen, Dyer-Witheford, Nick, and de Peuter, Greig. (2003). Digital play: The interaction of technology, culture, and marketing. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Lenoir, Timothy (2000, Fall). All but war is simulation: The military-entertainment complex. Configurations, 8(3): 289–335. Lenoir, Timothy (2002–2003). Fashioning the military entertainment complex. Correspondence: An International Review of Culture and Society, 10 (Winter/Spring): 14–16. Lowood, Henry. (2008). Impotence and agency: Computer games as a post-9/11 battlefield. In Andreas Jahn-Sudmann and Ralf Stockmann (eds.), Games without frontiers—war without tears: Computer games as a sociocultural phenomenon (pp. 78–86). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Macedonia, Michael R. (2002a, March). Games soldiers play. IEEE Spectrum: 32–37. Macedonia, Michael R. (2002b, April). Computer games and the military: Two views. Defense Horizons, 11: 1–8. Macedonia, Michael R. (2005, February). Ender’s game redux. Computer: 95–97. Maguire, Flack, van Lent, Michael, Prensky, Marc, and Tarr, Ron W. (2003). Defense combat sim Olympics—Methodologies incorporating the “Cyber gaming culture.” Presented at the 2003 Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). Available at Mezoff, Lori. (2009, February 5). Personal email communication. National Research Council. (1997). Modeling and simulation: Linking entertainment and defense. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Nieborg, David B. (2005). To mod or not?—An analysis of First Person Shooter modification culture. Presented at 2005 Creative Gamers Seminar—Exploring Participatory Culture in Gaming. Available at:

18 Introduction

Richard, Birgit. (1999). Norn attacks and marine doom. In Timothy Druckrey (ed.), Ars electronica facing the future: A survey of two decades (pp. 336–343). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Riddell, Rob. (1997, April). Doom goes to war. Wired. Available at: Soja, Edward. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Malden, MA: Blackwell Press. Stockwell, Stephen and Muir, Adam. (2003). The military-entertainment complex: A new facet of information warfare, Fibreculture, 1(1). issue1/issue1_stockwellmuir.html. Accessed January 10, 2009. Tochen, Dan. (2005, October 31). Serious games in the services: Army vs. Navy. The U.S. armed forces are getting into the world of gaming, and they aren’t playing around. GameSpot. Available at: Turse, Nick. (2008). The complex: How the military invades our everyday lives. New York: Metropolitan Books. VAE fact sheet. (2008). Virtual army experience fact sheet. Available at: Accessed January 22, 2009. Weirauch, Chuck. (2008). Taking stock of STOC II. Military Simulation and Training Magazine, 2: 26–29. Available at: FILES/MS&TIssue2-2008.pdf. Accessed January 22, 2009. Zyda, Michael, Hiles, John, Mayberry, Alex, Wardynski, Casey, Capps, Michael, Osborn, Brian, Shilling, Russell, Robaszewski, Martin, and Davis, Margaret. (2003, January/February). Entertainment R&D for defense. Computer: 28–36.

Part I

Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

Chapter 1

Living Room Wars Remediation, Boardgames, and the Early History of Video Wargaming Sebastian Deterding

War, games, and simulation have always been closely intertwined. The oldest known boardgame surviving in its original shape, the Chinese Go, represents troop formations and has been used as strategic training for more than two millennia (Halter, 2006, pp. 19–21).Western military wargames originated from amended versions of Chess in late eighteenth-century Germany, and quickly spread as an integral tool for strategic planning and training through military academies around the globe. Commercial board wargames, making their first appearance in the wake of World War I, in turn took frequent inspiration from their military precursors, as commercial designers and military personnel frequently exchanged notes and jobs (Dunnigan, 2000; Perla, 1990). More recently, several authors have tackled the historic relationship of video games and the military (Halter, 2006; Lenoir, 2000 and 2003; Lenoir and Lowood, 2005; Pias, 2002).Their narratives by and large begin as a history of technology in the U.S. after 1945. Following media historian Friedrich Kittler’s suggestion that war is the father of all media technology, they tell how the bureaucratic and computational needs of “Big War” ballistics, logistics, cryptography, and nuclear physics gave rise to computers in “Big Science” national laboratories, universities, and private-sector contracted research projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). As the first hackers experimented in these DoD-funded playgrounds, they created the computing, networking, and interface technology that powers our current information society, and our video games (Halter, 2006, pp. 74–75, 110–111; Levy, 2000; Pias, 2002, pp. 84–86). During the hot years of the Cold War, war and games became practically indistinguishable.The binary logic and finality of nuclear war made it necessary to calculate every possible step and reaction of the enemy in advance, and simulation games built on systems analysis and mathematical game theory promised a scientific solution to this demand. The DoD and associated think tanks like the Rand Corporation consequently created whole simulation and gaming departments that designed and ran endless variations of the game “Blue” (U.S.) vs. “Red” (U.S.S.R.)

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to make the unimaginable predictable and to create the U.S. nuclear war strategy (Allen, 1986; Ghamari-Tabrizi, 2000; Pias, 2002, pp. 240–260). From the 1980s, fresh ideas in military training, new demands of “joint” or “network-centric warfare” and amended procurement regulations created a “military-entertainment complex” (Lenoir, 2000 and 2003; Lenoir and Lowood, 2005). Developers and their technical breakthroughs in 3D graphics, computer networks, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence were regularly exchanged between the military, academia, and the video game industry.The current rise of video games for military training, recruitment, and rehabilitation like Full Spectrum Warrior (2004), America’s Army (2002), or Virtual Iraq (2005) is only the latest outgrowth of this trans-industry trade. In summary, wargaming historians stress the shared tradition and relations of military and hobby wargaming from the eighteenth century deep into the 1990s, yet tend to pay little attention to boardgaming’s digital heir, the video wargame. Video game historians, on the other hand, focus on computing and simulation technology as the true link between military and commercial wargaming, neglectful to question from where video wargames got their ideas, rules, and settings. This chapter fuses these two dominant strands of gaming historiography with the concept of remediation, “the representation of one medium in another” (Bolter and Grusin, 2000, p. 45). Introduced by media theorists Bolter and Grusin, remediation describes a base mechanism and “double logic” at work throughout the history of western media and representation that is amplified by digital media. New media first present themselves as mere refashionings and “improvements” of older media, and in this drive for both immediacy and hypermediacy they promise a more unmediated, direct, “live” experience, but also show a fascination for and representation of a multitude of media as media (Bolter and Grusin, 2000, pp. 5–14). This chapter argues that wargames are a transmedia genre that is historically characterized by the digital remediation of board and miniature wargames taking place around 1980, showcasing all three strategies of remediation outlined by Bolter and Grusin: Some digital wargames simply represent boardgames, some strive for higher immediacy and “liveness,” and some relish a patchwork of multiple media. Commercial board wargames are the genotype of video wargames and are therefore the historical missing link to military wargaming. In particular, early video wargames inherited from board wargames their game mechanics, settings, fan communities, developers, and professional relations with the military. Today, wargames take the shape of transmedia franchises with manifold mutual remediations between different media and games. The first part of this chapter will lead through key points in the chronology of western commercial wargaming and its military ties up to the emergence of video wargames in the 1980s.The second part analyzes the consequences of the

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digital remediation of wargames. It outlines the aesthetic strategies and mechanical innovations of video wargames, and their repercussions for the gameplay, ideological effects, and fan appropriation of wargaming. Prehistory (1780–1824) Even the first proto-wargame was already a transformation of an existing game— namely, of Chess (see Nohr, 2008).The original title of Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig’s (1734–1831) Kriegsspiel (literally “war game”) says it clearly: It is an “Attempt of a tactical game built upon Chess”.1 As a teacher at the court of the Duke of Braunschweig, Hellwig developed the game as both entertainment and education for the Duke’s sons. His central innovation was the emphasis on representation and training; he didn’t aim at creating a balanced, easy-to-learn, entertaining game, but tried to “make sensual the essentials of the most important phenomena of war” by modeling these phenomena in rules (qtd. in Nohr, 2008). This aspiration led him to introduce different innovations into Chess such as rules for different terrains, the alignment and turning of playing pieces, the transportation of one piece by another, game effects lasting more than one turn, and logistics and resource lines. Hellwig’s game was followed by a couple of imitators around the turn of the nineteenth century, but it was not until 1811 that wargames emerged as a truly distinct genre. In that year, Georg Leopold Baron von Reisswitz, Prussian Kriegsrat and Domänenrat in Breslau, developed his Kriegsspiel, playable with miniatures in a sandbox, which was later replaced by a luxurious cabinet table with modular terrain tiles made of plaster (Perla, 1990, pp. 23–25). The game was refined by his son Georg Heinrich and presented in 1824 to the Prussian chief of staff general Karl von Muffling, who famously declared: “This is not a game, this is a war school. I must and will recommend it most warmly to the army” (qtd. in Pias, 2002, p. 219). In its updated 1828 version, Reisswitz Junior’s game consisted of a wooden box containing a map, dice, tin soldiers, rulebook, and rulers and dividers.With respect to game mechanics, it introduced an enormous array of new concepts that are still present in today’s miniature wargaming. Firstly, the Kriegsspiel was played on a topographically correct map, using rulers and dividers to measure marching and firing distances. It allowed parallel movement of multiple pieces in one turn. Single playing pieces were modeled with varying properties that changed during gameplay: As one piece represented roughly fifty soldiers, attacked pieces were not instantly removed from the map, but could take damage before being destroyed. Instead of simple if/then rules, probabilities were used to decide a game event, deploying dice and tables that note the properties of the playing pieces. Furthermore, the game introduced the game master or umpire as an independent record keeper and referee. It also featured limited time for each turn and

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quasi-simultaneous movement of player and opponent pieces executed by the umpire. Finally, the Kriegsspiel simulated “limited intelligence,” that is, the restricted and/or distorted information a commander has of the battlefield. It achieved this by using three game tables: the umpire’s table that presented all playing pieces, and the two players’ tables that only featured those enemy troops visible to one’s own troops (Pias, 2002, pp. 217–223). Von Muffling kept his promise, publishing a note on Reisswitz’s game in 1824 in the Militärisches Wochenblatt, and wargaming rapidly took hold as a popular pastime and training tool in the Prussian army. Wargaming clubs were formed, expansions and variations of the original game flooded the market, and the successful use of wargames in Prussia’s wars of 1866 and 1870–1871 led to the quick proliferation of Kriegsspiel throughout Europe’s war academies (Perla, 1990, p. 31). Civil Kriegsspiel (1880–1932) The passing from military to civil or “hobby” wargaming is most often dated to 1913, when H.G. Wells published the rule booklet Little Wars for playing battles with tin soldiers and a spring-loaded rubber cannon. But as with so many “official dates,” Little Wars is a convenient placeholder for a more complex, diffuse, and unruly history.The first instances of civil wargaming likely accompanied the mass marketing of tin soldiers. Since the mid-sixteenth century, tin soldiers could be found in every prince’s crib as part of his early military education. In the mideighteenth century, standardized uniforms and industrial manufacturing made them an affordable toy for the bourgeoisie. During the late nineteenth century, playing with miniature soldiers became a favorite pastime among the British intellectual and political elite, including Winston Churchill, G.K. Chesterton, R.L. Stevenson, and H.G.Wells (Halter, 2006, pp. 49, 56–64). Before and during World War I, Europe was literally flooded with war-themed toys and games (Halter, 2006, pp. 52–53). By 1910, Great Britain alone produced 200,000 new toy soldiers per week (Brown, 1990, p. 239). In the same year, the first two commercially marketed wargames appeared in London: The GreatWar Game by A.J. Holladay and the boardgame L’Attaque by Harry P. Gibson and Sons (the first version of the still-popular Stratego).Thus, we may conclude with Halter (2006, pp. 59–60) that H.G.Wells’s Little Wars was neither particularly innovative nor influential. Its nomination as the founding father of miniature wargaming is more likely a strategic move by the wargaming community in the hopes that Wells’s cultural prestige would elevate their hobby. The Wargaming Renaissance (1952) During World War II there was no shortage of commercial and propagandistic war entertainment such as movies, toys, or comics (Regan, 1994). Military wargaming

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was rampant (Perla, 1990, pp. 30–54), and we also find a number of commercially published wargames like the German Bomben auf England (1939) or Adler Luftverteidigungsspiel (1941).American game manufacturers likewise took the war as a great marketing opportunity (Little wars, 1942), with multiple titles like Conflict (1940), Blockade: A Game for Armchair Admirals (1941), Ranger Commandos (1942), and Air-Attack: Fight Planes in Action! (Reinherz, 1943). However, the “official” history of commercial wargaming recommences in 1952. To prepare for a competitive tour of duty that would open a career in the regular Army, National Guardsman Charles S. Roberts developed the board wargame Tactics, widely considered to be the first “modern” commercial wargame (Dunnigan, 2000, p. 192; Perla, 1990, p. 114). In 1954, Roberts founded the Avalon Game Company (later rechristened Avalon Hill, or AH) and began selling the game from his basement. Tactics is often hailed as revolutionary, if compared (as Roberts himself did) to Chess or Checkers: Tactics introduced a totally new method of play which had no parallel in games designed to that point [. . .]. It was revolutionary to say that you could move up to all of your pieces on a turn, that movement up to certain limits was at the player’s option and that the resolution of combat was at the throw of a die compared to a table of varying results. As simple as this sounds now, the new player had to push aside his chess-and-checkers mindset and learn to walk again. (Roberts, 1983, ¶22) In Tactics, two divisions of hypothetical Cold War armies clash. The game replaced tin soldiers with cardboard squares with imprinted military symbols and game statistics, thus creating the so-called “counters” that accompany wargames to this day. Additional innovations were the decimation of troop strength, the “Combat Results Table”, troop morale as a game mechanism, various movement allowances for different units, terrain influencing movement, and the “Zone of Control.” However, if one compares these innovations not with Chess but with Reisswitz’s game, many of the so-called revolutions appear as mere reinventions. Tables, dice, realistic gameboards, hit points—all of these elements were already in place in the Kriegsspiel of 1811/1824. Founding Years and Golden Age (1952–1980) After 1952, wargaming quickly found a loyal audience, and AH would shape the genre and dominate its market for decades to come. The first Tactics sold two thousand copies; by 1963, AH had sold more than two hundred thousand games, and its backlist contained nine titles that already reflected the prototypical set

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of historical epochs most frequently depicted in commercial wargaming: Gettysburg (Roberts, 1958), Chancellorsville (Roberts, 1961), Civil War (American Civil War) (Roberts, 1961), Tactics II (Cold War), U-Boat (marine warfare) (Roberts, 1959), D-Day (Roberts, 1961), Bismarck (Roberts, 1962), Stalingrad (World War II) (Shaw and Schutz, 1963), and Waterloo (Napoleonic warfare) (Shaw, 1962) (Dunnigan, 2000, p. 193).At the same time, wargaming also reached out to the broad market with the introduction of two classics in 1957: Frenchman Albert Lamorisse’s La Conquête du Monde, reissued in the U.S. as Risk by Parker Brothers in 1959; and Allan B. Calhamer’s Diplomacy, a game of negotiation between European powers set in 1900. The appearance of the AH house magazine The General in 1964 and the dominance of the magazine Strategy & Tactics (S&T) by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1969 set additional landmarks in wargaming history. S&T began in 1966 as a fanzine by then-Air Force Sergent Chris Wagner. Its classifieds quickly became the key mouthpiece of wargamers worldwide. But because of financial troubles, S&T was taken over by SPI, founded that same year by former rocket repairman for the U.S. Army and war historian James F. Dunnigan (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 194–196).At that time, most wargames were generic games dressed in historical scenarios.Yet Dunnigan believed that commercial wargames could be designed as individual analytical studies of historical events or “Analytic History,” and that there was a demand for such games: When I got out of the Army in 1964, I [. . .] became somewhat obsessed with the idea of using the games to teach, and better understand, history. [. . .] Analytic history is what a wargame was before it became a game.A wargame is, after all, a historical account of an event in simulation form. [. . .] The relentlessly organized approach of analytic history is unique. If you do it right, the reader gets a large dollop of knowledge for a small investment of time. (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 194, 196) Thus, when SPI began publishing S&T in 1969, each issue came with a standalone wargame with detailed historical background.The steadily increasing number of subscriptions proved Dunnigan’s theory right and established him and SPI as major players in the market.The publication of his bestselling PanzerBlitz in 1970 marked the beginning of the “Golden Age” of wargaming—golden in terms of the number, variety, and ingenuity of newly published games, but also in terms of the size and activity of the wargaming community. Alongside the duopoly of AH and SPI, numerous publishers emerged. Aptly titled “monster games” with more than two thousand counters and several maps covering the whole Pacific (and living room floor) appeared. As sales rose, so too did the complexity

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of the rules, reaching its pinnacle in the tactical World War II game Advanced Squad Leader (1985) (Perla, 1990, pp. 132–140; Dunnigan, 2000, p. 199). By 1977, the SPI book Wargame Design listed more than 25 publishers and five hundred games in print. Grognards and the Formation of a Wargaming Subculture During the rise of AH and SPI, wargame fans started to organize regular meetings through bulletin boards in specialty shops or the classified listings in their fanzines. At colleges and universities, young men (and almost exclusively men) formed gaming groups, clubs, and societies, often with pseudo-military hierarchies, badges, and uniforms of uncertain irony.Whoever did not find playmates at home could play at a distance with games like Nuclear Destruction (1970), the first professionally marketed play-by-mail (PBM) game. Cultivated by wargame fans, PBM flourished into a vibrant hobby of its own before it was gradually replaced by play-by-email and today’s online games. Indeed, the wargaming community turned out to be a creative powerhouse for the gaming industry, remediating wargames and fantasy and science-fiction media into a vast array of new game genres.The first pen-and-paper role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons (1974), was designed by two wargamers and aptly identified itself as nothing but “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures.”Again, computer role-playing games and first-person shooters are digital remediations that owe many game mechanics to their role-playing (and, therefore, wargaming) predecessors. Another hallmark moment for the wargaming community was the commencement of the first annual, (inter)national wargame convention, “Origins” in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1975 (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 201–204). At that point in time, “the hobby” had grown into a rich subculture, complete with events, rituals, fan media, organizations, and its own jargon. Adopting the nickname of Napoleon’s old guard, the hobby wargamers christened themselves grognards (literally, “grumblers”). Together with hackers and fantasy and science fiction aficionados, they formed the original constituency of today’s fandom (Martin, 2001). Today’s grognards are split into two factions: the paper and board wargamers, and the miniature wargamers. For the latter, the buying and painting of their own tin army and the construction of model landscapes are as integral an activity as the gameplay itself. Consequently, miniature gamers date the birth of “their” hobby to 1957 when the first issue of the fanzine War Game Digest appeared, and whose publisher, Jack Scruby, produced the first tin miniatures specifically designed for miniature wargaming (Perla, 1990, p. 127).

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During the mid-1980s, the fictional worlds of Battletech and Warhammer further diversified the wargaming community. The British company Games Workshop started franchising wargames in 1983 with its rules for fantasy miniatures, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which was supplemented by a Games Workshop design line of miniatures. Warhammer Fantasy Battle and its science-fiction twin, Warhammer 40,000, were marketed as a host of transmedia properties, including board and trading card games, role-playing games, comics, novels, and (of course) video games (e.g., Dawn of War [2004]). Featuring roughly 350 retail outlets around the globe today, Games Workshop has popularized and successfully commodified miniature gaming.The other major franchise growing from boardgames was FASA Corporation’s science-fiction wargame Battletech (1984), which models the combat of giant humanoid robots and has spawned the popular MechWarrior series of video games. The next widely successful fictional world to grow from wargaming was the PC game Warcraft (1994). In 2004, this real-time strategy series was translated into the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game World of Warcraft. Following its phenomenal success, publisher Blizzard quickly expanded the brand into an array of boardgames, trading card games, role-playing games, comics, and novels.Thus, Blizzard’s Warcraft exemplifies that board-to-screen remediations go in both directions, and that video games are increasingly the starting point for such fictional transmedia franchises today. Military Ties (1954–1980) Around the time the first Origins convention opened its doors, the military opened their doors to commercial wargaming publishers (Allen, 1986, pp. 93–113; and Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 317–320). In the early 1950s, the DoD think tank Rand Corporation contacted Charles S. Roberts because his Combat Results Table showed an eerie similarity to the tables they used for their World War III exercises. In the course of their brief collaboration, Roberts came to see a Rand gameboard divided into hexagonal fields. He immediately implemented this hexgrid in his 1961 games Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and “hexes” became an AH trademark much like counters. Roberts also tried to sell his game Game/Train as a training module to the U.S. Army, but without success. Instead, his company AH started to contract military veterans as part of their historical research for games during the 1960s (Perla, 1990, pp. 116–118). Through these and other means (civil wargamers being avid scholars of their hobby [e.g. Campion and Patrick, 1972]), knowledge of military wargaming flowed into the commercial sector. In the mid-1970s this information flow became bidirectional as commercial wargames became a legitimate pastime for officers and Pentagon officials (Allen, 1986, pp. 98, 111–112). In 1976, the U.S.Army commissioned James Dunnigan’s

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SPI to develop a training game that simulated Soviet and U.S. small unit tactics, which was published commercially as Firefight that same year (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 328–329). It became the first of several collaborations between Dunnigan and Lt. Col. Raymond M. Macedonia, who reintroduced wargaming and pushed video wargaming at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the 1977 “Theater-Level Gaming and Analysis Workshop for Force Planning” conference in Leesburg, Virginia, the military for the first time formally invited commercial boardgame designers on a large scale. The reasons for this military interest in commercial designers were threefold: first, military simulations didn’t have the user-friendly interface and balanced playability that made commercial games successful (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 326–328); second, games by military contractors and personnel tended to cater more to the political interests or wishful thinking of their employers than to the realities of war, whereas commercial game designers had fewer reasons to skew their games (Allen, 1986, p. 95); and third, the military looked for designers to help them transform their manual wargames into the nascent digital medium.Thus, in 1976 Dunnigan began working on the “McClintic Theater Model” at the Army War College, a digital conversion of one of his older boardgame designs (Dunnigan, 2000, pp. 330, 336–337). Four years later, his company SPI received another $40,000 contract for developing a new digital global strategy wargame for the National Defense University, the “Strategic Analysis Simulation” (Allen, 1986, p. 94–95). In years to follow, large numbers of boardgame designers migrated into the defense industry (Perla, 1990, p. 316; and Allen, 1986, pp. 102–103). The Digital Exodus (1980–1985) When the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) approached Atari in 1980 to program a training version of its game Battlezone (1980), it marked the beginning of the military’s shift from board to video game publishers. Ironically, the arcade game Battlezone was likely inspired by the U.S. Army’s own Panther PLATO (1975) training system for tank gunners. According to some claims, Atari employees had accessed the system through PLATO network accounts at their universities prior to developing Battlezone (Halter, 2006, pp. 129–135). While 1980 was a “high year” (Dunnigan, 2000, p. 198) for commercial wargaming, it was also the beginning of its decline. Dunnigan estimates that, at that time, there were several hundreds of thousands of active wargamers inside, and roughly the same number outside, the United States. Strategy & Tactics had 37,000 subscribers that year, and the industry sold 2.2 million games, a figure not equaled since. The first video wargames soon debuted along with role-playing games, quickly conquering the market and, by 1986, surpassing sales of paper wargames (pp. 198–199).

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However, the precise birth date of video wargaming is hard to pinpoint. For one, genre labels are used inconsistently and early wargames were typically labeled “strategy games.” Second, one is hard-pressed to draw a line between war-themed games of chance and “true” war simulation games in the early years. Third, the transition from board wargames to video games featured a short and fascinating phase of media hybrids that challenge strict categorization. Game Assistant Programs (GAP) were a hybrid software solution, created during the 1970s, that automated the calculation and bookkeeping of the increasingly complex rules of board wargames.Though the relative onus of control always remained outside the computer, the inclusion of GAPs marks a significant step toward video wargaming that still exist in wargames today (Perla, 1990, p. 151). The next step was taken in 1977 when Chris Crawford finished Tanktics, an explicit attempt at “digitizing” board wargames that appeared in 1978 for the Commodore PET and was later republished by AH in 1981 for the Apple II. Tanktics still remained unplayable without the accompanying game board and copious 240 paper counters.Yet, unlike GAPs, it featured a real computer opponent and made the computer an essential, inescapable element of the game.The player had to enter moves via the keyboard, and the computer would display its moves and the results of ensuing combat actions in numbers and co-ordinates on the screen, which then had to be executed by the player on the game board. Rather than the computer aiding the calculation, the board now aided the visual display. It is this characteristic that arguably makes Tanktics the first commercial video wargame (Procter, 1982; Crawford, 2003). SSI and AH continued to include complete paper game sets with handbooks, maps, counters, pen and paper with many digital games into the mid-1980s. Although the games could compute ever-more complex and numerous moves, most were still unable to generate a sufficiently readable graphical map and only spat out coordinates and numbers. Muse Software’s Global War, a Risk clone from 1979, was playable without such external devices, but it did not provide a computer opponent. It was only SSI’s Computer Bismarck (appearing in January 1980) that featured both “computer-only playability” (i.e., no paper accessories required) and a computer opponent. In numerical terms, one can narrow down the emergence of a video wargame market to 1980, give or take a year. For 1979,, a site dedicated to cataloging video games, lists only the aforementioned Global War. In 1980, there were eight: Computer Bismarck, Midway Campaign, North Atlantic Convoy Raider, Nukewar, Planet Miners, B-1 Nuclear Bomber, and Sea Battle. In 1981, there were 16 digital wargames, and the numbers rose exponentially from there.2 Why this prodigious rise in titles, and why only then? First, with the Apple II, the TRS-80 (both 1977) and Atari 400/800 (1979), 8-bit personal computers that

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featured the necessary computing power, memory, interfaces, and graphics routines for running strategic wargames appeared. Second, the years between 1979 and the Atari slump of 1982 are often considered the “Golden Age” of both video gaming and wargaming. As the market expanded, every conceivable genre was tested for its computer-portability, including wargames. Third, two companies entered the market that would dominate it for years: Strategic Simulation, Inc. (SSI) and Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Fresh from college, Joel Billings founded SSI in 1979 and published the aforementioned Computer Bismarck in January 1980. Billings had been an avid wargame fan ever since his father had brought home Tactics II in 1965 (Powell, 1985). AH followed with the founding of Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games in 1980 and established itself as market leader with five of the eight wargames listed on for that year.Yet SSI quickly took over.Already in 1981, with 16 games published and AH remaining at five published games, SSI had raised its production to nine titles. But no matter who led the market, the important fact to note here is that the very first generation of video wargames were developed and distributed by boardgame fans and publishers.And from the games’ titles it is apparent that video wargames likewise imported the historical and fictional settings of board wargames, with World War II and Cold War clashes dominating, followed by science fiction, the American Civil War, and the Napoleonic Wars. Board-to-Video Remediation Beneath this generic and industrial continuity in settings and publishers, the digital remediation of wargames spurred a number of pervasive changes in the genre’s aesthetics, mechanics, gameplay, and fan appropriation. With respect to early video wargames, Marshall McLuhan’s (1964) dictum that “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium” (p. 23) largely holds true as they were little more than digitized boardgames. Following media historian Lisa Gitelman (2006), we may qualify this dictum insofar as to distinguish a medium into its technology and its “protocols”—its socio-cultural conventions of production, marketing, appropriation, its aesthetic forms, genres, and themes, and the community that reproduces these conventions. It is the protocols of the old medium that are transferred into the technology of the new one.And as with any process of remediation, the new medium needs time to shed its obsolete protocols, explore the potentials of its nascent technology, and form and institutionalize its own, new protocols.The remainder of this chapter will explore the changes and emergent phenomena engendered by this migration of wargames from cardboard to video screen along four fronts—the games’ aesthetic conventions, their gameplay, technology and ideology—and how these manifold changes impacted the user’s interaction with wargames.

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Board-to-Video Remediation: Aesthetics The aesthetic forms of the cardboard-to-digital remediation followed the three strategies outlined by Bolter and Grusin (2000, pp. 21–50).The first dimension, the simple “representation of one medium in another” (p. 45), is most apparent in video game remakes of popular boardgame brands such as Risk or Axis & Allies (1981). Single-turn-based strategy games on a continental or global scale such as Civilization (1991) also show an affinity to this form. Here, the real world boardgame is represented more or less in full, including virtual playing pieces, dice, and avatars seated around the playing board. The second strategy is transparent immediacy—when a medium aims at a direct, “live” experience of a represented event, making the user forget the interface (Bolter and Grusin, 2000, p. 22). In video wargames, this mostly happens through high-fidelity sound and lavish 3D graphics that provide an immersive, intensive experience of the battlefield.This can be observed in most real-time strategy games like the Warcraft and Command & Conquer series or the more recent World in Conflict (2007), and is characteristic of first-person shooters. A celebrated example was the opening level in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002) that recreated the immediacy of the opening Omaha Beach sequence in Steven Spielberg’s World War II-movie Saving Private Ryan (1998). The player is thrown into the overwhelming chaos of the Normandy battlefield, with little time or spatial cues to gain any distanced oversight. Hypermediacy, the third and last strategy, emphasizes and delights in its own mediation, layering multiple representational media into a novel patchwork (Bolter and Grusin, 2000, pp. 31–42).This aesthetic strategy dominates complex roundbased strategy games that rely on menus, but real-time strategy and first-person shooters also demonstrate elements of it. Here, informational menus and game control interfaces imitate the material and aesthetic qualities of the simulated setting, from the stone tablets, abacuses and sand clocks of antiquity to the transparent grid displays and moving 3D animations popular in science fiction games. An excellent case in point is the mission briefings and menus of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) and the Medal of Honor series that offer pseudo-authentic digital representations of 1940s photographs, maps, typewritten and hand-edited files, and letters piled on tables. However, Bolter and Grusin’s assertion that “[i]n every manifestation, hypermediacy makes us aware of the medium” (p. 34) doubles back on itself as this kind of atmospheric “set design” often helps to increase immediacy. Indeed, immediacy-through-hypermediacy is a unique aesthetic quality that unites strategic wargames of all media—from the abstract grids of Chess and Go to today’s highfidelity 3D renderings. For what characterizes and enables strategic warfare inevitably is some distanced, abstracted overview of the situation in question. For

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centuries, the medium of choice for creating such an overview was the map, or as the famous analyst of Napoleonic warfare Antoine-Henri Jomini (1996) deftly noted: “Strategy is the art of making war upon the map” (p. 69). Thus, when commercial wargames confront us with maps, with results tables and weapon stats and mission briefings, they allow us to imagine being a real general sitting in a command room registering incoming communications, scheming and executing orders over a regularly updated map of the battlefield. Both military and fictional strategic warfare consist of interacting with troop representations on a map. Both are a mediated, hypermediated experience of a battlefield “out there” (one fictional, the other all too real). This is why commercial wargames are immediate in the experience of mediation they create (and, maybe, one reason for their great appeal). A recent salient if eerie example is the independent video wargame DEFCON (2006). It places the player in the shoes of a military commander trying to win a thermonuclear war by nuking the enemies’ cities and bases. The player interacts with a global map made of thin, glowing, half-transparent borderlines. Wire models of missiles, carriers, and bombers glide silently along their dotted trajectories, harnessing our popular imagination of what Cold War command centers and their maps looked like. “The Future of Wargaming”: Game-Mechanical Innovations Interestingly, the issue of remediation already emerged with the early video wargames. In the first issue of Computer Gaming World, acclaimed video game designer Chris Crawford (1981) noted: Most wargamers feel that a good computer wargame will be just like a good boardgame, with the computer somehow making it better. [. . .] Personal computers [. . .] are now treated as extensions of or variations on existing technologies.As time goes by, we will see them used more and more in their own right. [. . .] A computer wargame must be optimized to take advantage of all the strengths of the computer. At the same time, it must avoid the weaknesses of the technology. They will necessarily be very different from boardgames. (p. 3) Crawford observed five major differences between board and video wargames, and, basically, his observations remain valid today.The first major innovation was network play: “Computers allow telecommunications links for playing games over the telephone lines” (Crawford, 1981, pp. 4). In principle, this is no innovation— play-by-mail already existed.The true novelty here was synchronous distance play,

34 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

which leads directly to the second innovation, “real-time play” (p. 5, emphasis added). The calculation speed and automation of the computer allowed all sides to moves their pieces simultaneously and continuously. Real-time video wargames afforded the experience of realistic tactical battle under time pressure, a fact actually often criticized by board wargamers:The permanent time pressure would not allow the arduous mental elaboration and deliberation held to be genuine to wargames. The third innovation was computer opponents and satisfying “solitaire games” (p. 5). Solo boardgames required clumsy game mechanics or the schizophrenia that one played both sides in alternation. Nevertheless, solo play was quite common among grognards owing to a lack of “intelligent opponents” in their immediate neighborhood. The computer now offered such an opponent. Fourth on Crawford’s list is limited information (p. 6). Board wargames present nearly all game information to all players by necessity of the one gameboard visible to all. In contrast, networked multiplayer video games can offer a different set of information to each player on her separate display, and solo video wargames implement solutions like black or obscured game maps that are then gradually uncovered by the movement of one’s troops. Yet the last and arguably most important new quality of video wargames was invisibilizing. The player stops functioning as a “game executor” and can focus instead on her role as “game player” (Crawford, 1981, p. 6). In boardgaming, the player must execute all calculations with tables, dice, rulers, and rulebooks herself, and note every game state by moving pieces on the board. In video games, the software assumes these tasks.Together with the ever-increasing computing power of software and hardware, this allowed the rule algorithms of video games to grow in complexity beyond the point where a human could calculate the moves. And players didn’t have to: from the mid-1980s on, almost all video wargames offered lavishly decorated, but greatly simplified rule sets and graphical interfaces. In other words, while boardgamers operate on the level of the source code (the rules) itself, the video game only presents an interface with limited and derived output. The rules, or the working code, are hidden and closed. “The Black Box Syndrome”: Ideological and Epistemological Effects This invizibilization of the game rules had deep, lasting epistemological and ideological implications.Any game’s rule system is a critical site for analysis because it posits a claim about how the slice of reality modeled by the rules functions. It develops an ontology, a (full-fledged or sketchy) reality model that dictates what is, and as importantly what is not, part of that world. First, the rule system separates figures from the ground of messy reality by defining what elements are at play in a game: Board wargames modeled military units, not civilians or wildlife.

Living Room Wars 35

Second, it defines the relevant dimensions of reality, and how they are expressed. All entities are then sorted into and defined by values. In wargames, the world has variables like damage, movement, or armor, expressed in computable discrete real numbers on scales like 1 to 6 or 1 to 100, and each playing piece is made of a specific value combination of these variables. Properties and entities not captured in variables (like the history or look of a playing piece, or a flock of birds printed on the game board) are ultimately irrelevant in the game world. Finally, the rule system sets the horizon that bestows every entity and action with value and meaning; for example, the game’s objectives and scoring systems that determine whether the outcome of a player’s move is “good” or “bad,” and how “good” or “bad” it is. When the designers of the first video wargames basically copied the rule systems of boardgames, including the exact game variables (e.g., movement, firepower, armor) and numerical values of playing pieces, they also copied the specific claim board wargames made about how the world in general and wars in particular function. But whereas boardgames readily disclose their reality model—the rules are fully documented in a rulebook—video games obscure their underlying rule system. During gameplay, boardgames foreground that they are a game, an algorithmic, numerical attempt at creating a “realistic” representation of reality, as players consciously interact with both the running simulation (the game board) and the underlying algorithm (the rule set and game stats). In contrast, video games present a primarily audiovisual surface.We see and hear enemy forces moving on the screen, depicted with such fidelity, complexity, and pseudo-random acts that they appear real. James Dunnigan (2000) presciently called this obfuscation of the rule model happening with the remediation of wargames from written rulebook to machineonly-readable code the “Black Box Syndrome” of video wargames (pp. 74, 345). For “blackboxing” is the term Science and Technology Studies use when social rules, norms, and categories are embedded into a piece of architecture, technology, or standard procedure to the extent that they become invisible (Latour, 2005; and Bowker and Star, 1999). This notion of an “embedded” ideology in video games has been addressed by multiple game critics, from Paul Starr (1994) to Ian Bogost (2007). Perhaps most succinctly, Gonzalo Frasca (2003) outlined three levels on which games can “engrain” ideologies: in their rules (what can and cannot be done, and what actions lead to which consequences), in their goals (what is rewarded and punished), and in their meta-rules (to what degree the rules and goals themselves can be changed). Board-to-Video Remediation: A Shifting Fanbase Practically, this blackboxing led to very different forms of fan appropriation. Dunnigan (2000) rightfully notes that any long-term boardgamer becomes a

36 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

game designer almost by default (p. 62). The constant fiddling with the rules inevitably leads to contemplating their sense and nonsense, the historical realism of a specific table, the elegance of a given mechanism, and results in an urge to make the game better.And the technical and financial hurdles for doing so are quite minimal: all one needs are pencil, paper, and time. Neither programming skills nor high initial investments in a video game development team are required.The boundaries between fan and professional, user and producer are highly permeable in paper and board wargaming, as they always were and are still made “for fans by fans.” Proprietary software, on the other hand, prevents users from studying and manipulating its code. If a video game’s developers do not offer tools, such as level editors, fans have to somehow circumvent the closed source code—for instance by programming free and open source clones of their favorite games or “reverseengineering” (i.e., deducing) the undisclosed game rules through systematic play, replay, and documentation of game events, as did the fans of the Heroes of Might and Magic (1996) game series in their online forums.3 Although video games fan communities are often lauded as a vibrant example of “participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2006), and though the Internet certainly has facilitated the mass distribution of fan content, the barriers to fan development of games are indeed higher with video games than with boardgames. Nevertheless, the majority of grognards were won over by the new medium. Highly educated, technophile young men, rich in free time, constituted the shared target group of both paper and video wargames. As Dunnigan (2000) noted, “Grognards were the first geeks” (p. xix). So when board wargame developers brought their boardgame mechanics and genres into the fledgling video game industry, board wargame fans created the necessary market to firmly establish these conventions. Grognards were the first and most important target group of video games, bringing with them their gaming norms, tastes, and practices.Video wargames that catered to these expectations therefore sold well, received positive customer feedback, and thus effectively set the early standard among video game designers and marketers as to what constituted a good and successful video wargame. Even though younger players and designers with no prior experience in board wargaming would quickly outnumber the old guard during the 1980s, the grognards by then had already defined the horizon of what video wargames could and should be—and, to a large part, still are today. Acknowledgement This research has been supported by the GATE project, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Netherlands ICT Research and Innovation Authority (ICT Regie).

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Notes 1. Translated from: “Versuch eines aufs Schachspiel gebaueten taktischen Spiels”. Hellwig 1780, title page. The word “Kriegsspiel” appeared only in the title of the revised edition of 1803. 2. The actual category on is “strategy games,” the actual numbers (last accessed August 1, 2008) are 12 (1979), 16 (1980), and 31 (1981). They were corrected for duplicates, misdatings, missing games, and faulty categorizations (like Tic-Tac-Toe or Bridge). 3., last accessed August 1, 2008.

References Allen, T.B. (1986). War games: The secret world of the creators, players and policy makers rehearsing World War III today. New York: McGraw-Hill. Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games. The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press. Bolter, D. and Grusin, R. (2000). Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Bowker, G.C. and Star, S.L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Brown, K.D. (1990). Modeling for war? Toy soldiers in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Journal of Social History, 24(2): 237–254. Campion, M. and Patrick, S. (1972). The history of wargaming. Strategy & Tactics, 33. Crawford, C. (1981). The future of computer wargaming. Computer Gaming World, 1(1): 3–7. Crawford, C. (2003). Chris Crawford on game design. Thousand Oaks: New Riders Publishing. Dunnigan, J.F. (2000). Wargames Handbook, Third Edition: How to play and design commercial and professional wargames. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc. Frasca, G. (2003). Simulation versus narrative: Introduction to ludology. In M.P. Wolf and B. Perron (eds.), The video game theory reader (pp. 221–236). New York: Routledge. Ghamari-Tabrizi, S. (2000). Simulating the unthinkable: Gaming future war in the 1950s and 1960s. Social Studies of Science, 30(2): 163–223. Gitelman, L. (2006). Always already new: Media, history, and the data of culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Halter, E. (2006). From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York and London: New York University Press. Jomini, Baron A.-H. (1996). The art of war: With a new introduction by Charles Messenger. London: Greenhill Books. [1838] Kittler, F. (1999). Gramaphone, film, typewriter (G.W. Winthrop-Yount and M. Wutz, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. [1986] Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lenoir, T. (2000). All but war is simulation: The military-entertainment complex. Configurations, 8(3): 289–335.

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Lenoir, T. (2002–2003). Fashioning the military entertainment complex. Correspondence: An International Review of Culture and Society, 10: 14–16. Lenoir, T. and Lowood, H.E. (2005). Theaters of war: The military-entertainment complex. In H. Schramm, L. Schwarte, and J. Lazardzig (eds.), Collection, laboratory, theater: Scenes of knowledge in the 17th century (pp. 427–456). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. Levy, S. (2000). Hackers. London: Penguin. Little wars. (1942, December 14). Time, n.p. Retrieved August 2, 2008, from,9171,774147,00.html. Martin, R. (2001). Cardboard warriors. The rise and fall of an American wargaming subculture, 1958–1998. Unpublished dissertation, Pennsylvania State University. McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw-Hill. Nohr, R.F. (2008). Krieg auf dem Fußboden, am grünen Tisch und in den Städten. Vom Diskurs des Strategischen Im Spiel. In R.F. Nohr and S. Wiemer (eds.), Strategie Spielen: Medialität Geschichte und Politik des Strategiespiels. Münster: Lit, pp. 29–68. Perla, P.P. (1990). The art of wargaming: A guide for professionals and hobbyists. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. Pias, C. (2002). Computer Spiel Welten. Munich: sequenzia. Powell, J. (1985). War games: The story of S.S.I. Antic, 4(3): 28. Retrieved November 30, 2007, from Proctor, B. (1982). Tanktics: Review and analysis. Computer Gaming World, 2(1): 17–20. Regan, P.M. (1994). War toys, war movies, and the militarization of the United States, 1900–85. Journal of Peace Research, 31(1): 45–58. Roberts, C.S. (1983). In his own words. Retrieved November 30, 2007, from Starr, P. (1994). Seductions of sim: Policy as a simulation game. The American Prospect, 5(17): 19–29. The staff of Strategy & Tactics Magazine (1977). Wargame design: The history, production, and use of conflict simulation games. New York: SPI.

Chapter 2

Target Acquired America’s Army and the Video Games Industry Randy Nichols

“What is happening right now is that a lot of people who are coming into the military service are thrilled by the idea of war. It’s an adventure thing. The advertising is beginning to reflect that.”—Jim Tice, senior reporter for The Army Times. (Linnett, 2004) The release of the video game America’s Army on July 4, 2002 was surprising for a number of reasons, none of which was the use of a video game by the Army. As Terri Toles (1985) demonstrated more than twenty years ago, the use of video games by the military-industrial complex has long been a reality. It is no surprise then that ties between the military and video game producers have only grown stronger during the intervening years. As far back as the 1930s, the military was working with simulators to help train recruits (Level Three, 2007; Zeller, 2005). Various branches of the American military have come to rely on commercial video games including id Software’s first-person shooter (FPS) game Doom (1993) and Bohemia Interactive Studios’ Operation Flashpoint (2001) to assist them in training (McCune, 1998; Wadhams, 2005). The Army began deploying online gaming machines to bases overseas in 2006 as a means of boosting troop morale. The machines, which include 26 inch flat-screen monitors, computers configured for games and Internet access, are said to have cost over $7,000 apiece (Game time, 2007). Such expensive systems are certainly no hardship for a defense department that spends in excess of an estimated $4 billion annually on simulation equipment, games, and events (Vargas, 2004). Indeed, the America’s Army project was not surprising even in its simulation of war, as similar games have existed since the industry’s very beginnings, albeit in more rudimentary forms such as Atari’s console game Combat (1977) or the arcade game Battlezone (1980) (Kent, 2001). That video games have become a multibillion-dollar industry with a global audience has only added to the appeal of video games as recruiting and teaching tools. Such games, sometimes referred to as

40 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

“serious games,” seek to move video games beyond entertainment and into the realm of training and education.Whether video games are taken up “just for fun” or for “serious” purposes, these media devices serve as an ideal cultural commodity for the conveyance of dominant ideologies through simulation. The military’s use of video games, particularly America’s Army, represents two trends that are proving increasingly crucial to the modern video game industry. First, they often function as serious games, and second, they function as a new form of elaborate advertisement. For the video game industry, these are two areas of increasing profitability. In contrast, for the military, such games are an ideal way to reach key audiences. However, because video games rely on player feedback as much as on player purchases—with many video games allowing players to produce their own modifications and content for games they enjoy, termed “mods”—the ability to control the message of a game becomes difficult.Thus, military games have the potential both to convey an ideology and to have that ideology undermined, even as they provide training only previously available by joining the military. America’s Army In 1999 the U.S. Army began to miss recruiting goals by a considerable margin, with recruitment hitting its lowest levels in thirty years.This failure was deemed so critical that Congress increased the Army’s recruitment budget to more than $2.2 billion per year, and it became the main catalyst for the America’s Army project (see the interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski in this volume).The game was an unqualified success, as there were more than five hundred thousand downloads within the first month of the game’s release (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002). By 2005, the game had tallied more than 4.6 million registered users and was attracting roughly one hundred thousand additional players each month. Perhaps more significantly, more than 30 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 said that what they knew about the Army came from this video game (Grossman, 2005). By October 2007, the game had been downloaded more than forty million times and had more than 8.5 million registered users around the world (This is no video game, 2007). Upon release the game was available only for personal computers. It was bundled with magazines, given away at NASCAR events, state fairs, and recruiting drives (J. Ryan, 2004). By summer 2005 versions were made available for the major home consoles systems—Sony’s Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox (Grossman, 2005). Initially, the Army sought outside designers, but ultimately the game was designed by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Modeling, Virtual Environment and Simulation Institute (MOVES) in Monterrey, California (Level three, 2007). MOVES began formally in 2000 but had its roots in the Postgraduate School’s Master’s and Ph.D. programs, dating back to 1996, which itself drew on

Target Acquired 41

the older NPSNet Research Group, founded in 1986 (About Us, 2007). Since the game’s initial release, the Army has had considerable success collaborating with outside partners in researching new games and promoting the Army itself. Today the America’s Army franchise has produced its fourth console title, America’s Army:True Soldiers (2007) for the Xbox 360, which is the first of the franchise produced for current seventh-generation game systems and was developed by the Army in conjunction with North Carolina software developer Red Storm Entertainment (Thompson, 2007; Game on!, 2007). The games have been so successful in drawing increased positive attention to the Army and helping with recruitment at an affordable price that other branches of the military have begun experimenting with games (see Table 2.1). Not all the games are combat-oriented, however. One such attempt is the game 24Blue developed by the U.S. Navy’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training and BreakAway, Ltd. (Jean, 2006b). Similarly, the Office of Naval Research has been funding a medical training game called Pulse!!! while the U.S. Forestry Service has been experimenting with a simulation called GNNVisualization, both of which have, at least initially, used the design engine from the hit game Half-Life 2 (2004) (Demaria, 2005). Developed to help meet recruiting goals by giving players a sense of what Army life is like, America’s Army consists of two parts (Wadhams, 2005).The first part is a role-playing military training module focused on communicating values for military service, while the second part is a first-person shooter. In the first section, characters are taught to follow orders to advance, which is based on their scores in “loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, service, and honor” (Baber, 2002). Maintaining a commitment to realism, at least until the moment of an avatar’s death, game designers drew heavily on actual military ordinance, training locations, and, eventually, military campaigns.While the game has realistic sounds and sights, players who are killed hear no noise and are shown only a small red circle at the time of their virtual death. This design was done, in part, to ensure the game a Teen (T) rating, but this relatively mild violence has not stopped critics from voicing concerns about a government-sanctioned FPS that freely teaches combat tactics to middle- and high-school children (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002). A second reason for the game’s creation is that the modern military relies heavily on computerized equipment and today’s recruits need more familiarity and technical aptitude to operate vehicles and weapons systems (Baber, 2002). Because of the increasing technical skills required of military recruits and the variety of scenarios in which they must be put to use, computer-based training makes up an increasing proportion of modern miltary training (Reznichenko, 2003). Serious games, combining elements of entertainment and training, are ideal for these purposes. Serious games allow for complex training that requires the active attention and participation of their users.While such a tool is increasingly vital for

42 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

the modern military, it is not without its problems, not the least of which is where to acquire such tools. Table 2.1 Video games used in U.S. military training Game title and year released

Armed Forces branch using game

Developer and/or publisher

Air Force: Delta Storm (2001) America’s Army (2002) America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier (2005) America’s Army: True Soldiers (2007) Battle Command 2010 (2000) Battlefield 1942 (2002)

Air Force Army

Konami MOVES Institute



Army Army Army

Battle Stations 21 (2005) Close Combat: First to Fight (2005) Falcon 4.0 (1998) Flight Simulator (1982) Full Spectrum Command (2003)


Red Storm Entertainment MaK Technologies Digital Illusions CE/Electronic Arts IDEAS

Full Spectrum Leader (2005)


Full Spectrum Warrior (2004)


Harpoon2 (2000) Jane’s Fleet Command (1999) Medal of Honor (1999) Operation Flashpoint (2001)

Navy Navy Marines Army/Air Force

Saving Sergeant Pabletti (1998) SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals (2002) Soldier of Fortune (2000) Starcraft (1998) Sub Command (2001) 24Blue (2006)

Army Navy Marines Air Force Navy Navy

Navy/Marines Air Force Air Force/Navy Army

2K Games MicroProse Microsoft University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies Strategic Simulations, Inc. Electronic Arts Electronic Arts Bohemia Interactive/Codemasters Will Interactive Zipper Interactive/Sony Raven/Activision Blizzard Electronic Arts Breakaway, Ltd.

Source: Department of Defense (2008)

Manufacturing “An Army of One” “It’s a great way to tell our stories. It’s an honor and it’s pretty cool. This is all very authentic, even down to the face paint, the goggles.”—Sgt.

Target Acquired 43

Tommy Rieman, a medal-winning soldier profiled in America’s Army: True Soldiers. (Lorge, 2007) The production of video games follows a series of logics. First, their products are designed to be engaging (and, ideally, entertaining) even when they are not produced solely for entertainment purposes. Second, the video game industry, like other consumer technology sectors, relies on planned obsolescence. Products are produced in such a way that periodic upgrades—typically as new purchases— drive the industry. The industry has a production schedule that favors products which can be sold as toys.Typically, video games—in particular, game systems— are made available around the holidays to help bolster consumption (Nichols, 2005).Video game software is an excellent example of a “semi-public good,” or those products that require an initial high production cost but, once created, are relatively easy to duplicate (Miege, 1989).This allows for cheaper distribution than public goods, but often opens the door for illegal reproduction and modification. Such a product becomes an ideal vehicle for promotion, as it allows not only for the easy replication of the game but also has the potential for the marketing of related products. It also explains why a number of other military, paramilitary, and political groups have begun to explore video games as tools for training, mobilization, and resistance such as the political canvassing game Dean for Iowa (2003), Hezbollah’s Special Force (2003), and AFKARMedia’s Palestine-based games Under Ash (2001) and Under Siege (2005). The video game industry can be divided into three broad sectors: development, publishing, and retail (Williams, 2003). Most major game development and publication happen in the West, primarily in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe. Developers create the programs and work with a major publisher in order to gain access to retailers (Nichols, 2005). For games outside of this system of distribution, including many serious games, the company developing the game will typically fulfill the publisher role. In the case of America’s Army, the U.S. Army established a foothold in the industry by virtue of the game’s popularity and its access to government largess, effectively subsidizing particular publishers and developers of America’s Army.Video game producers that co-produce with the Army not only add legitimacy and symbolic capital to their product but minimize publishing risks since the high cost of game development is shared with the government. At the same time, the Army—or any other branch of government—can push the State’s point of view via the video game. In the case of America’s Army, for example, the need to be vigilant during the Global War on Terror gains additional cultural resonance. The video game industry has been tremendously successful in producing an audience that is both diverse and highly loyal. In the U.S., video gamers span

44 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

surprisingly diverse demographics. Conservative estimates suggest that as many as 50 percent of Americans over the age of six play video games, and roughly 17 percent of computer-owning households play online games (Bulkeley, 2003; ESA, 2005b). In fact, recent numbers from the Entertainment Software Association suggest that a third of American households have some sort of game console and two-thirds of people identified as “head of household” played video games in 2007 (ESA, 2007). America’s Army exploits these trends in a number of ways.The first version was extremely costly at the time it was created compared to other video games, though considerably less than the average Hollywood movie (Nichols, 2008). Development alone cost more than $5 million, and marketing costs pushed the total to approximately $16 million (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002).This cost was notable as it was one of the highest game budgets for the time. In 2005, for example, the cost to produce a “Triple A game” (the industry equivalent of a blockbuster film) for seventh-generation hardware platforms like the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, could easily top $10 million (Guth,Wingfield, and Divorack, 2005; Richtel, 2005). America’s Army was produced three years earlier and cost roughly $6 million more. For the Army such an expense is easily justified. Recruiting individual soldiers costs approximately $15,000 each; if 400 new recruits sign up as a result of the game, it will have paid for the game’s production though not its marketing (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002).This is particularly meaningful because, even prior to the Iraq War, recruiters were netting only one active-duty enlistment for every 120 contracts signed (Cave, 2005). Because the game is still being used for recruiting, periodic releases have been issued to keep the game fresh (Grossman, 2005), and a number of these updates have included sequences based on actual campaigns in the Middle East (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002), including events drawn from Afghanistan and Iraq (Wadhams, 2005). “We Want You . . .” to Play Our Game “The teenage generation doesn’t get their information from the news.They get it from movies, games, popular culture.”—Radwan Kasmiya, founder of AFKARMedia, producer of pro Palestine games Under Ash and Under Siege. (Addelman, 2006) The demographics targeted by video game companies and Army recruiters are often quite similar. In order to increase recruiting numbers in 2006 the Army changed the maximum age for new recruits from 34 to 39 (Fletcher, 2005).The young to mid-life adult of interest to the Army is the prized demographic (18–39 years) of the video game industry as well, encompassing nearly half of the players in the United States. If the Army can establish strong inroads to the group, it would

Target Acquired 45

give recruiters access to a much wider potential recruiting base (ESA, 2007).And in the U.S., more than 65 percent of college students indicate that they play video games regularly (Carlson, 2003). But games are also popular with an older crowd. In the U.S., the average player age is 33 years old, and at least 24 percent of all gamers are over the age of 50 (Emeling, 2003; ESA, 2007). Further, having ensured that video games are popular with both young and old, the industry has begun to take steps to bring female gamers into the fold. Studies show that already as many as 39 percent of all gamers are women (Grover et al., 2005).The ages of female players are striking: girls ages 6 to 17 make up roughly 12 percent of the total video games market, while women over 18 make up 26 percent (Loftus, 2003). For the Army, video games map over nicely with their key targets for both male and female enlistees: the average age of the Army recruit is 21, and for the Army reserves the average age is 20 (Brown Jr., 2007).To that end, America’s Army must be viewed as a promotional tool or as an advertisement targeted at this age group. In fact, it may well represent the Army’s first and most successful major foray into such advergaming. As such, the game has been accurately described as “a giant ad aimed at the 13 to 24 year old demographic” (Grossman, 2005). Despite its heralded novelty, the game is really the latest entry in a series of strategic moves at (re)branding the military.After missing recruiting goals in 1999, the Army hired the Leo Burnett advertising agency, which has worked with other American institutions like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, to improve the Army’s brand.The Army abandoned the slogan “Be All You Can Be” in favor of “An Army of One,” as it began exploring video games as another means of recruitment (Hodes and Ruby-Sachs, 2002). America’s Army is an advergame, making it a specific type of serious game. Serious games are used to teach skills and responses to situations; advergames focus these gaming responses to create a positive view of the brand. The advergame has been very successful for the Army’s recruiting efforts. In 2006, the Army exceeded its goal of eighty thousand new recruits and the Army Reserves only narrowly missed their goal (Brown Jr., 2007). One estimate suggests that 20 percent of students entering West Point had played America’s Army, and as many as 40 percent of new Army recruits said that they had played the game as well (Jean, 2006a). Of course, America’s Army isn’t the only way the Army has been attracting recruits, as the institution’s marketing and recruiting efforts are a transmedia affair. They’ve now adopted websites, text messaging, air shows, promotions at NASCAR races, and cash bonuses to help bolster recruitment (Brown Jr., 2007). America’s Army is thus one media tool in a growing lineup of sophisticated and targeted solicitations. The Army’s attempt to gather a wider, if younger audience, is not without its problems, however. When the most recent version of America’s Army was released, it was also promoted with a series of action figures sold at Toys “R” Us based on the six medal-winning soldiers profiled in the game (America’s Army to

46 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

launch new game, 2007). Critics, particularly parents’ groups like Bay Area Direct Action, have suggested that targeting young children so blatantly needs to be rethought (Kohler, 2008). The Army, however, disagrees. According to Colonel Casey Wardynski, the supervisor of the America’s Army project, “If you don’t get in there and engage them early in life about what they’re going to do with their lives, when it comes time for them to choose, you’re in a fallback position” (Lorge, 2007). Playing Games Is Serious Business “It doesn’t take much of a cost-benefit analysis to determine that if you can get some true training utility out of a game that costs $19.95 or $29.95, then you’ve really done something.”—Ron Tarr, senior programmer at the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training. (Game on!, 2004) Despite the success of military-themed games, the economic relationship between the military (and the government at large) and the video game industry remains poorly defined. Currently, the military provides only a small portion of video game industry revenues. Most funding for serious games currently comes from the government and from non-profits—to the tune of $50 million in 2005, though estimates suggest it may grow to more than $1 billion when corporations become more involved. In spite of this, most game producers have been wary of investing in serious games because it currently represents such a small percentage of overall industry profits (K. Ryan, 2006). The U.S. government is also still uncertain as how best to proceed. The Pentagon, in particular, is hesitant to pursue full production, hoping instead to invest in flexible assets it can then mobilize for different games (Grow up, gamers, 2006). Serious games developed for the military—including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security—represent largely untapped markets for the video game industry, though the industry is actively working to expand in this area (Erwin, 2006).The Department of Defense allocated more than $100 million for the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California to help make games and to turn those games into marketable products.The Institute is already developing games for Homeland Security (Game on!, 2004; Kane, 2005). Beyond this, the government has been wary to invest because of the millions previously invested in the late 1990s in simulation technologies that are expected to be useful only through 2015. Even so, it seems likely that more formal ties will be forged between the gaming industry and the military, including major contractors purchasing game production companies rather than simply contacting with them on a game-by-game basis (Grow up, gamers, 2006).

Target Acquired 47

But there is concern about just how effective advertising in and through video games truly is, leaving the emergent relationship between games and advertising to be determined.While the advertising industry has recognized the potential of video games to showcase its wares, it has struggled to find how to best use this interactive technology.While roughly 36 million people in the U.S. played video games at least five hours a week in 2004—a number expected to double by 2009— marketers had invested a modest $414 million advertising in video games (Stanley, 2004a, 2004b). Perhaps more surprisingly, the video game industry has been slow to take advantage of the advertising possibilities presented by its steadily growing audience, with predictions for ad revenue expected to reach a meager $562 million in 2009, only a fraction of the industry’s $40 billion expected earnings (Gentile, 2005a). As advertisers, corporations, and other groups begin to recognize the potential of video games as message vessels, their uses will continue to fluxuate. To date, there are three broad lines of video game advertisement that have been explored: games surrounded by advertising content (typical of casual internet games and many websites, generally), games which feature in-game advertising, and custom-built advertising games (or “advergames”) (Nichols, 2005). In-game advertising has struggled, with the industry unsure of how to best incorporate advertising into games, in part because there is doubt about how effective such ads truly are. In-game advertising is seen as disruptive and hard to track (Androvich, 2008). As such, revenue has been modest; advertisers spent only $34 million on in-game ads in 2004, considerably less than the amount spent on other media (Gentile, 2005a). Typically, the advergame focuses on casual gaming trends and design which is simple but still allows a high degree of control over the presentation of the brand (Diamante, 2005). Such simple design makes the typical advergame extremely flexible, allowing a much larger international audience (Elkin, 2002; Stanley, 2004a).Though hardly a simple game, America’s Army is perhaps the most successful example of the advergame (Nichols, 2005).According to Army sources, recruiting using television ads can run between $5 and $10 per hour per viewer, while the cost of America’s Army is roughly ten cents per viewer per hour (Kane, 2005).The Army understands, however, that the best possible practice is to not rely on one mode of advertising, and incorporates a variety of advertising strategies beyond the creation of its game.With an advertising budget of approximately $200 million, it can afford to reach far and wide (Linnett, 2004). For example, it also advertises with a number of other wargames including Activision’s Call of Duty:United Offensive (2004), 2K Games’ Army Men: Sarge’s War (2004), and Got Game’s WWII: Tank Commander (2006) (Brickner, 2004). One of the most compelling features of the serious games developed by the military has been largely ignored by critics and researchers. Because most of these

48 Historicizing the Joystick Soldier

games have been designed to be played online, they allow for much more than the easy distribution of games. First, these games draw together communities who become fans not just of the games but also of the military itself (Thompson, 2007). And because the games connect via the Internet, they can become ready-made training devices for those in the military. Such games can be used to provide training—even “secret training”—to soldiers around the world. This ability to transmit information works both ways, with the military not only transmitting new scenarios to game players but gathering data on soldiers’ play sessions which is then relayed back to the military (Grossman, 2005; Jean, 2006a). It bears noting, however, that in this database the identity of any player is kept separate from his or her gameplay statistics. Second, because these games are increasingly open-ended and are monitored by the military, video gamers’ leisure activities are transformed into new media labor. It is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in first-person shooter games, for players to create their own levels using the game’s level editor. This user-created content, referred to as “mods,” has been instrumental in helping popularize hit games franchises like Half-Life (1998) and Quake (1996) by prolonging player interest. But in the context of games like America’s Army, the ability of players to create levels not only allows the game to accrue value from gamer labor—thus making the original venture appear an even wiser investment— but also allows players to repurpose the game, either expanding it or critiquing it, an act sometimes referred to as “counter-gaming” (Li, 2004). However, the ability to critique America’s Army through mods is difficult since the Army’s current level editor is purposefully not as open-ended as other game editors. That said, there remain other opportunities for player resistance, including in-game activism and machinima (see this volume’s final section for examples of game resistance). Finally, such games become ideal opportunities for training players.This is one of the key goals of America’s Army—to introduce would-be soldiers to the Army’s core value system.This has led to one of the most strident criticisms of the game, from groups like Bay Area Direct Action and researchers: that it indoctrinates players with “Army values” while ignoring many critical and worrisome aspects of military life. Be All You Can Be? The Question of the Military’s Use of Video Games “Serious games make it possible to ‘learn by doing,’ in that trainees can learn as much from their failures as they do from their successes.”—Statement of objectives from the Transportation Safety Administration’s proposed serious game for luggage screeners. (Game time, 2007)

Target Acquired 49

Ultimately, the success of America’s Army depends on what is being measured. Recruiting seems to have spiked following the game, and, though it remains relatively popular, it no longer sees the kind of press it once garnered. The game’s true success lies in all the things it proved it could achieve as a free video game. As a promotional tool, America’s Army was both a cost-effective and contentious media product that grabbed headlines and secured the game’s success in the public eye.While its critics have suggested that it paints a narrow view of military life and that it amounts to a government endorsement of violent video games, it must be acknowledged that the game also showed just how effective serious games and their subset, advergames, could truly be in an international marketplace. Viewed from the outside, the use of video games by any military force is a seemingly inevitable step in the increasingly close relationship between the military and game companies. Indeed, because of the proven efficacy of simulation for training both soldiers and personnel, the use of serious video games for training is likely to increase.Yet the same qualities that have attracted the U.S. military to video games make them attractive and useful technologies elsewhere.While the dominant modes of production of video games are currently centered in the West, that may not always be the case. The use of video games for training and recruiting seems certain to be adopted by other nations, as well as large private firms, governments, and even terrorist groups and peace advocates. As technocultural commodities which are easily distributed and engender passionate fan communities, video games represent an ideal means to reinforce or challenge an ideology. References About us. (2007). MOVES Institute Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved December 1, 2007, from Addelman, R. (2006). They’re rated “T” for troubling. Maclean’s, 119(30): 61. Androvich, M. (2008, May 5). In-game ads not very effective says St. John. Gameindustry. biz. Available online at:,says-st-john. Baber, L. (2002, May 23). Army recruiting through video games. Retrieved June 7, 2005, from Brickner, S. (2004, December 16). Going to war with a stick. Eugene Weekly, 2005. Available online at: gifts.html. Brown Jr., S. (2007, May 31). When war is a video game, it needs to tell the whole story. St. Louis Post-Dispatch: D1. Bulkeley, B.W.M. (2003, February 27). Sony plays a videogame grid. Wall Street Journal: B5. Carlson, S. (2003, August 15). Video games can be helpful to college students, a study concludes. The Chronicle of Higher Education: A32.

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Cave, D. (2005, March 27). For Army recruiters, a hard toll from a hard sell. Retrieved May 9, 2005, from 27recruit.html. Colvile, R. (2004, May 3). How to re-fight the Gulf Wars. New Statesman: 16–17. Demaria, R. (2005, November 3) Postcard from SGS 2005: Healthcare and forestry— Half-life 2: Meet serious games modding. Retrieved July 15, 2008, from http:// Diamante, V. (2005, May 23). E3 report: New practices in licensing and ancillary rights. Retrieved May 26, 2005, from diamante_pfv.html. DOD (2008) Index of games. Retrieved July 16, 2008, from Department of Defense Game Developer’s Community website modules.php. Elkin, T. (2002, June 10). Sony ties MD Walkman to online game. Advertising Age: 73. Emeling, S. (2003, December 30). Seniors taking to computer games. Salt Lake Tribune. Erwin, S.I. (2006). Gaming trends. National Defense, 91(637): 42, 44. ESA. (2005a). 2005—Sales demographic, and usage data: Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Retrieved March 31, 2005, from the Entertainment Software Association website: ESA. (2005b). Top ten industry facts. Retrieved March 10, 2005, from the Electronic Software Association website ESA. (2007). 2007 Sales, demographic, and usage data: Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Retrieved November 25, 2007, from the Electronic Software Association website Fletcher, A. (2005, March 24). Army battles low number of recruits. Retrieved May 9, 2005, from the Greenville News website 03/24/2005032461307_plain.html. Game on! (2004, September). Industrial Engineer: 29. Game on! (2007, October 1). Government Executive, 39: 10. Game time. (2007, June 1). Government Executive, 39: 11. Gentile, G. (2005a, May 25). Actors weigh strike over video game voices. USA Today. From Gentile, G. (2005b, May 20). Products placed liberally in video games. Associated Press. Ghattas, K. (2002). Politics-Syria: Video game features virtual intifada. Global Information Network, 1. Grossman, L. (2005, February 28). The Army’s Killer App. Time: 165. Grover, R., Edwards, C., Rowley, I., and Ihlwan, M. (2005, February 29). Game wars: Who will win your entertainment dollar, Hollywood or Silicon Valley? Business Week: 60–66. Grow up, gamers. (2006). Government Executive, 38(21): 17. Guth, R.A., Wingfield, N., and Divorack, P. (2005, May 9). It’s Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3, and war is about to begin. Wall Street Journal: B1. Halter, E. (2006). Islamogaming: The state of gaming in the Muslim world. PC Magazine, 25(23): 136–137. Hamm, S. and McNatt, R. (1999, January 11). Mideast tensions—right in your den. Business Week: 6.

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Hodes, J. and Ruby-Sachs, E. (2002, August 23). “America’s Army” targets youth. The Nation, accessed online at hodes20020823. Howard, T. (2007, April 12). The Army’s looking for a few good online gamers: $2 million sponsorship of gaming website has recruitment in mind. USA Today, B.7. International: Jihad in cyberspace; Hizbullah’s new video game. (2003). The Economist, 366(8315): 42. Jean, G. (2006a). “America’s Army”. National Defense, 90(627): 34–36. Jean, G. (2006b). Truman turns into virtual playground for Navy crews. National Defense, 90(627): 36–37. Jenkins, H. (2003, November 15). The Editor: A war of words over Iraq video games: Did you miss?: A computer game based on the Gulf conflict is just the latest example of the ever closer relationship between virtual and real war. The Guardian: 26. Johnson, B. (2007, September 26). Halo 3 enters the fray in £19bn video games battle. The Guardian: 5. Kane, P. (2005, December 9). Guardian Weekly: U.S. news: War games designed to enlist recruits: Defence department spends $100m on campus to convert digital gamers into real-life warriors. The Guardian: 7. Karam, Z. (2003, June 1). Hezbollah game draws political ire/“Special Force” pits guerrillas against Israelis. Houston Chronicle: 30. Kent, S.L. (2001). The ultimate history of video games: From Pong to Pokemon and beyond: The story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world. New York: Prima Publishing. Kohler, C. (2008, August 6). Activists protest America’s Army game with songs and stickers. Level Three (Writer) (2007, December 8). [TV mini-series]. In F. Bailey and R. Barbato (Producer), Rise of the Video Game: Discovery Channel. Li, Z. (2004) The Potential of America’s Army: The video game as civilian-military public sphere. Unpublished Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA. Linnett, R. (2004, July 26). Army fails to battle new recruit reality. Advertising Age: 75. Loftus, T. (2003, December 22). . . . and a Jedi Knight in “Star Wars Galaxies”: the year in gaming. Accessed at Lorge, E. (2007, August 13) America’s Army to launch new game. Available at: Ly, P. (2003, April 7). In wartime, teens go back to their quarters: More young videogamers seek the stimulation of battlefield simulation. The Washington Post, B.03. McCune, J. C. (1998, February). The game of business. American Management Journal: 56–58. Miege, B. (1989). The capitalization of cultural production. New York: International General. Nichols, R. (2005). The games people play: A political economic analysis of video games and their production. Unpublished Dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR. Nichols, R. (2008). Ancillary markets: Merchandising and video games. In J. Wasko and P. McDonald (eds), The contemporary Hollywood film industry. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Reznichenko, V.G. (2003). Armed forces of the future. Military Thought, 12(2): 194–196. Richtel, M. (2005, April 11). A new reality in video games: Advertisements. New York Times.

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Roumani, R. (2006, June 5). Muslims craft their own video games. Christian Science Monitor: 7. Ryan, J. (2004, September 23). Army’s war game recruits kids. San Francisco Chronicle: B.1. Ryan, K. (2006, May 22). Games get serious. San Francisco Chronicle: C1. Stanley, T.L. (2004a, March 22). Joystick nation. Advertising Age: 75. Stanley, T.L. (2004b, May 17). Marketers flock to gaming gathering. Advertising Age: 75. This is no video game. (2007). PC Magazine, 26(20): 54. Thompson, E. (2007, December 4). America’s Army goes Xbox, now PC. Available at: Toles, T. (1985). Video games and American military ideology. In V. Mosco and J. Wasko (eds.), The critical communications review (Vol. III: Popular culture and media events, pp. 207–223). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. Vargas, J. A. (2004, October 18). Problems you can shake a joystick at: War room to sickroom, video games are red-hot. The Washington Post: A.01. Wadhams, N. (2005, January 2). Troops stationed in Iraq turn to gaming. Associated Press. Williams, D. (2003). The video game lightning rod: Constructions of a new media technology, 1970–2000. Information, Communication, and Society, 6(4): 523–550. Wiltenburg, M. (2003, April 3). More than playing games. Christian Science Monitor: 14. Zeller, S. (2005). Training games. Government Executive, 37(1): 44–49.

Chapter 3

Training Recruits and Conditioning Youth The Soft Power of Military Games David B. Nieborg

The 26-year-old Dutch gamer Samir is still shocked by the reaction and outcry regarding his fan movie, “SonicJihad: A Day in the Life of a Resistance Fighter.”1 After all, he created his video using only material and elements drawn from the first-person shooter (FPS) PC game Battlefield 2 (2005) and its expansion pack Battlefield 2:Special Forces (2005). On December 26, 2005, Samir posted the movie on a much-frequented message board of one of the many online Battlefield communities, with the caveat: “Don’t see it as a jihadi movie, but as a comical look at the other side . . .” (SonicJihad, 2005). Fast forward to May 4, 2006.The U.S. House of Representatives’ Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence holds an open hearing, an uncommon event as most of these hearings take place behind closed doors. The panel seeks to answer how global terrorist organizations use information and communication technologies to their advantage. Then, a government contractor from Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) takes the floor and shows various examples of their research on “Al-Qaeda or radical Islamists on the Web.” The presentation ends with: And then lastly, we want to show you Battlefield 2.This is made by an American company. But they [terrorists] have created a new trailer and a plug-in, which if you register and send them $25, you can play it. And here is the advertisement. (House Select Intelligence Committee, 2006)2 A clip is played.The clip, or “advertisement” and “trailer” in the contractor’s words, is Samir’s fan movie. Soon after the hearing, the Reuters news agency issues a story titled “Islamists using U.S. video games in youth appeal” (Morgan, 2006). In minutes CNN, Fox News, and the Washington Post copy the Reuters report, and the story spreads swiftly. The original Reuters account contains several remarkable passages,

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such as: “But in a modified video trailer posted on Islamic Web sites and shown to lawmakers, the game depicts a man in Arab headdress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. Invaders” (ibid.). Unfortunately, the Reuters reporter was not familiar with game culture in general, or the Battlefield 2 expansion pack in particular. Battlefield 2 allows gamers, without any modification whatsoever, to play as the “insurgents” or Opposing Forces. For a hearing that deals with misinformation, half-truths and propaganda, the meeting’s misunderstandings and distortions offer an ironic but a sobering portrait of the power of video games and new media to play into existing moral, political, and security panics. Reuters’ initial erroneous press release concludes:“SAIC executive Eric Michael said researchers suspect Islamic militants are using video games to train recruits and condition youth to attack U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq” (Morgan, 2006). In a subsequent personal interview with a Dutch national newspaper, Samir indicated that he, before the incident, in fact, looked forward to visiting the U.S. but now he had become a bit anxious about doing so (Funnekotter and Nieborg, 2006). Like other gamers, he was stunned both by Reuters’ sloppy reporting and because of the double standard regarding video games’ representation of real-world combatants. After all, if there was such uproar about exploiting youth for Jihadi recruitment, Samir wondered, “What about America’s Army?” (ibid.). The America’s Army Platform This chapter examines America’s Army’s (2002) unique position within a global game culture in light of Samir’s remarks on the role of video games and—what can most easily be characterized as—propaganda. The military’s use of video games, and America’s Army in particular, signals the utility of game culture for the dissemination of State-produced propaganda as part of a wider U.S. strategic communication campaign (Nieborg, 2006).The freely downloadable America’s Army cleverly mixes educational, ludic, marketing, and propaganda elements that fits comfortably into the FPS genre, while also promoting a highly politicized recruiting and public relations agenda. “The official U.S.Army game,” as the game is commonly referred to in its U.S. marketing materials, is best described as an online, multiplayer, squad-based tactical FPS game played on the PC. The game is distributed via peer-to-peer software and various game websites, and is developed and maintained under the direct supervision of the U.S. Army.The game’s expressed goal is to inform and interact with popular culture rather than to persuade or indoctrinate, and to raise awareness of the U.S.Army brand, rather than to recruit directly.A central theme of the game’s design is the varied opportunities awaiting gamers who pursue a career in the Army, and it is this opportunity for a direct recruitment solicitation

Training Recruits 55

that was the primary catalyst for the game’s initial development. Having commerce at the core of its brand identity, the PC game exemplifies the linkage of commercial goals with a cultural text through creating engaging experiences (Van der Graaf and Nieborg, 2003). In a fully branded virtual world as well as through its accompanying online community, both of which draw primarily on corporate aesthetics, gamers are positioned to get an overall favorable impression of the U.S. Army as an institution. As such, America’s Army can be positioned within an emerging corporate tendency to create immersive advertisements in the form of entertainment, offering customers memorable sensory experiences that tie in with the positioning of a company, product, or service. Since its introduction on July 4, 2002, the America’s Army brand has expanded significantly with the Xbox game America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier (2005), America’s Army: True Soldiers (2007) for the Xbox 360, and the mobile phone game America’s Army: Special Operations (2007). The most popular version of the game is America’s Army 3 (2009) for the PC. In addition, dedicated fans can buy America’s Army action figures, apparel, and other paraphernalia on armygame, or seek out an America’s Army cabinet in an arcade hall. Rather than pursuing a series of updated games on various platforms, i.e. the standard non-governmental commercial game franchise, America’s Army has become more of an expandable technology platform that allows for future gaming developments with relatively little costs to the military. According to its website: “The America’s Army‘Platform’ (AAP) is a government-owned core technology and content infrastructure designed to support existing warfighters, instructors & students through a new generation of low cost, PC-based, web-deployable, interactive training” (U.S. Army, 2005). This elaborate set of governmental applications uses advanced proprietary game technologies for various training tools (e.g., for land navigation), and modeling and simulation applications (e.g., weapon testing). The different non-public game technologies are used by various U.S. governmental organizations (e.g., the U.S. Secret Service), and are built by internal developers, commercial game studios, and U.S. Army researchers. Given the dynamic pliability and multifarious still-emergent nature of the gaming technology, the AAP should be considered at least four things in one: an advergame, an edugame, a testing tool, and a propaganda game.The edugame and testing (i.e., modeling and simulation) dimensions of the platform are most evident in the governmental applications, while the public version of the game features all four dimensions. Hereafter only the public version of the PC game will be analyzed since it offers us a salient inroad for analyzing the game’s varied uses and ramifications. Since the aim of this chapter is to deepen the understanding of the politics of play in modern wargames supported by the government, this chapter employs America’s Army as a special case study because it is one of the few, State-produced,

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Figure 3.1 America’s Army arcade cabinet. Image used with permission from Global VR

Training Recruits 57

highly visible and successful games to mobilize such an overt persuasive agenda (Løvlie, 2007). And, because America’s Army has such a pronounced role as a strategic communications tool for the U.S. military, it raises the question: How do government messages become manifest in wargames that sell themselves as entertainment? To best address this question, I draw on the notion of “soft power” and provide a short discussion of the Global War on Terror as a war on/of ideas. It is my contention that modern warfare has already become a familiar and commoditized intertext—a set of, oftentimes transmedial, self-referential texts which have common narratives and/or themes (cf. Marshall, 2002)—which aid in the popular acquiescence to pro-military themes and agendas. The militarization of popular culture is nothing new. Pro-military subject matter has long existed in television shows, movies, toys, and digital and nondigital games (Regan, 1994; Hall, 2003).Yet what makes America’s Army such an interesting case study in this military-entertainment history is that its foundational technology possesses an adaptive and interactive character that allows its game developers and military personnel to design and produce cultural artifacts that function more dynamically than more passive and traditional forms of mediated entertainment. Digital Games as Soft Power Les Brownlee, the former Acting Secretary of the Army, and General Peter J. Schoomaker, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, emphasize the long-term character of the current Global War on Terror: This is not simply a fight against terror—terror is a tactic.This is not simply a fight against al Qaeda, its affiliates, and adherents—they are foot soldiers. This is not simply a fight to bring democracy to the Middle East—that is a strategic objective.This is a fight for the very ideas at the foundation of our society, the ways of life those ideas enable, and the freedoms we enjoy. (Brownlee and Schoomaker, 2004, p. 4) The Global War on Terror is not only a war on stateless criminals but, according to U.S. government officials—like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld —it is also “a war of ideas” (Rumsfeld, 2003). It is a war to spread freedom and liberty—i.e., values appropriated by and associated with the United States (Nye, 2004).The Bush administration’s mishandling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has had devastating results on international opinion concerning the U.S.’s political leadership and its aggressive foreign policy. “The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe, weakened support for the War on Terrorism, and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide” (Defense Science Board, 2004, p. 15). The U.S.’s

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suffering global image and the dwindling international support for the Global War on Terror is also supported by the polling data of the Pew Research Center (2006). And although freedom, democracy, and free market capitalism are values largely shared around the world, the Bush administration is seen as the main culprit for the waning support for the U.S.-led military interventions. In his 2004 book Power, terror, peace, and war—America’s grand strategy in a world at risk foreign relations expert Walter Russell Mead reflects on the U.S.’s changing superpower status. In his opening chapter he addresses the almost messianic role of American grand strategy, to spread peace, freedom, and liberty around the world using various forms of power. Mead builds on Joseph Nye’s (2002) distinction between hard and soft power, offering two sub-categories for both. Hard power is divided into sharp (military) and sticky (economic) power, whereas soft power (cultural power) is split into hegemonic and sweet power. As comic books and Coca-Cola are part of the U.S.’s sweet power, so too are games, movies, and television series.According to Mead and Nye the Global War on Terror cannot be won by hard power alone, but requires soft power as well: “In any case,American sweet power, though limited and variable, clearly plays an important role in winning sympathy and support for American foreign policy around the world” (Mead, 2004, pp. 39–40). Unlike government propaganda, soft power is not under the State’s strict control, and has—just as hard military power—its limits. America’s Army is not only a public relations tool and a compelling cultural artifact, but it is a powerful example of the U.S.’s ability to successfully wield soft, and thus sweet power by tapping into and affecting popular culture by becoming culturally popular. America’s Army as Advergame Anti-American attitudes are not only a direct threat to U.S. national security, but they also undermine the last remaining superpower’s soft power. Since soft power is manufactured primarily by commercial enterprises, it is no surprise that the U.S. military is eager to appropriate such valuable practices.The Defense Science Board (2004) points directly to the private sector firms that excel at branding, marketing, and communicating messages with agendas. One way to do this is by using “interactive and mediated channels,” because “pervasive telecommunications technology permits the cost effective engagement of target audiences in sustained two-way interactions using electronic mail, interactive dialogue, virtual communication, interactive video games, and interactive Internet games” (ibid., pp. 57–58). In other words, commercial games should be leveraged for the U.S. war effort. The commercial success of military-themed games like Battlefield 2 (2006), Call of Duty 4:ModernWarfare (2007), and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (2006) not only indicate the sweet power potential of military-themed

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games generally, but they seemingly invite governmental appropriation given the ways in which they overlap ideologically with the Bush administration’s varied clandestine (i.e., Black/Ghost Ops) and spectacular military interventions (i.e., Shock and Awe). The U.S. military and a global game culture are profoundly interlinked on technical, cultural and economic levels, and the abundant, perennial presence of modern warfare in computer games is a consequence of this linkage and a catalyst for additional projects of this kind. The technological symbiosis between games for entertainment and military training enjoys a long history.With the end of the Cold War, the structure of the U.S. military, and the way U.S. forces would wage future wars, changed dramatically (Toffler and Toffler, 1995). Simultaneously, the research and development of modeling and simulation techniques flourished in the commercial entertainment industries (e.g., 3D graphics, higher speed connectivity, more advanced PCs). The booming innovation of commercial simulation technology did not go unnoticed by the U.S. military, as the vast and influential military-industrial complex transformed into the militaryentertainment complex during the 1990s (see Der Derian, 2001; Lenoir and Lowood, 2005). The reach of the military-entertainment complex extends well beyond simulation technologies used for formal training purposes, however. Films, television series, toys, and other entertainment products are co-developed with the direct input of military interests (Hall, 2003; Robb, 2004). The prevailing representation and simulation of modern warfare in games demonstrate that there is already a common understanding about the generic conventions of digital war. A global gaming culture, with its military origins of interactive play, is fueled largely by games centered on armed conflict, eagerly developed by young males for young males (Kline, Dyer-Witheford, and de Peuter, 2003). Consider many of the gamic conventions in the FPS genre: the fetishization of weaponry, the focus on infantry and close-quarters combat, and the emphasis on rankings and multiplayer competitions.To effectively tap into popular culture the Army exploits existing technological, cultural, and economic frameworks of transmedia production networks, harnessing the collaborative nature of online game communities, and uses them to their advantage; thus, spreading the Army’s symbolic capital in the process of free game distribution (Van der Graaf and Nieborg, 2003). America’s Army as Edugame According to the Official Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, propaganda is defined as:“Any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly” (Department

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of Defense, 2004, p. 427). Propaganda is thus a message with a clear intention, known at forehand by its sender, meant to influence behavior; it is “a process of persuasion” teaching people to think of a given subject in a particular light (Taylor, 1998, p. 18). Three of America’s Army’s four dimensions overlap conceptually, as propaganda, advertisement and education share much in common.While America’s Army is first and foremost a sophisticated marketing tool, it also (literally) teaches gamers what it takes to be in the U.S. Army (e.g., the CPR skills for a medic). The ongoing Global War on Terror calls for more soldiers and thus more recruits. The Iraq War in particular has put heavy strains on the Army’s human resources. However, while America’s Army is a branding tool and recruiting aid within the U.S., its worldwide availability potentially works against the platform’s recruitment goals.The FAQ section on the official website explains why someone outside the U.S. can play America’s Army: “We want the whole world to know how great the U.S. Army is” (U.S. Army, 2007). America’s Army’s main design and gameplay principles are to create virtual replicas of key aspects of professional life in the U.S. Army (though the main focus is squarely on combat). As an important institution in American society, the U.S. Army directly and indirectly represents certain social and civic values. In fact, the game’s loading screen features the Soldier’s Creed: I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values . . . I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American Soldier. (America’s Army, 2003) It is clearly a virtual moral contract or code of ethics.When the game has finished loading, the creed disappears and the player enlists in the digital U.S. Army. America’s Army as Propaganda One of the ways America’s Army aims to positively influence its gamers’ attitudes is by showing that violence used by the U.S.Army is justified because freedom must be defended. Additionally, players are taught that the U.S. Army is a professional and ethical organization, based on the U.S. Army values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage (or, LDRSHIP). To contextualize these values, America’s Army imbues common gameplay actions and FPS combat scenarios with political and ideological content whereby its institutional rhetoric and values are made explicit. A vivid example of this technique emerges during the first “medic training” lecture, which is one part of the single player campaign. A virtual drill sergeant booms:

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In many cases, you will be risking your own life in a selfless way to provide first-aid. You are doing what’s right, and showing personal courage, both physically and morally. By performing first-aid, we are living up to the Army value of honor, because saving a human life brings honor to yourselves and to the United States Army. (America’s Army) In his critique of the many “myths of war” Chris Hedges argues: “The hijacking of language is fundamental to war” (2002, p. 34). Common in-game actions, such as nurturing, self-sacrifice, and acts of (virtual) heroism, are reframed in the game by adding Army values to them, such as “loyalty,” “selfless-service,” and “personal courage.” America’s Army propagates the U.S. Army ethos and, by extension, the rationale and legitimation of the U.S.’s foreign policy. In short, the game presents gamers with an institutionally sanctioned version of how the U.S. Army fights and why. The larger question—“Why?”—is made explicit in the official 224-page America’s Army game manual. It states:“while tactical movement and communications are often essential to the success of a mission, the U.S. Army exists to defend freedom, and employing force in combat is an important element of their job” (Tran, 2003, p. 36). Lethal force is justified as a legitimate and necessary state action: “By mediating the definitions of violence, nation states have the ability to shield their own uses of force from censure and, furthermore, to manipulate representations of their uses of force to inspire citizens” (Hall, 2003, p 27). The game justifies and educates others on how to dispense proper lethal force so as to defend freedom. America’s Army understands its commitment to creating the player-as-U.S.soldier identification by way of an ingenious but abrupt break with typical FPS design conventions. Even though America’s Army is an online multiplayer game, any one gamer’s point of view is, by design, restricted to that of an American soldier. In practice this means that both teams, those on offense and those on defense, see themselves and their team as U.S. Army soldiers and the enemy force as the Opposing Force (OpFor). It is not uncommon for there to be a modicum of character choice in commercial shooter games, where one can play as a German, British, American, or Russian soldier. In America’s Army the gamer always plays as a member of the U.S. Army, though they appear to the opponent as the enemy. Mirroring the rhetorical ways in which news reporters wield “we” and “us” to conflate the complex logic of war into the more streamlined ideology of good versus evil and us versus them (Taylor, 1998), the “we” and “us” in America’s Army is always-already the U.S. Army. Thus the terrorist or the OpFor team choice, which appear in such popular FPS games as Counter-Strike (1999) and Call of Duty 4 (2007) respectively, is purposely elided to guarantee that gamers identify only with the right point of view: that of the American soldier.

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America’s Army as Strategic Communication The developers of America’s Army do not frame the game as a recruiting tool or an advergame, but as a “strategic communication tool” (Davis, 2004). Although the definition that follows does not explicitly mention America’s Army, or any video game for that matter, it offers a valuable insight into the rationale of using strategic communication as a form of sweet power: strategic communication describes a variety of instruments used by governments for generations to understand global attitudes and cultures, engage in a dialogue of ideas between people and institutions, advise policymakers, diplomats, and military leaders on the public opinion implications of policy choices, and influence attitudes and behavior through communications strategies. (Defense Science Board, 2004, p. 11) The line, then, between strategic communication and propaganda is a fine one, if it exists at all. The renewed attention to the role that strategic communication plays within the U.S. defense community is, in large part, a recent by-product of the Global War on Terror.Yet, Kenneth Osgood’s analysis (2006) shows that the military strategic communication efforts enjoy a long institutional history. For example, at the beginning of the Cold War, the Eisenhower administration established various overt and clandestine government programs to win the “hearts and minds” of American citizens and individuals living abroad.The Defense Science Board, along with key players within the U.S. government, sees strategic communication as a vital component of America’s national security and foreign policy efforts. The U.S. government uses four instruments in deploying strategic communication: public diplomacy, public affairs, international broadcasting services, and information operations. Toffler and Toffler (1995) discuss the different levels of strategy “at which the military propaganda game,” i.e., strategic communication, “is played” (p. 194). Information Operations, also known within the U.S. military as Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), are used at the tactical level of strategy through radio transmissions, leaflets, or television broadcasts aimed at foreigners in order to influence their attitude and behavior. Today various Psychological Operations are conducted in Iraq, but these operations are “failing miserably,” just as they did during the Vietnam War (Kodosky, 2006, p. 3). Advising the U.S. Secretary of Defense regarding “the creation and dissemination of all forms of information in support of [PSYOPS] in time of military conflict,” in 2000 the Defense Science Board recommended the use of “other media types” for PSYOPS. Interestingly, online games in particular are singled out for their popularity:

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[Video games] can be disseminated by a number of techniques, ranging from diskettes to web downloads. Internet games allow a number of geographically dispersed players to participate in a large, shared virtual space. [. . .] All are suitable for PSYOP in some situations. (Defense Science Board, 2000, p. 43) Although America’s Army is not currently used on the battlefield as a tactical PSYOPS tool, it may as yet become one because it is a complex, technological platform and not just a single, stand-alone game. Public opinion has always been an important factor in warfare. Two other components of strategic communication, public diplomacy and public affairs, are aspects of strategic communication that are more directly related to the use of America’s Army. Public diplomacy is an interactive way to inform foreigners about U.S. culture, values, and policy (e.g., by offering scholarships, official websites in non-English languages, and televised interviews with ambassadors and military commanders). As discussed previously, America’s Army explicitly communicates various values, policies and views on U.S. culture. By doing so, America’s Army is much more than a free game—it is part of the U.S. public diplomacy efforts.The success of America’s Army, in terms of its registered and active players, explains the subsequent expansion of the America’s Army brand. The game and its affiliated entertainment products may end up being some of the cheapest but most effective information weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Conclusion America’s Army is, to fall back on a tired cliché, more than “just a game.” To answer Samir’s opening question, America’s Army is highly successful at, quite literally, training U.S.Army recruits as well as conditioning a global youth culture through a single game.The game has become a powerful vessel for disseminating U.S. Army ideology and foreign policy to a global game culture. By showing a worldwide audience why and how the U.S. Army fights, the game positions itself as a key example of public diplomacy through the exchange of “ideas to build lasting relationships and receptivity to a nation’s culture, values, and policies” (Defense Science Board, 2004, p. 12). It even may qualify as a psychological tool that uses select information “to influence the attitudes and behavior” of “groups, and individuals in support of military and national security objectives” (p. 13). Entertainment has long been an indispensable instrument in the propagandist’s toolbox. However, the highly sanitized view on modern warfare in America’s Army is constructed by the U.S.Army itself, a more controlled endeavor than embedding journalists or influencing Hollywood scripts.The Defense Science Board (2004)

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is clear about the role of video games in the wider military-entertainment complex: namely, that its contractors should develop even more games for popular dissemination. America’s Army, then, as a free and technologically sophisticated game, is a preeminent application of soft power by the U.S. military. The game shows non-U.S. citizens that the U.S.Army is a highly trained, professional force, willing to fight against “those who oppose freedom” and it does so in a highly engaging interactive dialogue with gamers, through both the game and its vibrant fan community. By employing a discourse of authenticity the U.S.Army wields its institutional discursive power to market their game to a target group of gamers— i.e., teens and pre-teens—who are also, potentially, their future warfighters. Acknowledgments Thanks to Neil Stott and Robert Kodosky for pointers and feedback. Notes 1. According to Samir, his in-game name, SonicJihad, refers to an album of the American rapper Paris. You can see his videos on his YouTube channel: http://www. 2. Actually, Battlefield 2 is developed by Digital Illusions CE, a Swedish game development studio, and is published and globally distributed by the major U.S. game publisher Electronic Arts.

References Brownlee, L. and Schoomaker, P.J. (2004). Serving a nation at war: A campaign quality army with joint and expeditionary capabilities. Parameters, 34(2): 4–23. Davis, M. (ed.). (2004). America’s Army PC game vision and realization. San Francisco: U.S. Army and the Moves Institute. Defense Science Board. (2000). Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on the creation and dissemination of all forms of information in support of psychological operations (PSYOP) in time of military conflict. Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Defense Science Board. (2004). Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on strategic communication. Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Department of Defense. (2004). Department of Defense dictionary of military and associated terms. Washington, DC: Department of Defense. Der Derian, J. (2001). Virtuous war: Mapping the military-industrial-media-entertainment network. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Funnekotter, B. and Nieborg, D.B. (2006, June 2). Gamer rekruteert terroristen; Nederlander samir verdachte voor Amerikaanse inlichtingendiensten. NRC Handelsblad: 34.

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Hall, K.J. (2003). War games and imperial postures: Spectacles of combat in U.S. popular culture, 1942–2001 Doctoral Dissertation, Syracuse University. Halter, E. (2006). From Sun Tzu to XBox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Hedges, C. (2002). War is a force that gives us meaning. New York: Public Affairs. House Select Intelligence Committee. (2006, May 4). Panel I of the hearing of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Subject: “Terrorist use of the Internet for communications.” Washington, DC: Federal News Service. Kline, S., Dyer-Witheford, N., and de Peuter, G. (2003). Digital play—The interaction of technology, culture, and marketing. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Kodosky, R.J. (2006). “Sorry about that!”: American PSYOPS in Vietnam and Iraq. Atlanta, GA: ACA/PCA Conference. Lenoir, T. and Lowood, H. (2005). Theaters of war: The military-entertainment complex. In H. Schramm, H.L. Schwarte and J. Lazardzig (eds.), Collection, laboratory, theater: scenes of knowledge in the 17th century (pp. 427–456). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter. Løvlie, A.S. The rhetoric of persuasive games—freedom and discipline in America’s Army. Master Thesis, University of Oslo, 2007. Marshall, P.D. (2002). The new intertextual commodity. In D. Harries (ed.), The new media book (pp. 69–82). London: BFI. Mead, W.R. (2004). Power, terror, peace and war—America’s grand strategy in a world at risk. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Morgan, D. (2006, May 6). Islamists using U.S. video games in youth appeal. Reuters. Retrieved from Nieborg, D.B. (2006). Mods, nay! Tournaments, yay!—The appropriation of contemporary game culture by the U.S. military. Fibreculture Journal, 8. Retrieved from Nye, J.S. (2002). The paradox of American power: Why the world’s only superpower can’t go it alone. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nye, J.S. (2004). Soft power: The means to success in world politics. New York: PublicAffairs. Osgood, K. (2006). Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s secret propaganda battle at home and abroad. Lawrence: University of Kansas. Pew Research Center. (2006). No global warming alarm in the U.S., China—America’s image slips, but allies share U.S. concerns over Iran, Hamas. Washington, DC: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Phoenix. (2008, January 18). America’s Army medic training helps save a life [Msg 1]. Message posted to Regan, P.M. (1994). War toys, war movies, and the militarization of the United States, 1900–85. Journal of Peace Research, 31(1): 45–58. Robb, D. (2004). Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon shapes and censors the movies. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Rumsfeld, D.H. (2003, October 26). Take the fight to the terrorists. The Washington Post: B07. SonicJihad. (2005, May 5). Topic: Sonicjihad: A day in the life of a resistance fighter (movie). Message posted to topic.asp?fid=13670&tid=1806909. Taylor, P.M. (1998). War and the media—Propaganda and persuasion in the Gulf War. Second edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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Toffler, A. and Toffler, H. (1995). War and anti-war (Making sense of today’s global chaos). New York: Warner Books. Tran, N. “DocNartman”. (2003). America’s Army version 2.0 training manual. Army Game Project. U.S. Army (2005). America’s Army platform: technology. Retrieved November 24, 2007, from U.S. Army (2007). America’s Army: Special Forces—support—frequently asked questions. 2007. Retrieved November 24, 2007, from faqs.php?t=3&z=12#12. Van der Graaf, S. and Nieborg, D.B. (2003) Together we brand: America’s Army. In M. Copier and J. Raessens (eds.) Level up: Digital games research conference (pp. 324–338). Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht.

Interview with James F. Dunnigan Nina B. Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne

James F. Dunnigan is a pioneering wargame designer and well-known military historian. In 1969 he founded Simulations Publications, Inc., which designed and distributed board wargames and published the definitive wargame hobby magazine, Strategy & Tactics. Dunnigan is responsible for designing over a hundred wargames, including one of the best-selling wargames of all time, PanzerBlitz (1970). He is the author of numerous books on wargame design, and military history and strategy including The Complete Wargames Handbook (1992) and A Quick & Dirty Guide to War (2008). In addition to publishing books, Dunnigan edits a military affairs news and analysis website, NH: Could you just briefly describe how Jutland (1967), your first game published by Avalon Hill, came about? JD: I was visiting Tom Shaw, who basically ran Avalon Hill for years, in Baltimore because I had gone down to Washington to do research for something I was doing at school.Although I had never designed a game before, Shaw knew that I had an analytical turn of mind and asked me if I would design a game for them. Being an opportunist, I said, “Yeah, sure.” He asks, “What about the Battle of Jutland?”That was a scary moment because I only vaguely knew what Jutland was. I said, “Oh,World War I”, and left it open so that he could finish. He says, “Yeah, you know, the Grand Fleet.” I said, “Yeah, sure, no problem.”You bullshit your way through life and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I was attending Columbia at the time, and the engineering school had this naval architecture department and they had everything I needed [to create the game]. It was simply a simulation of a naval battle.What we now consider wargames— the underlying algorithms and plan, not obviously the computer code—has been reinvented many times over thousands of years.

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NH: You have written that wargames are “analytic history.”What do you mean by that? JD: We were doing a series of games on the Arab–Israeli wars in 1973 when I had an epiphany.At that point we were doing the ’56, the ’67, and perhaps the 1948 [war] as well.We also had a fourth hypothetical war. Our game was being developed in the spring and summer of 1973. In New York City we attracted a lot of people who were into this sort of analytical history, including a young gamer from the Israeli UN Delegation.War actually breaks out in late October of ’73, and I said, “Well, I guess that’s the last we see of him. He’s probably going back there [Israel].”Then—bingo—he shows up the next day! So I ask him why he’s still [in the States] and he says that it wasn’t his choice. His people said he’d be more useful if he kept working with our game. When we set up the game, we didn’t have to make any changes to it as the war unfolded. In fact, the war played out as it had played out in the game. And that’s when I had my epiphany. I thought, “Whoa, we might have something here.” It turns out that we did. Over the years, I got more and more evidence. For example, we did another game just before the 1991 war—Arabian Nightmare— which played on [Ted] Koppel’s show [Nightline on ABC]. He featured it on his show and he asked me if we are going to win? I tell him, “No doubt!”And he asked me how is it that I can be so sure. I tell him that you can predict what’s going to happen with any large-scale human endeavor because the patterns constantly repeat themselves.You can predict the future fairly accurately simply by looking at the past. As it’s been said, “The past is prologue to the future.” NH: Was collaboration with military insiders or consultants like the Israeli UN diplomat common during your days developing wargames at SPI? JD: No, it was rare; but when it did happen, they came to us.We were creating the games as historians.We just cracked the books, and talked to people in the military but at the grunt level. I grew up in a blue-collar saloon upstate (New York), and most of the guys in the bar were World War II veterans. While I was working I’d hear a lot of the conversations and stories, and that’s where I got my first dose of military history. The information was quite valuable because these guys were just grunts.They didn’t know that they were giving analysis, but they were. It wasn’t a simulation for them; they had their scars to prove it. NH: What makes a good wargame? JD: The most important thing for a good wargame is that it be addictive. If it’s not addictive, it’s not going to sell. In other words, you’re selling legal crack cocaine. I went out to California a few times to work with computer game companies, and we’d sit around and talk about the good old days.And one

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guy said that the question they used in the shop was, “Is it crack yet?” Because once it becomes crack, it’s gold. It’s the same thing for the military games. Once [the game] becomes crack, the soldiers will train without a sergeant kicking them in their butts. NH: What are the elements that make a wargame “addictive”? JD: Think of any game that you’ve played that’s addictive: it’s easy to get into and hard to walk away from. In other words, it has to offer a constant challenge that never gets boring. The trick with a wargame is you’re not just designing crack, you are trying—or at least this was the case when I was in the business—to design something that teaches a lesson. The problem, commercially speaking, is that, if it becomes too realistic, it becomes boring. NH: Can you describe the game development system you created? JD: Well, basically you can simulate anything. In fact, I would often kid Tom Shaw—the guy who ran Avalon Hill—about that fact. One day, he came back at me with a challenge to create a game based on a subject of his choosing. “Okay,” I said, “what’s the subject?” He said: “Getting lost in the wilderness.” Twenty hours later I’d made a game called Outdoor Survival (1972)! Only a small percentage of the population understands what goes into making a game. That’s why there are more players than there are game designers. The problem with wargames—at least the manual wargames I was creating—is that you had to absorb the program; the software, as it were.These instruction manuals ranged anywhere from four to 64 pages.You also had to be one of those people who loved math or were interested in history and systems analysis, for want of a better term. The way you create a game is by using the scientific method. Essentially, you have a hypothesis, which is the situation and then you break it down logically.You have to assess which “parts” move and what parts don’t. For example, in the case of Outdoor Survival, the terrain doesn’t move, but you move and so does the weather.Your physical state also changes if you do not obtain water or food, or get home. You’re only going to last so long out in the wilderness. So that’s why designing this game was so easy. Because game design is applying the scientific method, you can teach it. In fact, I did teach it for years at Georgia Tech and various military schools. If you had the right analytic skills, I could turn you into a wargame designer after a few days of instruction.That’s really all there is to it. NH: As editor of S&T, you introduced longer articles of historical analysis to accompany each game in each publication.Why did you decide to include the articles?

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We believed there was a market for it. I knew that Avalon Hill was selling fifty to sixty thousand copies; meaning that their games were doing better than the average book did. Ask any author and they’ll tell you that they’d like those numbers. So I thought that there’s obviously an audience out there—it may be a niche audience—but, in a country with two hundred million people, we can make a buck with this.And it turned out to be true.

I later discovered when we conducted our focus groups and did follow-up questionnaires, that the majority of people who bought these games didn’t actually play them. Instead, they studied them. The game was a system, and they were simply interested in understanding how a given battle or event worked. I remember one guy [in a focus group] was a [medical doctor]. I asked him where he found the time to play these games. He said that he didn’t play them, but simply read them. Other people nodded their heads in agreement. Others clearly were also playing the games in their heads NH: What role did the grognards play in the shaping board wargaming in the 1970s? JD: Every special interest community has their opinion leaders, or their fanatics. [The grognards] were basically the people who were most into it. In our community they were typically overeducated and forceful people. Because they knew what they were talking about, they were intellectually compelling, and so you really couldn’t just brush them off. One of the basic tensions in wargame design was playability versus realism. Many or most of the grognards wanted more realistic simulations, which posed a kind of marketing problem. As a publisher, we had to produce games that people wanted to buy because they wanted to play, or at the very least, study. Grognards were only pleased with the most realistic and dense games.Yet the grognards are maybe only 1 percent or 2 percent of the audience, the enthusiasts are about 15 percent or 20 percent, and the remaining players have declining degrees of interest. Despite these challenges, grognards made enormous contributions to the hobby. They were very quick to help us debug games.This is why we had the open house every Friday night.We called it “Friday Night Follies.” Many of the grognards would attend, and you’d have maybe a dozen different games being tested on any given Friday night.These sessions proved to be some of the most stimulating intellectual discussion I’ve ever had in gaming. NH: Was there tension between the grognards and the casual gamers over playability versus realism?

Interview with James F. Dunnigan 71


The grognards wanted more meaty games, games with more realism and information crammed into them.Whereas the majority of gamers wanted titles they could actually play, or at least study without getting a headache. Some of the more complex games were extremely complicated, and the play procedures would probably give a lot of programmers headaches. NH: When board wargaming was really taking off, the U.S. was engaged in Vietnam, which was ultimately a very unpopular war. How did the Vietnam War affect the wargaming community? JD: I was attending Columbia University at the time, and there were a number of gamers of different political stripes around then.The radicals too were fascinated by games, because games were neutral and historical in nature. In fact, one of the guys who became a fairly prominent wargame designer was the driver or bodyguard for the head of the Communist Party U.S.A. So, yes, we had capitalists and communists sitting down over the game table. From the very beginning, and even during the political turmoil of the 1960s, the games were seen as a neutral place to examine what [historical conflict] was all about. Again the players saw it as neutral, they didn’t see it as a political statement, but as an academic tool. NH: How did the introduction of computer technology change the wargaming experience? JD: Well, computers obviously made the games accessible to far more people. You didn’t have to be a math geek in order to get into it.And as the games shifted more to the mass market, it started to skew towards people who just wanted to kill things. Computer wargames became less dedicated to military study and more to entertainment. The business has split along theses lines. NH: At the same time board wargames were losing popularity, fantasy-based games like Dungeons and Dragons were taking off despite the increasing presence of microcomputers. Was there something about the Cold War, post-Vietnam era that turned players away from war and toward science fiction and fantasy? JD: What really killed the enthusiasm for wargames was the end of the Cold War. The Central Front in Europe concentrated most people’s military attentions, even during Vietnam.Vietnam was seen as a diversion. When the Cold War ended I had been called back to run S&T again for about 18 months. During my tenure I ran a survey about gamers’ attitudes. People’s interest in military affairs really took a nosedive once the war—the only war that

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counted—was over. Later, when I spoke to others in the publishing business, I discovered that enthusiasm for military books also went right down the tubes. It’s only slowly recovered since.The War on Terror’s been good for military publishing, or at least for asymmetric warfare. People were not interested because people were not scared any more. It was fear that had brought a lot of people to wargaming. NH: Are you suggesting that gamers played board wargames, or analyzed the games S&T published, as a way of coping with the fears of war? JD: Yes! Oh, very much so. I had a lot of gamers tell me with the contemporary games that they felt a lot calmer through playing the games because the media—in order to stay in business—have to outdo each other in making things sound scarier and scarier. [The gamers] felt that they got a much more realistic and non-threatening view of [conflict] by playing these contemporary games. That is one of the main reasons why a lot of these World War III games were so popular. Future conflict was no longer the scary unknown.At worst, it was a scary known.And just by knowing what was going on and who was doing what to whom and what the limits and probabilities were, [gamers] feel reassured. It’s reassuring once you know the details, because the details show you that a lot of things just are not likely to happen. I’m surprised there aren’t more games about the nuts and bolts of counterterrorism but that’s probably too dull. Although, if I were still in the business, I could probably come up with something that would grab people’s attention. Unfortunately, the current market prefers games where you can break things and kill people.

Part II

Representing War

Chapter 4

Behind the Barrel Reading the Video Game Gun Scott A. Lukas

There is a person moving quickly through a dark and futuristic corridor, wielding a shotgun and casually blowing away zombies and imps that pass in front of his weapon’s crosshairs. Following the rampage, the single-barrel shotgun disappears from the screen and the flesh-and-blood protagonist appears wearing a black trench coat with the shotgun in hand. In this uncanny meeting of the virtual and the real, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, appears as himself inside the environment of the popular first-person shooter (FPS) game Doom (1993). This video, shown on October 30, 1995, as part of a Microsoft Halloween party for the gaming industry’s top designers, exemplifies a strange moment of cultural remaking (Kushner, 2004, pp. 201–2). Gates, still holding the emblematic shotgun from the game, gives a speech about Windows 95 and its ability to run any video game, adding, “These games are getting really realistic.”1 While he is delivering additional technical testimonial for his product, a zombie appears from off screen, which Gates then summarily dismisses with one shot from his shotgun, admonishing, “Don’t interrupt me.” In this interesting virtual remake of himself, the Microsoft CEO injects his likeness into the world of Doom, and, though largely tongue-in-cheek, his remediated self uses the Doom shotgun to stitch together the two narratives— the virtual one of the classic video game and the real one of his Windows 95 sales pitch. Six years later, in 2001, 25 computer and video game companies are sued by relatives of the Columbine High School shooting victims for $5 billion, with the lawsuit claiming that “absent the combination of extremely violent video games and these boys’ incredibly deep involvement, use of and addiction to these games and the boys’ basic personalities, these murders and this massacre would not have occurred” (Ward, 2001).The lawsuit draws heavily on the idea that the murderers in the Columbine massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were fans of numerous FPS games, including Doom, and that their desire and ability to kill, including their proficiency with weapons, was connected to their virtual experiences with Doom and similar video games. In the years that followed Columbine, many possible

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causes for the massacre were aired: video games and their myriad weapons, feature films (The Basketball Diaries [1995]), parental upbringing, popular music (Marilyn Manson, Rammstein), Goth subculture, school bullying and out-group effects, depression, and even school curriculum. What continued to surface among this mélange of explanations for the tragedy was the idea that the guns and explosives used on that tragic day were somehow connected to the virtual ones from Doom and first-person shooters like it. These two examples, though separated by many years, context, and emotion, illustrate an interesting and disturbing fate of the contemporary video game in popular discourse and imagination—namely, it is, often above all, about guns. Whether we play them or not, and whether we believe the arguments about their social deviance or not, they are present in our lives, impact our relationships, and form much of our discourse ranging from the supper table to the halls of Congress. In this chapter I will use the video game gun as the focus of a peculiar tension in contemporary society. Like Plato’s classic allegory of the cave in The Republic (1930), this tension rests on the unstable ground of the real and the virtual. In the case of most forms of contemporary culture, the real and the virtual express a vital tension—not merely that the virtual/simulated is a faux version of the real/original, but that the two are engaged in a dialogic process with one another. As any element of culture, the gun signifies, but in the case of the virtual gun— especially that which is used in military-themed video games that represent the past, present, and future of war—the form of signification at play carries greater cultural significance. This significance is at once material and virtual, and, while the virtual gun does not directly result in real-life killing, the virtual weapon— interlocked in systems of cultural intertexuality—initiates new identity politics, cultural debates, and pedagogical considerations. Sign The traditional real-world gun—whether a handgun, rifle, machine gun, or cannon—involves a metal tube that holds a projectile that through force, gunpowder, or other method, attacks, hits, explodes, or destroys a target. In the world of video games, guns have a similar makeup, with the main difference being that they are immaterial; meaning, that their use will not generally result in injury or death. The video game gun is an important cultural object worthy of study because it represents some of the most powerful feelings of pleasure and revulsion, or purity and danger (Douglas, 2002).As Grayson Cooke (2000) says of the gun, it “functions as a mark before it is even ‘activated’; like a nuclear weapon, a gun does not need to go off in order to function, for it functions as a sign merely by being attached to, or detached from, a body” (p. 3). For gamers, the gun signifies pleasure, a means to an end, and even (for some) an uncomfortable tool needed

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for the pleasure of gaming, while for many non-gamers the gun signifies hedonism, unrestrained violence, and social deviance.What both groups recognize is the gun or virtual gun’s uneasy relationship in a world of violence. The examples of Bill Gates as Doomguy and the associations of video games with the Columbine massacre illustrate the myriad ways in which violence is played out in the world and how video game weapons and their use are ultimately connected to that violence. While violence is found in so many everyday (real) arenas—including U.S. foreign policy, within the home, and in the city and country—emphasis is often placed on the virtual spaces of violence, including video game worlds, music, movies, and other entertainment media.When critics, citizens, politicians, religious leaders, and academics have often tried to posit a linkage between real-world violence like that of school shootings and the abstract forms of violence found in action films, music, and video games, criminologists have cautioned us against such simplistic and monocausal assertions (Henry and Lukas, 2009).This very issue of linking symbolic and real violence provides a telling lens through which to view the relationship of video game guns and associated violence. During the course of collecting survey data for my research, I was initially surprised to read that many of my informants were patently opposed to real-world violence.2 Listening to critics like David Grossman of, it is difficult to think that video game players could be peaceful people.3 While one informant spoke of the enjoyment gained by playing video games with weapons that did “the most damage and look the sickest,” most respondents shied away from clear emphasis on violence and carnage as characteristic of their video gaming experiences. One survey respondent who served in the military said that he did not allow his children to play any game that involved violent weapons or themes, adding, “When we become overly familiar with anything, it loses the power to scare us.” This gamer’s concerns about the increasing popularity of the video game weapon and the resultant increasing familiarity of the real-life gun offer a telling look at the precarious connections of the everyday/virtual, abstract/realistic. More specifically, it suggests a way to analyze the problematic relationship of video game weapons to violence in real and virtual realms. At the most general level, the concerns over video game guns relate to the qualitative ways in which video games and their myriad components reference the real world. Like other forms of representation, including film, the video game represents people, things, and events—whether real or imagined—and uses technology to immerse players in that world. Many 1970s and 1980s video games recreated the world of the military, future society, and the Old West. Arcade games like Asteroid (1973), Tank (1974), and Gun Fight (1975) utilized the projectile—the space ship cannon, tank gun, and six-shooter—as a means of creating identification between the player and the action on the screen. While the narrative contexts of all of these games were

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superficial, an important connection—one that is simultaneously emotive, corporeal, and cognitive—is fostered between the player and the object or avatar being controlled on the screen.These popular arcade shooting games were later developed as popular home versions, and, as gamers spent extended periods of time playing these games in the comfort of their own homes, the identification of players with their avatars increased.The narrative contexts of military and fantasy fighting titles expand significantly in the 1980s, but this initial moment in which the player is equated with a “character” that in some cases is literally just a gun— Space Invaders (1978)—sets the stage for the later more technologically and contextually significant forms of gaming. In its earliest forms as an arcade stand-up game and later as a home entertainment game, the video game establishes itself as something that is primarily about, played through, and understood as a gun. For game designers the gun represented a “natural” way to express competition and play. A player firing a weapon in a game is subject to the principle of discernibility (Salen and Zimmerman, 2005, p. 61): namely, the understanding of one’s actions as purposive behavior. Playing Asteroids (1979), for example, would not be meaningful if the asteroids that are shot at by the player did not blow up on contact with the ship’s projectiles.As a “sign” the video game thus establishes itself as a gun that shoots at something and whose object is to destroy that at which one is shooting. In the thirty years that have followed Asteroids the game environments in which this sign is deployed have changed radically, but what has remained is the emphasis on the virtual gun as the most meaningful sign in the semiotic system of video gaming. Fidelity Video games, like other forms of play, “attempt to substitute perfect situations for the normal confusion of contemporary life” (Caillois, 2001, p. 19).As revealed in my research, there is a wide variety of reasons why gamers appreciate one game over another, one gaming context over another, and one weapon over another.The “perfect situation” may relate to a memorable sniper head shot in Unreal (1998), or to a well-executed capture-the-flag game in Halo (2001), or the annihilation of the Spider Mastermind in Doom II (1994) with the BFG (or “big fucking gun”) 9000.Whatever the game or context might be, discussions of memorable games more often than not are meditations on the use of the virtual weapon. While advocacy groups, parent’s gaming guides, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, and even politicians have simplified the contexts in which video game guns are utilized, there is incredible diversity in terms of the types, uses, cultural contexts, and real-world implications of such weapons.Table 4.1 illustrates the diversity of weapon types in a number of video games. Early games like Gun Fight featured limited constructions of the gun: in most cases a simple six-shooter

Behind the Barrel 79 Table 4.1 Video game weapons typology Realistic Modified Utilitarian Technological Futuristic Themed Conceptual Magical Apocalyptic

M1 Garand (Call of Duty 2) Rocket Launcher (Quake) Energy Sword (Halo) Wrench (BioShock) Glass Shard (Manhunt) Farsight (Perfect Dark) Laptop Gun (Perfect Dark) Railgun (Quake) Gravity Gun (Half-Life 2) Dual Bladed Light Saber (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) Banana Peel (No One Lives Forever 2) Hadouken (Street Fighter II) Hammer (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) BFG 9000 (Doom)

was the limit. The popularity of later games like Doom was in part based on the gamer’s ability to choose from a plethora of guns—some realistic like the shotgun, others drawn from the utilitarian world like the chainsaw, and others looking nothing like the weapons of the real world, like the BFG 9000. On one level, the availability of a range of weapons like those in Doom reflects the social values of individualism, choice, and the free market. Just as in everyday life, players are able to choose from a selection of weapons, deciding which is the best for the situation at hand, and then deploying them. For many gamers, the weapons available in games go beyond this.As one gamer remarked in response to the survey conducted for this chapter, Even the most crude “shoot-em ups” are a complex test of problem-solving skill.A player must use the weapons given to reach an objective [. . .] By using the proper weapons at the proper time with more skill than your opponents, you succeed in your goal. Some gamers are indeed suspicious of the number of weapons available in a given game. While wide weapons choice common to most FPS may excite the novice gamer, for many advanced gamers such selection amounts to mere novelty and the indication of a lack of gaming skill: “In first-person shooter games I typically like sniper rifles. The BFG is always fun for a little while but if there is no challenge then it gets boring.” The use of video game weapons within the context of their games, as well as within the vast social networks that are a result of online competitive and team

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Figure 4.1 Screenshot from Halo (2001)

gaming and numerous websites, institutes a cultural world that is not unlike the similar world of the military that is also defined by weapons use and proficiency and sociality. While the weapons-focused world of the military has real-world consequences, the weapons-focused world of video gaming has real-world social consequences, most notably in the ways in which players consider the worth of weapons, their function, use, and results. One of my informants wrote: Weapons are an extension of my character’s skill set that exist to make accomplishing objectives easier. Strong aesthetic design and utility are the most significant factors in a good weapon. If a skilled player can’t use their weapon fluidly, that greatly decreases my desire to play that character. Likewise, if a weapon decimates everything with little effort (a highly unrealistic situation), I’m also less likely to play that character. What this player identifies is an issue of fidelity within the world of video games. Contrary to critics of video games who cite all games and their weapons as one monolithic form, my informants expressed a range of opinions on the virtual gun. For some the video game gun allows for “scopophilic pleasure,” for others it promotes a “meta-game” allowing for testing of oneself against the computer, while for others it is “an extension of [the] character’s skill set.”Whatever the pleasures involved in using video game weapons, the key factor revealed in the research was an emphasis on fidelity.

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While some gamers find enjoyment in the simple pleasures of blowing things up, many expressed that their weapons use was, itself, grounded in traditional, cultural orders, and personal preferences that are often ignored by anti-gaming critics.All video games are forms of remaking since they approximate other places, events, beings, and situations that may or may not have a reference in the real world. For games that reference the real world, such as Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (2005), fidelity is heightened by design details, including virtual weapons modeled on the originals, sound and camera effects that promote feelings like those experienced in real infantry battles, and atmospheric elements like dirt clouds that heighten the gameplay. In Red Orchestra Ostfront 41–45 (2006) weapons take on even more realism than in the past. Instead of crosshairs that characterized some games of the past, in this FPS game the player must fire weapons using simulated metal sights, and elements like breathing and the sway of the avatar’s body are even calculated in the player’s efforts to hit a target.These elements of weapons use, along with others that are considered later, are paramount in the gamer’s experience of the simulation. One informant commented on his interest in virtual weapons that approximate those of everyday life:“I actually own an M1 Garand, which is the primary infantry weapon in WWII FPS games (I use it for deer and elk hunting). The ‘look’ of shooting it and the overall effect that the weapon has is rendered very well in the game.” For this gamer fidelity to the original and the simulation is a key factor in the enjoyment of the World War II FPS game.While other gamers in my survey did not indicate their possession and use of real-world weapons, their preference for realistic guns—whether in a World War II FPS or a fantasy FPS like Haze (2008)—was stated as paramount in their enjoyment of a game.As all video games exist within social networks, the virtual gun has also developed within a secondary space, one removed from the actual virtual world of the game. Like the world within the game, this world is one in which players interact with one another, but the difference in this space is that gamers openly debate the fidelity of weapons and their uses in various video games. On popular television networks like G4 and on Internet gaming and video websites, debates emerge about the quality of weapons within games, including their realism in combat situations. Some of the most interesting of such discursive debates occur onYouTube. In some cases video files of World War II FPS games are compared with videos of the firing of the same weapons that are recreated in their video game counterparts.4 Theming One of the most significant cultural connections of video game weapons and the real world is found in theming.Theming is a form of cultural representation that through forms of reference—such as the symbols, architecture, decor, and cultural

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Figure 4.2 Screenshot from Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas (2007)

nuances of another place—remakes one or more spaces into a new one (Lukas, 2007).While in many cases theming has occurred in the material venues of casinos, restaurants, and theme parks, as Talmadge Wright (2007) has written, theming is now appearing in virtual venues, including websites, virtual landscapes of theme parks, and within video games. Because of their immersive potential, their ability to create sophisticated architecture, decor, lighting and other elements, and because of their overall holistic and immersive approaches, video game worlds are apt places in which to explore theming. All video games remake the world in various ways. For some non-gamers this alone is controversial, especially as video games may use the real world and its places and cultural contexts as the backdrop for their remediated stories, such as Resistance: Fall of Man (2006) (controversy over the use of Manchester cathedral) and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six:Vegas (2006) (concerns about possible revenue loss in Las Vegas). In these instances the video game world draws too heavily on the real world, especially as the real world is re-presented as a world full of weapons and violence. For gamers, however, such backdrops only increase their interest in a game as well as heighten their sense that a game has fidelity. Like a real city, the fictional space of Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) uses a thematic representation of everyday urban life in a New York City replica to heighten gameplay, player immersion, and storyline. For many players with whom I spoke, their experience with a game was heightened by the ways in which weapons were incorporated with the particular theme of the game. One said that his/her favorite weapons were ones that involved

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a story and which were incorporated within the overall game narrative. While some players enjoy a weapon for its mere destructive potential (such as the BFG in Doom), most indicated a preference for a weapon that fits into the scheme of the game; thus, its consistency, not its mere destructive potential, mattered to more gamers. One player indicated that the variety of weapons in the Final Fantasy series was enjoyable because many related to the games’ draw on historical and mythological figures; in this sense, according to the informant, “there is a deeper symbolic meaning.”While critics may lump all weapons and all video game violence into one category, gamers are more understanding of the nuances that appear in games, especially as weapons are involved. Just like fans of martial arts films, some gamers expressed the opinion that a given weapon, its use and associated issues like perspective, and its overall connections to characters, situations, and environments in the game are important elements in determining the playability or authenticity of a game. Like their real-world architectural counterparts, the themed spaces within video game worlds reflect a synergy of place, character, storyline, and situation. Since the thematic spaces of video game worlds typically involve the presence of violence, these themed spaces are structured around a unique relationship—that between the weapon and the themed space. Popular online websites and television networks, including G4, regularly review video games according to their thematic principles—including characters, storyline, and game environment—and how well these principles are integrated with weapons use. Reviews of the futuristic military game Haze, for example, illustrate the intricate connection of theming and weapons use (VanOrd, 2008).This particular game is heralded for its unique element (known as nectar) that affects combat, but it is criticized for its sometimes lack-luster landscapes and a shallow story line. My informants also indicated a lack of tolerance for games that do not effectively merge thematic elements of the game with combat. One offered that “I don’t care for games that just focus on frenetic shooting without any sense of a story or how the character interacts within his space, and I don’t like games that focus too much on the story and downplay the fighting elements.The best games will somehow combine these.” The ways in which theming and weapons use function in a game differ with the genre of the game in question.The genre of a game—whether western, science fiction, military, etc.—in large part determines the types of weapons that will be featured.As new games are developed, especially sequels, the weapons of the past and present form an interesting intertextuality. In Quake II (1997), for example, designers chose to include the homage weapon, the BFG10K.While they did not port the exact same weapon from Doom, they referenced it in the new game, and thus helped maintain their fan base through the iconic BFG. Players, like other members of fan cultures, are critical of these new versions. Developers keep this in mind when they develop new games or create sequels. In the case of Halo 3

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(2007), emphasis was placed on offering some of the same familiar weapons from the previous incarnations of the game—in part because of the fact that gamers rely on these familiar icons as they play and in part because of their role in effective gameplay—as well as modified versions and creating new ones. The theming of weapons also relates to the player and the control of the avatar. As one person expressed, “weapons are an extension of my character’s skill set,” another saying that each weapon is “something to express your character.” Cinema Within a given genre, the particular theme of a video game is determined by industry and generic expectations, market interest, and synergistic tie-ins with other media. Video games and feature films share a special affinity (King and Krzywinska, 2002). Because of “intermedia” effects that operate in both directions, video games and films are engaged in a dialogic relationship (Lukas, 2008). Popular films like The Godfather (1972) are remade into video games in part because of the potential for the gamer to experience an in-depth story and character world in an immersive sense, and in other part because of the marketing synergy that is possible with remakes. Video games, including Resident Evil (1996), Doom, and Silent Hill (1999), are now the common source material for feature films. Games are increasingly characteristic of more in-depth story lines than before and their virtual worlds, in their theming, provide an apt ground on which to produce a feature film. Many film directors use video game engines, like Unreal (1998), to assist in storyboarding, while fans rely on the already established worlds of films like Aliens (1979), the Batman series, and The Terminator (1984) to produce modifications to game engines (Lukas, 2008, p. 238).These efforts, and many others, are signs of the increasing convergence of cinema and video games. Most interesting in this convergence is the effect that it has on the video game gun. The third-person shooter game Max Payne (2001) highlights the role that the virtual gun plays within the cinematic-influenced world of the video game. The game draws heavily on film noir in its depiction of its troubled protagonist and uses mood lighting, atmospheric effects, and dialogue to establish a convincing story that one might see on the motion picture screen. Like other video games Max Payne provides gamers with an array of weapons to use strategically in the numerous puzzles and battles in the game, but unlike many games it draws on the modes of cinema combat to heighten its use.A unique combat mode called “bullet time”—in which the action of the game slows down and perspective is altered— owes greatly to the same visual effects of cinema, including the films of John Woo and The Matrix (1999). The Matrix’s bullet time became iconic in the cinema world, and thus it is an apt mode to engage in many video games. For gamers the effect of bullet time is to allow for a unique combat experience in which one gets to live

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Figure 4.3 Screenshot from Max Payne (2001)

out the perspectives of a CGI effect on the cinema screen within the more immersive realm of the game. Not surprisingly, Max Payne (2008) was developed as a feature film, furthering the dialogue between film and video games and, no doubt, bringing about further iconic and inspirational weapons uses and battle modes. In 2005 a documentary on the History Channel called Brothers in Arms:The Untold Story of the 502 was directly inspired by the video game of the same name produced by Ubisoft.According to a History Channel producer,“As one of the most authentic World War II video games ever made, Brothers in Arms creates the ideal setting on which to base a program for The History Channel” (Berardini, 2005). In addition to being inspired by the video game, the History Channel used the Brothers in Arms video games to graphically represent the battle experiences of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II. During the documentary, details from the historical incident are related by survivors and the main filmic re-enactments are produced using the video game. In addition, the website for the popular series of Brothers in Arms games furthers its claim as an accurate combat game by featuring historical elements that resemble the narratives of the History Channel.Weapons, ranging from the M1 Garand, the M9A1 Bazooka, and the M1928 Sub-Machine Gun, are described in both a historical and technical manner, the effect of which

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furthers the connection of the video game, its weapons, and modes of combat to actual historical events, real weapons, and the History Channel documentary production (cf. Rejack, 2007). Many gamers are aware of the ways in which cinema and video games share a kinship, especially how this kinship impacts their understanding of their game weapons. Some expressed that what makes combat believable, such as in the Call of Duty series, is the use of effects that are common to similar period films like Saving Private Ryan (1998)—realistic landscapes, effective editing and cut-scenes, and sound and other atmospheric effects. One informant offered that “what makes the game interesting is not just the historic weapons but how they are used, what kinds of combat are involved, and how real that combat seems.”While gamers like this one have not experienced real combat, their use of video game simulations gives them a sense of the historic contexts that have inspired their virtual battles. Some gamers even believe that as video games become more realistic (especially military ones) players will be able to appreciate the toll of warfare—much as Saving Private Ryan instituted new discussions about the horrors of real warfare.While no video game could ever replicate (fully) the horrors of close-quarters combat, in no small part owing to their cinematic nature, video games have the potential to instill gamers with a better sense of history as well as an appreciation of the high costs of warfare. Violence Issues of fidelity, theming, and the relationship of video games and cinema illustrate the uncanny and complex connections of real and virtual world guns and violence. As technological systems advance, more immersive video game worlds are possible, but how do these technological advancements impact the player’s use of the video game gun? For some players the development of more immersive and realistic gaming technology introduces a problematic issue, one of Einfühlung or the ability to apply empathy to video game characters; as one said, “I actually stopped playing the third Marathon [1994] game when I had to kill humans; it was too weird.” While complex landscapes, believable stories, and technologically sophisticated battles are standards for the popular reception of a new video game, the issue of a game being too “real” emerges.Watching a YouTube game video of Grand Theft Auto IV in which the protagonist guns down innocent citizens may appear like the images of violent movies or even of those of real shooting sprees. As discussed in the previous section, the intersections of video game and cinematic worlds result in many uncanny and often disturbing results. One of the most interesting aspects of the growth of violence within video games relates to their increasingly complex weapons system. 1980s video games typically featured one simple gun and perhaps a “smart bomb”-type weapon as a

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complement. Contemporary video games, especially those of the FPS variety, offer players a multitude of weapon choices. After completing missions or quests (or through the use of cheat codes) players are rewarded with new weapons that offer greater firepower, special abilities needed for certain enemies or situations, and, in some cases, increased novelty or entertainment value. Most notably in first person shooters, weapons choice is part and parcel of the gaming experience. While many of the gamers surveyed indicated that they stuck to one or perhaps two weapons—such as a close-range one like a shotgun and a distance gun like a sniper rifle—they also indicated that they appreciated the ability to choose from an arsenal of weapons. In video games the availability of weapons does not always mean that a player will use more than one. Some gamers have favorite weapons, like a chainsaw or shotgun, that help define the player’s individuality and style of gameplay. Strategy is clearly on the minds of many players in terms of weapons use. When asked what they felt their interaction with video games weapons constituted, many respondents said that their use was a “strategic decision” and a “means of achieving missions.” One respondent, speaking of gameplay in Halo 3, said that “the weapon is a strategic unit to me . . . [it] is the thing that gives you a situational advantage.” One suggested that the most important aspect of any video game was “knowing which weapon to choose in a certain environment.” Many critics have pointed to the proliferation of weapons systems within games— offering more novel ways to kill people or things—as a sign of the danger of video games, but this neglects the fact that more complex weapons systems can be also viewed as a sign of the emergence of more sophisticated gaming experiences in which players are given more controls over the action. Responding to similar criticisms about their gaming, a majority of informants offered that the strategic requirements of the game necessitated that they use weapons to achieve missions and to win the game. In fact, some stated that they abhorred real-life violence yet enjoyed playing video games; unfortunately for them, they are unable to choose an alternative path in playing the game. This is where game narrative, and not the weapons themselves, can be tied to the decision over which weapon to use. If the programmer deems that a certain boss can only be killed with a rocket launcher, a player will be unable to pass that stage (except with cheats) without employing that weapon. For players new to a game, especially like Halo, that has a popular online multiplayer mode, the use of weapons can be frustrating. When confronted with experienced players who lurk on beginner’s games to find easy prey, the new gamer may experience a disconnect with certain weapons (Thompson, 2007). Sniping, in particular, makes up much of the social world of gaming environments like Halo.There is a visceral and bad feeling that occurs when one is sniped for the first time, and it may lead to an impression that certain weapons, when effectively used, give too much power to avid gamers and create an unfair gaming environment for novice gamers. But often the discourse

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of my informants shifted from the pure skill and strategy of game weapons to the idea of domination.As one said,“I’ll admit there’s something satisfying in a weapon that’s decisive and overpowering.” Especially through the use of weapons mods and cheat codes, a player can become invincible (god mode in Doom and other games) and use new weapons, use more powerful weapons, inflict double or greater damage, and have access to more or unlimited ammunition unavailable in the unmodified game. Modifying a weapon or adding new and often unbeatable properties to it speaks to the powerful ways in which society is expressed through the use of guns in video games. Futures As spaces—conceptual and real—video game realities and everyday worlds of home, work, city, and country, are, in many minds, zones of combat. As exemplified in the film Babel (2006), a gun has a connective power that in addition to bringing people together gives space a sense of purpose. Just like everyday life outside of video games, video game worlds reflect the disturbing tendency in which violence increasingly links together people, situations, ideas, and forms of culture. While video game guns often exaggerate the violence of everyday life—such as in weapons that are conceptual and science fiction in nature, like the gravity gun in Half-Life (1998)—they do reflect issues of the culture that produces the games. Critics bemoan the violence within video game worlds but they often make little effort to understand the unique dynamics that condition violence within and without the worlds of gaming. Many of the gamers with whom I spoke were unable to articulate a vision of the future of video games without weapons or violence. Some gamers did see the need for new gaming narratives, characters, and weapons. One respondent said that video game weapons should be “used . . . to help achieve some sort of greater mission like saving the world or protecting what’s important to you, not just killing to kill.” One could imagine a game in which weapon use is minimized and in which non-violent actions are rewarded to a greater degree than violent actions, but game designers are cognizant of the powerful ways in which violence speaks to all people, including gamers. As one gamer eloquently offered, there need to be alternative “weapons” and narratives that move beyond the close-range, shotgun ideology of many video games: I think it would be more interesting to see a greater use of non-lethal weapons, not unlike the portal gun found in Valve’s new game Portal (2007). Such reimaginings of what weapons can and should be will ultimately, hopefully, begin to shift the game play away from militarism and toward the vast potential the medium has.

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New games, including inFamous (2009) and Mirror’s Edge (2008), offer the gamer the possibility to use weapons to kill or to subdue and the player has more choices about whether to use violence as a means of conflict resolution. Like the worlds around us, video games reflect disturbing truths, and the weapons that proliferate the interactive landscapes of virtual worlds illustrate this fact.While we ought to be concerned about the psychological effects of playing violent video games, we should also be cognizant of video games like America’s Army (2002) and others that persuade young people into taking up arms in real-world battlefields. But instead of allowing ourselves to be caught up in the often nonsensical and reductive rhetoric that “video games kill,” and instead of further isolating some gamers as deviants, we ought to use video games, their weapons, and overall discursive effects to engage in more productive dialogue about all forms of violence in our world. Notes 1. The video is available at Titles.wmv. 2. My survey (n = 100) included questions that asked respondents about their favorite video games, their experiences with video game weapons, and their overall opinions about video games and everyday violence. 3. Grossman and de Gaetano (1999) have referred to games like Doom as being “murder simulators.” 4. For one example, see “Call of Duty Weapons in Real Life,” watch?v=Rywj8yDr9Qo.

References Berardini, C. (2005, December 1). Brothers in Arms inspires History Channel program. TeamXbox. Retrieved from Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play and games. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Cooke, G. (2000). Willing to explode: The American western as apocalypse-machine. In M. Pomerance and J. Sakeris (eds.), Bang bang, shoot shoot!: Essays on guns and popular culture. Needham Heights, MA: Pearson. Douglas, M. (2002). Purity and danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Routledge. Grossman, D. and de Gaetano, G. (1999). Stop teaching our kids to kill. New York: Crown. Henry, S. and Lukas, S.A. (eds.) (2009). Recent developments in criminological theory. London: Ashgate. King, G. and Krzywinska, T. (eds.) (2002). ScreenPlay: Cinema/videogames/interfaces. London: Wallflower. Kushner, D. (2004). Masters of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture. New York: Random House.

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Lukas, S.A. (ed.) (2007). The themed space: Locating culture, nature, and self. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Lukas, S.A. (2008). Horror video game remakes and the question of medium: Remaking Doom, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil. In S.A. Lukas and J. Marmysz (eds.), Fear, cultural anxiety and transformation: Horror, science fiction and fantasy films remade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Plato. (1930). The republic. London: W. Heinemann. Rejack, B. (2007). Toward a virtual reenactment of history: Video games and the recreation of the past. Rethinking history, vol. 11, no. 3. Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2005). Game design and meaningful play. In J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (eds.), Handbook of computer game studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Thompson, C. (2007, November 5). Suicide bombing makes sick sense in Halo 3. Wired. Retrieved from games/2007/11/gamesfrontiers_1105. VanOrd, K. (2008, May 20). Review of Haze. Retrieved from http:// Ward, Mark. (2001, May 1). Columbine families sue computer game makers. BBC News. Retrieved from Wright, T. (2007). Themed environments and virtual spaces: Video games, violent play, and digital enemies. In S.A. Lukas (ed.), The themed space: Locating culture, nature, and self. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Chapter 5

Wargames as a New Frontier Securing American Empire in Virtual Space 1 C . Richard King and David J. Leonard

Video wargames unfold as interactive iterations of American empire rejuvenated in the wake of 9/11. In common with broader military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, pundits, journalists, and citizens rarely make the connections between race and space central to virtual and embodied warfare waged by Americans today. Against this backdrop, this chapter works to critically engage and clarify the relationships between virtual colonization and actual colonial projects. Through textually and contextually analyzing a series of war video games, including Kuma\War (2004), America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier (2005), Full Spectrum Warrior (2004), Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad (2003), and Conflict: Desert Storm (2002), this chapter unpacks the prominence of race and space linking war simulation and war as a reality, highlighting the ways in which racial difference and spatial control anchor the narratives, aesthetics, and agendas of virtual warring. Moreover, this chapter explores the concrete relationships between the video game industry (including citizenry/players) and the state (the government and military) as the state uses virtual spaces (as maps, simulations, training devices) and tools of garnering consent, all in the name of preparing its military and constituents for colonial exercises of spatial domination. In this context, “War Games as a New Frontier” examines how war video games construct and imagine places like Iraq and Afghanistan as barren wastelands devoid of civilians and infrastructure in need of saving and U.S. intervention. Alongside their erasure of the consequences of war, the absence of “civilization” justifies intervention, control, and mastery of unused space within both virtual and real projects of colonization. In this vein, this chapter examines how virtual reality—just as conservative policy papers or speeches—in the form of war video games has advanced the cause of the Project for the New American Century, reflecting the pedagogical implications of wargames within larger attempts to expand U.S. presence throughout the globe. In reflecting on the relationships between video games and notions of race and space, it is always crucial to contextualize this discourse within larger historical, economic, political, and cultural developments. To examine games as a tool of

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securing new frontiers or dominating untamed lands in absence of a clear discussion of the Global War on Terrorism, the cooperative relationship between video game producers, academics, and the military, or the efforts to define America in new ways into the twenty-first century virtually, economically, and politically, limits the complexity and power of analysis. That is, to analyze games as purely textual encodings in absence of inquiry into the interplay between gaming (as text, subtext, context/discourse) and race, gender, and state violence is to reduce games to insignificant toys.This project rejects this trap, using wargames as a means to explore the theoretical and actual links between conquest (and consent thereof), nation-building, race, space, and colonization in our early twenty-first century and in timeless virtual reality. The Pitfalls of Celebration, Binaries, and Virtual Reality Before shifting our discussion to the military-entertainment-education complex2 and the specific ways in which video games construct virtual geographies in the advancement of virtual and real-life warfare, it is important to reflect on the hegemonic visions of virtual reality. Barrie Sherman and Phil Judkins (1992) offer a celebratory tone, describing virtual reality as “truly the technology of miracles and dreams,” as a place that allows us “to play God,” providing “hope for the next century” with its “glimpses of heaven” (qtd. in Robins 2000, pp. 77–78).Virtual geographies allow us to do the unthinkable: “We can make water solid, and solids fluid; we can imbue inanimate objects (chairs, lamps, engines) with an intelligent life of their own.We can invent animals, singing textures, clever color of fairies” (qtd. in Robins 2000, p. 78). Samantha Longoni (2005) sees virtual reality in a similar light, in terms of offering a transcendence of time and space.Virtual reality provides “the opportunity or possibility to travel among these environments without violating the borderlines, such as without rupture in the continuity of the experience, relies uniquely on our cultural availability, relies on our considerate opinions of the concept of space” (¶ 2). Such “utopian aspirations” have often gone without concern and debate regarding the limitations of those “propagandists of the virtual-technological revolution” (Longoni, 2005). Kevin Robins (2000), in “Cyberspace and the world we live in,” challenges the simplicity of the celebration and the fallacy of virtual reality as an alternative reality. “They would have us believe that we could actually leave behind our present world and migrate to this better domain. It is as if we could simply transcend the frustrating and disappointing imperfection of the here and now.This is the utopian temptation” (p. 78). Better said, the celebratory and utopian discourse of virtual reality represents a delusion of the powerful, those able to detach virtual geographies from material reality.This delusion celebrates

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the “miracles and dreams” of virtual reality despite its increasing usefulness as an instrument of war, or the frequent uses of virtual reality as mechanisms of displacement and destruction.Taking a cue from the aforementioned quote from Sherman and Judkins, virtual reality, as evident with wargames and digital simulations, allows the powerful and privileged to “play God”: we can drop bombs and make entire countries disappear; we can practice or perform past battles; we can simulate future warfare on the virtual battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq from either our homes or our military bases. We can invent enemies, frontiers, geographies, consequences (or lack thereof ), or historical narratives all toward our own empowerment. Throughout much of the literature, there seems to be a tendency to inscribe a clear boundary between the virtual and the real. Robins (2000) argues, “Virtual reality and cyberspace are commonly imagined in terms of reaction against or opposition to the real world.” In other words, “virtual reality is imaged as a ‘nowhere-somewhere’ alternative to the difficult and dangerous conditions and contemporary social reality” (p. 86). A discussion of the military-entertainmenteducational complex mandates a challenge to such imagination in the ways virtual reality maps actual spatial locations; the manners in which virtual reality facilitates warfare (before, during, and after battles); and the means by which it allows for geographic intrusion and destruction.The virtual, in facilitating individual control over the real, blurs the line of “nowhere-somewhere,” and exists instead as a space in which the apparition of the mind and the visions of the concrete are not mutually exclusive. Which Bomb Lands First: The Virtual or the Actual? In the midst of the first Gulf War, both parents and children’s rights advocates voiced concern about round-the-clock television coverage of the war and its effects on American youth. Specifically, complaints focused on how news coverage of the Gulf War displaced children’s shows, resulting in numerous letters to the editor about the “scheduling” of the war, and subsequent studies regarding the impact of war television coverage on children (Wark, 1994, p. 17). In the estimation of several different constituencies, the Gulf War coverage facilitated the intrusion of “public time” and space into private time and space.As cultural theorist Patricia Mellencamp (1990) argued, the Gulf War and surrounding news coverage promoted the “intrusion of the real” of “the news division,” into the world of children’s entertainment, fantasy, and play “by causing fear and anxiety among both children and parents” (p. 57). In a post-9/11 American cultural climate, however, media critics and “children’s rights” advocates have shown little concern about the blurring of public (military;

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public policy) and private spaces (family; home entertainment), ostensibly rendering insignificant the discursive and representational intrusion of war into the previously insulated household space and to the once protected constituency of middle-class children. Consequently, the 24-hour coverage of a fallen NewYork or the start of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq came without debate or questioning about its appropriateness. This paradigmatic shift is readily apparent within the video games industry, which has seen a proliferation of war narratives in recent years. Somewhat surprisingly, little has been made of the proliferation of children’s wargames, concerning their promulgation of violence, their calls for U.S. global supremacy, or the ways in which a vast majority of wargames consistently racialize and reduce to dangerous “others”. Instead, much has been made of the violence effects of the Grand Theft Auto series, which has been led by conservative media groups.At the same time, many inside and outside academia continue to deny the ideological and political importance of virtual warfare, describing video games as distractions, toys, and “kid stuff ” that have little significance (Carlson, 2003). Notwithstanding the focus on other games as violence, the celebration of video games as opportunities for conquering space and educational development, or the dismissal of video games as little more than kid toys, video games represent a powerful pedagogical vehicle, providing youth, and perhaps all users, with ideological, political, historical, and racial lessons that guide U.S. hegemony around the globe. The massive growth in virtual warring is not merely a result of post-9/11 America or larger shifts in cultural values, but is due to technological shifts as well. In Virtual Geography, McKenzie Wark (1994) warns of the potential danger embedded within the technological possibilities of virtual reality. “As technology of persuasions grows more complex, the art of telling stories in wake of events grows more complex and more instantaneous. . . . It is because it is also important to understand the narrative of mediated political events and the power field of the vector” (p. 18).According to Wark, virtual geographies are those terrains that exist outside “a geography experience,” where we live, sleep, and work. Our virtual geography “doubles, troubles, and permeates our experience of space” which we then experience firsthand, providing an expanded terrain from which real-life experiences may be instantly drawn (p. vii).The proliferation of the satellite dish, news networks, and the Web since the first Gulf War is certainly evidence of this shift, bringing the war (or parts of it) into American homes. In other words, the influences of virtual culture, as evidence in the powerful ways in which video games bring war into people’s homes in new ways, gives legitimacy to the often stated mantra about how technology is creating a smaller world.Wark neglects to include a discussion of video games that not only transport players into an alternative, expanded terrain but also utilize interactive technology, a process that turns participants into active agents rather than pure spectators. In the context of

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wargames, the nature of interactive technology is profound as players do not merely watch war but actively become part of America’s Global War on Terror. In discussing war, an inclusion of games is crucial for the above reasons as well as the increasingly symbiotic relationship between the video game and war industries. Nina Huntemann challenges those who see games as little more than children’s toys, arguing that video games are particularly powerful because of the way in which games recreate dominant narratives (i.e., mediate political events), in concert with their interactive nature, and ability to transport players to alternative, but real-life, geographies. More specifically, she writes about the significance of video games not only as a source of propaganda but as a tool of recruitment and training for the next generation of soldiers. The usefulness of games lies in their ideological posturing and their interpolation of adults who have accepted the mission of the Bush administration and The Project for a New American Century,3 as well as for children whose attraction to virtual battlefields and tanks may carry them into actual geographies of warfare. According to Huntemann (qtd. in Barron, 2004): Video games and militarism have an old history. Games of all sorts—video games, board games, and games kids play in the backyard—have historically been about conflict and warfare. Whether you’re playing Chess, which is a simulated battlefield, or a game like Go, an ancient Chinese game that is also a simulated battlefield, or you’re playing a board game like Risk or Axis and Allies, you’re essentially at war and you’re playing out military conflict. The history continues with electronic games. What is perhaps different about video games that deal with military conflict is they’re more realistic. Instead of imagining the battlefield in your mind or having such an abstract battlefield like the Chess war, in video games the battlefield is drawn out for you in almost photographic, picture-perfect volume.Then you have all the other aspects of video gaming: the simulated violence and gore, and the sounds of the battlefield (instead of having to imagine the sound as you are moving Chess pieces around the board as you pretend to be fighting off an enemy).The video game provides it for you and those sounds are designed to be very realistic. So, the link between video games and militarism is that video games continue to make play out of warfare in an extremely realistic manner, more realistic than any previous entertainment game that is technologically-oriented. It is within this shift, within the increasingly powerful space of virtual warfare, that the present chapter works to critically engage the dialectical relationship between virtual colonization or the domination of “untamed” space within both virtual reality and real colonial projects.

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Theorizing the Military-EntertainmentEducational Complex Recent theorizations of the linkages between the military and (new) media offer useful tools to begin to tease out the ideological and material import of this dialectic. In particular, we draw upon the work of Jean Baudrillard (1991), Paul Virilio (2000), and James der Derian (2001) to interrogate the increasingly intimate articulations of war and popular culture. Baudrillard (1991), in linking imagined and physical space, argues that “We have created a gigantic apparatus of simulation which allows us to pass to the act ‘in vitro.’We prefer the exile of the virtual, of which television is the universal mirror, to the catastrophe of the real” (p. 28). Claiming that the Gulf War never happened, Baudrillard challenges scholars of video games to explore the ways in which “virtual wars” feed our willingness to “unleash the real world,” while also examining the ways virtual warfare contributes to a “hyperrealist logic” in which warfare reflects a desire “to disarm and neutralize but not kill” (pp. 27–29; 41).The blur between real and the fantastically imagined, given the hyper-presence of war on television (and within video games), constructs a war without bloodshed, carnage, or destruction or the personal stories and experiences that make it tragic. Paul Virilio (2000) offers similar conclusions, exploring “technical illusionism” and “the strategy of deception” (pp. 1–2). His discussion of the almost overlapping function and mission of governments, military, and the media—given their simultaneous reliance on new information and arms technologies—is particularly powerful in understanding the dialectics of warmongering, the dissemination of hegemonic ideologies through video games, and America’s effort to attain global supremacy.Video games, as part of the hegemony of new technology, contribute, in the analysis of Virilio, to the “fin-de-siècle infantilization,” whereupon our consumption or understanding or vision of battle has been reduced to a series of images on screen, further demarcating the ambiguous division between the virtual (warfare) and the real (warfare) (pp. 9–11). Video games “give you a sense of reality,” notes Corporal Justin Taylor. “You get that nervous feeling! Do I really want to go around the corner or not? [However] you want to complete the job you’ve be been assigned to do” (qtd. in Harmon, 2003). Both Baudrillard and Virilio, given claims that war most often takes place within the hyperreal (virtual) and that war-making itself is increasingly virtual and hyperreal, demonstrate the importance of challenging and deconstructing video games in analyzing the impacts of war on real-life destructions of space. The horrors, difficulties, and last-resort nature of war are all lost through the hegemony of virtual warfare. In Virtuous War (2001), James Der Derian provides a grounded account of war and popular culture that extends and contextualizes the insights of Virilio and

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Baudrillard in the context of post-9/11 America. In his examination of the militaryentertainment-educational complex, Der Derian chronicles the increasing number of ways in which war is fought on the virtual battlefields of Hollywood, of Silicon Valley, and at Orlando’s Simulation Triangle (pp. 82–83). He explores the symbiotic relationship between the military and media, in which Marines train on Doom, Navy officers consult in the production of popular games, and citizens indiscriminately consume the image or ideology of real-time and virtual reality. Like Baudrillard and Virilio, Der Derian offers links between material reality (U.S. foreign policy) and ideologies, focusing on the consequences of the blurring process. He ultimately questions, as does the present examination of war video games, the effects of the military-entertainment-educational complex, asking whether, as war becomes less bloody, will peace become more difficult? The erasure of carnage and bloodshed— facilitated by the supposed anonymity of smart bombs, CNN, video games and other forms of virtual warfare—is making peace increasingly more difficult, necessitating an increased emphasis on popular cultural literacy. Edward Soja, with Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places (1996), works against the bifurcation of the two essential embodiments of space: concrete material forms that are easily mapped, analyzed, explained, and disseminated; and those mental constructions of space that embody ideas about and representations of space and its social significance. Edward Soja, like Henri Lefebvre, proposes an alternative mode of spatial thinking, which he describes as the “Thirdspace.” Soja challenges cultural theorists to accept the “political choice” of entering into the Thirdspace as a “lived space, a strategic location from which to encompass, understand, and potentially transform all space simultaneously” (p. 68). Resisting the reductive tendencies commonplace in the discursive engagement of both material and mental spaces, a Thirdspace provides a challenge to the neoconservative cultural and ideological restructuring of multiple spaces, to form a place “where our perceived and conceived notions of space meet, and are lived, altered, contested, and convinced” (p. 310). To fully comprehend the power and significance of virtual warfare, eschewing the established celebratory boundaries between virtual and real, we must enter into this Thirdspace, thus allowing readers to fully grasp the interplay of warfare’s many spaces. The Military-Entertainment-Educational Triangle In 1998, the always-political alternative rock band Rage Against the Machine warned against the increasing “thin line between entertainment and war” (qtd. in Turse, 2003). Decrying the often-uttered claims of a liberal media, Rage prognosticated the post-9/11 collaboration between popular culture and America’s war efforts around the globe. While the military-entertainment-educational complex is not entirely new (e.g.,World War II propaganda films), the expansive role of popular

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culture and the reactionary or patriotic national ethos has ushered in a new era of mutual collaboration (Costikyan, 1999; Fridenberg, 2003; Napoli, 2003; Slagle, 2003).This is evident with the always-expanding cooperation between the military (state) and the video game industry (Turse, 2003).While the military has long relied on virtual technologies and simulations, the first decade since the turn of the millennium have been defined by partnerships between the military, academia, and the entertainment worlds. Together, they have jointly constructed “an arm of media culture geared toward preparing young Americans for armed conflict” (Turse, 2003, ¶ 2).As an example, in 1997 the U.S. Marine Corps signed a deal with Mak Industries to develop the first combat simulation game to be co-funded and co-developed by both an entertainment company and the Department of Defense.While initially defined as ventures solely for military consumption, recent partnerships have been mutually beneficial as “the military has embraced entertainment titles at the same time the entertainment industry has embraced the military” (Turse, 2003, ¶ 5). Military video games are no longer purely about training soldiers already enlisted, but as much about recruitment and developing future soldiers, while simultaneously generating support among civilian populations for America’s expanding military power. In 2001, the Department of Defense began to use Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (2001), a game of secretive operatives disarming terrorist cells, as part of its military training in how to conduct operations within urban settings. In 2002, the Army developed its own tool of recruitment with America’s Army (2002), developed at the Naval Postgraduate School in consultation with Epic Games and the THX division of Lucas Films. Costing taxpayers upwards of $8 million, America’s Army has been a huge success, with over eight million registered users, bringing the training and operations of the military into millions of homes. In 2003, in the midst of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and military failures in reaching desired recruit goals, the Department of Defense released the second installment entitled America’s Army: Special Forces in an effort to enhance and bolster recruiting efforts. Evident in its marketing campaign, America’s Army: Special Forces not only reveals the powerful relationship between war and virtual reality, but the ways in which game producers work diligently to blur lines between the real and the virtual in an effort to turn war into play and garner support for current U.S. foreign policy. Ed Halter, in From Sun Tzu to Xbox (2006), argues that both the game and its promotional materials not only serve as a “recruitment ad,” given its effort to mix “real-life video footage,” with excerpts from the game, but leaves players wondering about the game’s meaning, as reference to the real world, the game world, or maybe both (p. xxiii). For example, the game’s promotional video offers a series of poetic titles and patriotic music that leaves one to wonder if the Defense Department and its partners in the release of America’s Army:Special Forces are selling the game, war, or the U.S. military:

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As long as there are forces that threaten the promise of freedom American’s Army stands ready And in the vanguard you will find Special Forces The Army’s quiet professionals Qualified for independent action Experts in unconventional warfare Help liberate the oppressed Become one of America’s Green Berets And subdue the enemies of freedom America’s Army Special Forces Empower yourself Defend freedom. (qtd. in Halter 2006, p. xxxiv) The Department of Defense has not limited its virtual recruitment to America’s Army, but has collaborated in the production of other games that not only sell war and the U.S. military but transport players into spaces where the difference between virtual warfare and real-life military destruction is indistinguishable.The Defense Department has also worked closely with the production of games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six:Raven Shield (2003) and SOCOM II:U.S.Navy Seals (2003), utilizing each as a means to test and train military personnel in leadership skills. Additional games, such as Full Spectrum Command, a simulation PC game that has never been released to the public and works to teach light urban warfare, and Full Spectrum Warrior, have been created as part of a $45 million partnership between the Army and the University of Southern California, which jointly forged the Institute for Creative Technologies to “support leadership development for U.S. Army soldiers” (Turse, 2003). Not purely entertainment,“squad leaders learn how to command nine soldiers in complex, confusing urban warfare scenarios. The game isn’t about sprinting, Rambo-like, through alleys with guns blazing” (Slagle, 2003).Yet the game surely provides U.S. citizenry, who neither are part of the military nor have been forced to sacrifice during the recent wave of wars, with the opportunity to feel a part of the military and its operations against the “axis of evil.” In September 2004, the cooperative relationships between the worlds of entertainment and the military expanded with Full Spectrum Warrior for Microsoft’s Xbox system.This squad-based game simulator allows players to become the leader of a light infantry squad conducting military operations in Tajikistan, “a haven for terrorists and extremists.”The game was developed, in part, by personnel at the Army’s Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, as part of their efforts to cultivate leaders by teaching combat fundamentals, as well as bringing the war into

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American homes in both participatory and interactive ways, all the while constructing war without consequences—bloodshed, carnage, or pain (Grossman, 1996). Elaine Scarry describes this process and its consequences in stark terms, arguing that “The severe discrepancy in the scale of consequence makes the comparison of war and gaming nearly obscene” (qtd. in Halter, 2006, p. xxv). Conceived in this erroneous vision of the cleanliness of war, education and entertainment are melded into one space with a common meaning, facilitating the acceptance—indeed, the celebration—of American military might, both in virtual reality and the “real world.”4 Video games play a fundamental role in solidifying the spatial mapping of the Middle East as an outpost, a marginal space, a frontier in need of saving, and without moral, legal, or political obstacles of intervention. Not only do games engender spaces where you are able only to kill soldiers, they do so by constructing scenes where there are virtually no civilians present. For example, with the exception of a few instances, the majority of games transporting players onto the battlefields of the Global War on Terror do so in absence of civilians, living cities, or civilization. In a virtual reality where civilians are absent, the allied war effort does not hurt civilians; in fact, as the U.S. brings freedom without any threat of violence and danger, these games serve to counter those who would criticize American foreign policy in this regard. The efforts of games to provide a “cognitive map” of the Middle East not only works to elicit consent for the U.S. military efforts but also allows the military or State both to show the world its potential force and to practice for the actual execution of damage; it, thus, offers entry into a specific time and space on the terms of the United States, and more specifically through the lens of The Project for a New American Century. In each case, the spatial mapping works to simplify the process, whether through the game’s erasure of human fatalities, the absence of infrastructure in cities, or their overall virtual underdevelopment.Thus, games provide mental maps that Americans use to understand, rationalize, participate in, and navigate the increasingly complex reality of international politics and the Global War on Terror (Miklaucic, 2006). Equally important, the bulk of wargames provide a particularly narrow glimpse of war, in terms of the almost minimalist or numbing vision of death. In other words, virtual reality conceives of war in absence of bloodied spaces. For example, in Conflict Desert Storm, one is able to heal oneself and others from virtually any wound. Moreover, the killing of Iraqi soldiers generates very little blood. While others may commend the game for its child-friendly images and the lack of graphic detail, this manipulation of the real bloodshed of war embodies the reconceptualization of body and space within virtual reality.Wargames challenge the conventional wisdom that seeks to distance people from the enemy, so as to ease the process of killing. Instead, games bring people close to their enemy, but

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tragically in a way that eases our ability to drop bombs and kill innocent civilians. In the absence of blood, and with the increasing technologically generated glimpse at war through CNN, the absolute horrors of war are lost on many people.Within this virtual world, one has the potential to both die and kill, but within a cocoon protected from having to face the graphic realities of war. History and Geography: Realism and Wargames Through the early parts of the twenty-first century, as Americans blamed Saddam Hussein for 9/11 and ignored the legacies of Vietnam, war became an increasingly viable and desirable means of conflict resolution.As either decontextualized virtual warfare or pieces of propaganda that paint the United States as a savior without blemish, video games contributed to a historical myopia legitimizing colonial endeavors. For example, Conflict: Desert Storm serves as an attempt to rewrite history in particular ways. It includes names, dates, and specific places, and constructs itself as an authentic historical document. Notwithstanding such indirect claims, the game gives a very biased or narrow glimpse at the first Gulf War. Despite the fact that militaries from around the world, including many from Arab nations, participated in the Gulf War, the game chronicles the war as if it was a battle between American–British forces and the swarthy dregs of Iraq.The game’s troop selection is limited to either a member of the U.S. or the British military, but does not include choices from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey. Likewise, a game like Conflict: Desert Storm not only retells the first U.S.War in Iraq but also offers insight about the ongoing struggles in the region. Gotham Games promoted Conflict: Desert Storm with the tagline of “No Diplomats, No Negotiation. No Surrender,” which seems more applicable to ongoing critiques of the United States under the Bush administration than a reference to past history. Shortly after the release of this game, and the start of a second war in Iraq, Gotham released Conflict: Desert Storm II:Back to Baghdad, which not only sought to recreate the ongoing war there but replicated the nationalism and patriotic fervor of the moment, and the Bush administration’s rationalization for the war: “From the smoke and fire of the Gulf War, four heroes return to finish the job they started . . . as they take on the Iraqi’s regime’s chemical arms, secret weapons, and hidden arsenals, which continue to threaten the gulf ” (qtd. in Halter, 2006, p. 247). In other words, wargames aren’t just selling the excitement of war, or hoping to capitalize on masculine yearnings for boyhood military fantasies, but they are capitalizing on the realism and the supposed historic accuracy offered in their virtual reality. Many games developers promote the “realism” of their games, noting how players have the opportunity to participate in actual history, or, as noted in advertising for Kuma\War experience, “Actual Military Events! You’ve seen it on the news, now play it” (qtd. in Halter, 2006, p. 244). Kuma\War, which provides

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a new mission every two weeks, “blends news coverage with interactive game technology to allow players to experience recreations of real military events from the war” (War on Terror, 2004). It takes these missions from actual “military hotspots,” including Mosul, Fallujah, Sadr City, and the mountains and caves of Afghanistan. In transporting players from their own space to war zones (virtual and real) and back to real time to vote and participate in the war effort, Kuma is reflective of the dialectical working of multiple spaces. It incorporates video news footage, declassified Department of Defense documents, the chronologies from battles, and satellite photos as part of its interactive “recreation of real world events.” In fact, players can download three new missions each month in order to stay connected to developments within faraway lands.“The KumaWar retail product is an awe-inspiring collection of recent battles from the frontlines of the war on terror,” noted Keith Halper, CEO, Kuma Reality Games. “The product chronicles real military events in a way never seen before and will give the average person a perspective and appreciation for the bravery of our men and women in the armed forces like no other media format has been able to provide” (War on Terror, 2004). While encapsulating the celebratory tone that defines the cultural inscription of America’s military projects around the globe, even this game producer tacitly recognizes the fallacy of a virtual–real binary and the interplay of a multitude of spaces of cognitive and informational mapping. To understand the relationship of multiple spaces and meanings between the virtual and the real in the context of wargames is to recognize a multilayered cultural, ideological conversation in which fact and fiction are interchangeable in creating the (virtual and real) landscape of war. Transformative Virtual Reality: Challenging American Empire U.S. efforts to establish neoliberal policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the globe, coupled with the overall movement to legitimize U.S. global hegemony, have come through much ideological work from television and Hollywood, to news media and virtual reality. In fact, in a post-9/11 America, video games have become a crucial space of articulating American empire, providing a vehicle of interactive dissemination that allows for the transportation of citizen bodies from their homes onto battle fields, into political struggles, and into a global theater where U.S. efforts to secure power is normalized and justified.We must therefore understand virtual warfare and the popularity of wargames by developing a spatial understanding or a critical pedagogy that illustrates the connections, dialectics of warfare, and violence within virtual and real-time spaces. Only as we enter into a Thirdspace that eschews the celebratory tone of much of the discourse, that breaks down the spatial boundaries erected between the

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virtual and real, even as the virtual enables the destruction and manipulation of geographic spaces, can we begin to see “a mode of cultural criticism, useful for questioning the very conditions under which knowledge, values, and social identities are produced [and] appropriated” in the name of white supremacy, capitalism, warmongering and U.S. imperialism (Giroux, 1996, p. 19). As Nick Turse (2003) argues, the future of the world will come not just through political fights, struggles in the streets, or military battles in the effort to control and define virtual space but through deconstruction of alternative realities through Thirdspace analysis: We need to start analyzing the efforts of blurring the lines between war and entertainment. With more and more “toys” that double as combat teaching tools, we are subjecting youth to a new powerful form of propaganda! This is less a matter of simple military indoctrination than near immersion in a virtual world of war where armed conflict is not the last, but the first—and indeed the only—resort.The new military-entertainment complex’s games may help to produce great battlefield decision-makers, but they strike from debate the most crucial decisions young people can make in regard to the morality of a war—choosing whether or not to fight and for what cause. (Turse, 2003, ¶10) Turse is not alone concerning these fears; Baudrillard (1991) similarly documented the results of virtual warfare on the world’s map. Rhetorically wondering if the Gulf War really happened, Baudrillard quickly answered his own provocative question: “Today I unleash virtual war: tomorrow I unleash real war” (p. 29). Embracing Soja’s (1996) notion of a Thirdspace, and other calls for the establishment of a critical pedagogy, Baudrillard works to transform both virtual representation and physical space, reflecting on its interconnectivity.Without an alternative lens or space of inquiry, we will continue to see war as a “face lifted war, the cosmetically treated spectre of its death, and its even more deceptive televisual subterfuge” (Baudrillard, 1991, p. 28). Accepting the challenges put forth by Soja, Baudrillard, and others, this chapter has documented the ways in which spatial mapping within virtual warfare affects the actual mapping and geographies of war-torn zones around the globe. The challenge in forming an alternative space of virtual intervention is not only to offer counter-arguments to the propaganda of virtual warfare but also to teach students a form of literary criticism that empowers with an understanding of this Thirdspace, that provides them with the skills to recognize interconnectivity of spaces and the ability to deconstruct the meanings, binaries, ideologies, and policy in the midst of our virtual reality.The prospect of fashioning a critical pedagogy that might transform the military-entertainment-educational complex mandates

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not only grassroots movements of protest against war but also efforts to unveil “the cosmetically treated spectre” of warfare, death, and the military so crucial to the advancement and perpetuation of U.S. global hegemony. Notes 1. This chapter contains parts of a prior essay written by the author Leonard entitled “Unsettling the military entertainment complex: Video games and a pedagogy of peace” (Vol. 4, No. 4: 2004). Said prior material is included herein with the permission of Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education (Simile) © University of Toronto Press, 2. Given the increased cooperation between universities with both the military and entertainment industries in the production of virtual reality and other technologies, we imagine this as a network or complex between the military entertainment world, and academia. 3. William Kristol (Chairman) and Gary Schmitt (President) led the Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative think tank founded in 1997, during its decadelong existence. At its core, the PNAC promotes a foreign agenda based on expansion, and increased military power of the United States toward the formation of empire. From its inception, it advocated regime change in Iraq, encouraging then President Bill Clinton to invade as early as 1998, and played an important role in military action taken in the region after 9/11. 4. It should be clear that while we distinguish between virtual reality and the “real world,” we by no means think in terms of a binary, but rather the dialectics between the “imagined” and the “real.” Virtual warfare “is not just the other place . . . a refuge for our lost desires and fears. Built into spatial mapping is an assumption of the marginality of the Middle East, a zone which, in our presumption, is beyond the bounds of the only moral and reasonable law—ours” (Wark, 1994, p. 5). Both entertainment and play within the spaces of reality and virtual welfare “create enough contact between places to create a sort of narrative prudence”—i.e., conquering, conquest, and intervention (pp. 5–6).

References Barron, M. (2004). Militarism & video games: An interview with Nina Huntemann. Media Education Foundation. Retrieved on 8 January, 2005, from news/articles/militarism. Baudrillard, J. (1991). The Gulf War did not take place. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Carlson, S. (2003, August 15). Can Grand Theft Auto inspire professors? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on July 30, 2008, from i49/49a03101.htm. Costikyan, G. (1999, June 21). Games don’t kill people—Do they? Salon. Retrieved on July 8, 2003 from violence/print.html. Der Derian, J. (2001). Virtuous war: Mapping the military industrial-media-entertainment network. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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Fridenberg, M. (2003, April 3). War video games popular as real battles rage. The Digital Collegian. Retrieved on July 8, 2003, from 2003/04/04-03-03tdc/04-03-03dnews-01.asp. Giroux, H. (1996). Fugitive cultures: Race, violence and youth. New York: Routledge. Grossman, D. (1996). On killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society. New York: Back Bay Books. Halter, E. (2006). From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Harmon, A. (2003, April 3). More than just a game, but how close to reality. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 8, 2003, from technology/more-than-just-a-game-but-how-close-to-reality.html. Longoni, S. (2005). A location called cyberspace. In The body is back: Communication in cyberspace. Mellencamp, P. (1990) Indiscretions: Avant garde film, video, and feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Miklaucic, S. (2006, May 18). Virtual real(i)ty: SimCity and the production of urban cyberspace. Game Research. Retrieved from simcity.asp. Napoli, L. (2003, March 27). War by other means. New York Times. Retrieved on July 8, 2003, from http:/ Robins, K. (2000). Cyberspace and the world we live in. In D. Bell and B.M. Kennedy (eds.). The Cyberculture reader. New York: Routledge. Sherman, B. and Judkins, P. (1992). Glimpses of heaven, visions of hell: Virtual reality and its implications. London: Hodder & Stoughton (pp. 126–127). Slagle, M. (2003, October 14). Military recruits video games as training aid. Contra Costa Times. Retrieved on March 26, 2004, from cctimes/business/7009332.html. Soja, E. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real and imagined places. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Turse, N. (2003, December 16). The Pentagon invades your Xbox. Znet. Retrieved on March 27, 2004, from Virilio, P. (2000). Strategy of deception. New York: Verso Press. War on Terror video game available this Fall. (2004, September 15). Game Spot. Retrieved from Wark, M. (1994). Virtual geography: Living with global media events. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Chapter 6

Future Combat, Combating Futures Temporalities of War Video Games and the Performance of Proleptic Histories Josh Smicker The economization of time . . . the economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself. Karl Marx, Grundrisse (1993, p. 173) A politics of the archive is our permanent orientation here . . . there is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever (1995, p. 4) The event is not what happens.The event is that which can be narrated.The event is action organized by culturally situated meanings. Allen Feldman, Formations ofViolence (1991, p. 14) Convergences: Game Studies and Performance Theory It starts with the skyrocketing price of oil.With prices heading over $200 a barrel, Russia begins cashing in on its vast oil reserves to revitalize its dilapidated military. Partially in response to Russia’s military resurgence, the United States and Europe finalize a contentious missile defense shield that alienates and angers Russia. To make matters worse, the United States’ effort to quicken the militarization of space through tactical satellites and a military space station has also exacerbated tensions with its European allies.All it takes is one terrorist attack to transform this tenuous international détente into World War III. Such is the announced premise of Endwar (2008), the newest offering in Tom Clancy’s video game franchise, which like the other series bearing his brand (e.g., Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell) centers on high-tech military interventions set in the near future, and extrapolated out of current concerns and conflicts (e.g., rising energy prices, disagreements over missile defense shields, global shortages in natural resources, etc.).These games serve as the most prominent examples of

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what I call proleptic histories, which function by promising the gamer an opportunity to play a realistic version of the future before it arrives. Although particular plot lines may be unlikely or even far-fetched, the guarantor of authenticity lies in the way the military and warfare are presented—the games, and the publicity around them, emphasize that they are a preview of the actual future of the military. For example, in a recent interview, Endwar’s creative director Michael De Plater repeatedly emphasizes points like “we want our game to be as realistic as possible for ten years in the future”, and “most of these ‘crazy weapon things’ [referring to armaments like microwave guns that produce incapacitating pain in targets] are already at prototype stage, some being secretly field-tested on today’s battlefields” (Miller, 2007, n.p.). These games thus function as virtual enactments and endorsements for developing military technologies, whose actual performance records are usually much more ambiguous. In this chapter, I will explore some of the assumptions, logics, and characteristics of the proleptic wargames, especially in comparison to the other two dominant “realistic” wargame genres: re-enactments and revisions. In doing so, I will facilitate what I think could be the fruitful conversation between performance studies and critical theories of new media as it relates to understanding military and wargames. A number of themes central to performative modes of understanding memory and history—questions of embodiment, different experiences of spatiality and temporality, modes of representation, the performative force of narratives, and the force of the virtual—are also important in making sense of new media texts, including video games.A performance studies framework can supplement recent work, particularly among feminist theorists, in (re)emphasizing the importance of embodied and spatial aspects of media (for example, Braidotti, 2002; Couldry and McCarthy, 2004; McCarthy, 2001; Sobchack, 2004; Spigel and Olsson, 2004), and the ways in which they produce particular narratives, images, and subjects of history in their material relations with users. Focusing on the dynamic assemblages of bodies, spaces, images, narratives, and affect is a more useful way to begin to approach the effectivities and performative force of media in general, and video games in particular, by opening up important elements of media that are obscured within analytic frameworks that treat media as only or principally textual objects needing interpretation. In particular, it can provide a way to get beyond the two consistent shortcomings that Tim Lenoir (2004) has identified in theoretical work on new media—“ocularcentrism” (a focus primarily or exclusively on the visual elements of new media) and “disembodiment” (a tendency to equate the virtual or the digital with immateriality) (Lenoir, 2004, p. xii). Attempts to move away from these persistent problems in new media theory, such as Lenoir’s (2004) “haptic vision” or Mark B.N. Hansen’s (2004) “aesthetics of new media embodiment,” are consistent with a performative view of texts and textuality (Lenoir, 2004, p. xxiii; Hansen, 2004, p. 23). Such a performative view approaches

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“the text-in-performance as an always already intertextual rite—as an event that occurs between and among participants whose meanings are therefore emergent and unpredictable. Performance is thus characterized by the vitality, erotics, and transformative dynamics of subject-subject exchange [i.e., intersubjectivity]” (Pollock, 1998, p. 22). Such a perspective can be usefully translated into a processual, relational, material, and dynamic approach to media, one that remains sensitive to the contexts of media, to the production of media events, which are often simultaneously spectacular and mundane.1 Performance theory can contribute to the ongoing development of theoretical approaches to video games, especially since video games incorporate performance, in a deliberately broadened sense, into their functioning on at least three levels. First, there is the performance of the game technology itself, in terms of gameplay (interface) and the performance of the gaming technology. In gaming reviews, the performance of a game—referring to how smoothly the software driving the game operates, the fluidity of the connection between the actions of the player and the response of the game—is typically the first and most important element discussed. This leads us to a second level of performance within video games—the embodied performances of the gamer. Every game demands an embodied, pedagogical relationship, or a familiarity with the patterns of movements and actions with the game’s controls. Traditionally, this involved only the hands, but newer game platforms, like the Nintendo DS, the Wii, and the PS3, are developing different ways of arranging the connections between bodies, controllers, and screens.2 Playing video games necessitates learning and incorporating particular techniques and modes of interaction with the game and its operating system on a visual, audial, and tactile level. Because of this complex interdependence, video games are best thought of as ensembles of technological and embodied performances. Finally, there are social elements of video game performance when interactions with the game open up as performances for/with other people.This can take a variety of forms. Gameplay itself can become a public performance, either within a particular space—Dance Dance Revolution “dance-offs” at arcades, Guitar Hero nights at the local bar, or LAN (local area network) video game tournaments—or distributed through other media (e.g., shows on G4/Tech TV, a “hi-tech” themed cable channel, where competitive gameplay between top gamers is broadcast as television shows). Gaming may also demand the performance of particular roles, actions, knowledges, and discourses within the virtual space of the game itself, particularly in networked or online play (the social performances in massively multiplayer online games [or MMOs] like World of Warcraft [2004]). These games often require a familiarity with and ongoing performance of certain techniques, skill sets, and modes of interaction both to “successfully” play the game with others

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and to facilitate a sense of belonging in the virtual community composed in and through the game. On all these levels, performance is central to both using and making sense of video games if we “expand the performance field to include a broad spectrum of everyday practices and social structures and to raise questions about the role of spectacle in the production of social selves,” and as “the embodied process of making meaning” (Pollock, 1998, pp. 3, 20, emphasis added). Keeping these general concerns in mind, this chapter now asks:What particular types of performances of memory, history, and subjectivity are bound up in playing war and military video games? In asking this question, we can think of war video games less as individual texts to be interpreted or read properly, and more as particular nodes within the broader context of an emergent military formation. This term is meant to be more expansive than the concept of the militaryentertainment complex, which usually refers to the politico-economic, ideological, and personnel convergences amongst military branches, infotech companies, and entertainment companies (e.g., movie studios, software publishers). Instead, “military formation” refers to a broader cultural configuration—borrowing from Lawrence Grossberg’s (1992) discussion of rock formations—that includes “texts and practices; economic relations; images . . . social relations; aesthetic conventions; styles of language, movement, appearance . . . media practices; ideological commitments; and sometimes media representations of the apparatus itself ” (Grossberg, 1992, p. 75).This understanding is more in line with what authors like Henry Giroux (2008) have called the militarization of everyday life, a concept explored in more detail below. The games analyzed currently employ performative modes of embodiment, affectivity, multi-sensuality, and ephemerality in a manner consistent with hegemonic images and narratives of militarization and violence. For example, Kuma\War (2004) is an online wargame that primarily offers just-in-time, “ripped from the headlines” missions that allow you to participate in contemporary military events right after or as they occur. It mixes (actual and fictional) news footage with digital recreations of recent military scenarios, intensifying their affective force by facilitating virtual re-enactments. Conflict: Desert Storm (2002), a game about the first invasion of Iraq released during the buildup to the second, constructs an “ideal” version of the first Gulf War (one with, according to the tag line, “No diplomats. No negotiations. No surrender.”) four months before this “ideal” is actualized on the bodies, landscapes, and cities of Iraq in the second U.S. invasion of Iraq. These games are interactive ensembles where “familiar environments become loaded with alternative histories; mundane spaces become the repositories of extraordinary narratives,” where “auditory techniques are then matched to imagistic, tactile, and/or embodied modes of representation” in particular ways (Jackson, 2005, p. 48). This analysis now turns to understanding the temporal logics of these games.

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Playing the Future History This game actually makes me flashback and think about the war and the aftermath . . . But that’s not necessarily bad. Being that I will be going back to Iraq for a 3rd tour, I’ll say that it’s much better fighting from my PC behind a desk then actually slinging lead at each other. Sergeant from HHC 1/64 Armor, 3rd Infantry Division (M) on KumaWar Every American pledges allegiance. Only a select few show it. From Conflict: Desert Storm’s box art Several authors have discussed a set of socio-economic and cultural changes in the U.S., particularly post-9/11, as the militarization of everyday life (see Enloe, 2000; Giroux, 2007; Giroux, 2008; Martin, 2007; Pain and Smith, 2008). This notion of the militarization of everyday life is useful if we can expand and specify its referents. In its most common usage, it gestures to the expanded presence of military personnel and cultural forms in our daily lives. This infiltration is intensified by the increasingly rapid erosion of boundaries between the State military, police, intelligence services, homeland security, and the corporate world, a process justified by linking discourses of security to a set of neoliberal policies that are now hegemonic concepts of institutional organization—efficiency, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, markets, etc. Intentionally broad in its scope, the militarization of everyday life refers to the connections from processes as diverse as the provision under the No Child Left Behind Act that opens school campuses to military recruiters and databases (Rosenberg, 2005; Krim, 2005), to the commodification of patriotism (e.g., the yellow flag car magnets, or virtual participation in the Global War on Terror through video games), to the TIPS (now TALON) program that encourages and centralizes citizen self-surveillance (Pincus, 2005), to the illegal domestic wiretapping facilitated by telecommunication companies under the Bush administration (Nakashima, 2007). On the other hand, the militarization of everyday life also gestures to the performative transformation of the activities of everyday life into military activities. For those not enlisted in the armed services, one participates in the Global War on Terror precisely by shopping, traveling, going to work—in other words, business as usual. This both reproduces and goes beyond the more traditional technique of using the defense of “society” and “our way of life” as the justification or reason for war, reconfiguring it (society or everyday life) as the battleground and site of participation in the Global War on Terror.3 Everyday life thus becomes a space/time that simultaneously demands intervention, is the site of the struggle, and is the unseen modality of participation within and against this cultural logic for the vast majority of the U.S. citizenry.

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The virtual spectacles of military video games are an important element in the militarization of everyday life for several reasons: first, they are intertextually enmeshed with similar representations of war and the military circulating through corporate media (e.g., films, video, news media, etc.); second, they allow gamers to (temporarily and safely) occupy the role of “real” soldiers; and, third, these games require the user to become familiar with sets of military knowledges (e.g., what weapons modifications are useful in certain conditions, or for certain tasks; military abbreviations and jargon), and modes of perception and action (e.g., particular ways of scanning an area and looking for enemies, or coordinating with teammates in clearing a room). The virtual space of networked games, and their online communities (in addition to the paratexts like message boards, “clans” [or regular gamer groups], newsletters, fan videos, etc.), also provide a space for linking actual military personnel and civilians, which, along with operating as a sophisticated public relations tool, was the motivating force behind the U.S. Army’s development of its own online wargame, America’s Army (2002; for more discussion of this game, see Nichols and Nieborg in this collection).The game, distributed freely over the Internet, is one of the most popular online video games ever, with over 43 million downloads (as of February 2009). In addition to interpellating, or hailing, gamers as soldiers, the game also functions as a mode of surveillance for the Army (allowing it to record, track, and reference how much time players spend in the game, their skill levels at particular tasks), and as an entry point for future recruitment solicitations. Finally, these games make visible (and, in the process, invisible) some of the elements actively excluded from the media spectacle of war in other symbolic forms, namely face-to-face violence and the death of soldiers. The intensity of involvement in the games occludes the boredom, discomfort, and physical pain of actual soldiering, with death reconfigured as a moment either spectacular (hyperbolic gore marked as a testimony to its “realness”) or underwhelming (soldiers are hit with a grenade and do not bleed, much less get torn apart). Either way, death is temporary. If you wait a few seconds, corpses gradually fade and disappear; the battlefield is thoroughly antiseptic and efficient. Here the logics of fully spectral warfare dominated by figures and practices of nationalistic ghosts (e.g., ghost soldiers, black sites, Ghost Recon, etc.) find their virtual realization. Taken together, these games compose a complex set of discursive, perceptual, and affective pedagogical practices that enact the logic of the military’s “revolution in military affairs” (RMA), where the exhausting and repetitive realities of soldiering are replaced with exciting, fast-paced, high-tech cyberwars (or netwars), which, in turn, are represented as a video game.4 There are three broad genres of “historical” wargames:5 re-enactment, revisionist, and proleptic. This categorization is based on the differences in game

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narration, gameplay design, markers of authenticity and performance of military histories. Re-enactment games try to recreate and reproduce, as accurately as possible, specific wars, battles, armies, and equipment. Like their physical war re-enactment counterparts, a fastidious attention to artifactual and organizational detail (e.g., are these the right cartridges for this rifle? are there zippers where buttons are supposed to be?) becomes the index of verisimilitude, since the reality of corporeal violence and death, the ultimate defining characteristic of war, is foreclosed from the start.6 The most typical subject matter for these games is World War II (e.g., Medal of Honor [1999], Call of Duty [2003], Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 [2005], etc.) because of that conflict’s political and ideological unassailability.These games resonate with a particular mimetic understanding of history and historical accuracy, participating in a regime that by making the past seem present in a mimetic sense . . . could in fact secure the pastness, the otherness, of events crucial to understanding and acting in our historical present. It could encourage us to see the objectified events as pitiably and absolutely “not us” . . . [this] aesthetics of presence may thus simultaneously license and foreclose on cultural memory and its implications for critical consciousness. (Pollock, 1998, p. 11) The “historic” identifications opened up by games like these are contingent upon an ideological closure that prefigures narratives, images, and subjectivities within an acceptable range mapped out by dominant historical discourses of military honor and valor. The second subcategory is the revisionist wargame, in which past battles and engagements can be reconstructed in the manner in which “they should have” initially occurred. Several of the missions available in Kuma\War fall under this heading. For example, the 1980 Iran hostage rescue can be successful, Osama bin Laden can be captured in 1998 (or captured in Tora Bora in 2001), the Iraqi and Afghan national armies can be existent, functional, and efficient.These games are, again unsurprisingly, almost all based on American defeats. Games like these are in line with a tradition of the memorialization of defeat that reinscribes the loss (both of the battle and of lives) within a broader, and more enduring, national victory (such as the dominant discourses of the Alamo [it directly and ultimately led to Texan independence], or Vietnam [it ultimately led to the defeat of global communism]). Defeat is redeemed through its “proper” experience as victory (i.e., this is the way it should have happened), and is defused because it is situated within a broader national military history defined by victory. The repetition of an alternative history also resonates with some conceptualizations of trauma and its resolution. The scene of the collective trauma of defeat must be revisited, and

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repeated, but in a way that mediates and inscribes it within a history in which the trauma is contained, defused, or at least explained, rather than repeating it “exactly and unremittingly, through the unknowing acts of the survivor[s] and against [their] very will” more typical of traumatic recall (Caruth, 1996, p. 2). The final and most interesting subgenre is proleptic, or anticipatory, histories. These games are set in the present or near future, and present possible future interventions into present-day “hot spots” (e.g., North Korea, Iran, Nigeria, Cuba, etc.) as necessary and unavoidable realities. They enact a particular mode of inevitable futurity that Greg Elmer and Andy Opel (2006) suggest underpins our contemporary doctrine of military preemption, marking “a shift in reasoning from ‘what-if’ simulation models—where surveillance intelligence fuels forecasting models, to ‘when, then’ thinking where the future is deemed inevitable (i.e. not if, but when, terrorists attack)” (p. 489).The most popular games in this genre are those developed by Red Storm Entertainment, based in Morrisville, North Carolina. Red Storm publishes video games marketed under the name of its coowner, Tom Clancy, the author famous for political thrillers like Patriot Games (1988), Clear and Present Danger (1990), and The Hunt for Red October (1992). Proleptic games include the Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six series (all Tom Clancy/Red Storm games). Red Storm also publishes non-Clancy military games, like the console version of America’s Army:True Soldiers (2007), which runs on the Ghost Recon 2 engine. The most significant element of these games is that they are most closely aligned with the discourses of the “new military” championed by the Bush administration (although its technological, economic, and biopolitical possibilities are increasingly thrown into doubt owing to the continuing Iraqi occupation). These games focus on individual or small groups of Special Forces soldiers conducting clandestine missions rather than platoons taking part in a broader, mass military engagement.7 The missions are almost entirely plausibly deniable, tactical preemptive strikes, aimed at undercutting unstable regimes, or, alternatively, protecting friendly regimes in global trouble areas. Finally, these games excel in producing spectacles of military technological wizardry and gadgetry, replete with cutting-edge optical gear (e.g., night, infrared, thermal, electromagnetic field goggles; heads-up displays) and corporeally embedded communication devices and bio-monitoring equipment (such as a fiber optic sensor inserted into the ear that connects to GPS tracking and monitors soldiers’ vital signs [see Meridian Industries, 2005]). These gadgets are at the forefront of the popular articulation of what Randy Martin (2006) calls “derivative wars,” which are characterized by a leaner-meaner force structure [as] a military version of “just-in-time production”. This is one approximation of postmodern war where a standardized mass military is replaced with a customized force configuration,

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managed informatically.This shift in the military is said to correspond to larger efforts to tightly coordinate production and consumption so as to avoid the tendency to produce more than can be used. (p. 465) Martin’s reference to postmodern war draws on Christopher Hables Gray’s work on the topic. Gray (2005) outlines the defining characteristics of postmodern war as “the central role of information and information technologies; an increase in speed; a bricolage of different forms of war and politics; increased human-machine integration; the lack of one unifying narrative; a complexification of gender; and peace as the main justification of war” (p. 44).The images and narratives of proleptic games strongly parallel the discourse of postmodern war and the attendant Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).As Martin argues, the current mode of RMA is the application of neoliberal economic and managerial models to the organization and deployment of the state military, emphasizing agility, flexibility, and just-intime interventions. The policy initiative at the heart of this transformation is the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, a massive program involving a range of government, military, and corporate actors. Some of the household names involved in the Future Combat Systems program include Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, SAIC, Northrop-Grummond, Honeywell, DARPA, iRobot (also the manufacturer of the hands-free robot vacuum, the Roomba!), and, of course, the Army.8 The NewYork Times describes FCS as a view of the military organized as a seamless web of 18 different sets of networked weapons and military robots. The program is at the heart of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s campaign to transform the Army into a faster, lighter force in which strippeddown tanks could be put on a transport plane and flown into battle, and information systems could protect soldiers of the future as heavy armor has protected them in the past. (Weiner, 2005, A6) A number of elements are significant in the foregoing organizational and technological descriptions, which proleptic video games appropriate and virtually embody and enact. First, there is the application of information systems theory concepts to the bodily and material organization of the military, drawing on the same “system of system” and “network of networks” modeling that makes the Internet function. This is connected to a strong investment in the material effectivities of information, which holds that accurate and accelerated information systems can replace heavy armor (although such an assertion appears ludicrous in the context of ongoing shortages of body and vehicle armor for the soldiers presently in Iraq). The basic idea, illustrated by a video available at The Future

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Combat Systems website (U.S.Army, 2006), features a demonstration video meant to illustrate that soldiers will not need armor because an array of sensors, satellites, and automated weaponry will locate and neutralize enemies before they realize that they have been targeted (a micro-level informational application of the doctrine of preemptive strikes).This demonstration is “virtual” in two senses: it is a mix of digital animation and live action on digital video (virtual media) that proves technologies that exist only as possibilities (virtual technologies). It is important to note that, even though the price for FCS has surpassed $145 billion, only one of its 53 elements is operational even as a prototype.The only realization of FCS is in its virtual incarnation as Future Force Company Commander (F2C2 [2006]), a promotional video game meant to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness. F2C2 is a so-called “god game” that allows the player to utilize the potential technologies of FCS to intervene in an intensifying international dispute. The premise of the game is evident in the following scenario: Sabalan has actively worked to destabilize the government of Dalilar, a U.S. ally, with an intermediate goal of installing a sympathetic government and an ultimate goal of annexation. Sabalan has moved combat forces close to Dalilar’s border to intimidate Dalilar and actively aided an insurgency with weapons, equipment, supplies and training.This insurgency is built around an unhappy ethnic minority. The Sabalan cadre were recently confirmed operating within Dalilar, and insurgent activities have dramatically increased. Infiltration into Dalilar by armed units and increasing assassination attempts have been reported. United Nations efforts to defuse the situation have not been effective. The U.S. and key allies have responded to an urgent Dalilar request for military assistance.The United States immediately responded with a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) and a flow of forces. Special Operations Forces (SOF) assets and limited Human Intelligence (HUMINT) have been inserted. (U.S. Army, 2006) Missions include planning and executing a night raid on a populated area in Sabalan, and protecting a border and an airstrip in Dalilar. Unlike some games (such as Full Spectrum Warrior [2004]) which attempt to approximate the “fog of war” within the gameplay, F2C2 fully enacts the discourse of FCS that claims that the fog of war can be completely eliminated through comprehensive and networked surveillance and intelligence. The game is thus doubly proleptic in programming inevitable futures: presenting FCS as a realized fact, and allowing FCS to guarantee total victory through total vision in any combat scenario. It also actualizes the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive war (at both a strategic and tactical level). In this way, F2C2 parallels the tactical shooters

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like the Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell series.The games in these series are also primarily organized around small groups of specialized operatives working to prevent WMD attacks (e.g., Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six [1998]; Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm [2004]; Splinter Cell:Pandora Tomorrow [2004]; Splinter Cell:Double Agent [2006]; Rainbow Six:Vegas [2007]); debilitating information assaults (e.g., Splinter Cell [2002]; Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory [2005]) on the United States or its allies; or to prevent hostile regimes from coming into power (e.g., Ghost Recon [2002]; Ghost Recon:Island Thunder [2003])—all exemplifying the logics of preemption at a macro level to protect the nation-state. The special operatives also use a range of military technologies, from fiber-optic cables to look under doors to unpiloted aerial vehicles to find and eliminate enemies before they become aware of the soldiers’ presence—thereby exemplifying the logics of preemption at a micro level to protect the firefight squad.The emphasis on special operations within these games serves as a popular instantiation of the more general move to make special ops the model for the regular forces.These games are part of a broader military discourse in which, as Martin (2007) suggests, the “special” becomes the “general.”This state of affairs “effaces the very delineations between defense and offense . . . peace and war, strategy and tactics, military and psychological objectives occupy the same space and time” (p. 94). Effectively, permanent small wars become structurally necessary to avert the advent of larger conflicts. Simulating Futurity Proleptic wargames, and their policy counterparts, are part of a broader effort to contain and manage the futurity of the future—that is its openness, its unknowability, its potential for difference or change. Futurity is what Elizabeth Grosz (2005) describes as “a temporality in which the future remains virtual and beyond the control of the present,” opening up to “what is beyond current comprehension and control, to becoming unrecognizable, becoming other, becoming artistic” (p. 1; p. 5). For sedimented, hegemonic power relations, such an understanding of futurity must be constantly subjected to erasure and discredit. From the point of view of the dominant, as Derrida suggests, this type of “future can only be anticipated in the form of absolute danger . . . it is what breaks absolutely with constituted normality and can only be proclaimed, presented, as a kind of monstrosity” (Derrida, qtd. in Badiou, 2001, p. xliv). Futurity itself is configured primarily as a threat to be managed. Of course, the force of futurity remains excessive; its management always fails. The trick, and the power, of these techniques are finding ways to mobilize failures so they become successful. The fact that, instead of establishing a flourishing democracy that will unleash a democratic domino effect in the Middle East, Iraq has become chaotic, fragmented, more violent, with an ongoing insurgency, becomes retrospective proof that Iraq

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was full of terrorists, and that we had to “take the fight to them” and make it “the new front on the global war on terror.” Several recent scholars (Martin, 2002; Grossberg, 2005; Harvey, 2005) have suggested that economic discourses and practices are taking an increasingly important role in the regulation of the future.This economic regulation of the future is apparent in a number of processes, practices, and discourses—foreshortened temporal perspectives primarily oriented to next quarter’s profits; the expanding markets in futures; the TINA (There Is No Alternative) discourse used to justify unregulated corporate global capitalism; the intertwined spread of insurance and securities providers, and millennial capitalism—what Comaroff and Comaroff (2000) describe as the growing centrality of “the gamble” to capitalism,“routinized in a widespread infatuation with, and popular participation in, high-risk dealings in stocks, bonds, and funds whose fortunes are guided by chance” (p. 296).The current vision of RMA in the U.S. armed forces adopts this logic and results in a form of military neoliberalism,9 most prominently represented in the proleptic wargames discussed above. This confluence between dominant military and economic discourse is unsurprising, since many contemporary economic theories and instruments have their roots in military planning and the development of information processing technologies within military departments. For example, rational-choice theory and game theory, two increasingly popular predictive economic techniques, have their roots in post-World War II development of computer models used to plan, simulate, and prepare for Cold War conflicts (see De Landa, 1991).Wargaming, both as a logistical tool for military planners and as commercial entertainment in video games, has always been about producing “ways of simulating (gaming, predicting, calculating) possible futures so as to justify constructing one in particular” (Gray, 2005, p. 152, emphasis added).The future is now not only the justification and stake for military intervention, it is itself the target. The neo-liberal military apparatus constructed around Future Combat Systems and articulated popularly in proleptic war video games does not connote just possible combat in the future but combat against the future itself, combat against futurity. Because of this, progressive politics must remain sensitive to the performative force of the discursive formation of the new military, to its virtual power and effectivities, which remain active even if its representations and desires are never actualized. As in the promotional quote from the soldier-gamer on the Kuma\War web page, war video games function as increasingly common performative spaces within the domain of everyday life (e.g., computer screens, TVs, living rooms) where one enacts particular images, narratives, and discourses of past or present military violence to (purportedly) prepare for its repetition. In the present, the player claims that the game recalls him to the past, to “flashback to the war and his aftermath.”That may not be a bad thing, because this past is what is already waiting for him, since he’s “going back for a third

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tour” in the immanent future. But of course, “it’s much better fighting from a PC at my desk than actually slinging lead at one another”—the material reality and violence of war always exceeds its representations, and will continue to do so even if the Pentagon’s dream of robot soldiers controlled from the very same “PC behind the desk” never develops (, 2004). Here the gamer gestures to an embodied excess beyond the logics of wargames—boredom, fatigue, the perpetual anxiety of soldiers, the unspeakable pain of flayed and broken bodies, the altered corporeal, spatial, and temporal experiences of the physically and mentally traumatized. These excesses remain invisible, imperceptible, untouched in the excessive regime of military visibility in war video games, which re-enact and re-perform more general military discourses on the screens and spaces of millions of users’ everyday lives. Understanding this seemingly paradoxical situation of visible invisibility—the very real (and virtual) danger of too much representation— and the affective investments and performances tied to it, is a necessary first step in developing strategies that can potentially unsettle, challenge, contest, and disrupt these representations that help normalize ongoing exceptional states of war. Notes 1. An approach to media as embodied, performative, and evental is especially critical at the current juncture, which is marked by an increased emphasis on “visual culture” or “visual studies” within media studies even as emergent new media forms are relying on and reconstructing the entire sensorium—these media are not simply visual, but audial, and even haptic (iPhone touch, Guitar Hero [2005]) and olfactory (Virtual Iraq [2005]) configurations. 2. For example, the DS (for dual screen) is the latest portable video game player from Nintendo that sports a touch-screen, a microphone for giving voice commands, and a built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to network with other handheld units. A number of the games being developed for the DS are taking advantage of these new features to develop different modes of embodied interactions with gaming technology. In Nintendogs (2005), a popular title in the virtual pet genre, you can call your puppy via the microphone input, and have to “pet” it by rubbing its image on the touch screen. There are also “full-body” games like Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) (1999), which requires you to dance on a touch sensitive pad in time with directions on screen, or the Guitar Hero and Rock Band (2007) games, which employ the same concept (rhythm matching) with instrument replicas. 3. The differences between the rhetoric employed by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush when announcing their respective invasions of Iraq are indicative of this distinct temporal logic. For George H.W. Bush, the Iraqi invasion was described as “an opportunity to forge for ourselves and our future generations a new world order—a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations . . . in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and visions of the U.N.’s founders.” As opposed to this future-oriented, constructive project framed at a global level, George W. Bush claimed that “We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and the religious faiths

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6. 7. 8.


they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.” This more restorative or preservative tone (where the invasion of Iraq is not about a broader global reconfiguration, but a return of the Iraqi state to its people and “proper” culture) resonates with Bush’s post-9/11 speech, where he argued that the goal of terrorists was to “disrupt and end our way of life,” and asked for “your continued participation and confidence in the American economy” from the American people. In both cases, present intervention is justified by the promised future maintenance of an idealized past. This feedback is materialized when prototypes of the elements of this new age of network-centric warfare are often controlled with modified versions of video game controllers. See, for example, Derene’s (2008) discussion of how a modified Xbox 360 controller has been developed for the Lightweight Stabilized M240 Weapon System and for Raytheon’s unmanned aerial vehicles (Derene, 2008). The cautionary quotes around “real” or “historic” when applied to these games are to distinguish them from other games organized around military violence, but in a sci-fi or fantasy setting with no pretense to any level of recreation of real experience (i.e. Halo [2001] or World of Warcraft), and to point to the importance of the discourse of authenticity in both the marketing and the reception of these games. For an extended discussion of this mode of realism, see Galloway (2004). The exception to this general rule looks like it will be Tom Clancy’s latest franchise, Endwar (2008), which is a MMO real-time strategy (RTS) game. I am indebted to the editors for this point. The Army describes the Future Combat Systems as follows: “The Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) network allows the FCS Family-of-Systems (FoS) to operate as a cohesive system-of-systems where the whole of its capabilities is greater than the sum of its parts. As the key to the Army’s transformation, the network, and its logistics and Embedded Training (ET) systems enable the Future Force to employ revolutionary operational and organizational concepts. The network enables soldiers to perceive, comprehend, shape, and dominate the future battlefield at unprecedented levels as defined by the FCS Operational Requirements Document (ORD). The FCS network consists of four overarching building blocks: System-of-Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE); Battle Command (BC) software; communications and computers (CC); and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) systems. The four building blocks synergistically interact enabling the Future Force to see first, understand first, act first and finish decisively” (U.S. Army, 2006). For a more detailed discussion of military neoliberalism, see Boal et al. (2006).

References Badiou, Alain. (2001). Ethics: An essay on the understanding of evil. London: Verso. Boal, I., Clark, T., Matthews, J., and Watts, M. (2006). Afflicted powers: Capital and spectacle in a new age of war. London: Verso. Braidotti, Rosi. (2002) Metamorphoses: Towards a materialist theory of becoming. New York: Polity Press. Caruth, Cathy. (1996). Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative and history. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Comaroff, Jean and Comaroff, John L. (2000). Millenial capitalism: First thoughts on a second coming. Public Culture, 12(2): 291–343.

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Couldry, Nick and McCarthy, Anna (eds.). (2004). MediaSpace: Place, scale and culture in a media age. London: Routledge. De Landa, Manuel. (1991). War in the age of intelligent machines. New York: Zone Books. Derene, Glenn. (2008, May 29). Wii all you can be? Why the military needs the gaming Industry. Popular Mechanics. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from http://www. Derrida, Jacques. (1995). Archive fever: A Freudian impression (E. Prenowitz, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Elmer, Greg and Opel, Andy. (2006). Surviving the inevitable future: Preemption in an age of faulty intelligence. Cultural Studies, 20(4): 493–511. Enloe, Cynthia. (2000). Manuevers: The international politics of militarizing women’s lives. Berkeley: University of California Press. Feldman, Allen. (1991). Formations of violence: The narrative of the body and political terror in Northern Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Galloway, Alexander. (2004). Social realism in gaming. Game Studies, 4(1). Retrieved July 20, 2008, from Giroux, Henry. (2007). The university in chains: Confronting the military-industrial-academic complex. Boulder: Paradigm Press. Giroux, Henry. (2008). Against the terror of neoliberalism: Politics beyond the age of greed. Boulder: Paradigm Press. Gray, Christopher Hables. (2005). Peace, war and computers. London: Routledge. Grossberg, Lawrence. (1992). We gotta get out of this place: Popular conservatism and postmodern culture. New York: Routledge. Grossberg, Lawrence. (1997). Dancing in spite of myself: Essays on popular culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Grossberg, Lawrence. (2005). Caught in the crossfire: kids, politics, and America’s future. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers. Grosz, Elizabeth. (2005). Time travels: Feminism, nature, power. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Hansen, Mark B.N. (2004). New philosophy for new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Harvey, David. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Jackson, Shannon. (2005). Touchable stories and the performance of infrastructural memory. In D. Pollock (ed.), Remembering: Oral history performance (pp. 45–66). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Krim, Jonathan. (2005, June 23). Pentagon creating student database; Recruiting tool for military raises privacy concerns. Washington Post: A1. (2004). Kuma\War. Accessed March 1, 2009. Lenoir, Tim. (2004). Foreword. In M. Hansen, New philosophy for new media (pp. xiii–xxviii). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Martin, Randy. (2002). The financialization of daily life. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Martin, Randy. (2006). Derivative wars. Cultural Studies, 20(4): 459–476. Martin, Randy. (2007). Empire of indifference: American war and the financial logic of risk management. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Marx, Karl. (1993). Grundrisse (M. Nicolaus, Trans.). London: Penguin Press. (Original work published 1939).

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McCarthy, Anna. (2001). Ambient television: Visual culture and public space. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Meridian Industries. (2005). Development of remote bio-monitoring military device technology. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from news4817.html. Miller, Jonathan. (2007). Endwar: real time Armageddon. Retrieved July 23, 2008, from Nakashima, Ellen. (2007, October 3). Telecoms pressed on surveillance; Democrats seek details on what government is given. Washington Post: D1. Pain, Rachel and Smith, Susan. (2008). Fear: Critical geopolitics and everyday life. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing. Pincus, Walter. (2005, December 11). Defense facilities pass along reports of suspicious activities; “Raw information” from military, civilians is given to Pentagon. Washington Post: A12. Pollock, Della. (1998). Making history go. In D. Pollock (ed.), Exceptional spaces: Essays in performance and history (pp. 1–48). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Rosenberg, Merri. (2005, February 13). Latest military front: Scouting at schools. New York Times: C14. Sobchack, Vivian. (2004). Carnal thoughts: Embodiment and moving image culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. Spigel, Lynn and Olsson, Jan. (eds.). (2004). Television after tv: Essays on a medium in transition. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. U.S. Army. (2006). FCS Overview. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from mil/fcs/factfiles/overview.html. Weiner, Tim. (2005, March 28). Drive to build high-tech army hits cost snags. New York Times: A6.

Interview with Rachel Hardwick Matthew Thomas Payne

Rachel Hardwick is a Senior Producer for Trion World Network, where she manages its platform technology engineering team. In June 2004, Hardwick joined Secret Level, Inc., a game technology studio based in San Francisco. While at Secret Level, she oversaw the development and creation of America’s Army:Rise of a Soldier for the Microsoft Xbox. Rise of a Solider was the first commercially available home console title to market itself as an “official game of the U.S.Army.” Before joining Secret Level, Hardwick spent five years producing a variety of licensed game content for LucasArts Entertainment Company. MP: How did you and your design team conduct the game research for America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier (2005)? RH: As were going through development our team had a couple of unique opportunities to experience training exercises and to work alongside professional soldiers. For example, a handful of designers and artists went up to Ft. Lewis [in Washington state] and actually completed mock training exercises with the Special Forces personnel. And in December 2004 three of us went to Ft. McClellan in Alabama for a “greening up event.” Because many of the digital assets and game design were already done [from the previous America’s Army game], we took the trip to help balance out some design issues. For instance, we wanted to see what effects night vision goggles had on aiming, and to watch soldiers’ exact movements as they cleared buildings. The visceral excitement of these exercises introduced interesting game design questions, like “here’s where you freak out” . . . now how do we emulate that in a game? We also relied extensively on the military’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who helped us understand the tactics that soldiers actually use in the field. Our designers were directly emailing them. I was directly emailing them.We asked them both general and specific questions: “How would you climb these mountains?,” “How

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would you face down this kind of threat?,” “How would your team move in this particular situation?” We were involved with the SMEs on a detail-by-detail basis. Once we were in production, the SMEs would visit [the design studio] once a month, sometimes more, for mission reviews.These men were not old, ex-military guys, but were actual active Special Forces soldiers. One of them had just come back from Afghanistan, another had come back from Iraq a year before, and another is a highly decorated soldier who spent a lot of time in Afghanistan right as the Taliban was overthrown and is personal friends with the guy who is now president of Afghanistan! In addition to their experiences in the field, some of our SMEs were actual instructors. These are guys who know ridiculously detailed information about various training protocols, so they were involved in the project for exactly these reasons. Obviously, we tried to get as much information as we could from them on authentic movement, behavior, dialog. They approved and ran through our dialog, and really helped develop the game’s finer details, which made the game more authentic. When they’d visit the studio, we’d often sit down and play with our SMEs. They would offer very specific feedback, saying: “OK here’s how you guys would actually move in a squad” and “If we’re going to enter a room, this is how you would do it.” Or, “If we were patrolling a street in this environment, this is how we would move.” Our SMEs played the levels with our designers and a couple of our programmers so that [the production team] could understand the proper behavior, and how the AI needs to move so as to produce an authentic military experience. In the end the SMEs provided tons of feedback all the way until we finished the game. We had a really tight schedule, so it was kind of a balancing act between, “OK, if we had unlimited time, research and money, blah blah blah, this is what we’d do.” But we didn’t, and one never does. In the end, it was a very casual, very friendly, and very collaborative relationship with the SMEs. We’d all go to lunch and then we’d come back to the office and sit in conference chairs and talk for hours. MP: How would you describe your firm’s working relationship with the Army? RH: The working relationship was really collaborative, and I would characterize the association as a licensor–licensee kind of relationship. It was definitely collaborative because we worked together on so many content issues, but when it came down to it, we had to get everything approved by them and they did a lot of guiding. There were a few issues that we absolutely had to change, and we were like, “Man, this is really going to kill our schedule and create problems.” MP: What kind of issues?

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RH: One problem was the progression of the rank, which was something that we wanted to have as realistic as possible, but there were some gray areas. Part of the complication had to do with infantry versus Special Forces designations and ranks. There were other concerns about some of the uniforms, but the criticism arrived very, very late in the production schedule. And changing any code that late in the process jeopardizes the larger project. A few other complaints surfaced, but these would have required a lot of reprogramming and since very few people would have noticed these details [the Army] waived their concerns. MP: Was there any classified or sensitive information that you had to avoid? RH: Actually, there were two weapons sights that we pulled from the game. And just for context, the lead Creative Director, three of our publishing producer-types, and I went to Ft. McClellan for a day-long PR event to guarantee that the Army and its collaborators that were using the brand were all on the same page, so to speak. There, we saw two really cool weapons sights that we later put into the game. Some time later, one of our SMEs suspected that these sights weren’t widely known and asked about them. Sure enough, they were classified and they had to be pulled from the game. This was a very rare problem, however. After all, one of the main reasons for having the military liaisons come out every month was to catch these kinds of things and change them if necessary. MP: Some first-person shooter titles are marketed under the subheading “tactical shooter.” In your view, does America’s Army:Rise of a Soldier qualify as a firstperson shooter, or a tactical shooter? And if it’s more of a disciplining tactical game, what are its instructional elements? RH: It’s really hard to say with this game because it’s kind of a hybrid. It’s a first-person shooter, but there’re major differences between Rise of a Soldier and games like Quake or Doom. One of the biggest differences is the realism factor. In Rise of a Soldier you don’t hit a button to automatically reload on the fly. Instead, when you run out of ammo, you’ve got to go through a reloading animation because, in real life, you don’t get to just snap your finger and have more ammo. Another difference is how the game treats injuries. If you’re playing through a mission and you get injured, and you use a med pack to stop the bleeding, you prevent yourself from bleeding out—I believe that’s the term—but you don’t automatically heal.You then operate with diminished capacity. Because, again, as in real life, if you get injured you don’t just pop a magic pill and get 100 percent immediately better. While this might sound like minor differences, I think it has a significant impact on the game player.

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Another important difference is, with games like Quake and Unreal Tournament, it’s all about shooting and killing.You know, getting head shots, and racking up frags. That obviously wasn’t the primary goal of our game.You can actually play through certain missions where you are doing recon work and in these missions you’ll see potential targets—and you can take them out if you want to—but, if you eliminate them, you may fail because the objective is to gather information not take people out. Rise of a Soldier is definitely more tactical because the underlying theme and idea behind the product development was to replicate a realistic military Army experience. The game also differs from the PC version because this game is not an explicit recruitment product per se.The PC game is absolutely a recruiting tool because you can link to the “Go Army” website.We don’t have any links to any Army recruiting, and we don’t have any phone numbers embedded in the game.That said, one of the goals of the project was to appeal to a target market of 18–29 males, as well as extend the Army’s branding and core values. Our lead SME emphasized the core Army values repeatedly. For example, you’re always rewarded in the game for healing your teammates and for saving your squad.You’re encouraged to keep everyone in the squad alive even if it means compromising a mission objective.There are many of these sorts of messages in the game, which goes against the run-andgun, shoot-’em-up gameplay common to first-person shooters.You have to listen to your squad leader. And you have to play through in certain ways or you’ll go AWOL, which will terminate the mission. So the game wasn’t a direct recruiting device so much as it was an image enhancement tool to portray the Army in a positive light for its target market.Actually, we wanted to throw some swearing in there, but that would have changed the rating from Teen to Mature and [the Army] wanted, very specifically, a Teen rated game. Returning to your original question, though, I would say Rise of a Soldier is more of a tactical shooter than your regular first-person shooter because you have to play it a certain way, you have to follow directions, and you have to adhere to the Army’s core ideals to advance and proceed. This also means that because it’s a tactical game it has some instructional elements.The instructional elements of the game have to do with how the weapons really operate, and how it is the player gets feedback. One of the things that we added to the game specifically to amplify realism is the combat effectiveness meter. Basically, if you are a new soldier, if you are a Private, your effectiveness in combat is going to be lower than someone who has a higher rank because they are more experienced. Your combat effectiveness impacts your ability to acquire skill points, which then affects how it is you play the game. Similarly, if you’re hurt, you’re not going to be as effective. If you’re “green,” you’re not going to be as effective. If you’re fatigued, like if you’ve been running, you’re not going to be as effective. The game also teaches you that aiming is easier if you’re kneeling than when you’re

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standing, but aiming is better still if you’re resting prone on your stomach. So the game’s combat effectiveness meter takes all of that into consideration, and we educate the player about strategies that will make them a more proficient soldier. Many of the game’s skills come from the real-world training facilities, and we emulate them as best as possible in the video game. In fact, this emulation of realworld facts can go too far for some gamers. In our reviews, some gamers criticized the behavior of the grenade launcher in the grenadier missions.The thing is, those in the Army—and, yes, I get emails from soldiers—they’ve all said that, of all of the shooters that they’ve played, Rise of a Soldier was absolutely the most accurate and realistic when it came to its weapons’ sightings and the weapons’ realistic behaviors. MP: One of your persistent design challenges, then, is to balance players’ gameplay and generic expectations against real-life physics and military demands? RH: Exactly. Game developers take a lot of liberty, and you have to, to make a good game. It’s the challenge of balancing realism against the fun factor. And sometimes realism in Rise of a Soldier had to win out. I’m not saying that this requirement was a bad thing—there’s a lot that we could have done to make [the weapons] play differently, which might have made them more fun to use. But that’s not what we wanted since we needed to hold true to the actual weapon behavior. It’s also what the U.S.Army needed from us.We knew, then, that it was a calculated risk going into production. And we knew that not everyone was going to automatically like the targeting design. In most games, you do the gross movement and then the game will do the finer movement. But in real life, that’s not how it works. If you’ve got an M16 on your shoulder, it doesn’t just follow wherever you go. By contrast [in Rise of a Soldier], it’s up to whoever is firing to do the more precise and fine-tuned aiming. Some people love it and some people hate it. It’s different than what some gamers are expecting but that was the more realistic way to portray the weapon targeting and sighting in the game, so that’s what we did. MP: What was the production budget for Rise of a Soldier? RH: I can tell you the general numbers. In terms of general development, I think the initial contract was like $2.2 million. I think it grew from that, but that’s what it was originally slated for. In the end, it probably grew to about $2.5 million or $2.7 million. When you are looking at a title’s overall development budget, it’s in thirds. So a third of the overall budget is spent on the firm developing the title, a third is spent on the cost of goods and manufacturing, and a third goes to advertising.

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For example, Sony and Microsoft charge a flat fee per disc that’s manufactured. So when you’re talking about the cost for a product, you’re basically talking about $3 or $4 for the packaging for the actual disc that you burn, including the actual media, the manual, and the packaging. Sony basically charges $7 per disc that they manufacture [for the Playstation2], and part of that is the licensing fee for putting it out on their product. Microsoft charges similarly [for their Xbox games].That’s how they make their money, on the software. Microsoft and Sony won’t earn a lot on the hardware. But if you have a game that sells a million units, they get $7 million—they get $7 per unit sold. So, again, when you look at the overall project budget, you’ve got a third for development, a third for the cost of goods, and then a third for advertising. But I know that they increased the advertising budget way more than they initially anticipated. Anytime you’re going to do television, it’s a minimum $3 or $4 million. If you want a really good run, you need TV spots, and we did TV ads for the Army. So the advertising campaign ended up being more than the development budget. MP: So the entire project came in somewhere around $10 million? RH: Actually, I’d say somewhere between $10 and $12 million. MP: How do you see Rise of a Soldier as representing the Army or combat generally? RH: One of the things that we did well was portraying the realistic factors of life in the Army. In other games, if you get killed in a lower mission, you can—if you have enough points or whatever—get back up and keep going. You don’t do that in real life, and you don’t do that in our game. In terms of contributing to the greater good, I think that that militarism is a very debatable topic right now. There’s a lot of emotion right now about the military and about what it does or does not have the right to do—just think of the current debate about campus recruiters. A lot of people are pissed to give the Army more money and access. Personally, I think that the military is a necessary part of our existence, although I don’t support everything they do. As far as the game is concerned, anything that one can do to put a more realistic idea out there to counter the Hollywood idea of big explosions and overdramatized action—and a lot of video games are guilty of hyping war—I think is a good thing. Being able to present a more realistic and responsible image of war is a good thing. MP: And this design ethos extended to how you represented people and places in the game?

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RH: Sort of. Yes and no. We inherited nearly all of the environments from the PC game. I don’t know exactly if they were initially modeled after something in the real world or not because we didn’t have a lot of interaction with the artists that did the initial PC mount.The other complicating factor is that the initial PC mounts were built for multi-player games.We had to build single-player things around these assets. Officially speaking, the Army didn’t want a specific conflict or country in the game. There were a couple of reasons for not depicting real-world places or scenarios. The game could be offensive to anyone who’s from a represented country or region. And it could have been offensive if it mishandled a historical conflict.Another reason for avoiding specific environments is because the game is about the Army generally, and its core values. It’s not about simulating a particular time and place. The Army’s core value systems were the core pieces that we were trying to convey with the game. And the project was much more about communicating those values than representing any specific environment. So the official answer is “no,” this world is all fictional.

Part III

Producing Pedagogical War

Chapter 7

Mobilizing Affect The Politics of Performative Realism in Military New Media Dan Leopard

Any serious student of the media, their future impact and development needs . . . to take seriously the cost-benefit, means-ends thinking of engineers. Indeed the specific visions of technological use and development that such engineering thinking may at any time favor and propagate can only be critiqued if it is first understood. (Garnham, 2000, p. 70) In Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel Ender’s game (1985), Earth’s military command selects 10-year-old Ender Wiggin to attend Battle School and, upon promotion, Command School. At these institutions of military training, students learn to engage combat by playing an immersive—“serious”—game that simulates intergalactic warfare. Over the several years that follow, Ender masters gameplay and excels at leading spaceships full of children-warrior-players in tactical maneuvers against the “buggers,” an insect-like alien species at war with Earth. At the novel’s conclusion, following a series of exhausting battles in which he sacrifices the lives of many of his fellow players, Ender finally engages in an all-out assault on the bugger home world. In the final attack, having learned to play like no other before him, he displays a reckless, tenacious brutality verging on barbarity. He readily deploys the weapon known as the “little doctor,” a device that destroys the bugger queen and, through her, the entire bugger civilization. As the bugger home world explodes, Mazer, a legendary commander from the first bugger war, steps forward from the bloc of military brass that has been observing Ender’s play. He explains that the simulation on which Ender trained for years had, in fact, been seamlessly replaced with a media-interactive command structure that allowed for actual battle to take place based on Ender’s gameplay. Earth’s commanders needed Ender to believe that his moves were merely actions in a game so that he would exploit his knowledge of bugger psychology fully while taking necessarily extreme actions to overcome his foe.

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Card’s novel pivots on the morality involved in supplanting virtual with actual combat. By using a game simulation, Earth’s military sought to dampen Ender’s emotional affect—the compassion that serves as a brake on operational forms of violence and savagery—while masking the destructive actuality of effective warfare.This opening scene isolates what Card’s narrative suggests drives military simulation and military-based interactive games—an ethos of performative realism. An attempt to create interactive transparency (an illusion that stands in for what we perceive to be the casual verisimilitude of everyday life) is what organizes the production agenda of the entertainment industry, the military, and the computer research centers that design and implements the code at the heart of the video games, special-effects blockbusters, and interactive simulations that these institutions produce and distribute. Performative Realism: Saddam Hussein, Buggers, and Klingons According to Richard Lindheim, founding Executive Director of the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (and a one-time producer overseeing the Star Trek franchise for Paramount), the Pentagon originally approached him to create a military simulation system saying, “We’ve been thinking of what the ICT should do.Very simple, why don’t you develop the holodeck from Star Trek.”1 As Star Trek fans know, the holodeck was a simulation room featured in the Star Trek:The Next Generation television series. While in the holodeck, crew members could touch objects generated by a holographic virtual reality system and even appear to travel back in time (a concept that was featured in several episodes of The Next Generation series). Through the evocation of a holodeck-style simulation system, the ICT’s military sponsors were merely using an available entertainment form as a metaphor to guide their research agenda.That the ICT was founded as a confluence of entertainment media, military training, and computer science helps to explain how science fiction can become a model for research, especially since Star Trek centers on thrilling tales of a federation space ship exploring—at times policing—the boundaries of the universe. As the ICT is part of an initiative at the University of Southern California, known for its close ties to Hollywood, and funded by the U.S.Army, it seems easy to extrapolate that the holodeck would suffice as a romanticized vision of what a collaboration between the military and the entertainment industry could pursue. Seeking to explain the multiple applications that could result from research at the ICT, Lindheim remarked: “The same engine can be used for education or entertainment, or for a networked game.What’s the difference between fighting Saddam Hussein and fighting Klingons? It’s just different applications of the same technology.”2 Of course, Saddam Hussein, even after his execution by the recon-

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stituted Iraqi state, existed as an actual person living in the world, while the Klingons are a fictional, and, given the status of the Star Trek series, one could say mythical, race of beings often at war with humans. Lindheim demonstrates a troubling ethical slippage between the ongoing, lived worlds of daily life, whether in a combat zone or in New York City, and the fictional worlds being developed by the ICT. Lindheim’s comments on the similarity between education and entertainment, Saddam Hussein and Klingons, suggest the assumed ease with which the military objectives of simulation training are predicated on a naïve form of realism, such that simulated battle and actual combat are interchangeable (in ways that also easily evoke Ender’s game).3 The premise of the ICT training simulations is to prepare officers for military command in hostile combat situations. As one army spokesperson explained during an interview with CBS News: “The most dangerous time for a soldier is the first two weeks of combat.”This goal, to get past the early learning phase of combat (in which, if one fails, one may die), implies that the simulations are capable of miming reality and thus providing the experiential lessons necessary to save a soldier’s life. Or, as a Brigadier General demonstrating the ICT virtual reality headgear for the same CBS Sunday Morning program observed: “It feels very real . . .This is the kind of simulation that makes you sweat.” In other words, the acuity of the visual and aural interface generated physical responses in the General that allowed him to experience the simulation at the emotional and corporeal level. Therefore, for the ICT researchers there needs to be more than simply a visual and auditory correspondence between the rendering of the virtual human scenario and the world of actual combat; there also needs to be a representational realism that affects the body directly. Users must perform as if the representations and narratives of the simulation had consequences for the body at the level of movement, emotion, and situational understanding. In this regard, the rendering of the virtual humans in a visual style drawn from, and consciously evoking, video games links the interaction and training of the military’s new media with that of the performance of gameplay.The sweat of conflict and speed of action during a first-person shooter game are exactly what the ICT researchers hope to achieve in their training scenarios. SASO-ST at ICT Stepping into the widescreen projection room at the ICT calls to mind the experience one has upon entering an IMAX movie theater at a local theme park. Although the scale of the experience is considerably reduced at the ICT, the immersive quality of the IMAX experience dominates.The audience at the ICT’s Virtual Reality (VR) demonstration room is presented with a large wrap-around screen and the latest in audio and image projection technologies.While the ICT’s screen might be dedicated to presenting cutting-edge research combining artificial

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intelligence (AI) and real-time animation technologies, nevertheless the whiff of IMAX’s origins in a cinema of attractions from the silent movie era and the boardwalk rollercoaster lingers throughout each ICT demonstration (see Gunning, 2000, pp. 229–235). And perhaps this is as it should be since the ICT’s goals are to use the best techniques for immersive reality drawn from the entertainment industry and apply these same techniques to the training needs of the military, making it a cinema of attractions geared to combat during wartime. Splayed across the screen is a series of overlapping operating system windows. Lines of computer code rain down across the main system window. In another window appears a list of file folders containing key elements of the U.S. Army training scenario SASO-ST (short for “Stability and Support Operations Simulation and Training”). The three rows of seats are filled mostly with personnel from the ICT gathered together for a troubleshooting session. A technician sits at a workstation with a stack of computers and other digital gear at the back of the room. The room overflows with people.There are not enough chairs for everyone. The scene on the screen is a dimly lit triage room.The patients who inhabit the triage area are visually coded as foreign (dark skin, black hair,Arabic dress), while the female doctor, who is attempting to calm a woman clad from head to toe in black, has blond hair and wears a starched, white hospital smock.A fly buzzes about the room, appearing at times to be extremely large as it closes in on the viewer’s perspective. In the background there is a whiteboard covered with marks scribbled in red and black marker. Blood has splattered across the wall and there are pools of blood on the cracked and worn wooden floor. The wallpaper is torn and degraded. Hospital cots fill the room. Several of the cots are dressed with sheets soaked red with blood. On one cot lies a man with a severed arm and leg. He waves his stumps in the air. Coagulated blood smears the white gauze that covers each of his severed limbs.

Figure 7.1 The triage room in SASO-ST. Image used with permission from USC Institute for Creative Technologies

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On the couch in the right-hand corner of the room, a small girl weeps while rocking back and forth on her knees.As the scene progresses, it becomes apparent that each of these digital characters repeats their individual movements on what appears to be a loop.The man with severed limbs rotates his bloody stumps again and again, the nurse reassures the black-clad woman with the same gesture over and over, and the girl on the couch wails and rocks. From within the darkened theater someone asks when the test is going to begin. Someone else answers, “We’re waiting for the doctor.” A man in the back of the room turns to the technician and says, “You can go ahead and run it.”The angle on the room changes abruptly as the point of view of the camera (following closely the conventions of first-person shooter video games) appears to sweep across the scene and then move through a door. A male doctor with tanned skin and dark curly black hair beneath a surgeon’s cap appears in frame. He leans against the edge of a wooden desk, holding a cup of coffee in his right hand, staring intently out at the audience. Arabic writing can be seen on the tapestry that covers a side wall of his office. The back wall has a large observation window through which the patients on the cots in the triage room are seen.Along the bottom edge of the window frame are packing boxes and crates. Tacked to one wall are charts diagramming troop movements. On the left-side screen there sit, nested within a window, folders that read “verbal communication,”“Doctor’s environs,” and “emotions in the global context.” At the top corner of this screen is another window filled with a series of sliders charting the status of the Doctor’s emotions. These sliders read simply: “joy,” “hope,” “distrust,” “fear,” “anger,” “guilt,” and “anxiety.” “Hello,” the Doctor loudly proclaims. His speaks with a strong accent as he firmly crosses his arms across his chest. From somewhere in the darkened VR theater an audience member comments, “Scary man.” Someone else adds that the Doctor is taking his “Avoidance stance.”Another asks, “How is his trust changing?” As the Doctor changes position, the sliders representing his level of emotional composure appear to fluctuate. The Doctor addresses the man in the back of the room who initiated the simulation, “Sir, we’re trying to help this patient.”The Doctor’s accent is difficult to place. Is it Arabic, Spanish, or the result of audio distortion? There is an echo or reverberation each time the Doctor speaks.The Doctor addresses the man at the back—the “User”—as “Captain.” In the SASO-ST scenario, the conflict arises when an Army Captain (the User) must convince the Doctor to move his make-shift hospital to a safer location.What the Doctor does not know, but intuits from the remarks of the User, is that the site upon which the hospital is located is scheduled to be shelled by artillery in the next few days.The Doctor plans to bargain with the User to try to acquire transportation vehicles and medical supplies for his hospital

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Figure 7.2 Doctor Perez in SASO-ST. Image used with permission from USC Institute for Creative Technologies

in exchange for agreeing to move his facility.The officer-training component arises from the User’s need to negotiate the best deal for the U.S.Army while convincing the Doctor to agree to move his hospital. The Doctor speaks again, “We can reach an agreement.”This time what he says is distorted, but the words are recognizable.Then he spurts out a series of repeated words that are distorted and garbled beyond recognition. Compared to earlier simulations developed at the ICT, SASO-ST has a very detailed look to it.The walls, furniture, and clothing are deeply textured and cast shadows that give a sense of naturalism to the location and its characters. On the audio track, bomb and fan sounds shake the floor of the VR theater (the audience has been told that special subwoofer speakers have been installed so that they can feel the bombs as they explode). The onscreen Doctor smiles and says: “Very nice to meet you.” Looking at the emotion sliders on the left-hand screen, it is obvious that someone has increased the agent’s familiarity quotient.The Doctor continues: “What do you want?” Larry Rasmussen, the man at the back of the room playing the part of the User (and a key cognitive science researcher at the ICT), says to the Doctor, “It’s not safe here.” Doctor: “Say again.”Without prompting on the part of Rasmussen, the

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Doctor continues,“Look at these people. Do you see that girl? She lost her mother today.” A technician increases the Doctor’s interdependence. The Doctor adjusts his stance and then states emphatically, “You Americans with your guns and hamburgers.” The speech erupts from the Doctor’s mouth overlaid with distortion and reverberation. Someone comments, “He always talked fast.” The Doctor says, “Hello.” Then follows up with, “Si.” Then, “Say again.” Rasmussen addresses the agent, “Dr. Perez.” Dr. Perez responds with, “We need to help them.TOO-DAY.” The last word is distorted and elongated as he speaks. The camera sweeps past white hospital curtains lined up against the back wall of the triage room. The edges of the curtains are shredded and splattered with blood. Rasmussen says to the project manager:“Excuse everyone.We need to spend time debugging.” Rasmussen continues: “There are two big demos next week. General Willis is coming through. He should be treated with deference. He has more influence than anybody.” Most of the audience leaves, while a few remain for the debugging session. Face as Representation The rhetoric of ICT research depends on conventional notions of verisimilitude and transparency.Verisimilitude is a goal for each of the ICT simulations in that a concept of realism—a mapping of the way in which the world works—is designed and rendered into each scenario. The movement and responses of each virtual human and their supporting cast of characters (who populate the scenes and operate on a loop) are developed so as to replicate photographic motion picture visuality (which is, of course, distinct from notions one may have regarding the “reality” of daily life). Transparency serves as a complementary goal to verisimilitude in that the user should not have to learn to play the simulation, but should be able to readily understand the way the interface works and simply perceive it as a window onto a world. This world must respond in both its physics and social psychology as if it were grounded in everyday experience. However, the technical glitches and current limits on computer processing power serve to disrupt the transparency of the user’s interactions with the virtual humans (a great deal of processing power is dedicated to the voice recognition portion of SASO-ST, while rendering the world and animating the characters also demand considerable computer resources). Under these technological constraints, the idea of seamless transparency remains a distant promise. As such SASO-ST necessarily represents to the user a garbled set of communication transparencies and a distorted form of verisimilitude. But it is not simply the flak generated by the deficiencies of technology that undermines the intentions of the ICT designers and their Army backers; rather, it

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is the continuity of unexamined assumptions through which the ICT virtual humans develop over a series of simulations that causes concern. As social theorist Donna Haraway suggests,“Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings” (2003, p. 23). In other words, the virtual human agent system is a record of the “fluid social interactions” that arise between the ICT designers and military cultures, and is an “instrument for enforcing meanings” upon the user of the training system. New media theorist Lev Manovich emphasizes that there are forms of interactivity beyond what he calls “operational interactivity.”Although specifically addressing the formal and narrative aspects of new media (defined broadly, but concentrating mostly on interactive art and digital cinema), Manovich’s nuanced view of interaction is pertinent to understanding the interactivity built into the virtual agent systems at the ICT. Manovich (2001) states: When we use the concept of “interactive media” exclusively in relation to computer-based media, there is the danger that we will interpret “interaction” literally, equating it with physical interaction between a user and a media object (pressing a button, choosing a link, moving the body), at the expense of psychological interaction. The psychological processes of filling-in, hypothesis formation, recall, and identification, which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all, are mistakenly identified with an objectively existing structure of interactive links. (p. 57) While ICT simulations are troubled by their lack of functionality—at the level of button-pushing, link-choosing, body-moving as Manovich would have it—the psychological interactivity that Manovich describes is also hindered by the discrepancies in modeling the behaviors and emotions of their virtual agents. For users to believe in narratives about the world—in the psychologically complex ways that are commonly brought to novels and cinema—then the social and cultural cues that shape most interpersonal communication must be fluid and transparent. Through the branching structures of the SASO-ST narrative, while relying on Hollywood notions of storytelling for dramatic conflict, each of the characters, intelligent agent or otherwise, functions as a proposition about the nature of human interaction. Game studies scholar Phoebe Sengers suggests: “If humans understand intentional behavior by organizing it into narrative, then our agents will be more ‘intentionally comprehensible’ if they provide narrative cues” (2006, p. 102). Unfortunately, these interactions for the ICT are heavily coded through the typical telegraphic characterizations embedded in most Hollywood films and broadcast media.4

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Dr. Perez represents a Spanish doctor working in Iraq. His accent is thick, although this is difficult to say for certain owing to the audio distortion that masked his voice during the test.This attempt at giving the agent an ethnic identity derives from the narrative scenario and alters the presence that the agent brings to the screen. While in the earlier versions of the ICT simulations which were built around STEVE (“Soar Training Expert for Virtual Environments”), an agent system that relied on politeness and coaching as a model for human interaction, the Dr. Perez computer architecture has been reworked from scratch and intends to present the user with an agent possessed of a more confrontational demeanor. As such, Dr. Perez exhibits a more complicated relationship with the user, embodied within the SASO-ST scenario as the Captain. There is a differential in power between the Captain and Dr. Perez and the intentions of each are at odds with the other. In the test described above, Dr. Perez begins the interaction with a telling bodily act of defiance by folding his arms across his chest. While Dr. Perez can barter and negotiate with the Captain, power ultimately resides with the user. If Dr. Perez fails to comply and move his hospital, with or without the help of the U.S.Army, his location will be bombed in the days to come.The implied narrative is that many casualties will result and Dr. Perez will be at fault (although, surely the blame would fall on the Army if it were to happen). Obviously, the training goal here is for the Captain (i.e., the user) to make sure that this tragedy does not occur, but the implication is that Dr. Perez is idealistic and manipulative, wanting to leverage the situation to maximize the benefit to his hospital, and is therefore reluctant to simply comply with the Captain’s entreaties to move. In addition, the overall visual realization of the SASO-ST scenario provides the user with a grim reminder of war while displacing the consequences.Those people who caused the man to lose his limbs or the girl to lose her parents are never named. Within the logic of the SASO-ST scenario, the U.S.Army could as easily have been at fault, as could Iraqi insurgents (though we must presume, based on following the money back to its funding source, that this is not so).What remains, though, is a dynamic of facial representation that codes the world of each simulation as a binary, in effect compressing the possibilities inherent in most real-world experiences, between a polite and helpful military and an obstinate and, at times, aggressive antagonist. It is no small matter that the conflict in the SASO-ST scenario is coded around ethnic “Otherness” to boot. Emotional Content and the Quantification of the Self In the ICT promotional video and the tests that I observed, ICT researchers emphasized the range of emotional content that has been programmed into their virtual humans. Every user interaction with an intelligent agent generates a response

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on the part of the agent that is colored, or inflected, with differing degrees of emotional intensity on a numerical scale. As demonstrated in the SASO-ST test, the programmer overseeing a simulation can alter a simple slider on each scale for a set of emotional characteristics—joy, anger, shame, and such—giving the agent an interactive agenda that develops from the total emotional setting selected at a given moment. Each adjustment of a slider results in a change in the demeanor of the agent.Whereas the agent may have been reacting passively to the user, after a change in emotional content the agent begins to disagree and to suggest more aggressively alternative paths to his or her goal as defined by the simulation’s training requirements. However, while the promotional materials boast an infinite range and variety of emotional responses on the part of an agent, in practice the agent’s emotional possibilities at this stage of technological realization remain limited. Regardless of the actual functionality of the agents and their emotional states in the current technological configuration at the ICT, the idea that one can quantify human emotions through adjustments in numerical sliders may seem resonant with the many dystopian futures depicted in science fiction literature and cinema. People for the most part hold firm to the idea that emotion, as much as cognition, separates humans from animals and robots (Damasio, 1994). Of course, this may stem as much from residual aspects of a lingering romanticism as it does from reliable fears of industrial production and consumption. But this resistance to quantification—at least at this juncture—does have an empirical basis.As cognitive scientist Richard Lazarus (2006) notes: An emotional encounter is not a single action or reaction, as in a still photo or a static stimulus-response unit, but a continuous flow of actions and reactions among the persons who participate in it.This flow can generate new emotions or lead to changes in earlier ones. It is usually an action of some sort that precipitates an emotion sequence.We might call the action the provocation of the emotion. (p. 14) What Lazarus is claiming here is that human emotion works on a biological and conceptual level in ways that are more akin by way of analogy to an analogue system than to a digital system.And, of course, what the sliders represent in SASO-ST is a digital system that samples the range of possible emotions available to the agent as its interaction with the human user progresses. As in digital music where the appearance, a digital sampling, of the available frequency range stands in for the actual dynamic range of original source sound, the ICT researchers suggest that, contrary to Lazarus’s conception of emotion as flow, what appear to us as nuances of emotion can be transcribed to a numerical scale composed of discrete units of intensity.

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Trained musicians claim that digital sound, composed of a quantified approximation of the sound waves that exist in the pre-recorded world of performance, lacks the richness of both the original sound delivered by the orchestral instruments and the analog sound of tape or vinyl recordings. Now, the privileging or preferencing of one type of sound over another may be a result of a nostalgic longing for the recorded sound with which one is familiar, but nevertheless the sound on a digital recording is qualitatively distinct from that recorded on analog equipment. Moreover, most untrained ears can hear this difference if digital and analog recordings are played one after another.5 On the other hand, Rasmussen and the ICT researchers argue that, as the technology improves, the emotional representation through quantification will better reflect the finite, yet finely nuanced, range of human affective responses to situations.They claim, and rightly so, that their work is moving towards a greater verisimilitude as the technology and science improve. And while the stutters in voice recognition, pauses in movement, and strangely vacant expressions of the current crop of virtual humans fail to capture the distinct attributes of living human beings, in the near future, according to Rasmussen, these troublesome quirks will drop away in the wake of developmental breakthroughs. Consequently, our predilection for reading all gestures and responses as emotionally resonant and representative of an agent’s emotional state at a given moment will no longer be a problem as agent response time accelerates with increases in computer processing speed and algorithms of emotion that allow witty comments and facial expressions to match those of the human user. According to this line of thinking, the current dissonance between expected human response and simulated agent gesture will no longer exist. Lazarus (2006), whose work has been influential with Rasmussen in particular, argues this very point: Even the absence of an action when it is expected or desired can be a provocation, as when we want another person to do something, such as give a gift or an opinion, express appreciation (gratitude) for a gift, or pay a compliment. However, in this case, the other person waits for the action in vain, which is what provokes an emotion, such as disappointment, anger, anxiety, or guilt. (p. 14) Lazarus’s comments highlight one of the key weaknesses of the SASO-ST test. But Rasmussen observes that an agent’s emotional response need not correspond with the actual emotional interactions being comprehended by a human user. Instead, it matters only that the agent appears to speak and act using the appropriate emotional representation of what a human user believes is appropriate for a given situation.6 This is a version, based on emotional attributes, of the famous Turing test for artificial intelligence in which a user interacts with another entity whose

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identity is unknown to the user. If the user is incapable of determining whether the entity is human or machine then for all intents and purposes the unseen entity is deemed intelligent by human standards (Turing, 2003, pp. 49–64). Anthropologist Lucy Suchman describes one of the more famous versions of the Turing test employed in an early AI system called DOCTOR. DOCTOR relies on what she refers to, referencing sociologist Karl Mannheim, as the “documentary method of interpretation.” The DOCTOR program engages users by asking for generalized information regarding whatever psychological problems they are facing and then repeats back verbatim parts of their reply.7 “Very simply the documentary method refers to the observation that people take appearances as evidence for, or document of, an ascribed underlying reality, while taking the reality so ascribed as a resource for the interpretation of the appearance” (Suchman, 1987, p. 23). Thus, the appearance of intelligence allows the user to believe that the more complicated processes that normally underlie intelligence are at work behind the formal attributes being displayed by an agent system. Emotion is likewise assumed by a user to have a depth of meaning generating the display that characterizes a given emotion, e.g., tears as a signifier for sadness and such (Reeves and Nass, 1996). For the ICT virtual humans, this appearance of emotional content results from the quantification of affect as observed through human interaction. Each slider panel and numerical value serves to indicate intensities of emotion regardless of the causal incident or meaning from which an emotion event ensued. This particular approach to quantifying an area of human experience that previously relied on qualitative or intuitive explanations evokes the similar calculations during the nineteenth century that sought to create a science of vision. Art historian Jonathan Crary (1990) notes: Vision, as well as the other senses, is now describable in terms of abstract and exchangeable magnitudes. If vision previously had been conceived as an experience of qualities (as in Goethe’s optics), it is now a question of differences in quantities, of sensory experience that is stronger or weaker. But this new valuation of perception, this obliteration of the qualitative in sensation through its arithmetical homogenization, is a crucial part of modernization. (p. 147) This method of thinking about vision disregarded the meaning that adheres to specific events and interactions, and replaced them with a focus on intensities and aggregates.This same reconceptualizing holds true for what the ICT researchers are trying to accomplish with emotion.The implications for this research agenda— the replacement of what we perceive as human emotional content with the appearance of this same content—returns us to the ethical dilemma posed by Ender’s Game.

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While the intentions of the ICT researchers and designers are more benign than those that drove the military brass on Ender’s Earth (attempting to provide military officers with the necessary interpersonal, cross-cultural training versus destroying an entire alien civilization), it remains that the simulation of emotion and cognition can have consequences in the actual world in which combat occurs. The ethics involved in developing simulations for combat training invoke other aspects of Card’s science fiction parable as well. As one officer who attended the SASO-ST test suggested to me, he would like to run reconnaissance in the morning, design the simulation in the afternoon, and deploy his troops in the evening.While this goal is highly plausible, it ignores the larger cultural issues surrounding the ability of the designers to design for the actuality of combat as it may or may not “play” on the ground.And as this play is dependent on the multitude of variables available to simulation designers drawn from field reconnaissance—the validity of which is always in doubt—it suggests that a perfect correspondence between what is present in the field and what can be represented on the screen is a quixotic goal at best. Furthermore, human communication in real time through corporeal bodily gesture, facial expression, odor, skin texture, clothing, and voice currently trumps all of the electronic and digital technologies available.Yet this does not mean that increased technological sophistication, call it greater “bandwidth,” will not some day provide users with experiences comparable to today’s face-to-face forms of human communication. By the standards of human communication and expressivity considered the benchmark by most people (communication taking place in the presence of others), all of the mediated forms of communication are lacking, but there is little consensus as to what exactly is lacking. Is it the warmth of touch, the physicality of another’s body, or is it any of the myriad other communication channels available to those that are seated across from one another sipping a cappuccino? All of these “channels,” value-added attributes of face-toface interaction, signal a horizon that delimits the extent to which simulation can stand in for direct human communication. Gazing at that horizon, one sees the folly of romanticism in clinging to the “human” as the baseline for all interaction, but also the bracing chill of instrumental reason, the “cost-benefit, means-ends thinking of engineers” (and the military), as it plays out in Ender’s Game. Notes 1. From an interview with Richard Lindheim featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show, July 7, 2002. 2. This comes from a statement (circa 1999) quoted by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi (Ghamari-Tabrizi, 2004, p. 165). 3. Lindheim’s pronouncement sounds a peculiarly postmodern note. For example, this equating of the fictional, read simulation, for the real (a privileged site of bodily sensory

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6. 7.

coherence) strikes me as also evocative of the famous work of Jean Baudrillard (Baudrillard, 1994) and Fredric Jameson (Jameson, 1998), not to mention that of The Matrix (which acknowledges its debt to Baudrillard’s work). Of course, much of postmodern high theory draws inspiration from science fiction discourse as well. These rapid-fire characterizations—stereotypes in the broadest sense of the term— serve a useful purpose in many instances as they imply a recognizable biography for each character while foregoing the work, and screen time, necessary to provide a more fully realized back story for each actor that appears on screen. But as telegraphic characterization reduces a complex set of human interactions down to a routine set of expectations on the part of the viewer, narrative dilemmas occur—representational reductionism as such. While sampling technologies have improved greatly—and will continue to improve as research continues on digital audio—there is still a qualitative difference that is discernible between analog and digital recordings. Obviously, sound quality differs from technology to technology—with many claiming that mp4 audio such as that on Apple’s iTunes is wretched—but it remains true that sampled audio loses much of the tonal warmth of the original. For a non-technical explanation related to the digital image, see Herb Zettl’s widely used production manual, Video Basics (Zettl, 2007, pp. 42–46). For a lucid, perhaps even poetic, account of the cognitive science underlying Rasmussen’s assertion, see the work of Antonio Damasio (Damasio, 1994, pp. 141–149). Obviously, laden with a large dose of irony, DOCTOR’s approach to therapy mirrors that found in many reductive versions of the therapeutic method attributed to psychologist Carl Rogers.

References Baudrillard, J. (1994). The precession of the simulacra. (S.F. Glaser, Trans.). In Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Card, O.S. (1985). Ender’s game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. Crary, J. (1990). Techniques of the observer: On vision and modernity in the nineteenth century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. New York: Penguin. Garnham, N. (2000). Emancipation, the media, and modernity: Arguments about the media and social theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ghamari-Tabrizi, S. (2004). The convergence of the pentagon and Hollywood: The next generation of military training simulations. In L. Rabinovitz and A. Geil (eds.), Memory bytes: History, technology, and digital culture (pp. 150–173). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Gunning, T. (2000). The cinema of attraction: Early film, its spectator, and the avantgarde. In R. Stam and T. Miller (eds.), Film and theory: An anthology (pp. 229–235). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Haraway, D. (2003). A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialistfeminism in the late twentieth century. In The Haraway reader. New York and London: Routledge.

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Jameson, F. (1998). Postmodernism and consumer society. In The cultural turn: Selected writings on the postmodern, 1983–1998. London: Verso. Lazarus, R.S. (2006). Emotions and interpersonal relationships: Toward a person-centered conceptualization of emotions and coping. Journal of Personality, 74(1). Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Reeves, B. and Nass, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information. Sengers, P. (2006). Schizophrenia and narrative in artificial agents. In N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan (eds.), First person: New media as story, performance, and game. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Suchman, L. A. (1987). Plans and situated actions: The problem of human–machine communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Turing, A. (2003). Computing machinery and intelligence. In N. Wardrip-Fruin and N. Montfort (eds.), The new media reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Zettl, H. (2007). Video basics. Fifth edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Chapter 8

A Battle in Every Classroom Gaming and the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College Jeffrey Leser and James Sterrett

Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand. (Confucius) The battle over; students and faculty gathered to reflect on events and decisions.The instructors asked questions to guide the students’ examination of the results and their causes. Discussion of tactics, objectives, and synchronization followed, peppered with observations on topics such as the timing of Close Air Support and the task organization of the Brigade Combat Teams. After two hours I realized that not one statement referred to the simulation, but only how the students employed doctrine to execute their mission. For the first time in years, the After Action Review did not devolve into complaints about the failings of the simulation, and I knew then that I had validated gaming as a training tool within the college. (Jeff Leser, March 2004) Experience lies at the core of most adult learning models, but experiential learning frequently involves learning from mistakes. Since soldiers’ first mistakes in combat may well be their last, military education faces the challenge of moving learning from the battlefield into the classroom. Games create venues that allow students to learn from mistakes, building experience without the cost of combat. When used in a structured process of self- and mentored critique to ensure lessons are identified and discussed, games create a powerful learning environment. At the U.S. Army’s Command & General Staff College (CGSC), we deliver decisionmaking experiences to students using commercial wargames. Our underlying criteria for selecting games for use in the college are echelon specificity, selective fidelity, and causality. The following pages examine the game requirement at CGSC, the concepts behind our selection criteria, and how these games are used successfully at CGSC.

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The Problem: Supporting Exercises at CGSC Historically, Army training occurred during live exercises and this tradition continues today.The Army operates three Combat Training Centers that provide the resources (including live Opposing Forces) to support a brigade-size training environment. These Combat Training Centers deliver outstanding training, but at a cost: each brigade-level training exercise costs many millions of dollars, months of planning and preparation, and over a month to execute. Because there are more brigades than training centers, units participate in these exercises once every 18 to 24 months. With the focus on unit training and the extended time between events, the Combat Training Centers rarely address the development of individual skills. Cost, when combined with the Combat Training Center’s inability to train divisions and corps, led the Army to create the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP).This CombatTraining Center focuses on training divisions and corps using simulations. While less expensive than training at the “dirt” Combat Training Centers, the BCTP’s overhead, in time, personnel, costs, and facilities, still greatly exceed the Army’s ability to make this a routine or common event.1 However, the BCTP did demonstrate the value of simulations to the Army.After Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Senator Kassebaum (Republican— Kansas) requested a study on the effects of training on units deployed in those campaigns.The U.S. General Accounting Office report (1992) on training within the Army and Marine Corps showed improved capabilities in units that had recently completed a BCTP or similar simulation-supported event.With the value of such training established, the question for CGSC was whether this approach to learning could be integrated within the classroom and available when required by faculty. CGSC employs the Experiential Learning Model to train officers, using “lessons that are experiential, interactive, and that develop critical and creative thinkers” (Risner and Ward, 2004, p. 4).2 Students must not only learn the theory of solving problems in the art and science of war, they must experience the process in a setting where they can learn from their successes and failures. The essence of command is decision-making: assessing a situation and deciding what to do about it, and, in more complex exercises, assessing the outcome of the decision. This focus on decisions leads to powerful learning experiences for students.The missing component in CGSC’s use of the Experiential Learning Model was the ability to provide multiple opportunities to practice decision-making. If CGSC could better prepare future military leaders and planners by embedding practice in their educational experience, units could focus more on team-building and synchronization of effort rather than individual instruction. Most staff colleges traditionally conduct planning exercises.3 Given a mission, a set of friendly forces, and some level of knowledge of the enemy, students decide

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what victory should look like and the flow of the battle at every stage. Options are considered and analyzed, and the selected results captured as an operations order. Most staff exercises end at this point with an instructor critique of the plan providing the vehicle for learning. These exercises permit the participation of a large number of students, as each student can be fully engaged working on one aspect of the plan.While this method serves to train students how to write a plan, it does little to teach how to assess the ongoing execution of the plan and directing changes in the light of enemy actions or friendly failures. Full implementation of the Experiential Learning Model required that CGSC create a venue for execution-centric exercises, which allow students to gain and maintain “situational awareness” and make decisions during battle. Situational awareness is based on students’ understanding of the current and future state of the battlefield, and can be measured when the student answers three questions: Are my forces doing what the plan requires? Is the enemy doing what the plan expects? Can the plan still achieve its objectives? Any “no” answer creates the opportunity for decision. The actual decision (or lack thereof) provides the instructors the means to assess student mastery of the curriculum.This situational awareness or decision-making cycle closely mirrors the actual role of leaders on the battlefield. By participating in this cycle in the school, the student gains experiences that explore the “art of command.” To create this execution-centric environment, CGSC faced three challenges: providing opportunities for the entire student body to participate in a decisionmaking role; simulating the planning and decision-making environment without the busy-work of an actual unit or organization; and cost-effectiveness.The first requires an approach different from the large capstone exercise held at the end of the school year. The second must address the difficulties of teaching military skills without the capabilities or systems available in a real unit.The third addresses whether the solution is both affordable and sustainable. To provide all students with decision-making experience, in 2003 CGSC decided to offer multiple exercise opportunities throughout the year rather than the traditional end-of-year Prairie Warrior capstone exercise. The exercises themselves would be run at the staff section (64 students) level rather than at the student body (around 1200 students) level.This decision replaced the one schoolwide capstone event with sixteen simultaneous exercises. As a bonus, this decentralized approach allows each of the staff section teaching teams to adjust the pace and learning of the exercise to their specific students.This change creates increased opportunities for students to experience decision-making. While the solution to the first challenge required an organizational change in the college itself, the second became the focus for CGSC’s Simulation Division. The Simulation Division, part of CGSC’s Digital Leader Development Center, was chartered and staffed to integrate exercise technologies and methodologies into

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classroom environments. Increasing the number of simultaneous exercises from one to sixteen amplified the difficulty of this challenge, and with it, the costs of the training program. Seeking simulations to support these exercises, we began by looking at the Army’s training simulations.The Army’s premier simulations, Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation and the Corps Battle Simulation, deliver highly realistic environments. However, these systems produce detailed low-level data, which requires processing and analysis to create information usable for higher-level commanders or CGSC students. In combat, this processing and analysis is done by subordinate units and staffs. Moreover, a simulation that operates at these lower levels requires someone to make decisions appropriate to this level to “run” the simulation.While an active unit has its own staff and subordinate units to support this overhead, an educational environment such as CGSC lacks these resources. The overhead needed to bridge the gap between the data these simulations create and data needed to teach at CGSC meant the current military simulations cost too much for our purposes.We needed a different solution. This led us to compare the Army’s understanding of a simulation to the commercial sector’s understanding of a game.The significant difference we discovered is that a simulation is designed for cause, while a game is designed for effect.4 Military simulations tend to be designed as analytical tools to determine why something happens, hence all parts of the process must be observable and adjustable. A game provides all the information required to execute the mission and delivers the information in a form readily usable by the player.Where a simulation provides the data for a process to use, a game subsumes the process and provides the final result. Given this understanding, can a game be designed to drive a military exercise? The Conceptual Solution: Military Game Design The focus of any execution-centric exercise is decision. We want to create an environment that allows students to make decisions that indicate whether or not they have mastered the course materials. Any decision that doesn’t add to the educational process creates overhead.To reduce or eliminate overhead, a military game must have three key features: echelon specificity, selective fidelity, and causality. Detail lies at the heart of the problem. Increased detail requires increased operator interactions (keystrokes). More keystrokes create longer learning cycles to master the simulation. More interactions per military unit in the simulation require additional operators in order to ensure timely inputs for the simulation to process.Too often the detail needed to run the simulation is irrelevant to student learning.Worse still, an error in detail management can derail the simulation and the learning.

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Echelon specificity begins by asking: what decisions do you wish the students to make? Are they commanding brigades or divisions? The information generated by the game needs to be relevant to the students’ echelon (company, battalion, brigade, division, etc.), and the game’s inputs need to be at the same echelon at which the students are giving orders. Thus, students at the division level should generally issue orders only to brigades, not to battalions, companies, or platoons. Designing the game in this manner removes the overhead of processing reports and orders by students’ simulated subordinates. An echelon-specific simulation, in turn, requires subordinate units to execute tasks to standard. By automating elements that are beyond the student’s control, execution to standard avoids potential failure of causality.The standards used are provided by the curriculum (doctrine, tenets, and tactics-techniques-procedures). If students correctly understand the situation, then the outcomes in the simulation should reflect how well the student applied the course materials to the problem. Selective fidelity is an approach that uses Echelon Specificity to determine which decisions are appropriate for the curriculum’s learning objectives. If the students are studying logistics, making decisions about targeting neither supports the learning objective nor provides the necessary decision-making experience. If making logistical decisions, the game must provide the necessary detail to make these decisions. All other decisions required to create the proper learning environment should be handled by the game in a realistic manner. These game-determined decisions can be controlled either through artificial intelligence or through abstraction. Artificial intelligence (known in military simulation circles as SAF or Semi-Automated Forces) lets the computer handle all the details. Unfortunately, writing effective AI is extremely difficult.The best unitlevel AI we know of, seen in Panther Games’ Highway to the Reich (2003) and Conquest of the Aegean (2006),5 allow competent execution by groups of forces in pursuit of terrain-based objectives. These two titles make effective use of abstraction to control the scope of the task faced by the AI. Abstraction functions by discarding detail in favor of assumptions. As a result, any abstraction works best in the band of situations for which it was designed, and will perform increasingly poorly outside that band. Selective fidelity provides the metric to determine where abstraction can and should be used. Inputs, outputs, and modeled interactions define the required detail, and ideally the level of detail and abstraction is precisely keyed to the decisions students should make. In principle, a simulation designed in this manner has no overhead due to detail because every detail is directly relevant to the students and their learning objectives.6 For a game to be an effective learning tool, it must have causality. Decisions made by the students and adjudicated by the game should highlight why the student was or was not successful. An example of causality is the issue of translating a student’s division-level order into simulation inputs requiring platoon-level

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interactions.Without the various subordinate commanders and staffs refining the orders into something platoons can execute (adding overhead), this task is left to the workstation operator. A poor outcome might be the result of workstation operator error, not bad student decisions. This breaks the relationship between student decisions and game outcomes, violating the causal feedback loop that gives simulations their experiential learning power. Echelon specificity tells us that students in a division exercise should only give orders to brigades and specialized battalions. Selected fidelity tells us which orders the students should give and which orders will be executed to standard by the game. Abstraction ensures that units perform to standard, preserving causality and reducing overhead: a win-win outcome for us! At this point, the question is often asked: But does favoring abstraction and causality leave out much of the randomness present in the real world? We all know that military actions do not always go according to plan. However, this objection forgets the purpose of the exercise.We are teaching students to create and execute plans. They already know from personal experience that accidents happen. Ensuring that their plans will unfold as they command means we can clearly see the quality of their planning and execution. This approach does not preclude a thinking, active enemy force, because students’ plans should be capable of handling an intelligent foe. Nor does it mean the student’s units should always be at full strength, or that they should never fail. Instead, the student’s forces should only and always fail in situations where they should be expected to fail. If the students are told that a unit is well trained and fully equipped, it should act that way. If told the unit has poor equipment and training, it should act accordingly. If the student’s plan sets a unit up for failure, then the unit should fail. A unit’s performance standards come from the students’ course of instruction, because the simulation should reflect and reinforce what their instructors teach. This underscores the importance of the student discussion described at the beginning of this chapter. Both division staff officers and students in a division exercise are supposed to orchestrate matters such as the timing of Close Air Support and the task organization of their subordinate Brigade Combat Teams. When the simulation allows students to discuss these topics directly, instead of worrying about handling them in the simulation, we are successfully creating the environment their learning requires. For example, in 2007, one student section’s exercise had to be restarted when the Red Team rapidly defeated the Blue Team.The instructors determined that the student assigned the role of Fire Support Planner on the Red Team created an outstanding plan, making creative use of the resources available in accordance with doctrine and procedures. During execution the student proved adept at predicting Blue countermoves and adjusting the plan to defeat them—doing so, again, in accordance with the material taught in the course.The Blue Team’s planning and

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subsequent adjustments were poor. The simulation executed the Red and Blue orders to standard, and Blue’s defeat traced directly back to student decisions rooted in the material they were supposed to be learning. Restarting the scenario, the Blue Team demonstrated that they had learned from experience through significantly better planning and execution. Books and lectures tell students how to plan their operations, and examples in their history classes show them how to plan their operations. But in their exercises, they must do the planning and executing, becoming personally engaged with the course material in order to master it. The game must take student plans and execute them to standard, providing outcomes that students and faculty can trace back to causes rooted in students’ decisions and their understanding of course material. Selective fidelity and echelon specificity provide us with a method for determining which details are necessary to support student learning, while ensuring causality. All together, this allows us to keep overhead manageable in order to ensure that every student has a key role in every exercise. Putting Theory Into Practice CGSC students progress through a series of course modules nested from Joint Task Force level down to battalion level. In the first module addressing the Joint Task Force, students plan the campaign and the role of the land forces in it. In the second module, on the Combined Land Force Component Command, students plan operations as the land forces within the Joint Task Force campaign they planned in the first module. In the Division Module, students focus on division operations as a unit within the Combined Land Force Component Command planning they performed in the second module, and then execute part of their planning in a division exercise. The outcome of that exercise, in turn, provides part of the starting scenario for the fourth module, on brigade and battalion Stability and Reconstruction Operations. The Joint Task Force and Combined Land Force Component Command modules culminate in planning exercises.The Division Module culminates in a four-day execution exercise using the commercial wargame Decisive Action (2001). Both the exercise and Decisive Action demonstrate the highly successful application of the concepts explained above to a real-world exercise. The exercise places students in key divisional staff roles. They must translate the mission they wrote in the Combined Land Force Component Command module into a plan for the division’s actions, planning the coordination and synchronization of all of the division’s assigned assets including forces from other branches and countries, and deciding how these activities will affect the upcoming stability and reconstruction phase of the wider operation.Then, in execution, they must assess the current state of the battlefield, compare that to the way they

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thought it would look, and adjust what must be done in order for the operation to succeed. Ideally, they should learn to anticipate what will happen, rather than merely reacting to what is happening, and thus learn to solve problems before they occur. Despite the pressure of events and their peers, they must retain and demonstrate critical and creative reasoning throughout the exercise. A real-world division staff would have several hundred people to do these jobs. CGSC provides parallel but separate division-level exercises to every 64-student section. Each student section consists of a mix of military branches (armor, infantry, quartermaster, etc.), sister service officers (Navy,Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard), and several officers from foreign militaries. Ten students operate the simulation: six as commanders of the division’s maneuver, fire, and support brigades, three (usually intelligence branch, and thus specialists on enemy force actions) to command and operate the Red Team (the opposing force), and one Functional Area 57 student as the technical lead for the simulation.7 The remaining fifty or so students are the primary learning audience and are assigned key command and staff roles. Despite the huge size of the group, there is no guarantee that there will be a student providing expertise on any given staff function, and they certainly are not supported by the hundreds of people who would be present in the real world in various subordinate positions, both in the staff itself and among their subordinate units. Therefore, the simulation carries out the work normally done by those staff sections and subordinates. In the real world, intelligence units process reports of individual enemy vehicles, soldiers, and activities into reports on enemy units and their probable missions. At CGSC, the simulation provides the processed intelligence reports. Equally, because we use student operators, the handling of various specialized systems (such as intelligence, artillery, air power) must not require more knowledge than is presented in the curriculum. For example, when deploying air defense units, the simulation must not require that the operator understand all the intricacies of employing real-world air defense systems, instead allowing the units to be effective if given orders driven by the plan’s intent. The learning objectives must be translated into requirements for the simulation by thinking through the scope of decisions made and information required by a division staff. A division staff typically issues orders to brigades (one level down) and monitors battalions (two levels down).The division staff can task brigades by reassigning their battalions and various specialist units. It assigns missions (what to do) to units, but execution of those missions (how to do it) is in the hands of subordinates. The staff doesn’t need detailed information on small enemy units, but does need to track the overall known strength and mission of enemy battalions and brigades. Allocation of limited resources such as artillery, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, reconnaissance assets, and logistics are critical, but, as with the combat brigades, the division normally assigns a task, provides the resources (units,

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equipment, etc.), and a subordinate unit carries it out. Normally, the division staff thinks in terms of missions (what a group of forces is supposed to accomplish), triggers (events or pieces of information that force a decision about initiating an action), and graphics (the myriad lines and circles on military maps that provide spatial coordination of actions). Case Study 1: A Division Exercise using Decisive Action Because we can define the scope of the information necessary for the division staff’s decision-making, we would prefer to use a simulation whose abstractions closely match that scope. Fortunately, Decisive Action is available. In part, it fits well because it was born at CGSC. In the 1990s, a CGSC tactics instructor, Jim Lunsford, wanted to move his classes from pure planning drills into execution, so he wrote Decisive Action. In its creation, Lunsford drew not only on his military and programming background but, equally, on game experience stretching back to the Avalon Hill boardgames of the 1960s, which assisted in developing Decisive Action’s numerous abstractions. Jim Lunsford introduced the program to his classes in 1997, and it proved popular with individual instructors from that point forward. Lunsford published it commercially after his retirement in 2001. With CGSC Simulation Division directed modifications, Decisive Action has been in full-scale use at CGSC since 2003. Decisive Action usually presents the player with battalion and brigade icons. Battalion icons can be attached to brigade icons, which means students can taskorganize their brigades as they would expect to do in reality.Thus, in our exercises, a brigade icon’s capabilities normally come from the attachment of three or four armor or mechanized battalions, while a battalion of artillery provides fire support, and further specialized support comes from an attached air defense battery and an engineer company. All of these disparate elements, once attached to the brigade, move across the map as a single icon, yet the subordinate elements continue to provide their special functions. Thus, the player provides a mission to a brigade icon, such as “defend this location” or “attack along this route,” and can assign or remove supporting elements in the manner expected of a division staff, while the brigade carries out the mission on its own. Much of Decisive Action’s design to achieve execution to standard combines functional icons (mission and graphic) with triggers to emulate what happens below the division level. For example, in the real world, the division staff assigns certain artillery units to a counterfire mission. Based on available intelligence, the staff then designates various areas of the battlefield for counterfire radars to watch. If the enemy fires shells into or out of those designated areas, the radars detects them, computes the location of the firing unit, passes the target data to

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the artillery, which then attacks the enemy artillery units. This process occurs very rapidly, before the enemy artillery moves. To place this cycle within our mission-trigger-graphic design, the student assigns the mission (selecting the mission within the unit icon menu) and places the graphical function icon (designating the trigger location); the game adjudicates the functioning of the trigger (the doctrinal action embedded in the icon).The student decision is now embedded in the game. Enemy fire determines if counterfire will be triggered, and the game will ensure that the counterfire has the doctrinal level of effect, executing to standard. Students use intelligence-planning graphics in much the same manner.A division staff’s intelligence team will designate areas to gather intelligence, identifying Named Areas of Interest on their map. From that planning decision, subordinates work to ensure that an appropriate asset is tasked with the mission of watching the area. In Decisive Action, the student places the Named Areas of Interest function icon, and the simulation does the rest, abstracting the assignment of assets and the detection of enemy icons. Decisive Action abstracts the internal operations of its icons. It neither knows nor cares how many tanks comprise an armor battalion icon or how well the reconnaissance team is camouflaged; it only keeps track of the battalion’s combat power and ensures that the reconnaissance team is correctly camouflaged.When the student assigns missions to subordinate units, the numerous highly complex real-world operations needed to execute these missions are abstractly performed to standard by unit and function icons: the student does the planning and the simulated subordinates do their jobs. All subordinate tasks are executed to standard; failures outside the student’s control are eliminated. Having a good plan fail serves no instructional purpose, so we abstract the “stuff happens” factor away. We teach students to operate Decisive Action in four hours, half of which is practical exercise. It runs easily on classroom computers and requires little specialist support. Students and faculty frequently name the Decisive Action division exercise the high point in CGSC curriculum.The Simulation Division runs sixteen of these exercises for CGSC every year, plus a variety of other college or instructor events.Yet all of this is only part of the tasking for the seven-person simulation staff: effective training delivered to around 1200 students at an affordable cost. Case Study 2: Battalion or Brigade Exercises using TacOpsCav 8 As mentioned earlier, the final block of instruction at CGSC covers brigade and battalion operations.The exercise for this block focuses on rapid decision-making

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in battalion and brigade command. Handed a situation, students are expected to create and execute plans in a short timeframe. The sharp focus on command created a problem: any given military unit has only one commander.Therefore, in an exercise, only one student can be the commander, but we have to give each student an equivalent educational experience. The solution to this problem came in two parts. First, instead of running a single exercise, instructors developed eight tactical vignettes. Some were designed to be played against a computer opponent, and others to be played against another student.All, however, were designed to be run in three hours: an hour for planning, an hour for execution, and an hour for discussion. By running one vignette each morning and afternoon, the whole exercise fits into four days of class time. Second, CGSC’s students were divided into teams of four: one commander, one secondin-command, one simulation operator, and one observer taking notes for the discussion. Every time a team enters a new vignette, these positions rotate.Thus, every student is the commander twice, and the small size of the teams ensures that every student remains inside the decision group of the commander for a given vignette. This solution required that we run up to three hundred simultaneous exercises, leveraging the computers available in the classroom and students as simulation operators, supported by only ten simulation support staff. This meant the simulation had to be extremely easy to use and need little to no technical support. Fortunately, TacOpsCav (1999) met these requirements, in part owing to a very clever terrain abstraction. Originally published in 1994, TacOps rapidly gained (and maintains to this day) a loyal following among computer wargamers for its ease of use and stability, while still presenting the core tactical dilemmas of synchronizing fire and maneuver. At the core of this ease of use lies an abstracted terrain model. Most tactical simulations treat terrain elevations directly, modeling changes in elevation in steps a given distance apart, such as one meter elevation increments measured every ten meters. In theory, this approach ensures that only memory and processor power prevent a perfect model of the terrain. However, a devil lurks in this detailed approach. In tactical warfare, placing weapons systems with the correct field of fire is critically important. As a terrain model’s detail increases, so too does the effort required to ensure that weapon systems are sited correctly. Highly detailed terrain—high-end military simulations frequently use one meter elevation increments measured for every single square meter of ground—turns the control of simulated troops into an exercise in using the simulation’s line of sight tool. Real troops on the ground have to do this too, but, with trained troops, commanders leave the details of the weapon’s positioning to the soldiers: the commander identifies the correct area to deploy or maneuver forces, and the troops themselves handle the details.

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By contrast to the highly detailed approach, TacOps abstracts terrain into square areas 100 meters on a side and uses only two terrain elevations: high and low.Any unit the player places in the 100 meter band on the edge of a terrain feature, such as towns, woods, or high elevation, has a clear line of sight out of the terrain feature. If the unit is ordered to defend in a given location, it gains the benefit of finding cover in that terrain.As a result, TacOps removes the details of positioning weapons systems from the player’s hands: the soldiers under the player’s control perform the tasks to standard. However, it still leaves the player to wrestle with key tactical dilemmas of the general positioning and coordination of forces, fires, and movement. Using only two terrain elevations throws out a tremendous amount of modeling and operating complexity, yet preserves essential decisions on the use of high ground: will you deploy your forces for a keyhole shot down a valley on the forward crest of a ridge to sweep the enemy as they close, or on the reverse slope of the ridge to destroy the enemy as they crest it? TacOps leaves these decisions in the player’s hands; it makes them easy to implement, and easy to see what decisions have been made. By preserving the essence of the decision while shedding complexity, TacOps ensures that students can focus on making decisions instead of operating the simulation. The U.S.Army’s Armor School at Fort Knox bought an Army-wide site license for TacOps 4 in 1999, titling the licensed version TacOpsCav and making extensive use of the program in various courses. CGSC began using TacOpsCav in 2003. Its ease of use, stability, and flexibility rapidly gained TacOpsCav a reputation for “just plain working” in an exercise well-regarded by instructors, students, and the general officer mentors participating in the event. In 2007, the command exercise shifted focus from combat operations (defeating enemy forces) to stability and support operations (winning hearts and minds), to which TacOps is not well suited, although it continues to be used by individual instructors. Nonetheless, like Decisive Action, its employment at CGSC serves as an excellent example of the power of an easy-to-use game focused on curriculum-relevant decisions to dramatically improve students’ understanding of battlefield planning and command. Reading manuals tells them how to plan and command. Exercises involve students in doing these critical tasks, and, through the experience gained doing them in exercises, prepare them to perform better in the real world. For instance, one day, when walking a visitor from the Army’s National Simulation Center through one of these TacOps exercises, we entered one classroom to find a group of four students excitedly cheering on their simulated troops during a firefight.The turn ended, and the students fell silent for a minute, until the student commander asked in a worried tone, “Why are they coming from the northwest?” They had just hit a key decision point in the scenario, recognizing that the enemy plan did not match their expectations, and therefore that their own plan faced possible failure. As the visitor and I moved on, the students and their

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instructor were already deep in discussion, revising their estimate of the enemy intent and its meaning for their plan, just as a real-world command team would be doing in similar circumstances. Conclusion CGSC needs low-overhead simulations to deliver decision-making experiences to students. Not only must these simulations be inexpensive to purchase but they must operate on our classroom computers. They need to be simple to use and require minimal specialist support, yet these programs must provide effective support by enabling student decision-making in a classroom. Our focus on student decisions provides the metric for applying echelon specificity and selective fidelity when selecting commercial games to ensure they provide causality for CGSC’s learning objectives. Simultaneously, these three concepts ensure we avoid extraneous details that create excessive overhead.We believe that this approach should also suit any training or educational environment in which the course material can be expressed in terms of student decisions. Notes 1. See Kahan et al. (1989) for a discussion of how the BCTP is implemented, including the scale of effort. 2. Among the core explanations of this model see Kolb (1984) and Knowles (1980). 3. We recognize three types of exercises: visualization-centric (a “what do you do now” vignette aiming to make the students aware of specific issues), planning-centric (how to put everything together to achieve an objective or mission, building a plan); and execution-centric (the battle is under way, do you understand what is happening and how to affect the outcome?). 4. See Perla (1990), pp. 235–242, for a detailed discussion of these two approaches. He uses the terms results and process. 5. Highway to the Reich’s and Conquest of the Aegean’s combination of solid AI and realistic delays on unit’s execution of orders makes these excellent simulations of battle command. 6. In many ways, this use of abstraction is similar to the way a cartoonist represents a face with a circle, two dots, and a line; see McCloud (1994), chapter 2. 7. Functional Area (FA) 57 is the Simulation Operations career field; these officers’ role in the exercise is much like their role outside the schoolhouse. 8. TacOpsCav is the U.S. Army’s version of TacOps 4 (1999). The civilian version is now more developed than the Army’s. Various versions of TacOps are in use with the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

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References Government Accounting Office. (1992). Report to the Honorable Nancy Landon Kassebaum: Operation Desert Storm: War offers important insights into Army and Marine Corps training needs. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Kahan, J., Worley, R., Holroyd, S., Pleger, L., and Stasz, C. (1989). Implementing the Battle Command Training Program. Rand R-3816-A. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education from andragogy to pedagogy. Chicago: Follett Publishing. Kolb, D.A. (1984). The cycle of learning from experience. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall Inc. McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: Harper Collins. Perla, P. (1990). The art of wargaming. Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press. Risner, R. and Ward, T.E. (2004). Concrete experiences and practical exercises: Interventions to create a context for a synergistic learning environment. Fort Leavenworth, KS: United States Army Command and General Staff College Faculty and Staff Development Division.

Chapter 9

A Battle for Hearts and Minds The Design Politics of ELECT BiLAT Elizabeth Losh

The six game designers were divided by gender almost as soon as they arrived at the Army National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. In the language of their handlers, the three “guys” were sent to the “Black Town,” and the three “females” were transferred to another mock Iraqi village, “Junction,” almost an hour away.At first, the designers could not imagine how these live action wargames could present a convincing spectacle. The towns were built out of shipping containers and were decorated with little more than khaki-colored paint and crude porticos.To live out in the Mojave Desert in the only instrumented training facility in the world suitable for live fire training with brigade-sized military forces, the content-creators for the “Enhanced Learning Environment using Creative Technology” or ELECT military-funded series of video games had been instructed to bring their identification, sunscreen, sturdy hiking boots, socks, a water bottle, and a jacket for evenings; the fatigues, cots, and sleeping bags would be provided by their military hosts. The three-person female design team at Junction had been looking forward to a simulated negotiation with a local imam to create a more realistic computergenerated major character for their software package. Unfortunately for the designers, the schedule of events in this massive state-supported improvisational theater had been disrupted the day before when a careless U.S. soldier had “shot” an unarmed civilian smoking a cigarette, who was played by an Arabic speaker from El Cajon, California. Now, the mock community leaders and his “family” were shrilly demanding compensation.While this unplanned crisis was unfolding, other military personnel had charged into the village where the female game designers were staying and were improperly shooting at the locals’ feet, erecting razor-wire barriers, and conducting “bad” searches. Soon a sniper began taking aim at the American forces, and the troops continued missing the contraband weapons that were being smuggled into Junction. Meanwhile, Black Town was in the thick of simulated combat, and the male game designers found themselves held captive for hours, often with their hands over their heads. Some National

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Guardsmen took up the role-playing too enthusiastically and, like those in the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, were wielding power by roughing up the unfortunate actors who were in reality assimilated immigrants and fellow citizens.1 Dressed in ill-fitting military fatigues but living among the Iraqis, the designers were participant-observers who were both in play and out of play as the action took place. When they returned to Los Angeles, they radically redesigned the prototype of their game-in-progress to model the unpredictability of the cascading crises that they had observed in the, at times, disturbingly real simulation. The Military-Entertainment Complex The term “military-entertainment complex” obviously suggests the power of many of the same hegemonic tendencies as the “military-industrial complex” that was described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961 as a “huge” or “immense” bureaucracy that displaced the individual “tinkering in his shop” and substituted a more “formalized, complex, and costly” program of joint research and development. Eisenhower warned that this complex could have undue influence by virtue of its size and scope. For Paul Virilio (2000), Eisenhower’s militaryindustrial complex represents “scientific futurology” (p. 31),“triumphalism” (p. 33), and ultimately “mass destruction” (p. 55), which continues to be expressed in contemporary technologies and techniques of media production and consumption. The substitution of the word “entertainment” for “industrial” points to some of the ironies of our current service economy, which often seems driven largely by postindustrial spectatorship, consumerism, virtual economics, and ludocapitalism. According to Tim Lenoir (2000), this newer complex exemplifies aspects of our current “post-human state” and the “fundamental shift in our notions of material reality” associated with it (p. 290). Among media theorists, the phrase “militaryentertainment complex” has been used to make a deadly serious point: that, when war becomes a game, it becomes more difficult to combat dangerous cultural imaginaries about the conquest and occupation of others that are promulgated by just war doctrines. Current critics of this “complex” and of the Iraq War in general would be inclined to argue that entertaining military simulations could be implicated in encouraging real acts of violence and coercion, because they so crudely and cartoonishly simulate complex socio-cultural interactions, so that these representations are emptied of any significance or empathetic investment.2 Thus, entertaining distractions cloaking military power could only represent life-ordeath situations of cruelty and asymmetrical warfare in the safe remove of a game’s “magic circle” that lacks real-world consequences. Such computer-mediated warlike games and game-like wars could thus risk further replicating the

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“hyperreal” within the dynamics of the Iraqi occupation, just as Jean Baudrillard’s “precession of simulacra” would predict.3 Yet it is important to keep in mind that the game development that takes place in the contemporary military-entertainment complex is an iterative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary series of related processes in which partisan conflict, mutual deliberation, philosophical disagreement, high-stakes gamesmanship, and political debate all invariably take place.Therefore, it is necessary to take the worldview of the game designers themselves seriously. As Manuel Castells (2001) has observed, the culture of software development is actually composed of a number of potentially divisive networked subcultures that include “the techno-meritocratic culture,” “the hacker culture,” “the virtual communitarian culture,” and “the entrepreneurial culture” (p. 37) in a sometimes volatile “intersection of big science, military research, and libertarian culture” (p. 17). Although the stereotypical view of game designers working for the military is that they are at worst opportunistic mercenaries or at best naïve collaborators who have been duped to give their labor to an unjust cause, the reality is considerably more complicated. Specifically, game designers who have worked on military projects may participate in public acts of political resistance to the policies of the federal government for which they work. In recent years, even leads on military video game projects, including principal investigators, have come out in opposition to the “Global War on Terror.” For example, one designer created a “virtual Guantanamo” in Second Life publicized by the ACLU. Another displayed a photomosaic of U.S. President George W. Bush composed entirely of images of dead soldiers and showed it during his PowerPoint lectures to professional groups and conference audiences. Still another posted comments on a heavily trafficked game blog in which he self-identified as a “peace activist” and chuckled about turning players’ attention from warfare to “playing house.” Another repurposed the same “adaptive training system” for an Iraqi village that she created for military use in the online virtual world Second Life as a site for “cathartic art” in a “healing space” for veterans. In fact, many military game developers have used their skills in digital rhetoric to create games, simulations, and other media experiences that spur users to interrogate jingoistic, xenophobic, and repressively uncritical ideologies of patriotism, nationalism, and exceptionalism. As Ian Bogost has observed, “Among the more pacifist folks I know, one of the ‘strategies’ for dealing with the ethical issues DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and other military funding raise is to think of such research as subversive: they’ll take the military funding and use the resulting research for initiatives that undermine the military” (qtd. in Frasca, 2006, n.p.). Based on these activities, one might expect military leadership to withdraw from such collaborations, given the possibility for undermining influences from political discontent among content-creators, but—at least in Southern California—such

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political protests by game designers are rarely publicly censured or subject to retaliation. In fact, game designers have suggested that military supervisors should be less concerned with the possibility that subliminal messages or unanticipated “Easter eggs” (which can be unlocked by a specific sequence of game moves or the entry of secret code) could be inserted into games by programmers without their superiors’ knowledge, and more sensitive to the subversive potential of the gameplay of the soldier-players themselves.This is because this form of interactivity may lead to a kind of algorithmic consciousness-raising, in which engaging in computer-mediated battle encourages players to become keenly aware of the rules of a given system and how they operate in ways that might give them grounds to question, work around, or break the system’s rules and protocols. In Persuasive Games, Bogost (2007) argues that even the comic-book morality of the recruiting game America’s Army (2002) can be read against the grain of its dominant narrative of military obedience, so that there can be a double-edged sword at work in the mechanics of play, because “the game encourages players to consider the logic of duty, honor, and singular global political truth as a desirable worldview” (p. 79). For Bogost, games can also serve as a way to naturalize and internalize specific directives about behavior, and—following Pierre Bordieu—he would argue that social directives may be learned without conscious training. Thus, we can never get outside of proceduralism any more than we can stand outside ideology, even if it may be possible to adopt a critical stance toward the implicit forms of regulation behind the explicit rules that make interactions possible. Furthermore, not all of the cultural conflict between parties working in these new digital media are necessarily directly related to specific geopolitical catalysts like the invasion and occupation of Iraq, or to the deepening of a civilian/ noncivilian divide in knowledge work.As Stuart Moulthrop (2004) observes, the “declaration (or acclamation) of war may distract attention from preexisting conflicts inherent in information culture” (p. 67). In other words, stakeholders arguing about the morality of participation in Iraq-based video games may actually have more fundamental disagreements about making meaning within a shared disciplinary field. These verbal opponents might disagree about the relationship of games to real experiences, or how technology works upon society in general. Media Archeologies Engaging in the process of media archeology can be critical for gaining a deeper understanding of the representational choices and programming decisions made by software developers over time. Eric Kluitenberg has described “media archeology” as a major “paleontological turn” in new media theory, most famously advocated

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for by Siegfried Zielinski and Erkki Huhtamo. In his essay on the subject, Kluitenberg (2008) argues that this reconstructive and speculative attitude toward networks and digital objects of study preserves important interpretive categories for new media theory, such as “the apparatus, the subject and a sense of history”; however, he is careful also to acknowledge that the apparatus may be “a fusion of the imaginary and the actual,” the subject may be “dismembered,” and history may be “stripped of its linear causality” (p. 72). Such media archeology can be critical for understanding games that are created by government entities, which serve as both content-creators and regulators in software culture, and thus also have a significant institutional interest in quashing the cryptohistories of a game’s development. It may seem strange to think about government-funded video games as being like war monuments, commemorative murals, or triumphal arches, but military-funded games and simulations about the Iraq War such as ELECT BiLAT, Tactical Iraqi (2004), and Virtual Iraq (2005) can also serve to “make things public” in Bruno Latour’s (Latour and Weibel, 2005) terms in that they represent taxpayer-supported manifestations of the res publica (p. 14). Although they may merely seem to be signifiers of State power, such public objects also reveal conflicts and contradictions from which civilians are generally shielded. Although Latour is writing largely about public physical spaces such as “scientific laboratories, technical institutions, marketplaces, churches and temples, financial trading rooms, Internet forums” when he lists the “forums and agoras in which we speak, vote, decide, are decided upon, prove, are being convinced,” these lively discussions take place also in the software development process of creating a military video game (p. 31). When looking at digital edifices, media theorists like Kluitenberg might argue that it can also be useful to study the ruins upon which they are constructed or how the final product may differ from the initial blueprint. In other words, what can be learned from the game that is not built? What is the significance of the avatar that is abandoned after the first prototype? What are the lessons of the software that proves unusable? How can we understand the final product through the interface that is scrapped? Although software has a number of linguistic and mechanistic properties that show traces and artifacts of the development process in the code, it is social actors who create computer programs and thus often serve as the main repository of another kind of computer memory. Conducting the work of media archeology can involve consulting a number of sources: demos, project documents, scripts, promotional web pages, footage of gameplay, conference papers, PowerPoint presentations, scholarly books and articles, postings on game forums, etc. Although not always classifiable as ethnography or part of anthropologically trained participant-observer tradition, interviews with subjects involved in video game development can be another essential part of responsible new media archaeology.

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Before BiLAT: Tactical Iraqi and Virtual Iraq Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the American government has coordinated several efforts to create computer-generated environments in games and simulations designed specifically for military personnel that recreate the embattled nation’s physical geography, built environment, and even what many military strategists are now calling the country’s “human terrain.” Under the auspices of the DARPA Training Superiority program that was intended to develop “just-in-time” training technologies for combat readiness, BBN Technologies produced DARWARS Ambush! (2005) to assist soldiers in locating roadside dangers, such as improvised explosive devices hidden within a dead camel or a child’s electric toy. Like many military-funded games, which depend on “reusable parts,” as one designer said, DARWARS Ambush! took advantage of an existing platform, the commercial game Operation Flashpoint (2001), and used this networked multiplayer system to realistically model interactions between members of a military convoy. Other contracting companies, such as Mäk Technologies, SAIC, and Virtual Heroes, have made games and simulations for the military that use technologies and techniques from commercial electronic entertainment. University laboratories, centers, and institutes have also decided to appeal to this potentially lucrative specialized market by incorporating production techniques associated with film, computer science, or game studies programs into their requests for defense funding. As a means for distance learning, many computer-generated Iraqs are designed for combat training, but these same technologies may be used to model more subtle kinds of human-to-human interaction in which shooting at targets is not an acceptable choice. For example, the University of Southern California (USC) has developed Tactical Iraqi (2004), a computer game designed to accelerate a soldier’s acquisition of spoken Arabic to assist in tactical situations, and Virtual Iraq (2005), a virtual reality simulation intended to lessen the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among combat veterans. Both projects received extensive national media coverage and seemed to serve rhetorical as well as pedagogical or therapeutic ends by making private, individual, highly situated digital experiences accessible to the gaze of a wider public. In the game research and design process, development of this kind of software can also foster tensions if some designers disagree with this emphasis on sensitivity to psycho-social context, because they believe that simulations should follow classic game theory approaches that have been legitimated by military academies, the RAND corporation, and decades of Cold War thinking. Lowood and Lenoir’s history (2005) sees a direct genealogy from Kriegspiel to the contemporary war video games at USC, but many working with intelligent conversational agent technologies question the applicability of such zero-sum models.

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Playing ELECT BiLAT After learning from the prior Virtual Iraq and Tactical Iraqi experiences of their colleagues, developers at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California are prepared to launch a number of new products. ELECT BiLAT (2008), henceforth referred to as BiLAT, presents an ambitious training agenda for mastering the official procedures for conducting complex bilateral negotiations with Iraqi power brokers. The player must decode intertwined scenarios about building civil society in an unnamed Iraqi town that involve improving local markets, shoring up the health care system, maintaining the power grid, supporting local law enforcement, and cleaning up endemic government corruption. Over forty thousand lines of dialogue were written for the cast of virtual characters. Although the user can delve into chapters separately, the story lines from “Market Forces,”“A Doctor in the House,”“Power Struggle,” and “Needs of Many” are integrated together in the master narrative, “Across the Divide.” To encourage strict attention to procedures, the rule set governing the actions of successful players who engineer win-win results in BiLAT is derived directly from military codes of conduct and reflects content that may be formalized into field manuals, such as the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, otherwise known as the “COIN manual” or “FM3-24.” Like some of the earlier military games developed at USC, the BiLAT software package uses intelligent tutoring and principles derived from PsychSim modeling, along with commercial off-the-shelf products, such as the Unreal 2.5 game engine (2004). Ironically, the high-tech components of the BiLAT digital interface often reinforce older discourse practices associated with traditional paper ephemera, since documents are still a staple in the army’s Weberian bureaucracy, which is oriented around the maintenance of discrete physical files.4 In BiLAT, the key paper document is the negotiation prep sheet, which is a standardized form used in military negotiations. It contains headings such as “Themes and Messages,” “Talking Points,” “Intended Outcome,” “Bottom Line,” “Possible Impasses,” “Impasse Strategy,” “Order of Events,” “Relationship Building Topic,” and “Exit Strategy.” Much of this document’s design has been credited to the philosophy of Colonel William Wunderle, who is known for emphasizing “win-win” dynamics rather than zerosum gamesmanship and for criticizing U.S. military planners (2007). In one article, he actually includes a sample printed “report card” that evaluates the competency of U.S. negotiators in which he gives them “D” and “F” grades in most subject areas. The preparation room of BiLAT is designed to be an exercise in media literacy for the potential negotiator, a space that requires inquiry into a wide range of textual, visual, and digital sources and learning the necessary interpretive strategies to decode them.The 3D interface of the room is full of clickable objects.When the phone is activated, it supplies the staff list.A flat-screen TV links to local media

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Figure 9.1 Preparation room in ELECT BiLAT. Image used with permission from USC Institute for Creative Technologies

sources.A file box contains target folders. Only the roll of toilet paper positioned at the corner of the large desk in the room seems to perform no navigational purpose, although it is included by the BiLAT designers as a tribute to gritty realism in depicting life on base. Once the prep sheet is filled out with information gathered from the spaces of the preparation room, the learner goes to the threshold of the rehearsal room, the first part of which students are often told to skip, because this segment involves conventional skill-and-drill quizzes. In another part of this simulation area, the player can choose an interpreter, which may be tricky since the profiles listed for each translator indicate that each man will have loyalties that put the negotiations at risk of failure. Not only are these three English-speakers of different religious affiliations—Chaldean, Sunni, and Shi’ite—but they also each have different relationships to the town educationally, economically, and socially. To progress to the first negotiation, one must choose between four initial Iraqi characters: three men, two of whom are police officers, and one woman, who is a doctor. Other characters can be “unlocked” if the opening negotiations are successful. Sequence matters, since choosing the wrong character at the start may

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antagonize other characters and make ultimate success in the sum of all negotiations more difficult. Although the player is encouraged not to rush through preparation, time also matters, because there is a ticking clock that marks the increment of gameplay over the course of four days in the narrative. Even the optimal first interviewee, policeman Farid, will rebuff the player who makes rhetorical gaffes when choosing among options under the “SAY,” “ASK,” “DO,” and “GIVE” menus.To make the interactions more lifelike, the responses of the character are partly randomized in a multipart matrix to replicate real-world vicissitudes of mood and influences from personal life. Social niceties must also be engaged in at the beginning and ending of each negotiation session for a sufficient period to ensure trust and demonstrate cultural sensitivity; jumping prematurely into business talk is considered by the non-player character to be rude. The Iraqis in BiLAT can be difficult to read, despite the fact that the game includes a trust meter to help the player gauge his success in gaining the confidence of the non-player character. Some characters, such as the female doctor Na’eema, begin with a lower number on the trust meter than others.There are also a number of commercial and other serious games that use a trust meter as part of gameplay,

Figure 9.2 Negotiating with Iraqi police official Farid in ELECT BiLAT. Image used with permission from USC, Institute for Interactive Technologies

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including The Thing (2002), Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell:Double Agent (2006), and Global Conflicts: Palestine (2007). Inclusion of the trust meter in BiLAT was controversial, because of essential philosophical differences between members of the development team about interface design, and at one point it was removed only to be reinstated later in the development process.5 Tactical Iraqi also featured a trust meter next to the characters’ faces, but the dispute among its team of designers focused not on the presence of the meter itself but what it measured because team members had been influenced by the work of researchers like Brown and Levinson (1987) and initially held “face” to be more central in judging the politeness of discrete interactions than “trust.” The virtual puppets of Tactical Iraqi are incapable of speech acts that do not seem scripted by the military. For all their sophisticated AI they cannot ask the learner hard questions about the unpopular U.S. geopolitical agenda.6 In contrast, BiLAT characters are capable of much more complicated “challenges” to the would-be negotiator.They may even express seemingly aggressive argumentation while the trust meter registers a positive reading. For example, at one point, Farid explains his objections to the U.S. occupation in terms that are both blunt and highly metaphorical: As always, I take a person at his word until he disappoints me.You say you will not disappoint me, so for now, I trust that. Please take this advice, though. Other soldiers, they have not seen a problem all the way through to its end before rushing off to some new problem. It is like fighting a fire.You put out the flames, but the embers remain to start the same fire again. If you want my trust, you will stamp out the embers, too. In the market, ending the tax is not enough. I would like to see signs it will not happen again. However, responding to the characters’ challenges or expressions of distrust or hostility with the “apologize” choice on the menu is generally not the optimal option for success in gameplay, particularly when dealing with the querulous shop owner Ismaa’el who has a host of complaints, since the player loses trust by taking on blame for events outside of his or her control.Thus, if military personnel mishandle civilian bodies, an apology is expected, while apologizing for the occupation itself would lead to negative consequences, according to the game’s rules. At the end of the negotiation with Farid’s character, the player engages in a kind of card game that involves exchanging items on a board that has labels such as “Requests,” “Offers,” Assurances,” and “Threats” where the player may choose to “Offer Deal” or “Wait.” Just before entering this card-game-style phase, Farid’s character says to the user, “Okay, let’s deal.” At this moment the distinctions collapse between the “deal” of a card game and the “deal” reached when two parties agree to a contract. Like the use of the trust meter, this section of the simulation

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also generated controversy for the design team. Some of those involved in the development process were very engaged with the mechanics of games of chance and also wanted to incorporate dice rolls in the play; others wanted to depict social and cultural dynamics as more fluid and tied to a believable narrative with a coherent story arc. Arguing about the losses and gains involved in trade-offs between what Jonathan Steuer (1992) has called “vividness” and “interactivity” is common among game developers who must work not only with the limitations of a given operating system or hardware platform but also within the constraints of the computer literacy of the assumed user, who may be overwhelmed by too much or the wrong kind of data. Even with its game-like meters, point boards, and on-screen countdowns, the BiLAT digital experience bears little resemblance to the arcade-style action or its direct “sense of agency,” which Janet Murray (1998) describes as providing a “tight visceral match between the game controller and the screen action,” so that a “palpable click on the mouse or joystick results in an explosion” (p. 146). Instead, the obscured cause-and-effect relationships in the world of the Iraqi town may require exploring hypotheses, making inferences, and removing unworkable options through an extended process of trial and error. As one team member put it, “Everything is connected in ways that you can’t imagine.” Producing ELECT BiLAT Interviews with four different stakeholders7 involved with the ELECT BiLAT project represent four different professional and institutional perspectives: (1) an assistant professor with a university office who ran a game lab bearing the name of a nearby major interactive media company, (2) his former student who is now an entrepreneur in a small creative services start-up that offers “branded experiences” for corporate customers and “edu-tainment” products, (3) another assistant professor who is a digital artist with experience in a wide variety of multimedia projects and immersive experiences, and (4) a project director for the Institute for Creative Technologies, which has become well-known for applying Hollywood techniques to Pentagon projects since its founding in 1999 (Lowood and Lenoir, 2005).All of these people have hybrid professional identities linking together the software subcultures that Castells has described. Like some of the other game designers who work on military-funded projects and yet engage in forms of political resistance, USC Professor Christopher Swain creates digital experiences that pose specific challenges to the prevailing authority of the state.With fellow BiLAT team member and USC Professor Peggy Weil, Swain created The ReDistricting Game (2006), an activist game about the mechanics of party politics and the current number-crunching conducted by operatives of modern-day political machines. In The ReDistricting Game, the player assumes a

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specific party loyalty and then plays a series of levels in which he or she moves the borders of legislative districts to balance populations, gerrymanders districts for obvious party advantage, protects incumbents of both parties and hence the status quo, and creates a district to ensure minority representation of a large ethnic population. Like a strategic military campaign, the player must be conscious of physical terrain and of its human occupants, and control the action from a God’s-eye viewpoint.To create the rule set for the game, Swain’s team consulted with a political science professor and used the actual procedures and guidelines of the redistricters themselves as primary sources. I asked Swain if he saw any conflict about simultaneously working on one game that legitimizes the prevailing politics of the U.S. government and another that attempts to subvert these ideologies of control and reveal the command strategies underneath the guise of democratic institution-building. As a contributor to the influential handbook, Game Design Workshop (2008), Swain immediately turned to the question of the “target audience.” In one case, he asserts, he was making a game that might allow officers to be “better cultural ambassadors,” and in the other he was fostering the “right attitude for a citizen in a democracy”—an individual who should “care about America.” In our interview, I suggested an additional rationale for working on such seemingly disparate games with which he promptly agreed. In BiLAT, users become aware of the existence of a specific rule set by playing the game and engaging with

Figure 9.3 Screenshot from The ReDistricting Game (2006)

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its underlying algorithms, just as they do in The ReDistricting Game. In one case, awareness of these rules was expected to encourage the player to follow them, but in the other, consciousness of the rule set is supposed to motivate the learner to change the rules. Although the two audiences may differ, the central pedagogical purpose is the same from the game designer’s perspective. He or she must design games that make rules gradually legible through a series of interactive digital experiences.Thus, gameplay is about more than a form of conditioning, since it is also a form of literacy. In contrast, media theorist Simon Penny’s (2004) criticism of the “militaryentertainment complex” describes its products as mere bodily training in which the software produces automatic reflexes rather than conscious interpretation and decision-making. However, Penny’s argument about somatic acclimation assumes that players are more algorithmically naïve than they seem to be in practice, as research about cheating (Consalvo, 2007) and transgression (Gee, 2003) in gameplay shows. Instead, players often actively seek to understand the rule sets for a given system. In the interview, Swain explicitly connected this attitude about game design and player literacy to Ian Bogost’s (2007) ideas about “procedural rhetoric,” which Bogost describes as a “technique for making arguments with computational systems and for unpacking computational arguments others have created” (pp. 2–3). Set in the fictitious state of Jefferson, ReDistricting is stocked with cartoonish political stereotypes, so it could be argued that the game loses something of its verisimilitude from its basic design. Swain also worked on a Federation of American Scientists-sponsored game for high school biology students, Immune Attack (2007), which also had some controversy in its design history because some associated with the project complained about its level of realism. For example, accuracy in the color and scale of microscopic body parts was sacrificed to facilitate easier gameplay so that targets could be visible.As a designer in BiLAT, Swain argued that such trade-offs are necessary because otherwise players “don’t make meaningful choices” if they are just interacting with an environment that lacks any keys to decode its underlying rules. Because “the actions of the user should feel meaningful,” Swain claimed that certain seemingly “unrealistic” elements needed to be incorporated into the interface so the user could gauge success and failure in executing specific tasks, which he called “explainable AI.” It is precisely this strategy of stylized representation in the choice of a more game-like interface that set up what Swain called a common “project leader vs. game designer” conflict among those working on BiLAT, one that pitted Swain’s artfully designed interface and game-like underlying play mechanism against other stakeholders’ desires for perceptual naturalism and more emphasis in the game on interacting with the emotions of human beings rather than sets of computational rules. Later in the development process, Project Director Julia Kim objected to

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making too obvious a “pulley system” available to the player, particularly when negotiation was a “deep field of inquiry” that involved awareness of multiple “priorities and tolerances.” Fellow BiLAT game designer Peggy Weil explained her own attitudes about verisimilitude in the interface design somewhat differently: “I’m a huge believer that if you show people what’s behind the curtain they tend to learn the process.” She described an early design experience with creating a camera obscura facing Harvard Yard, using only a curtain in her studio space that was perforated by three cuts.When people suggested that she insert a prominent lens into the installation, Weil objected that this would cause her audience to give up trying to understand how the device worked, since they would dismiss it as a “scientific” or “technical” principle that they couldn’t understand and fail to see it as a tangible representation of the human eye. As one of the principals of the interactive entertainment start-up Psychic Bunny, young entrepreneur Jesse Vigil took on the bulk of the writing duties and created the conversational engine that BiLAT used. From his perspective on how the game developers represented differing points of view, Vigil observed that gender dynamics seemed to play a significant role and that the participation of female members of the team and their separation from others at Fort Irwin was an important part of the game’s history. Unlike Tactical Iraqi, where a prototype with a female avatar was quickly discarded (Losh, 2005), game designers actively debated about whether or not there should be a fully developed version in which the story could unfold through the perspective of a female soldier, who might be treated very differently during the negotiation process because of Iraqi attitudes about her sex.There were fewer technical obstacles to creating a female prototype, of course, since BiLAT used a first-person rather than third-person perspective in its modification of the Unreal engine. Gender dynamics also proved to be important for the non-player characters, since the rules for interacting with the “lady doctor” character, Na’eema, require an entirely different set of protocols. Vigil also said that working on the project did have a profound effect on his personal and professional life. He described frequently not sleeping during the height of the production process, because “somebody could be killed by accident” if his game was poorly designed. After he saw “completely enacted negotiations” in the San Diego area at a very early stage in the development process,Vigil was “scared” because they were “so fast, so emotional, and changed on a dime.” Soon he set up his computer for Google alerts about the progress of the Iraq war.The effects of the project bled into his corporate life as well, since Psychic Bunny began to use the same techniques in business negotiations that were modeled in the game, down to use of the standard military prep sheet.As he put it, he thought that BiLAT was ultimately not just a military video game, because it could be easily transformed into a “game about business” or a “killer date game.”

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Trade-offs between civilian and military life were also important themes in Weil’s interview, where she explained how the work was wasn’t about “turning swords into ploughshares but wasn’t about making atomic bombs either.” As an artist at MIT’s Architecture Machine Group she described “coming to peace in the eighties” with the role that defense funding played in technological development and that the facial recognition software that could humanize digital experiences could also be used for surveillance purposes to monitor crowds. Futhermore, like Vigil, Swain, and Kim,Weil talked about the importance of cultural literacy for soldiers: “I want my military to be capable of critical thinking and exposed to people other than military officers.”As to the question of the kind of military-funded projects on which she would never work,Weil replied that in addition to games for recruiting or about “trigger-pulling” she would never work on a game that used her expertise about conversation engines to teach interrogation techniques, particularly using the rules in the official manuals that she knew were being abused in the Guantánamo detention facility.Then she paused, as if revisiting this assertion out of respect for the complexity of the endeavor, and admitted that she might be “shirking” her duty to create real-life situations that would be “humane rather than inhumane.” The process of excavating the media archeology of ELECT BiLAT reveals a number of cryptohistories and exposes philosophical disagreements between designers about the basic features of the game that would otherwise be effaced by the black box presentation that constitutes a finished software package. Certainly, those developing the software debated about fundamental questions about the nature of the interactive experience and the degree to which this computer simulation could represent real conflicts between real social actors in real theaters of war. The most contentious issues included the role of chance, the degree to which visual information should be stylized, the verisimilitude of the engine driving the conversations, the level of explicitness that would be appropriate for instruction, the value system governing the standards for success and failure, and the extent to which the game should be customized for the particular identity position of the individual player.As Weil’s hesitation about creating a game for the interrogation of detainees indicates, even individual team members reported conflicting impulses about the right course of action for applying the lessons of simulations to procedures in the real world. As Greg Bowker points out in Memory Practices in the Sciences, careful consideration of these practices rarely produces a “linear, chronological narrative” (2005, p. 2), because the artifacts and discourses that are central to the story often take the form of a palimpsest or an ecology of traces.Team members of ELECT BiLAT had different recollections of central aspects of the game’s history and emphasized different events, actors, and themes. Although the laptops stocked with ELECT BiLAT may eventually arrive on military bases as homogeneous, interchangeable products to be seen as pieces of standardized equipment, much like army uniforms, M-16 rifles,

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or single servings of Meals Ready to Eat, this software will have once contained the conversations of the game’s creators, although these voices will inevitably be inaudible to the soldier-players engaged in dialogue with Farid, Na’eema, and the other fictional characters in the game. Notes 1. The 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by Philip Zimbardo, who found that his simulation of prison life with seemingly normal college students quickly degenerated into abusive situations among the role-players who assumed the social positions of “guards” or “prisoners.” See for materials at the project’s web site for details. 2. See for example the conference “DEFENSE: Models, Strategies, Media,” which was held at the University of California, Irvine, March 7–9, 2005. 3. The continued substitution of “virtual” Iraqs for the real one might also defer a salutary confrontation with the brutality of what Slavoj Zˇizˇek has called the “Desert of the Real,” which would expose Americans to some of the world’s violence and privation rather than live only in their Matrix-like bubble, an artificial but ideologically comforting virtual reality environment. 4. This is true in other military-funded games, such as Regimental Surgeon (1989), by the Dartmouth Interactive Media Laboratory in which the player can look at official texts from many different genres and institutional contexts to develop certain subplots by pursuing information contained in forms, reports, charts, and manuals. 5. Team members of ELECT BiLAT also discussed the possibility of metering multiple factors, such as “aggression,” “patriotism,” “intensity,” or “acceptance.” 6. Pedagogical agents in Tactical Iraqi who manifest resistance can do little more than shout “CIA!” or call Sergeant Smith the “son of a dog.” Even Hasan, a character who asserts that it is “impossible to accept America’s occupation of Iraq”, is given nothing to say beyond this undeveloped objection. 7. Interviews occurred on the following dates: Jesse Vigil (June 3, 2008), Chris Swain (June 6, 2008), Julia Kim (June 11, 2008), and Peggy Weil (June 25, 2008).

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Murray, J. (1998). Hamlet on the holodeck: The future of narrative in cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Penny, S. (2004). Representation, enaction, and the ethics of simulation. In N. WardripFruin and P. Harrigan (eds.), First person: New media as story, performance, and game (pp. 73–84). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Sterling, B. (1993). All war is virtual hell. Wired Magazine, 1(1). Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Steuer, J. (1992, Autumn). Defining virtual reality: Dimensions determining telepresence. [Electronic version]. Journal of Communication, 4(2): 73–92. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from Stockwell, S. and Muir, A. (2003). The military-entertainment complex: A new facet of information warfare. Fibreculture, 1. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from http://journal. Swain, C. (2006). The ReDistricting Game. Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California. Virilio, P. (2000). The information bomb. London: Verso. Witmore, C. (2007). Between media archeology and memory practices: Two recent excavations. Retrieved September 5, 2008, from archaeolog/2007/12/between_media_archaeology_and.html. Wunderle, W. (2007, March–April). How to negotiate in the Middle East. Military Review: 33–37. Retrieved June 13, 2008, from English/MarApr07/Wunderle.pdf. Zˇizˇek, S. (2001, September 15). Welcome to the desert of the real. re-constructions. Retrieved October 1, 2006, from interpretations/desertreal.htm.

Interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski Nina B. Huntemann

Colonel Casey Wardynski is the Director of the U.S. Army’s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis (OEMA) at the United States Military Academy. He is also the project originator and director of Amercia’s Army, overseeing the development, deployment, and support of the game to the public and within the government since its inception in 1999 and public launch on July 4, 2002. Applying his educational background in economics and policy analysis, Wardynski has spearheaded an innovative solution to the human resource concerns of an allvolunteer military force, and, in the process, directed one of the most widely played games of all time. NH: To set the stage for the America’s Army project, could you please describe the challenges the Army was facing that perhaps motivated the initiation of the project? CW: Following the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War, we downsized the Army. We closed lots of bases near metropolitan areas and we reduced recruiting resources. As we shrank the Army by about a third in the mid-1990s, we moved into the Southwest and Southeast, and when we did that we disconnected from pop culture and youth decision space. When the volunteer force began, about three in ten adult males had been in the military—today it’s about one in ten. So there are not nearly as many touch points out there to tell kids about the current military experience. Because the Army closed bases in places like Chicago and San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas and settled down on big installations in the South and Southwest, we just weren’t around urban areas any-more.There weren’t a lot of tangible experiences or first-hand information readily available in popular culture where typical kids lived. At the same time, a lot of new technologies were coming online that affected the role played by traditional Army outreach efforts and that began to allow consumers to look for tailored communication.

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So how do you get in the pop culture? How do you get into the people’s decision space? These were the real challenges we thought the Army was facing by 1999. Traditional Army approaches were pretty much passed over by technology. So our recommendation was to look for technological solutions—if we can’t put the Army in pop culture vicariously, maybe we can put it there virtually. NH: Why did you see video games as a solution to the Army’s touch point problem? CW: By 1999 home computing was becoming ubiquitous, home broadband access was clearly going to become ubiquitous, and computing for entertainment was really the driving force for why people brought computers into the home.These three trends created an opportunity for the Army. I had my epiphany in March of ’99 during a quick trip to Best Buy. My sons were just reaching their early teens, and I was watching what they and their buddies did.At Best Buy, they always hung out in the game aisle. I’m not a gamer, but I saw what they were doing, and I was just amazed to discover that about 60 percent of the games available involved something that looked like an army.That told me that there’s native demand for entertainment that looks like the Army, that’s what clinched it. NH: Did the perception that the core audience for video games is teenage boys encourage approval of an Army game? CW: By law an Army recruiter cannot sign up anybody until they’re at least 17—that creates a problem. There’s nothing to keep a recruiter from talking to a 13-, or 14-, or 15-year-old about the Army, but in their busy day why would they do that? That youngster wouldn’t be in the range of people who could enter the Army for maybe three or four years. Because of the Army’s rules and incentives, we’re not going to get there early enough. To address this, the Army game was designed to take advantage of technological trends, and to counter what we think are market failures that increased the national cost of manning the Army with quality soldiers. With game technology we can make something very vivid.We can deliver it into pop culture; we can structure it in a way that was designed for teens 13 and above. So now we’re not going to get there last, we’ll get there about the same time as other ideas for what to do with your life. All this gelled around March of ’99, and I approached the HR Director of the Army, General Dave Ohle. He was very familiar with simulation technology, so this game idea clicked with him immediately.What really made the game possible

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was an aspect of public policy, which was: to do something this different, you’ve got to have a crisis. And of course the crisis was the fact that in 1999 the Army wasn’t meeting its recruiting numbers.That allowed for innovation. NH: What were the key design criteria that guided the development of America’s Army? CW: The game we wanted to build had to be top notch technically, but different from standard games in terms of its content focus.You see, with this game our purpose was not to entertain but to inform using entertainment.That’s a pretty big difference when it comes to content creation and game design. We wanted to virtually put kids in the boots of a young soldier, much like they would be if they entered the Army.To deal with the cognitive biases, heuristics and other information problems likely to afflict Army recruiting, we needed to substitute virtual for vicarious experiences with a focus on what it’s like in basic training, home station, and deployment.This means our game had to allow kids to explore, succeed, fail, push limits, get in trouble, and find out what it takes to succeed in the Army. In order to accomplish this, we created a set of design criteria to guide creation of Army content and to guide our deployment of the game. For this bit of work I turned to Colonel Robert Gordon who ran our Political Science program at West Point. He had our Task Force, or what we call a “Red Team” of West Point political scientists, economists, and behavioralists, look into everything that had been written about games, pro and con, everything about the use of force in games, to understand the issues, and then to essentially carve out our design criteria for a game about the Army that would ensure we were within the bounds for what we thought we should be doing as a national entity. Number one was protection of privacy. Most of us are parents, and most of us are as uneasy with privacy invasion on the Internet as any other parent, so if we proposed and prepared a humongous piece of software for you to download and put on your computer, we wanted to make sure it was very transparent. So no invasion of privacy, no snooping, no cookies, none of that stuff. The real idea of the game again wasn’t for us to learn about kids, it was to cure those market failures, which meant they needed to learn about us.That makes it easy to protect their privacy.The Army leadership readily saw that and they agreed. So when you play the game, you register online and you pick a nom de guerre.That’s basically all we know about you. Number two was employment of force.There are a lot of the games—they run the gamut from the E for Everybody to Mature games. At the Mature end, it appears that the objective of the game is to employ as much force as you possibly can and be very graphic, very gory, and so forth. If you think about an army,

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especially our Army, our objective is really not to employ force—we’re not going into battle saying, “OK we’ve got to use five million tons of ammunition.”We go into a battle and the objective is “seize that bridge,” “protect that piece of terrain and the people in it,”“regain control of these hostages”; whatever it is, it’s a military objective.And if you can achieve that objective with a minimum use of force, that’s what you do. Our approach was that employment of force in the game would be subject to the same rules that the Army lives under. Our game will operate under those rules, and that’s the truest way to show people their Army, and, if they want to join their Army, how they’d have to operate. Basically we built our game around a set of norms and a set of rules which makes it very hard to make a game, but our design criteria required our developers to motivate gameplay using Army values—which really are American values—integrity, loyalty, all these sort of noble values.They also had to make sure that advancement in the game was governed by the player adhering to those values and rules of engagement that mirror the same rules of engagement soldiers operate under. If we’re going to have an army operating as the Army does, it’s going to be at times involved in combat, so, who’s the bad guy? We spent a lot of time thinking about what we were going to be conveying abroad, because gameplay is global. What are we going to be—intentionally or unintentionally—conveying about who we think our enemies are? That was a pretty big one. We essentially selected two things: One was what we call our “blue on red” game design, which is how the Army trains.You’ve got two teams; they engage each other, blue on red. Both sides are made up of American soldiers but one is given the mission of the “friendly” U.S. force and the other is given the mission of the opposing force. So, in the game, when I look at the other team, they’re dressed up as the bad guys, and, when I look at my team, they’re dressed up as good guys. And the other team, when they look at each other, they are dressed up as good guys, and the other team, my team is the bad guys. Essentially both teams are Americans; so we can bind both teams to the value structures and the rules of war and engagement the Army operates under. If we let kids elect to play “bad guys” we couldn’t bind them to the Army’s rules and values, we would have mayhem like in an entertainment game, and the point would be lost. The international sensitivities question was really a question of, who’s the bad guy? We were thinking it might be narco-terrorists or something like that—and it was a decision that could wait until relatively late in the game development effort. Frankly, we were messing around with that one all the way until 9/11, which cleared that up. So our enemies are terrorists. Now the question is, what do the terrorists look like? What we decided was that the terrorists are everybody. They’re white guys with blond hair, they’re African Americans, they’re Hispanics, they’re Asian, they’re everybody and they’re nobody. So we didn’t pick an ethnic stereotype for

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“bad guy,” we just picked behavior for the bad guy which is a terrorist who has motivations that are outside the bounds of what most nations seem able to tolerate. If we’re going to make a game that’s going to get pretty detailed about the world of a soldier, we have to worry about operational security. So when we designed the game, we don’t ever show you expert information about what a soldier would do under given situations, because that’s not the role of the game.We show you where he operates in general. We show you the kind of equipment he’s got in general, and we show you the rules he operates under and the kinds of teams he would be a part of, but we never get into the detail of “how would a soldier do this?” That’s how we protect national security. Essentially, the game is about education and not training. It gives kids ways to think about being a U.S. Army soldier and to virtually be a soldier; that’s its education role. It’s not an answer book with regard to how soldiers solve tactical problems. Those are the design criteria we settled on and we’ve never changed them.The people who license our technologies have to adhere to them so when we were licensing to Ubisoft to make the XBox games, they had to adhere to them, that was part of their licensing agreement. And they worked pretty well since 2000. NH: Given the restrictions the design criteria impose and the massive organizational size of the Army in general, how do you realistically depict the life of a soldier and also make a playable, fun game? CW: You hit on a pretty important point, which is, this isn’t easy. People think the Army is this big green machine with five hundred thousand to a million people, depending on whom we include. And you think, how important can I be in an organization of a million people? That’s pretty off-putting. And yet when you look at the world of a U.S. Army soldier, whether it’s me, or a Private, their world’s the same as yours. In your world you probably interact with five people every day, and ten people every week, and twenty people every month on a recurring basis, and the others are just people that are passing through.The paradigm was: portray the world that a young adult in their first enlistment would see. It’s the world of about twenty people. So that fit well with the game technology.These engines, like the Unreal Engine on which our game is built, can render somewhere between 32 and 64 entities; you’ve got two teams of twenty, now you’re at forty. The other thing was, how do I distill the Army down into things that are meaningful? Turns out there are really seven or so ways to be a soldier because they boil down to the building blocks of any army in the world: Things like medicine, intelligence, logistics, infantry, armor and aviation, force protection, and counter-mobility.We distill the Army into those pieces and that allowed us to

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focus on Special Forces.The Special Forces team is about seven or eight guys, each one of whom does one of these things—intelligence, signals, medicine, logistics, weapons, leadership. That’s why our game for so long has focused on Special Forces. NH: Since America’s Army is made using private game development houses, how does the Army negotiate its design criteria with the conventions of the industry? CW: Well, we use civilian game developers, but for the core game we bring these guys in-house as individuals, not as a firm, to work under our tutelage. Even so, this is where you get a bit of a clash of cultures.You really have a need to carefully communicate because a game developer goes into it in terms of a blank piece of paper. In their culture, the guiding thing is, make it fun, whether it’s Super Mario or Tetris or whatever, and then it’s kind of unconstrained unless there’s a money limitation or something. For us, we say, “Make it engaging.”And engaging is a lot like fun, but it’s a little different in that it’s more focused on education and less on entertainment. But you’ve got to engage players—engage their attention, engage their interest. We can’t make it boring, so make it engaging.The game developer hears fun—fun in their world could equal massive kinetics, and the heck with this value stuff. Since I’ve run the Project, I’ve had to make sure that it was on strategy, that it fit with the design criteria that Army leadership had agreed to, and that it was coherent over time. Keeping the game guys on target can get heated at times.We had some pretty heated discussions and a lot of content that was thrown out.We’d go in and we’d look at what was made and we’d say, “well that may be fun as heck, but that’s not acceptable, we’re not doing that.” Folks immediately wanted to put pistols in the game, they wanted to put bayonets in the game, but OK, explain to me how that’s going to unfold in gameplay? It’s got nothing to do with Army values and it really has nothing to do with an army either because the last bayonet assault was probably thirty years ago. For kids who want to get into somebody’s face, that would be attractive to them, but it’s not what we’re interested in. NH: You’ve described America’s Army as having a ten-year project timeline. Has that been revised, because you’re at six years now [2008]? CW: There are probably two or three big things that drive our timeline. One is the rate of technological progress overall; two is our ability to progress; and then three is spin-offs.We’re in the marketplace competing for youth mind-share.To be competitive, we’ve got to be in the target area for what they think a good-looking game looks like. Our current game is getting a little long in the tooth; we actually began building its replacement in Unreal

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3 about two years ago. It should ship this spring (2009), so we’re trying to make sure we’re competitive in terms of look and feel. We think our competitive advantage is realism, the value structures, the way the team would be, who would be in a team, where would the team operate, how would the Army develop this team—the basic training and all that.That’s where we think our niche is.We own realism, so we don’t feel the need to compete with every new feature. And we’ve got a lot of features that other games don’t have, and will never have. NH: How, if at all, do you feel America’s Army has contributed to the recruitment effort? CW: Army recruiting is a very expensive business—I think on average we spend about $26,000 for each recruit. That’s pretty expensive. And there are probably recruits coming into the Army that cost $150,000 to $200,000 at the margin. In addition to considering the expense, we have to ask, were the recruits ultimately happy? While recruiting tends to focus only on the recruiting experience, that’s not really what’s most important. What’s important is, were they a good fit and did the Army put them in the right job where they can excel? If they don’t have a good experience, it doesn’t matter what we say, it only matters what we did. The game is involved in creating a better-prepared customer. When a young adult arrived at the Army in the old days, what did he know? Now after they play America’s Army they know what basic training looks like, what airborne and ranger school is, what occupations are available. So they arrive at a discussion with a recruiter with information symmetry. If he signs up to be in the Army, odds are he’s going to be happy. If he arrives and there’s been asymmetry and he doesn’t know what he’s getting into, well the recruiter has gotten a recruit but the Army may have an unhappy soldier and that’s not good. The game can help level the playing field so that the customer, the kid, is much better experienced— which is better for the kid, better for the country, better for the Army in the long run. This leaves huge potential for gaming in the future—and the costs of it really play in the favor of gaming because our game distribution is free, you create it once and use it many times, so it’s all fixed costs. The more you use it, the lower the incremental costs become for having done it. On the point of cost, we measure things by an hour of person mind-share.TV could cost anywhere between $5–10 an hour, because commercial time is expensive. The cost of person mind-share with gaming is about 22 cents. Furthermore, think about what I get from a commercial versus what I get from playing a game for an hour? With the game

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you’re in the world. It’s vivid, it’s active, you’re learning, you’re experiencing, you’re communicating.To me there’s no way to compare the two. NH: How does your office measure the success of the America’s Army project? CW: When we met with our marketing firm, they asked, “Well, what do you think success looks like?” We said about a million people playing it in the first year. And they said, you’re nuts. Now we’re up to 9.5 million registered users who play our game. But in terms of outcomes, things we were really looking for were a persistent experience so that people had enough time in the game to see enough of the Army to address the market failures I discussed earlier.That was one piece.Another piece would be an understanding of the degree to which, if people play our game, they had a higher level of comfort with the idea of being in the Army. There are people who would like to ask me, well how many people came into the Army because of the game? We have no idea, and that’s not exactly why we did it.What we did it for was again to put the Army in pop culture.We wanted potential recruits to learn about us, arrive with information symmetry so that when they come in the Army they don’t feel like they were misled or that what they expected ain’t what they got.That would make for better soldiers.We’re not after recruits, we’re after competent, confident soldiers.There’s a difference—I could get all the recruits in the world and not have any soldiers.They could get into the Army and say, “This is not for me, this not what I expected.” It is a volunteer army so they could either wash out of training or make themselves a nuisance and we would let them go.That’s a measure of success—we think we’re doing pretty well there. Finally, “Are they more comfortable with the Army?” and what we find is through the Virtual Army Experience1 traveling around the country, we’ve had about 100,000 visitors so far.We found that about 25 percent to 30 percent have played our game, and of those who have played it, they are 30 percent more likely than those who have not played it to include military service in the set of things they are thinking of doing with their life. That’s pretty close to the same lift in interest we see when we contrast kids of military families with other kids.To me that is unbelievable. NH: In the past couple of years America’s Army has also developed into a simulation and training platform for use by the military and other sectors. What is involved in turning an entertainment, marketing, and education product into a training tool? CW: Really what games do is allow you to separate your experiences from the dangers or the limitations of the physical world. So I can do things in the virtual world that are either too expensive or too dangerous or too far away

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to do in the tangible world.What that really means is games like America’s Army are a classroom, but they’re not a teacher. If you need a teacher you have to introduce a teacher into that environment. So with the medic we introduced a teacher—there was actually a teacher up on the platform talking to you about how to save lives. Aside from the medic example, our game is a virtual place in the world, a classroom. If you don’t bring a teacher into it, it’s just a place with a lot of white boards and black boards and technologies you can fiddle around with and explore. That’s the way we designed it, for kids to be able to explore and get general ways of organizing information about being a soldier but not the specifics of what a soldier would do. If we want them to do the specifics, we have to introduce an expert.That’s how we turn it into a training device.We use a Blue on Red paradigm and essentially we put two teams in the environment, introduce experts to explain this is how the Army does do things. The experts guide the progress of the interactions, we capture all the interactions, replay them, the experts critique the interactions, and we redo it.You use the game as a virtual place instead of having to build a mock city or training area. That makes it a whole different approach to training.We get a lot of push-back in the training world, however. Questions we’ll get are like, “Who’s certified that as a doctrinally correct training device? Because if it’s not doctrinally correct, you’re teaching our soldiers to do the wrong thing.” But it doesn’t teach you a damn thing—it’s a white board.Who certified white boards? Nobody. It’s a tool; it is not the expert. It is a place to bring the experts and the trainees together.To put that paradigm across is a real challenge because some people don’t want to see the paradigm. If a company sells us a system, there’s a lot of money wrapped up in the training for that device. In the case of simulation, the government will get use rights, but the government will not own the simulation. For example, if you have use rights for a training game and would like to alter a scenario to incorporate rain, [the contractor] will say, “We’re happy to do that, here’s your bill for $10 million.” If we did that with America’s Army we’d say,“Great—it will cost us $30,000 to add rain”. And now the Army owns and can use it in other training tools.This approach is a real game changer. NH: Can you give me an example of this paradigm shift? CW: The National Counterterrorism Center wanted a tool where they could build a city instantly, and explore it.We created tools where you dump the data in the game engine and it builds you a city. It may be Chicago, it might be LA, it might be New York. And now you can explore that city, virtually play out terrorism scenarios the enemy undertake there. That group

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probably spent 5 cents on the dollar of what it would have cost to do it otherwise, because we already had 95 percent of the solution—building the public game.That agency saved a ton of money by reusing what we already had. Now, we can use the same solution and create a virtual base explorer for potential recruits so they can explore bases where they might be stationed—reuse again for 5 or 10 cents on the dollar compared with legacy approaches. It’s a game changer in the world of education, training—because the costs are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 percent of what they would have been in the legacy approaches.The speed of development is days and weeks and months—not years. The risk is exceptionally low compared to the risk of these legacy ground-up enterprises where you build the engine, you build the tools, and then you build the simulator. NH: How do you envision the America’s Army platform evolving for military purposes? CW: The enemy is evolving at a pace that may be faster than we are, because we’ve got a lot of baggage—our rules and regulations, legacy hardware that changes slowly, and a chain of command to follow. How do we learn faster? One way to do it is to create an artificial intelligence to simulate the enemy, where the game is the expert, so to speak. Well anybody who’s ever dealt with artificial intelligence knows it’s that—it’s artificial; it’s not that intelligent, and it takes a long time to code. By the time we figured out how to code up the AI, create a simulation, and get it to the field, the enemy probably evolved three times more. The way to do it is, let the human be the expert and create the virtual place in the world.You could have a networked game with troops who were getting ready to deploy and need to understand what’s going on in the battlefield. Put them in the virtual world with soldiers who are in the combat environment. The soldiers in the field play “Red Force”, the bad guy, creating scenarios and responding as the enemy responds. Now the “Blue Force”, the soldiers in the States spinning up to deploy, virtually, see what the enemy’s doing by getting beat up on by the guys who are really in the war zone, who ran up against the enemy today.That way you can speed up the rate of learning to a rate that defeats the enemy.That’s what you need when you’re dealing with an entrepreneurial enemy like Al-Qaeda, which can adapt on the fly.That’s a real different paradigm.Worrying about certifications and doctrine and testing when we were up against the Soviets was fine because they were very bureaucratic too. But when you’re up against Al-Qaeda, you’ve got to learn fast. Young folks today are very good at questioning, and not very good at accepting bad answers.They are very comfortable with new technologies and new ways of

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learning. I think they’re going to take the Army where we need to go, whether we want to get there or not.And whether it’s America’s Army or not is an open question. We may not be the lever that moves this rock, but there’ll be something to do that. I think the Army will actually be at the forefront of it because, again, when you look at the kind of games kids play, they look a lot like the Army. Note 1 The Virtual Army Experience is a 19,500-square-foot traveling installation available to the public at air shows. The VAE integrates the America’s Army software with modified military hardware and vehicles. Visitors participate in a ground and air rescue mission, standing in the modified equipment, navigating and firing at large flat screen monitors. See the detailed account at pp. 1–2 above.

Part IV

Playing War

Chapter 10

“No Better Way to ‘Experience’ World War II” Authenticity and Ideology in the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Player Communities Joel Penney World War II Alive in the Present More than six decades after the end of World War II, the conflict continues to hold a central place in the popular imaginary. In contemporary politics, World War II has frequently been employed as a favored metaphor of conservatives, symbolizing the necessity of aggressive military policy against “evil.” President Bush in particular used World War II to justify the war in Iraq, comparing Middle Eastern “terrorists and totalitarians” to the armies of Nazi Germany.1 Of course, much has changed in the world since the 1940s, and direct comparisons are rarely appropriate, at least in a literal sense. Rather, these World War II metaphors nearly always function ideologically, fostering the rhetoric of patriotism in the United States and in other former Allied nations so as to bolster support for current military interventions. At the same time,World War II has had a pervasive, although uneven, presence in Western popular culture. The military genre in cinema, television, popular fiction, and most recently video games has prominently featured narratives and images from World War II combat, ranging from the beaches of Normandy to dogfights in the South Pacific. In the past decade, such popular texts as Saving Private Ryan (1998), HBO’s Band of Brothers (2001), and the Call of Duty (2003 to present) and Medal of Honor (1999 to present) video game franchises have attempted to recreate the experience of the Allied soldier for audiences far removed from the historical conflict. Central to these mediated narratives is the figure of the American GI. He is typically presented as a noble hero, embracing the ideals of loyalty, honor, sacrifice, and, perhaps above all, patriotism.Yet by glorifying the warrior, do these texts necessarily glorify warring? Do they, like the rhetoric of the Bush administration, help justify contemporary military endeavors by celebrating past military successes? The idea that media texts are imbued with ideological messages—commonsense assumptions about how the world works and what is right and wrong that subtly serve the interests of the powerful—has

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long been a key concept in critical studies of media and popular culture (Gramsci, 1971; Barthes, 1972; Hall, 1980).Yet as Stuart Hall (1980) notably asserted in his encoding/decoding model, audiences retain the agency to make their own sense of media texts, which may or may not conform to a dominant or “preferred” ideological reading. This chapter seeks to understand how ideologically charged narratives of heroic Allied soldiers are interpreted by audience members who hold their own nuanced and complex views of politics, war, and the function of the military. While little research so far exists on the reception of World War II-themed popular entertainment, the potential persuasive effects of such texts on audiences have long been a concern of cultural critics. Beginning in the 1970s, a wide array of scholars have advanced critiques of World War II representations in popular culture, accusing such material of being pro-military propaganda. Early criticism of this kind typically centered on the glorified portrayals of war in film and television. For example, toward the end of the Vietnam conflict, film critic Julian Smith (1975) blasted Hollywood for avoiding difficult Vietnam-related subjects and opting instead for “a flood of new movies hankering after the apparent certainties of the [World War II] era” (p. 7). J.F. MacDonald’s analysis of 1950s Cold War television, written around the same time, arrives at a similar conclusion. MacDonald (1978) interprets popular televised World War II documentaries such as Victory at Sea (1952–53) as dangerously chauvinistic portrayals of U.S. military force that functioned as powerful anti-communist propaganda during the Cold War. This ideological conditioning, he argues, left the American public “underinformed and fearful,” and “hardly in a position to criticize their political and military leaders when they began to slide inexorably into that tragic anti-Communist war in Asia” (p. 28). Both MacDonald’s and Smith’s critiques articulate an untested (but perhaps intuitively attractive) hypothesis about the persuasive capabilities of militarythemed entertainment.This conventional wisdom has clear political implications, but is nevertheless very difficult to test empirically.The perspective has endured among scholars who are critical of the U.S. military’s actions. For example, Guy Westwell has recently attacked the cinematic emergence of “the greatest generation interpretation of World War II”—exemplified by Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers—as an overly glossy rewriting of history that frames war as righteous, just, and free of any moral complexities.Westwell (2006) sees this new ideological thrust in cinema towards simplified “military-romanticism” as having important consequences, potentially resulting in an increased acceptance for U.S. military actions under the Bush administration (p. 115). This ideology critique of the World War II film as pro-U.S. military propaganda finds a strong parallel in the growing body of research considering the implications of war-themed video games. Julian Stallabrass (1993) offers one of the first political critiques of video game content that moves beyond concerns about mere

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representations of violence, questioning instead the power structures underlying the deployment of violent imagery. While games simulating contemporary conflicts—he notes games depicting the 1991 Gulf War and the 1989 U.S.–Panama war as examples—provide the most potent evidence of a propagandistic function, Stallabrass also considers wargames portraying the historical past, from World War I to Vietnam, as being part of the same ideological system, noting:“Whatever form the enemy takes, a subtext relates it to contemporary targets” (p. 93). More recently, David Leonard (2004), whose work is also featured in this collection, has attacked the modern video game industry as having been transformed by the military into a “pedagogy of war.” Addressing historical video games specifically, Leonard argues that they often deliberately rewrite history in order to create a “historical myopia legitimizing colonial endeavors” (p. 18). While Leonard and a number of other important scholars included in this collection (Huntemann, 2004; Nieborg, 2006) have advanced stinging critiques of the content of war-themed video games—World War II games included—there remains little academic inquiry into how audiences actually make sense of these games.The World War II shooter genre—in which players typically re-enact famous battles from an infantry soldier’s point of view (in either a first-person or a thirdperson perspective)—is a particularly interesting object of study, since these games are among the top-selling titles in the current console market. For example, according to, Call of Duty 3 (2006) has sold over three million units for the Xbox 360, PS2, and PS3, and Wii consoles since its release, and its predecessor Call of Duty 2 (2005) has sold over 2.8 million units for the Xbox 360 and PS2 alone. In this chapter, I explore the question of whether or not these popular World War II shooter games should be understood as pro-military propaganda, paying particular attention to the ideological implications of positive portrayals of U.S. soldiers. Building upon the aforementioned critiques of militarythemed video games, my goal is to explore the issue of political persuasion and gameplay by allowing fans to speak for themselves about video games, war, politics, and the military. While any conclusions drawn from this exploratory reception analysis are tentative at best, the richness of participant responses offers insights into how these games are experienced and understood by players within broader media environments. Band of Gamers The study consisted of 49 adult players of World War II shooter video games (either Call of Duty or Medal of Honor), as well as a comparison group of 46 adult players of first-person or third-person shooter games featuring science fiction, rather than historical, combat themes (either Halo or Gears of War). Participants were recruited through bulletin boards found on fan websites dedicated to each of the respective

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titles.These bulletin boards are frequented by hard-core gamers, many of whom post regularly and are also involved with online multiplayer teams, or “clans.”While it is unclear how well this hard-core gamer group represents the total audience for the respective games, what is certain is that they represent the target market for developers, and thus offer an entry point for discussing the games’ ideological operations. These fan bulletin boards also attract international players, allowing for unique cross-national comparisons of video game audiences. Participants were directed from the bulletin boards to a free-response online survey, where they were invited to write as much (or as little) as they wished about their feelings toward various shooter games and genres, as well as their opinions regarding politics, the war in Iraq, and the U.S. military. In the World War II player group, participants were asked a series of questions about their interest in World War II history before and after playing the game, whether they learned anything about World War II history from the game, and if their understanding of World War II—its meaning and purpose—had changed since playing. Both groups were also asked if playing their preferred game made them more or less favorable towards the U.S. military, and, if so, why.These prompts were not designed to scientifically test for persuasion effects—people are rarely cognizant of personal media effects— but the survey was intended instead to explore how players connect their war-themed video game experiences with their real-life understandings of war and politics.This research approach has its obvious drawbacks as well as its advantages; owing to the non-random sampling procedure, the results are limited in terms of their overall generalizability, or causality. However, the data from this in-depth, open-ended survey illuminates the ways in which ideology operates in World War II shooter video games for fans of the genre. Of the 49 people who responded to the survey, 48 are male, 27 are from the United States (other countries included Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia), and 32 are between the ages of 18 and 29. The group also included 17 participants in their 30s to 50s, revealing the broad age appeal of the World War II game genre.The participants in the science-fiction comparison group have a similar demographic composition, with the exception of age: 45 of the 46 are male, 31 are from the United States (with the rest representing the previously mentioned countries in addition to Belgium and Mexico), and 41 are between the ages of 18 and 29. Only 5 participants in the sci-fi group are over the age of 30, suggesting that the audience for science fiction shooters like Halo and Gears ofWar may skew younger than audiences for historical games. Table 10.1 summarizes data collected from the study participants regarding their support for the war in Iraq and general political attitudes.When comparing the political and ideological makeup of the two groups, some small but interesting differences appear: the World War II group contained a larger proportion of selfidentified conservatives, as well as those who express support for the war in Iraq.

“No Better Way” 195 Table 10.1 Support for the war in Iraq and general political attitudes of survey participants (%)

Express support for Iraq War Identify as “conservative” Identify as “liberal” No strong feelings about politics

World War II player group

Sci-fi player group

27 31 24 31

20 20 22 41

Of course, owing to the limited sample size and wide margin of error, these results cannot be considered statistically significant; however, they do tentatively suggest that World War II combat games may attract a somewhat more conservative audience than other shooter games which do not feature this kind of politically overt subject matter. It is important to note that conservatives comprise only a small fraction of the overall audience, and that the political makeup of the two player communities reflects a diversity of viewpoints. Almost a quarter of each group self-identifies as liberal, demonstrating that the audience for the two genres is hardly uniform when it comes to political affiliation. Other participants professed no strong feelings, or mixed feelings, regarding their political beliefs, further underscoring the audiences’ heterogeneous political makeup. Above all, these results show that shooter game audiences cannot and should not be understood as a sweeping monolithic bloc.And because many different kinds of people play shooter games, any analysis of the sociocultural or political impact of these games must take this fact into account. Nevertheless, the appearance of a larger conservative segment of the World War II game audience, as compared with the science fiction audience, suggests that the World War II combat genre may have a particular appeal for those who hold conservative beliefs. While these demographic differences between the groups raise interesting questions, this study’s potential utility rests on understanding how audience members interpret these games and construct political and ideological meaning through gameplay. The underlying assumption behind the hypothesis of political persuasion and/or reinforcement is that players of World War II video games make some connection between the games’ content and a lived (but not played) social and political reality. Judging from the responses of the 49 Call of Duty and Medal of Honor players, this connection is indeed rather strong, particularly when compared to the responses offered by Halo and Gears of War players. Only a small minority viewed the World War II games as escapist fun, while the vast majority acknowledged and appreciated the games’ serious historical content. When participants were asked how they felt about the depiction of history in the game, virtually everyone answered positively, with many comparing the experience

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of playing the game to fighting a real war. As one participant described, “the first time I played Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, I was amazed at the beach assault on D-Day. I really felt what it was like to be there,” while another noted that “when I first played the game, it was intense, almost as though I was there.” Other participants in the group identified themselves as World War II history buffs, and extolled the games’ attention to historical accuracy. For these players, “the history is extremely important. It degrades the game if it’s not accurate to history.” As these responses indicate, the setting, storyline and thematic content of World War II shooter games are particularly attractive features. Rather than only providing escapist entertainment, the World War II content connects players to historical reality in personally meaningful ways. The primary importance of authenticity and realism to players of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor becomes clearer when the World War II group is set against the science fiction group. For example, when participants in the World War II group were asked what they like most about their game of choice, 30 of the 49 (61 percent) mentioned the World War II setting and/or historical accuracy. In the science fiction group, only 8 of the 46 participants (17 percent) mentioned setting, storyline, or thematic content as what they like most about either Halo or Gears of War. Instead, the attributes favored most by the science fiction group include the online or multiplayer setting (the most popular answer, mentioned by a third of the participants) as well as technical details such as graphics, controls, and specific gameplay features.This finding underscores that gamers play these two game genres for different reasons, despite the fact that the titles may share certain visual or gameplay characteristics. Indeed, such a divide highlights the organizing power and meaning-making influence of genre. As video game scholar Joost Raessens (2006) has recently written, the emerging genre of documentary games—defined as those which seek to faithfully recreate the experience of historical events— differs from most mainstream games in that they are designed to involve the player with “the intensity of feeling and reflexivity of thought” and “do justice to the complexity of experience” (pp. 215–216). On the other hand, titles from more fantastic genres (such as sci-fi) are typically more concerned with “the actuality and causality of action” than with any notion of authentic experience (p. 216).2 Thus, while World War II and sci-fi shooter games may appear functionally similar, the differing genre expectations of documentary versus fiction lead to different forms of audience expectation and engagement. When the groups were asked to compare the two kinds of games, a clear division emerged between those who favor an authentic experience of battlefield realism and those who favor novelty and escape. For the World War II gamers, “historical games are easier to get into because of the reality,” and “playing a game that is based upon fact gives the game more depth of feeling.” Science-fiction-themed games, on the other hand, are less interesting because “You don’t feel like you’re there.”

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Quite the opposite was true for the science fiction group. Many participants expressed a lack of interest in the experience of historical authenticity and voiced a preference for imaginative gameplay. Where sci-fi games “have a feeling of craftsmanship,” historical combat games are described as “restricted in what they can allow a player to do,” and are “less interesting due to the historical constraints of the events and equipment.” It is clear from the responses of the sci-fi group that the accuracy and realism that fans of historical games revere is what turns sci-fi gamers away. As one respondent retorted, “If I wanted to know about history, I would read a book!” However, it is important to note that while the two genres may be played for very different reasons, this does not necessarily mean that gamers must be exclusively interested in one or the other. In fact, a few study participants expressed a fondness for both kinds of games, with their responses eloquently highlighting the different forms of pleasure offered by each. As one participant explained, historical combat games are “games where you appreciate the exactness of the locations and actions. In science fiction you appreciate more the extraordinary, out of this world action.”Again, it is the attention paid to historical accuracy and authenticity that distinguishes the experience of playing Call of Duty and Medal of Honor from games grounded in more “extraordinary” genre conventions, and this has consequences for how these games are understood by players. World War History 101 Players of WorldWar II shooter games make strong connections between simulated and real-life warfare. Moreover, a solid majority of the participants (31 out of 49, or 63 percent) answered that they did, in fact, learn about history from Call of Duty or Medal of Honor. While many pointed to specific knowledge such as weapons, dates, and locations of battles and skirmishes, others emphasized the authentic totality of the gaming experience. As one participant wrote, “with history books and lessons, you can only get so close to conveying all the emotions associated with killing and dying in war, but even when you know it’s just a game, if it’s a great game that’s committed to authenticity (like the Call of Duty series) sometimes you can actually get some sense (however remote) of what it must have been like.” Another Call of Duty gamer described at length the educational value of such realistic combat simulations. As he explains: Really it is my son who has learned. Before Call of Duty, I couldn’t get him interested in World War II at all. Now he is a grade A student in History at school, and loves reading and hearing stories from me about World War II. For me, it takes the black and white printed pages of a book and translates it

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into an interactive 3-dimensional environment. There is no better way to “experience”World War II. The fact that so many of the participants claimed they learned about history from the games signals that audiences interpret Call of Duty and Medal of Honor as authentic historical experiences, beyond mere “shoot-’em-up” entertainment. Furthermore, the games did more than just provide factual historical knowledge. When asked if their understanding of the meaning and purpose of World War II had changed since playing the game, 16 of the 49 participants (roughly a third) reported some form of positive change, revealing the games’ persuasive power to influence perceptions of history. For one participant,“the war means more to me after playing the Call of Duty series. [The games] make you realize as best as they can what [U.S. soldiers] had to sacrifice during the war.” Another explains that his “feelings have deepened in respect for those who died there. Call of Duty is very intense at times and I can only imagine that it is a fraction of the true event.” While one gamer admits that “Medal of Honor is just a stupid computer game,” he goes on to assert that “you get a better appreciation of the situation of the combat soldier.” These responses point to a key theme expressed repeatedly by the World War II group: empathy with real-life soldiers, past and present.The authentic battlefield experience the games offer leads many in the audience to identify with the digital soldiers whose bodies they virtually inhabit.This bond, borne out of an admiration for the courage and skill required to do in real life what the players only do in the game, and engendered through procedural military acts, is profoundly ideological in nature. The ideological force of these games becomes clear in the responses to the question of whether Call of Duty or Medal of Honor had changed participants’ level of respect for the U.S. military: 19 out of the 49 participants, or 39 percent, said “yes.” The figure is especially remarkable considering that most people typically believe that, while others are manipulated and changed by the media, they are not influenced.3 Many other participants indicated that they already had the highest level of respect for the U.S. military, so it could not be raised any higher. For those who responded “yes” their level of respect had changed, the pattern of in-game authenticity leading to empathy with combat soldiers arose time after time.As one participant expressed, “soldiers were put through situations such as you will see in the game, some even worse obviously. So for the soldiers of the past and present, you have to respect what they have done for us.” Another explained that he “always had a high respect for the U.S.Army,” but that “the more I learned . . . the higher my respect grew. Playing this game as a U.S. soldier made me feel proud somehow.” Touching directly upon the empathic bond between gamer and virtual soldier, one teenage participant noted that “I have great respect for anyone who has endured warfare that I’ve only experienced in a game, so yes, I have more respect for the U.S. Army now.”

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For the sci-fi gamers, connections between the fictional combat troops of Halo and Gears ofWar and real-life soldiers were much rarer. Only 4 of the 46 participants (9 percent) claimed that their respect for the U.S. military had increased as a result of playing. Perhaps this is not surprising given the fact that the games do not contain any explicit references to the U.S. military, past or present (although a handful of participants did make this connection, indicating that the more general theme of military combat—contained in both the World War II and sci-fi shooter genres— can influence perceptions of real-world soldiers for at least some small portion of gamers). The vast majority of participants in the science fiction group saw the games as having nothing to do with the real world, which was a distinct virtue of the genre. For these players, “games are an escape from reality, not an extension,” and they “do not associate them with real life.” One Halo gamer succinctly stated, “the game doesn’t really make me feel like I am relating to any current events or past events.” As these responses demonstrate, the lack of thematic content in science fiction-themed shooter games linking in-game action to real-life warfare leads to very few readings of an ideological or political nature. Conversely, for a significant portion of the World War II “shooter” game audience, the realism and documentary authenticity of the games’ battlefield scenarios facilitate more positive perceptions of contemporary U.S. soldiers. Ideology and the Military: the “Strong Defense” Interpretation To better understand the complexity of representation and reception, it is helpful to take a closer look at participants in the World War II group who claim that the games increased their respect for the U.S. military.The majority of them identify as politically conservative, although a few liberals and non-politically affiliated participants appear in this subgroup as well.This finding suggests that the World War II soldier narratives in these games work to reinforce a conservative “strong defense” ideology—defined as the support of aggressive foreign policy as well as a high regard for the military as an institution. Of course, having a positive view of the military does not necessarily equate to holding a conservative political ideology, but the political reality of the last few decades—shaped by the divisive wars in Vietnam and Iraq—has meant that more often than not conservatives typically embrace “strong defense” policies (such as increasing defense spending and supporting preemptive military interventions), while liberals typically criticize the use of perceived unnecessary military force and advocate for diplomatic solutions whenever possible. In Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model of audience reception, a “strong defense” interpretation of the World War II video game text may be considered a dominant or preferred reading, in the sense that it affirms the ideology of the

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power establishment, i.e., the United States government under the Bush administration. As Hall’s model asserts, other readings are also possible; as I will later demonstrate, the rich mythology of World War II—as well as the open-ended media experience realized by interactive gaming technology—allows the games a number of interpretations. However, it is first necessary to investigate how the dominant reading operates within the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor player communities.Taking a closer look at the conservative participants whose respect for the U.S. military increased from playing World War II shooter games illuminates how these games are read as advocating a “strong defense” ideology. “Tom” is an 18-year-old from New Hampshire who estimates that he plays Call of Duty between 8 and 12 hours a week, and up to 20 hours during the summer. He also reports that he is “sponsored” to play America’s Army:Rise of a Soldier (2005), the modern warfare title produced by the U.S. military as a recruitment tool (this means that a commercial sponsor finances his participation in America’s Army tournaments and other events in exchange for promotional favors, an arrangement common in sports such as NASCAR). He identifies as a conservative Republican, and, when asked a series of questions about the war in Iraq and the institution of the U.S. military, his responses reflect a “strong defense” ideology. For example, speaking about the war in Iraq, he states, “while I believe it is about time to exit, I have no opposition to its purpose . . . I hate the anti-war movement.When the U.S. gets attacked or is in danger, we need to take action.” When asked about his general attitude toward the U.S. military, he asserts,“I believe soldiers are excellent role models. They are trained and work very hard, as well as follow respectable values such as loyalty, honor, courage, etc.” Finally, in response to the question of whether or not playing Call of Duty has changed his level of respect for the U.S. military, he answers affirmatively: “After seeing all of the men die and carry off the wounded, I appreciated the men from World War II even more than I had previously.” For “Tom,” the virtual characters in the game embody the spirit of the real “men from World War II,” and their sacrifices take on a great deal of meaning. His positive perception of soldiers and the military seems to be closely related to his political beliefs regarding foreign policy; supporting the Bush administration’s aggressive use of force, he perceives the military to be an ideal institution for coping with the problems of the modern world. Another interesting example of a young conservative who displays a “strong defense” reading of World War II shooter games is “Adam,” a 26-year-old from Minnesota. He has played Call of Duty since 2004, and demonstrates a strong interest in the historical authenticity of the World War II game genre. As he explains, “I enjoy the history aspect of the game, and do think it makes the experience richer and more enjoyable. The setting was what led me to play the game. I enjoy WWII movies in addition to the games.” “Adam” self-identifies as a conservative and a Republican, and, like “Tom,” expresses a clear preference

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for the “strong defense” ideology. Speaking about contemporary politics, he states: “I tend to support the current administration’s positions and actions in the current war(s) . . . It would be a grave mistake to give up now,” and that “the antiwar movement is a gathering of misinformed, misled miscreants. If allowed their way, our country would collapse on itself.This must be avoided at all costs.” His support for the war closely mirrors his more general positive attitudes towards U.S. soldiers, as he praises “the honor they have shown” and asserts that “they are excellent role models.” Most interestingly, “Adam” claims that Call of Duty has had a significant positive effect on both his perception of World War II and his level of respect for the military; he writes that “I’ve gained a greater appreciation of the dedication, effort, and fighting spirit of the previous generation, and came to believe we could learn a lot from them,” and that “I have gained respect for the Army. It turned out the Call of Duty was answered by a fulfillment of duty and a cry of honor.” For “Adam,” as for “Tom,” World War II stands as a symbol of the greatness the United States can achieve through the use of military force.The “fighting spirit of the previous generation” provides “Adam” with a model for how the U.S. must proceed aggressively in the Middle East post-September 11. Once again, the virtual battlefields of World War II-themed games take on a profound ideological significance, erasing the barrier between entertainment and the outside political world, and reinforcing a belief in the value of “strong defense” policies. “Tom,” “Adam,” and similarly minded gamers offer some insight into how World War II shooter games are understood and interpreted ideologically by a conservative audience; however, it remains to be seen how prevalent this particular reading is among the wider audiences for these games. The somewhat larger number of conservatives found in the World War II group, as compared to the science fiction group, may signal that the games are particularly amenable to a “strong defense” interpretation. On the other hand, the diversity of viewpoints reflected in the data also points to the existence of alternative readings of the World War II video games.Two patterns of alternative reading strategies emerged, both of which call into question the view of World War II as an easy or simple justification for contemporary American military action. Polysemic Possibilities: “Good War/Bad War” and “Internationalist” Interpretations The first of these two alternative readings is the “good war/bad war” comparison. For some, the moral certainty of the war to defeat fascism and Hitler stands in stark contrast to the more ambiguous military conflicts of today. A number of participants rejected the idea that the World War II generation and today’s military are equivalent, and instead reflect nostalgically on World War II history as an ideal

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that cannot be matched today. For these gamers, “WWII was actually fought for something, unlike the ‘wars’ of today,” and “World War II veterans are the role models, not these cowboys!” One participant expressed that World War II was “about survival and real freedom, not saving some chunk of desert from some religious nuts,” and another wrote that, “there will never be another war like it. It’s all too political now, and the politicians mess things up.” Significantly, each of these participants claimed to have a political ideology other than conservative— either liberal, moderate, or independent—and also expressed a critical view of the war in Iraq. For these players, the World War II-themed content of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor represents what a “good war” should look like: soldiers are disciplined, the military is forceful, and the taking of life is morally justified.The players enjoy the experience of virtual warfare in this historical context, but also perceive important differences between the past and present.Thus, these gamers do not adopt the kind of “strong defense” reading exhibited by some conservative players, opting instead for an interpretation of World War II which valorizes military action in decades past but also allows for skepticism towards the contemporary military actions of the U.S. government. An alternative reading strategy that surfaced came from participants who live outside the United States. These players are unique insofar as they express admiration for the “internationalist” thrust of Call of Duty, a game which portrays battlefield conflicts from the perspective of many Allied countries, not just the United States (as is typically the case with many World War II video games). The fact that one can even wage campaigns as a member of the Stalinled Soviet army makes Call of Duty a fairly remarkable entry in the crowded World War II game market. International players with a critical view of the U.S. military tended to respond positively to being able to play as non-U.S. soldiers. For example, “Rick,” an 18-year-old Call of Duty gamer from Canada who is strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, explains that “I really don’t just focus on the U.S.Army . . . it was not only the Americans who fought the war, it was the British, the French, the Canadians, and way more countries—that’s why it was called WORLD WAR II.” “Michael,” an 18-year-old from the United Kingdom who also firmly opposes the war in Iraq, was in the science fiction comparison group, but, when asked to compare his game of choice to historical games, he said of Call of Duty specifically: [I] enjoy the Call of Duty series . . . rather than in the popular all-Americanized versions where the Americans come and wipe the floor with all opposition, the British were there, what was left of the French army stood tall, the Russians handled the whole Eastern front and pushed the Germans back again and again. I dislike games themed all around “Righteous Americans save the day again” . . . great, getting old now, don’t cha think?

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For “Michael” and “Rick,” World War II also serves as a “good war” comparison to the present, but in this case it is the broad international coalitions that justify the reverence towards the past. In stark contrast to the unilateralism under the Bush administration, World War II represents for these players a time when international coalitions were necessary, since the United States had yet to become the world’s lone military superpower. The unique inclusion of Soviet military narratives in Call of Duty—as well as the ability to actually interact with the game’s system from the perspective of a Soviet soldier, an aspect of what video games scholar Ian Bogost (2007) has called “procedural rhetoric” (p. 2)— opens the door to interpretations that undermine the idea of World War II being a strictly “American” victory. Of course, the prevalence of this particular reading is difficult to determine, but it is certainly afoot among the game’s international audience. Conclusion Concerns over the influence of war-themed video games, both in the academic community and elsewhere, have tended to focus on the propaganda model as a way of understanding how glorified depictions of war convince audiences to adopt a pro-military ideology. This is not especially surprising, given that military institutions from around the world now openly produce video games as propagandistic recruitment tools (with America’s Army being the best known example). However, historical war-themed games produced for the commercial market enjoy complex ideological relationships with their audiences. As Stuart Hall’s reception model of encoding/decoding helps to demonstrate, gamers can make sense of the World War II digital battlefields through dominant (“strong defense”) as well as alternative (“good war/bad war comparison” and “internationalist”) readings.4 Taking this polysemy into account, and looking towards a broader geopolitical context,World War II shooter games should perhaps be thought of not as agents of propaganda but rather as instruments of “soft power” (Nye, 2003)—small pieces of a larger cultural system which promotes hegemonic western ideology around the world in a persuasively credible but decidedly non-coercive fashion (see Nieborg’s chapter in this collection). Call of Duty and Medal of Honor are powerful in the sense that they are able to make a case for the rectitude of western military operations using a persuasive language of historical authenticity. This study’s findings are a testament to this power, with more than a third of the participants believing the games to have increased their respect for the U.S. military. On the other hand, this persuasive power is inherently soft; it exists on the level of popular culture and is therefore negotiable, open to multiple interpretations and even resistance (as is demonstrated by this collection’s final section). Rather than top-down, heavy-handed propaganda, these games

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function as a “soft sell” of “hard power”, an ironic formulation, which points to the decidedly ambiguous nature of war-themed video games in our society. Notes 1. This quote was taken from a speech President George W. Bush gave to the American Legion National Convention on August 31, 2006, in Salt Lake City, Utah, in which he advanced a broad historical and ideological defense for his Iraq war policy (, 2006). 2. While Raessens includes only “serious” games designed for instructional or political purposes in his discussion of the documentary computer game genre, I would argue that some mainstream console games—namely shooter games depicting historical war scenarios—may be considered documentary as well. Based upon the responses of the study participants, the attention paid to accuracy and authenticity within the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor communities closely resembles that of “serious” documentary games such as JFK Reloaded and 9–11 Survivor. 3. This theory, known as the “third person effect,” states that a person who is exposed to persuasive mass communication will believe the message will have a greater effect on others than on himself or herself (Davison, 1983) 4. In his chapter on encoding/decoding, Hall makes a rather rigid distinction between “dominant,” “negotiated,” and “oppositional” readings. While such hard-and-fast categories are not particularly useful here, the more general value of Hall’s model is the agency it grants audience members to interpret media texts from their own individual, contextual vantage points.

References Barthes, R. (1972). Mythologies (A. Lavers, Trans.). New York: Hill and Wang. Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Davison, W.P. (1983). The third-person effect in communication. Public Opinion Quarterly, 47(1): 1–15. Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks (Q. Hoare and G.N. Smith, eds. & trans.). New York: International Publishers. Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/decoding. In S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe, and P. Willis (eds.) Culture, media, language (pp. 128–138). London: Hutchinson. Huntemann, N. (2004). Militarism and video games: An interview with Nina Huntemann. Media Education Foundation. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from news/articles/militarism. Leonard, D. (2004). Unsettling the military entertainment complex: Video games and a pedagogy of peace. Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, 4(4). Retrieved May 1, 2008, from leonard3.html. MacDonald, J.F. (1978). Cold War entertainment in fifties’television. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 7(1): 3–31. Machin, D. and van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Computer games as political discourse: The case of Black Hawk Down. Journal of Language and Politics, 4(1): 119–141.

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Nieborg, D.B. (2006). Mods, nay! Tournaments, yay!: The appropriation of contemporary game culture by the U.S. Military. Fibreculture Journal, 8. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from Nye, J.S. (2003, January 10). Propaganda isn’t the way: Soft power. The International Herald Tribune, p. 6. Raessens, J. (2006). Reality play: Documentary computer games beyond fact and fiction. Popular Communication, 4(3): 213–224. Smith, J. (1975). Looking away: Hollywood and Vietnam. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Stallabrass, J. (1993). Just gaming: Allegory and economy in computer games. New Left Review, 198: 83–106. Video game charts [data file]. Available from Westwell, G. (2006). War cinema: Hollywood on the front line. London: Wallflower Press. (2006). President Bush addresses American Legion National Convention. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from releases/2006/08/20060831-1.html.

Chapter 11

“F*ck You, Noob Tube!” Learning the Art of Ludic LAN War Matthew Thomas Payne

Introducing Ludic War “F*ck You, Noob Tube!”Wait. Me? Oh, no. I had been called out publicly in this, my very first night in the field. I had unknowingly committed some unwritten gameplay foul that marked me as somehow different from the dozens of other video gamers playing Call of Duty 4 (2007), a multiplayer, military-themed game during LANopolis’ all-night party.1 Unfortunately, it took me some time to finally understand what it was that I had done to elicit such a barbed response from a fellow gamer (a young man, whom I would later come to know as Lee). I will return to this story in the chapter’s latter half to answer the related questions, just what is a “noob tube” exactly, and, more significantly, why does something like a “noob tube” exist, or need to exist? This work examines how video gamers relate to each other while engaging in “ludic war” in a commercial LAN gaming center. This is an ambitious study for several reasons. First, this work presents the findings of an ethnographic study that investigates the elusive and liminal activity of video gameplay. “Play” is not only an ambiguous concept generally, as Brian Sutton-Smith (1997) ably demonstrates, but play in this case transcends experiential worlds; or, as T.L.Taylor (2006) frames the issue of online video gameplay, gamers play “between worlds”: between the physical and the mediated, between the factual and the fictional. Second, this study coins the concept of “ludic war,” and attempts to locate its social articulation in a dynamic, commercial play space that supports a variety of video games powered by different technologies.A third, but by no means final, challenge, is that the fieldwork demands that I become a participant observer in this collaborative and competitive space to report on the expressions found in its on- and offline worlds. This ethnography accordingly mixes participant observation with informal interviews to author as complete a picture as possible given the space’s changing populations, the range of video games played, and players’ communications that flow between the single, material gaming center and the multiple, virtual worlds it facilitates.

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This study defines “ludic war” as the activity of playing war or military-themed video games alone or with others.2 Ludic war owes its primary conceptualization to two markedly different works.The first is Jesper Juul’s (2005) thesis that video games enjoy a “half-real” status. Juul contends that video games are “half-real” because they engender an experiential liminality that combines real game rules with a fictional game universe.Truly immersive and engrossing games, according to Juul, are those where the interactive diegesis (the fictional universe) effaces the game’s rules and operations. Fictional, in this case, does not mean that the games represent only unreal or fantastic topics or genres (e.g., fantasy, science fiction), but that the game experience is itself a manufactured fiction. Indeed, what makes many video games compelling, including the military-themed games explored in this collection, are their faithful replication of real-world facts, photo-realistic imagery, and the simulation of physical processes and military tactics. Ludic war’s other conceptual building block is Robin Luckham’s (1984) notion of “armament culture.” According to Luckham, this cultural complex is based “on the fetishism of the advanced weapons system” and it “arises out of interlinked developments in advanced capitalism, the state and the modern war system” (p. 1). The author carefully differentiates armament culture from militarism—the spread of warlike values—and militarization—the ability of the military sector to usurp a society’s resources. Luckham argues that “Weapon systems penetrate our consciousness through the images manufactured by the armament complex and through a whole range of cultural commodities—from toy guns to videogames to war novels—on which these images are imprinted” (p. 2). There is one shortcoming in Luckham’s (1984) argument that bears quick mention. The scholar appears to assume an unproblematic (and, indeed, unsubstantiated) ideology transfer from military text to media user. For example, he states: “Armament culture lulls [consumers] into accepting their status as passive targets of weapons.And their subordination is reinforced by ideologies that stress their isolation and powerlessness” (p. 4). I am reluctant to wholly accept this claim since cultural critics have largely jettisoned this version of false consciousness— the idea of the wholly passive media consumer—and any related “hypodermic needle” model of media reception. On this point, Luckham’s otherwise adept analysis errs by granting too much power to military-inflected culture to penetrate and colonize users’ minds, and not nearly enough to consumers’ practices.3 Despite its perhaps overly deterministic framing, Luckham’s “armament culture” remains a productive concept precisely because it enables us to consider how cultural goods agree with a military logic even when there are no easily discernible ties linking toys or games with government or defense firms, or when leisure pursuits (such as video gaming) do not take place within obviously militarized contexts.4 Ludic war, or playing war together through military-themed video games, combines rule-dependent play with a set of texts that are thoroughly marked as

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representing armament culture.The analytical utility of this novel term is that it acknowledges the active production of a lived and shared fiction by gamers, while simultaneously recognizing that extant institutions, such as the U.S. military, wield considerable social force in circulating and promulgating ideologically rich messages and values in contemporary society.The ludic war experience is hence a co-creation of gamer and game, of user and of text. Yet ludic wars, fictional as their digital firefights may be, are played in real-world spaces and in specific social and technological configurations. In fact, video gameplay—militarized or otherwise—does not unfold in uniform social settings. Video gaming’s varied play arenas thus also demand appropriate recognition and contextualization in any comprehensive cultural critique. In other words, the where (i.e., social setting) and the how (i.e., social relations) must be considered alongside the what (i.e., video game text) of gameplay, as well as its connection to the culturally dominant symbolic regimes (i.e., armament culture, in this case). This is precisely the juncture of military-themed games, armament culture, and commercial game space that this chapter examines.This chapter asks: How does the LAN (local area network) gaming center’s layout impact gamers’ interactions with one another? And, what are the codes and conventions of social gameplay that emerge in this play forum dominated by first-person shooter (FPS) games? In other words, how do the games and play context engender ludic war experiences for gamers? As the chapters in this collection attest, there is a persistently blurry line separating the mediated worlds of virtual war from the real world of mediated play. But the fact that these two realms are not existentially or ontologically coterminous does not mean that they do not share common communicative expressions.5 Marx’s “sensuous labor,” or the ways in which capitalist logic reproduces itself in non-economically productive work—gameplay in this case—is evident in the ways players relate to one another in their offline, physical game space. Said differently, power hierarchies in fictional, war-torn synthetic worlds are reified and replayed in the real world. As I will explore shortly, established dominance in virtual battlefields migrates to the offline world as players enforce social rules and dictum, and police and mark others when they fail to play as expected (i.e., play like a “noob tube”). In what follows, I examine LAN gamers’ social practices when playing two military-themed games: Call of Duty 4 (2007) and Counter-Strike: Source (2004). I am restricting my analysis in this manner because these games are among the most popular titles played at the gaming center, they are two of the most popular first-person shooter games generally, and it productively limits my observations to the ludic war activity in this space. It bears underscoring, however, that this is not the only play activity that unfolds in this multimedia gaming center.As will be explained shortly, the site supports a variety of gaming configurations for a range

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of media-based activities.This chapter’s observations are culled from field notes collected over six “all-night” (10 pm to 10 am) gaming marathons where I participated in various multiplayer video games, from numerous afternoon visits during non-peak hours, and from informal interviews conducted with the patrons and with the management of LANopolis. The Lay of the LANopolis Entering LANopolis for the first time can be a disorienting experience.The gaming center, which is sandwiched between a liquor store and a dentist office in a strip mall in a medium-sized Texas city, does not welcome the uninitiated with directions for participating in its arcade-like venue.The signs on the front door state simply, “PC Repair, Upgrades” and “XBOX 360 & PC Gaming.” More telling is the interlocking tapestry of faded game posters that cover the large windows on either side of the front door. Not only do these sun-bleached advertisements signal that this is a gaming establishment but they also function as ad hoc blinds, keeping the sun and heat out of a room that requires limited illumination and a cool climate. Inside, LANopolis’ main room is a 1,500 square foot “L-shaped” open space with concrete floors, yellow walls (which are largely unadorned with pictures or artwork), and high ceilings with exposed ductwork and ceiling fans. The reason for the Spartan décor, and for the lack of illumination generally, is that the room privileges the one device that truly populates the space—video screens. Upon first entering the room late one evening, I was immediately stunned by the range of concurrent gaming activities and the amount of ambient video light emanating from video screens throughout the room.The disparate gaming activities, coupled with the lack of signage or a greeter, does little to guide the uninitiated on where they should go, whom they should approach, or directions that might otherwise put them at ease. It is even difficult for LANopolis’ gaming veterans to navigate through the throng of bodies during the center’s peak hours: there are friends playing at the stand-up arcade games near the front door, patrons seated shoulder-to-shoulder at card tables supporting their own desktops and laptops,6 and onlookers peering over the shoulders of gamers playing with the Xbox 360 and Wii against the room’s back wall. Once I squeeze my way to LANopolis’ main desk and cash register at the “elbow” (and thus center) of the “L-shaped” room, I encounter one of the center’s few pieces of signage. It is a dry erase board that lists upcoming events, the prices of snacks and drinks (no outside food or beverages are allowed), and fees for the various services. Along the room’s longest wall are twenty high-end PCs (personal computers) loaded with a bevy of popular games across genres.This PC bank is one of the few features that cannot move, and it is the main hardwired attraction for many of LANopolis’ clientele. Along the shorter walls are a pair of

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flat screen monitors, and a large video projector screen, each of which sports oversized beanbag chairs for gamers to lounge and nap on. LANopolis’ general design and range of services match accounts of LAN cafés elsewhere (see Beavis et al., 2005; Jansz and Martens, 2005; Beavis and Charles, 2007). While the expensive equipment (e.g., PCs, high-definition LCD monitors) is tethered to the room’s perimeter, the open floor plan can be easily reconfigured for the clientele’s changing needs. For example, card tables and power strips are brought out for the all-night marathon sessions, and other events, such as tournaments and private parties, can easily be hosted at LANopolis. Such spatial malleability serves at least two needs. First, because LANopolis is not always running at peak hours, the company supplements its income by accommodating a variety of requests. According to the owner,Thomas Christopherson, a lifelong video gamer himself, LAN centers must provide a diversity of services and maximize their space in order to remain financially viable. As if to confirm this business truism, LANopolis’ closest competitor (located 20 miles to the north), went out of business during the writing of this chapter. The second benefit to the space’s multiplicity of uses is that it permits the players, especially during the all-night marathons, to make themselves comfortable in this otherwise austere and utilitarian space. Moving small tables around, logging onto computers next to their friends, and watching movies and sports on the big screens while sprawled out on beanbag chairs encourage gamers to consume a wealth of media together and at their leisure. Such a dynamic and emergent room also complements the liminal nature of the gaming experience itself; the movement between worlds is mirrored in the gamers’ transition between a host of mediated activities in a transformable room. Beavis and Charles (2007) draw an interesting connection between the LAN café’s physical space and the gamers’ identity work, stating: “As ‘real life’ physical locations, LAN cafés provide sites where on- and off-line presence, identities and communities overlap and merge as players engage in online play and tournaments with seen and unseen others, and participate in the jointly constructed textual world of the game” (p. 693). LANopolis, like the game modes and control settings in most contemporary video games, is customizable, and as a consequence the space is, at any moment, what the players make it—physically and socially. The foregoing description of LANopolis mirrors similar reports about LAN cafés, but what about the site’s physical connection to ludic war? As should be clear, there is no necessary connection between LANopolis’ multipurpose spatial configuration and the activity of ludic war. Said differently, virtual warring is not some foregone consequence of playing video games in a LAN setting.Yet this is not the whole story either. Unlike most commercial businesses, LANopolis facilitates emergent play with and through a range of games, including military video games, providing the right conditions for ludic LAN wars to unfold. Ludic war is therefore

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a contingent social activity that is symbolically militarized through the use of specific games. It is to these games that this chapter now turns. Lessons from the Ludic Trenches Call of Duty 4 and Counter-Strike are modern-era, military-themed games of the first-person shooter genre that may be played alone and offline, or with others online from remote locations, or together in LAN settings.These two games are especially popular among the regular gamers at LANopolis. Players select game modes in these titles that set the objectives for that play session. Common multiplayer game modes include “team deathmatch,” where teams work to rack up more kills than the other; “capture-the-flag,” where teams move an item from one location to another; and “tactical” or “hardcore” where players cannot re-spawn (are not allowed to play again) after they are killed, thereby dramatically increasing the challenge. Success in any of these team-based modes is predicated largely on adept hand–eye coordination, possessing more than a passing familiarity with the games and their maps, and quickly and effectively communicating with teammates. After playing alongside LANopolis’ best players for many, many hours, I can relate some of the foremost lessons of playing ludic war at this LAN center. Interestingly, only some of these “lessons” have to do with the games proper, as others are about communication and social comportment. I learned what I am labeling here ludic collaboration, technology fetishism, and the discourse of domination.These observational headings are not categorical in nature, but have emerged out of my seventy-plus hours of playing with and against others in Call of Duty 4 and Counter-Strike. Ludic Collaboration

There is arguably no gameplay “lesson” more pronounced than the need to communicate with teammates when engaged in ludic war. One can opt to play solo missions in some military-themed games, and there are plenty of single-player game options available at LANopolis. However, the overwhelming attractions of this gaming center (and others like it) are the high-end PCs that support the resource-demanding, multiplayer combat-oriented games. Ludic collaboration is defined here as the chatter and strategizing that occur between gamers before, during, and after their virtual firefights.The overwhelming majority of my initial conversations with fellow gamers concerned matters immediately related to the combat tasks at hand. During my first multiplayer battle in Call of Duty 4, I teamed up with a young man of a slight build named Germ who sported small round glasses and messy brown hair. Many players in LANopolis use their online handles, and Germ is no different.7 After inviting me to join his team, Germ, who was seated immediately

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to my left along the long row of networked PCs, and without taking his eyes off his own screen, coached me through what equipment choices I ought to make to best complement his (now) four-man force. We were competing against a proficient two-person team, led by Lee (his gamer handle), a slightly portly man in his early 20s. Lee, who is no stranger to LANopolis or Call of Duty 4, enjoys boasting of his virtual exploits to his dispatched enemies, his teammates, and anyone within earshot. During our pitched battles with Lee’s outnumbered but well-coordinated team, Germ would often lean over and point to various elements on my screen suggesting where I can hide, find good firing positions, and otherwise try to outmaneuver and outthink Lee and his teammate. I was surprised to find that knowing your opponent is almost as useful as being familiar with the game and its control system. Our team’s on- and offline communications are in line with Manninen’s (2003) observations concerning the diversity of peer-to-peer communications in a multiplayer setting.Throughout this and the following battles, we would often find ourselves complimenting each other’s gameplay. Phrases like “Dude, nice kill!” and “Thanks, you saved my ass!” are common exclamations during LANopolis’ virtual battles. Another notable example of ludic collaboration occurred when two teenage friends, Sam and Max, who were both deeply immersed in a combat game that they had never played before, tried to best an obstacle together.8 Max was certain that he could move his character into a more advantageous spot on the map by using his rocket launcher as a propulsion device. Sam, who was not initially convinced of this seemingly suicidal scheme, scooted his chair to Max’s computer so as to solve this riddle together. After a few minutes of experimentation, the earlier trials of which resulted in Max killing himself repeatedly, the pair successfully launched Max’s avatar (his digital character or proxy) onto a narrow, hard-to-reach ledge.This success was celebrated with raised fists, and with Sam’s shouting, “F*ckin’ sweet rocket jump!” Together, the two had explored the affordances of a weapon for something other than virtual maiming. Technology Fetishism

The second lesson of playing ludic war is that having the right equipment, or knowing what equipment one ought to have, is perceived as a vital, if not sacred, knowledge. Technology fetishism in the case of LAN gaming is interesting because it pertains to the specific strategies of collaborative gameplay as well as the PC hardware and technologies that run these games. Because you can equip yourself with increasingly better equipment, either by leveling up in Call of Duty 4 or through buying yourself more powerful arms in Counter-Strike, understanding what weapons are ideally suited for a map and game mode is a prized and respected knowledge. For example, there is an definite advantage to knowing which maps

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are better for long-range weapons and those that are better for close-quarters weapons; when to use certain munitions and when to conserve them; and how to outflank and find cover in a variety of combat scenarios.These games demonstrate, round after round, that all warfighting technologies are not created equal, and that their affordances change according to the game situation. This is the reason why, on my first night in LANopolis, I was accused of being a “noob tube,” or someone who improperly uses a grenade launcher. I had deployed it in an unconventional setting—namely, inside a narrow hallway. My tactical miscalculation was not labeled as a form of experimentation, like the Sam and Max example, but as a decision that called into question my knowledge of wargaming and my identity as a “proper” team player.Thus, in addition to drawing attention to my blunder, this public labeling censures and marks the accused as one who either does not belong in that setting (virtual and/or physical), or is ignorant of unofficial (but no less operative) ludic war protocols.This latter point receives full attention in the chapter’s final subsection. I was surprised to find that the attendees’ collective preoccupation with understanding weapon technologies and team tactics extends beyond the virtual battlefields to the PC hardware. This interest is, at least in part, practically motivated by wanting to maximize one’s pay-to-play investment at LANopolis. There are (at most) only two individuals, the owner and the manager, who field the various technical questions and requests. Knowing how to troubleshoot a PC, or navigate a complex setup screen is useful knowledge in a setting where help is not always immediately available.Yet this shared interest in understanding highend PC gadgets and uncritically celebrating the latest and “greatest” wares reflects a deeper cultural issue as well. Not unlike the military-themed games’ basic play logics, this unreflective adulation of newer and “better” consumer wares suggests that for every problem there is a technological solution—be it a better video card or a smarter weapons system. At least some technical rationality exists, then, on both sides of the video screen: that is, both on the fictional battlefield (e.g., one should have the “right” weapon selected for the “right” scenario), and in the climatecontrolled, networked space of LANopolis (e.g., this hardware is “naturally” better for this particular game).The instrumentality that is endemic to ludic LAN war play is complemented by the incessant drive to constantly outfit one’s computer with additional gadgets, thereby weighing technological advances (and “progress”) over critical reflection about said upgrades or their related techno-social processes (e.g., planned obsolescence, technological rationality). A quick qualification about this concept’s invocation is in order. Like the perhaps too simplistic ideology transfer in Luckham’s “armament culture” concept, I am reluctant to fully embrace technological rationality for fear that it might predetermine my future field notes, and that it may introduce an unduly deterministic concept into the analysis; that playing military games in a LAN setting

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necessarily reflects or contributes to this cultural condition. Taking these caveats seriously, this analysis moves forward cautiously with a belief that technological fetishism and its related technological rationality are a prevailing and evident attitude that emerges when military-themed titles are played in this particular techno-social configuration. I offer two examples of how technological fetishism and playing war complement one another. The first example comes from an interview with LANopolis’ owner, and the second is from a conversation in which one young gamer attempts to impress his peers with his knowledge about PC upgrades. Thomas Christopherson has been LANopolis’ owner-operator since the company opened its doors in June 2006.A broad-shouldered white man in his late 30s, Christopherson wanted to fill what he saw as his city’s need for a full-time computer gaming center. Christopherson, who is believed to be overly gruff by some of the gamers, is a self-assured businessman who frequently looks for corporate alliances with PC hardware and software companies. Scratching his small, dark goatee, he explains LANopolis’ ability to survive when other similar businesses have failed, stating directly, “I know what I’m doing. I know what’s involved.” Christopherson claims that LANopolis has just over four thousand open accounts, with only a handful of duplicates, and that the all-night events typically attract thirty to forty gamers; an estimate that agrees with my observations. Christopherson believes that PC gaming is unique amongst gaming platforms, and that there is something inherently special about the technology that makes it more appealing to dedicated gamers. He states: “PC gaming is more complicated. There’s more to do. PC games migrate to the consoles. They always have, they always will. If you’re serious about gaming you play on a PC.You don’t play on a Mac or a console.”9 This sentiment was echoed more forcefully by a gamer late one night when he mocked another gamer’s home computer saying, “Your computer sucks. Macs are gay!” For Christopherson, and for many of LANopolis’ patrons, high-quality multiplayer gaming happens on PCs because the technology can support the newest and most resource-demanding games, and, thus, the “best” ludic LAN war experiences. Christopherson sees PCs and PC gaming as quasi-therapeutic tools for working through anxieties and natural (though primarily male) desires to exact violence.The owner asks rhetorically: “But what do [war video] games do? They take the pain out of fighting.” He pauses, then continues, “But what you can’t do is take the fight out of people.We’ve been doing it for far too long. It’s going to come out somehow. At least this way it’s safe.” He points to the gamers playing behind him during our mid-afternoon interview, noting: “These guys play these games all the time, but we’ve never once had an act of violence [at LANopolis]. It just doesn’t happen. If you’re being annoying someone might tell you to shut-up, but that’s it.”Violent video gaming is a healthy, if not natural, pursuit for Christopherson. Interestingly, the owner’s intuitive beliefs mirror Jeffrey Goldstein’s (1995) work

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on violent toy play. After mapping out the general approaches to the topic, Goldstein advocates that scholars ought to conduct more research in natural settings (e.g., like a LAN center) to test the variety of ways in which war toys are taken up. Goldstein notes: We can see that many needs may be satisfied in war play, most of them having little or nothing to do with aggression per se.Among them we have suggested curiosity; exploration; coping; anxiety and fear reduction; self regulation of cognitive, emotional, and psychological states; and social identity. All social play occurs simultaneously at different levels of explanation and activity. (p. 141) Moving off topic slightly, Christopherson opines about public officials’ preoccupation with violent games: “You know, people like Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton, they want to cut off our balls. What we need is less government regulation, not more. [Military and war video games are] an easy target.That’s why the press and politicians attack violent video games and gamers.” Not surprisingly, the gaming center’s owner speaks forcefully about gaming critics and to a moral panic in popular discourse that threatens his business, livelihood, and lifelong leisure pursuit. The second example of technological fetishism occurred when I overheard Scott, a young teen with seemingly boundless energy, trying to impress his fellow gamers with his knowledge of PC hardware and his family’s affluence. Resting on his knees while propped up on a beanbag chair, Scott addressed his peers’ backs as they all stared at their respective monitors while engaged in virtual combat. Scott did not allow this collective sign of lack of interest dissuade him from his task at hand, and—with detail that I am unable to reiterate because of its technological specificity—Scott launched into an argumentative foray explaining exactly how he planned to “mod” (or modify) his family’s home computer which was purportedly worth, “at least, $5,000.” To no one in particular, Scott proposed an alternative plan that would allow him to transform an existing “Alienware” computer system, a PC brand that is custom designed for high-performance gaming, for just under $10,000. His plans were met by polite if perfunctory “OKs” and “yups” as the elder gamers did not pull themselves away from their screens. Scott was not deterred by their collective lack of interest. However, he might not have noticed this fact either, as he was seemingly lost in thought, preoccupied with counting out on his hands the various PC components he needed to build his ideal gaming rig. It is remarkable that Christopherson and Scott, LANopolis’ oldest and youngest players, spoke in different ways to the PC know-how needed to fit into a social scene that values the instrumental knowledge needed to facilitate “proper” ludic wars.

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Discourse of Domination

Playing video games in LANopolis also teaches players how to perform as players, and how to police and mark others when they deviate from presumed norms. Perhaps the most obvious demographic characteristic of the all-night gamers is that they are almost all white and male.And because LANopolis is such a markedly homosocial space, it plays host to tacit and explicit displays of braggadocio, machismo, sexism, racism and homophobia. At no point in my fieldwork have I seen more than six women or girls in the space at any one time. One evening I did watch three women playing World of Warcraft (2004), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, with one another. But like most women at LANopolis, they left well before midnight.10 The paucity of women at LANopolis reflects similar accounts. For example, Beavis and Charles (2007) state:“Within LAN cafés and LAN gaming, girl gamers stand out by virtue of their rarity and physical presence” (p. 693). Upon first entering LANopolis, women and girls are met with pronounced and protracted male glances. Girls and women who do not play generally spent their time watching their boyfriends play, or relaxing before one of the many screens and watching a movie or television program. More than once I found myself seated on the couch next to the only girls in LANopolis while taking periodic breaks from the frenetic team-based fighting.Tracy, a late-teen with long brown hair and a love for phone texting, and I both sighed audibly as the LCD monitor that we were watching was changed from TBS’s running of Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) to an input channel for another Xbox 360 setup.Tracy sighed because she lost her show. I sighed because it meant I had to return to more ludic warring. When asked about LANopolis’ conspicuous lack of female gamers, Christopherson responded: Some women come in here, but not many. Often they’re either girlfriends, or they’re mothers dropping off their kids.They’ll hang out and play the arcade games—Dance,Dance,Revolution or Rock Band—but no they’re not playing Call of Duty 4 or Team Fortress 2 [another team-based, first-person shooter game]. That’s combat, that’s what the guys play. With women and gaming, they’re into the more exclusively social games. They want to talk and trade and strategize.Yeah, they want to talk . . . they’ll probably talk you to death. [Laughs to himself.] Because women, girls, and people of color are so notably absent, certain social conventions are jettisoned to make room for a highly gendered, LAN-specific discourse that privileges domination to egalitarianism. LANopolis’ gamers deal with infractions of gaming etiquette, as well as more general social violations, in ways that reveal the concerns that this gaming configuration values.The extent to

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which ludic war is or is not replicated in the exchanges I have witnessed is not entirely clear to me yet. However, it stands to reason that the quickly alternating defensive and offensive postures in wargames, along with the gameplay hierarchies that are established after repeated battles, escape their virtual bounds and finds articulation in the gamers’ exchanges with one another. Of course, when asked about it, the gamers say that they are “just playing,” “being silly,” or that they are simply “having a good time.” This analysis does not challenge those basic assertions but seeks instead to complicate them, arguing that the often barbed LAN discourse communicates more than gamers purport, and that their exchanges are a means of policing one another’s transgressions.There are at least three different types of social violations that I have witnessed at LANopolis—playful, tolerable, and inviolable—which are categorized according to the response to the infraction, not the infraction proper. Playful transgressions are virtual and real-world exchanges where gamers humorously irritate or provoke one another. These verbal and ludic sparring matches are understood to be joking by all parties, and are part of the experience of playing against one another generally (i.e., the equivalent of “trash talking”). For instance, during a warm-up round of Counter-Strike, Sam yelled “Knife Fight!” indicating that all the participating combatants were to only use their knives.The rest of the players quickly parroted the call. However, this self-imposed edict was quickly abandoned after Sam’s opponent shot him with an assault rifle. Incredulously he yelled, “You shot me, bitch!” To which Lee responded, “Well, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight!” “But we’re playing knife fight!,” Sam pleaded. This exchange was met with collective laughter. Another playful transgression is the mocking (or “flaming”) of games that are not sufficiently masculine, or that are somehow substandard in terms of their gameplay. “Hard core” gamers—a label that many of LANopolis’ regulars wear proudly—are known for sometimes deriding Nintendo-brand games, which often cater to “casual gamers” (a marketing demographic), because of their ease of use and their typically lighter subject matter. One evening a young man began playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), a popular cartoonish fighting game for Nintendo’s Wii system, against LANopolis’ back wall.After a few moments he was the target of ribbing from nearby PC users who believe that the game is for “babies and sissies.” Tolerable transgressions are off-color conversations and banter that are generally not heard or sanctioned in public settings.The majority of these expressions are, on their face, little more than name-calling.Yet what makes this type of exchange “tolerable” is that gamers are labeling each other as marginalized or presently absent groups. And because nearly all the players at the all-night gaming sessions identify as young, white, straight men, the verbal jabs are often racist, homophobic, and/or sexist. I will offer one example of each, in respective order.

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When playing Call of Duty 4 as the “Op-For” (the opposing force) whose avatars are coded as Arab, Lee and his team often erupt in a celebratory Arabic Zalghouta chant (sounds like “Yalalalalalala!”), mimicking the impassioned cries of Middle Easterners often depicted in films and in news coverage. Obviously, this performance bears strikingly close resemblance to kids making stereotypical Native-American “hoots” during a game of “Cowboys and Indians.” A second example happens late into the night as the younger boys become self-conscious and hyperaware of the space’s increasingly homosocial constitution.The younger gamers describe LANopolis as a “sausage porkfest,” and warn one another not to fall asleep for fear of being “made gay” (i.e., sexually assaulted). One last troubling example is that the verb “rape” is often used to describe the complete domination of one player at the hands of another.As Lee was divvying up the available players while spearheading an informal Call of Duty 4 tournament, he quipped to a teammate, “I’m glad we’re together. I don’t like to rape my friends.” As one who participates regularly in online FPS games played from my home, I can confirm that this verbal threat is neither an isolated incident, nor restricted to LAN gaming. The third category—inviolable transgressions—include expressions that are a direct affront to the in-group (the LAN gamers themselves), or violate sacrosanct play principles. Bobby, a black teen with shiny short dreadlocks, confronted an acquaintance when he overheard the latter boy say, “F*ck dat nigga!” Although this charged phrase was not directed at Bobby, he nevertheless interceded and asked the white boy, “What do you mean?” Realizing quickly what he had said, the white boy replied, “Nothing. Never mind.”To which Bobby said, “Alright, but watch it.”Wanting to put the issue to rest, the white boy responded, “We’re cool, we’re cool.” Another sacrosanct rule is the prohibition against cheating, either by performing a software “hack” or by surreptitiously watching someone else’s screen (known as “screen peeking” or “screen hacking”), to gain an unfair play advantage. Periodically, shouts of “Hack!” and “Hacking!” spread in LANopolis, at which point gamers stationed at PCs turn around to see if anyone holds an unfair advantage over what is perceived to be private information.There is a similar unofficial ban on “griefing” or trying to ruin the game for all involved by wildly deviating from the rules (e.g., purposefully getting killed, or killing one’s teammates). In all likelihood, Lee called me a “noob tube” because he thought that I was purposefully trying to cause trouble when I fired my rocket-propelled grenade in a narrow hallway. Although I did not know what I was doing at the time, I was shocked at how quickly I was called out for my online behavior in this offline space. I continue to be stunned by the behaviors that elicit pointed criticisms, and the manifold slurs that fly under the proverbial radar precisely because they are about people outside of LANopolis.

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No Laughing Matter While others in this collection have drawn explicit linkages between gamers’ thoughts about war and the military and wargames they play, this analysis offers an ethnographic description examining the social environment created in a single, commercial gaming space. Clearly, the foregoing discussion is particular to LANopolis and is not generalizable to other venues or populations. One can easily imagine, and some have no doubt played at, similar arcade-like venues that differ considerably from LANopolis. It also bears repeating that there were and continue to be gaming opportunities besides the popular FPS games at my research site.Yet what makes the study of Counter-Strike and Call of Duty 4 gameplay in LANopolis so intriguing, sociologically speaking, is the way in which the publicly performed ludic warring dominates the space—effectively marginalizing the other gaming experiences—and substantially prefigures how (it is assumed that) virtual combatants ought to play with one another. In LANopolis, ludic war commonly escapes its mediated bounds to find discursive expression in this shared physical space, becoming an operative and regulatory force in the players’ lives.The games, the players, and the mode of technological connectivity and mediation (i.e., the LAN) all coalesce at this gaming site to overdetermine a social milieu that is highly gendered, classed, and overwhelmingly hetero-normative. I conclude with a gamer’s somewhat failed attempt at humor.As Lee returns to his PC setup with another energy drink in hand during one of the summer’s allnight gaming sessions, he tells a joke to the gamer sitting next to him. “You know,” begins Lee, taking a conspicuously loud slurp from his tall beverage, “I like my C4 [an explosive device popular in many combat games], like I like my women . . .” He pauses for dramatic effect, but then blanks. He fumbles unsuccessfully for the punch line, evoking premature laughter from his small audience. “Wait, hold on,” he protests, as he struggles to formulate the joke’s conclusion, while wiping excess energy drink from his lip. “I know,” he continues, “I like them in small, tight packages that are ready to blow.” He then punctuates this belabored finale by using his hands to mimic a mushroom explosion with its accompanying sound. Donning a self-satisfied grin and his oversized earphones, Lee returns to his gaming menu and preps for the next firefight.This botched off-color joke encapsulates many of my field findings to date about the power of the three-way nexus of military games, technology, and a hard-core, male gaming community to engender a gaming space that operates under an unwritten but nevertheless understood ludic war code that polices play inside and outside of its virtual battlefields. Notes 1. LANopolis is the pseudonym for my research site. The participants’ names, as well as the gaming center’s title, have been changed to protect their identities.

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2. French philosopher and play theorist Roger Caillois (2001) argues that “ludus” and “paidia” are opposite poles of the same play spectrum. This chapter employs ludus, or the rule-based notion of play, and not paidia, the unbounded and frolicsome idea of play, because the experience of playing video games is at all times mediated by some gameplay-specific rule structure (even if said rules are fairly open-ended). I am elaborating on the concept of ludic war in my current dissertation work, where I hope to draw additional social, institutional, and textual connections between militarism and video gameplay. This current chapter’s methodological tack and critique, however, is primarily inspired and informed by the critical ethnographic tradition (see, Foley [1990, 1995, 2002], and Foley and Valenzuela [2005]), critical communication theory (see, Habermas [1985], Marcuse [1991], Gramsci [1971], and Silverstone [1999]), and video game and new media scholarship that accounts for the varied social and material contexts of gameplay (see, Bryce and Rutter [2003, 2005], Mayra [2007], and Turkle [1984]). 3. This deterministic framing also presumes an ideological uniformity on the textual side. It is unlikely that video games, even military-themed video games, will always suggest single, uniform readings. It is far more likely that because video gameplay is an interactive experience engaged in for pleasure, competition, escape, and social connection (among other motivations), it operates hegemonically and not strictly ideologically. In other words, cultural hegemony (Gramsci, 1971) is successful because it relies on consent and coercion (which accords to a popular “commonsense” discourse), and not on physical force. It is unlikely, indeed, that gamers at LANopolis have been forced to attend against their wills. On a related note, see Lowood (2008) for an excellent discussion of how military video game modifications allow gamers to articulate a range of post-9/11 anxieties. 4. I also wonder to what extent playing with armament culture is a way of working through anxieties related to the fear of using or being used by weapons systems— either as a facilitator (e.g., soldier, trainer, system technician) or as a target (e.g., terrorist, enemy combatant). The occasional ideological ambiguities of militarythemed games point to what Fredric Jameson calls the “utopian impulses” (i.e., transcendent qualities) and the “manipulatory functions” (i.e., ideological control) of culture industry-created texts (2000, pp. 142–143). Indeed, entertainment media commonly express multiple, and occasionally contradictory, desires. 5. It is difficult to imagine how any virtual world would be intelligible if it did not contain some similarities (e.g., symbolic, representational, aural) to our own. 6. Patrons bring in their own computers during BYOC, or “bring your own computer,” events to use their own hardware while taking advantage of the site’s fast connectivity and social forum. 7. My personal gamer moniker is Ludology, meaning “the study of games.” No gamers have yet called me out on this “meta” nickname, but they also do not address me as Ludology. They all seem to prefer the shorter, “Lude,” instead. 8. I believe that the game they were playing was Unreal Tournament 3 (1997), a fantastic combat game that is both similar to and different from military-themed games. While there are important textual and generic differences, I believe that the shared, collaborative learning is not necessarily game- or genre-specific. 9. Interestingly, Christopherson blames the public relations beating that PCs have taken on journalists, whom he sees as ardent Mac devotees. “The Mac elite are also popular journalists. They love their Macs. It’s a cult. That’s why PCs are so

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disparaged. But they don’t know what they’re talking about. Gaming doesn’t happen on Macs.” 10. Perhaps the least scientific but nevertheless telling physical marker in LANopolis was the state of toilet in its single, unisex bathroom. At no point after midnight did I ever see it with the lid in the down position, and by the early morning hours some of the gamers did not even feel the need to shut the door.

References Beavis, C., Nixon, H., and Atkinson, S. (2005, March). LAN Cafés: cafés, places of gathering or sites of informal teaching and learning? Education, Communication, & Information, 5(1): 41–60. Beavis, C. and Charles, C. (2007, November). Would the “real” girl gamer please stand up? Gender, LAN cafés, and the reformulation of the “girl” gamer. Gender and Education, 19(6): 691–705. Bryce, J. and Rutter, J. (2003). Gender dynamics and the social and spatial organization of computer gaming. Leisure Studies, 22: 1–15. Bryce, J. and Rutter, J. (2005). Gendered gaming in gendered space. In J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (eds.), Handbook of computer game studies (pp. 301–310). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play, and games (Meyer Barash, Trans.). Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Foley, D.E. (1990). Learning capitalist culture: Deep in the heart of Tejas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Foley, D.E. (1995). The Heartland chronicles. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Foley, D.E. (2002). Critical ethnography: the reflexive turn. Qualitative Studies in Ethnography, 15(5): 469–490. Foley, D.E. and Valenzuela, A. (2005). Critical ethnography: The politics of collaboration. In Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 217–234). New York: Sage. Goldstein, J. (1995). Aggressive toy play. In Anthony D. Pellegrini (ed.), The future of play theory: A multidisciplinary inquiry into the contributions of Brian Sutton-Smith. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks. New York: International Publishers. Habermas, J. (1985). The theory of communicative action. Vol. 1. Reason and the rationalization of society. Boston: Beacon Press. Jameson, F. (2000). Reification and utopia in mass culture. In M. Hardt and K. Weeks (eds.), The Jameson reader (pp. 142–143). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Jansz, J. and Martens, L. (2005). Gaming at a LAN Event: The social context of playing video games. New Media Society, 7(3): 333–355. Juul, J. (2005). Half-real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Lowood, H. (2008). Impotence and agency: Computer games as a post-9/11 battlefield. In Andreas Jahn-Sudmann and Ralf Stockmann (eds.), Games without frontiers—war without tears: Computer games as a sociocultural phenomenon (pp. 78–86). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Luckham, R. (1984). Armament culture. Alternatives, 10 (Summer): 1–44. Manninen, M. (2003). Interaction manifestations in multi-player games. In G. Riva,

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F. Davide, and W.A. IJsselsteijn (eds.), Being there: Concepts, effects and measurements of user presence in synthetic environments. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Ion Press. Marcuse, H. (1991). One-dimensional man. Boston: Beacon Press. Mayra, F. (2007). The contextual game experience: On the socio-cultural contexts for meaning in digital play. Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference (pp. 810–814). Tokyo, Japan: Digital Games Research Association. Silverstone, R. (1999). Chapter 7: Play. In Why study the media? (pp. 59–67). London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguities of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Taylor, T.L. (2006). Play between worlds: Exploring online game culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Turkle, S. (1984). The second self: Computers and the human spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Chapter 12

Playing with Fear Catharsis and Resistance in Military-Themed Video Games Nina B. Huntemann

It’s fun to kick some terrorist ass. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six player, 19 years old Introduction This chapter aims to interpret the meanings players create about their engagement with wargames, and contextualize players’ interest in and use of video wargames within the state of the real, ongoing Global War on Terror.Three popular theories about video gameplay are addressed: the catharsis hypothesis, realism, and military indoctrination.These concepts are investigated in regard to games with counterterrorist narratives where players work within a military organization to achieve various rescue, intelligence gathering, assassination, and security missions. Data were gathered in multiple focus group and participant observation sessions between 2005 and 2007 with self-described avid players of the Kuma\War, Metal Gear Solid, SOCOM, Splinter Cell, and Rainbow Six video game series. While the responses drawn from this relatively small sample size—a total of 26 male players ranging from 18 to 36 years of age—certainly does not encompass the full spectrum of meanings players may generate about video wargames, the observations offered here are meant to contribute to an ongoing discussion about the role video games do play in the lives of citizens/players.Three reference points are employed to frame this analysis: the “Long War” military doctrine adopted during the later years of the U.S. President George W. Bush administration; Susan Faludi’s socio-historical examination of the United States’ psychic response to attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001; and the precarious popularity of war-themed media during wartime. Video Games, War, and Everyday Life As ubiquitous as the presence of a television in the living room and as habitual as flipping through channels with a remote, for millions of people worldwide video

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games are an artifact of everyday life.The Pew Internet & American Life Project (2008) estimates that 97 percent of American teenagers have played video games, and the Entertainment Software Association (2008) claims that 65 percent of all American households regularly play electronic games. While statistics about the numbers of players is an interesting representation of the reach of video games, far more illuminating are the ways in which video games are now woven into the fabric of contemporary existence.Their use has been integrated into family living spaces, daily routines, casual conversation, and social relationships.Video games, particularly among young people, are a central location for entertainment, friendship, competition, and learning. As an increasingly popular format for creative expression, video games, like film, television, novels, art, and music, reflect upon and contribute to defining a culture’s core concerns and interests. The recent rise in the popularity and ubiquity of video games has coincided with a new condition of existence for most Americans. In post-9/11 United States, citizens are told they now live in a state of perpetual war, where the enemies are unclear and the methods of attack are unconventional. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush adopted the term “Long War” to describe “many years of persistent, engaged combat all around the world in differing degrees of size and intensity” with no clear exit strategies (Robert Gates qtd. in Miles, 2008, para 24).These remarks by Secretary of State Robert Gates summarized the Bush administration’s new rhetorical tactic in response to political opponents calling for a timeline to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq. In early 2006, months before Gates replaced controversial defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Quadrennial Defense Review Report outlined a new military doctrine that called for more than $513 billion to retool the military for protracted engagement against a “determined enemy.”The shift to this terminology was met with criticism from former military personnel, political analysts, and editorial boards at major newspapers across the country. History professor and former U.S.Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich (2008) balked at the premise that war strategies should be protracted, but instead argued that five years of failure in Iraq had proved the limits of American military power to change the way other people live. Despite this criticism, the public discourse about war continued to assume many years of military action and an unclear path to victory. Even in the wake of Barak Obama’s successful presidential election bid, during the campaign his call for the end of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was followed by a plan to move those troops back to Afghanistan. Thus, a shift in the Commander-in-Chief is unlikely to change the Long War doctrine. While citizens living in regions of long-term conflict, such as Israel and Palestine or Britain and Northern Ireland, are accustomed to the perpetual possibility of security threats, U.S. citizens had not seen an attack of similar scale by a foreign enemy on homeland soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941. As many television commentators were asking in the wake of 9/11: How will Americans live during a

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state of perpetual war? The answer was far less complicated than the question’s ominous suggestion: By going about “life as usual.” Life as usual, of course, now included a color-coded terror alert system and shoeless walks through airport security. But in many ways apparent to an outside observer, nothing much changed. The emotional fallout of perpetual war and the trauma of 9/11 became a point of interest for psychologists, historians, musicians, artists, and writers in the days and years following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.1 Award-winning journalist Susan Faludi argues in The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (2007) that as a nation Americans have not, in fact, thoroughly interrogated the traumas of 9/11, but “cocoon[ed] ourselves in the celluloid chrysalis” of damsels in distress and John Wayne heroism. Faludi pays much attention in her book to the role that media, particularly film and television, played in creating a hyper-masculine, 1950s fantasy of frontiersman protecting the homeland. Following the attacks of 9/11, pro-war commentaries ranted that America was revealed to the world as weak, emasculated, and “psychopathologized by howling fems,” and thus the only viable response was a deafening drumbeat of war led, in Faludi’s words, by a “chest beater in a borrowed flight suit” (p. 3) The fixation on “weak-chinned BlackBerry clutchers” versus the return of the “manly man” turned the Global War on Terror at home into a “sexualized struggle between depleted masculinity and overbearing womanhood” (p. 9). Faludi’s work is relevant to my interest in the nexus of video games and militarism because she outlines how the nation’s psychic response to the attacks of 9/11 and build-up to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was to denigrate seemingly “feminine” diplomatic responses to conflict (likened by neoconservative radio hosts to talk therapy) while privileging “masculine” revenge fantasies. Video wargames certainly prefer military engagement to diplomacy, and the players in my study similarly prefer action wargames. They are drawn to narratives of heroism, the power of one lone soldier to fight back evildoers. Given this common ethos, what role do video wargames occupy in how players respond to the military doctrine of perpetual war? Playing War During Wartime While the production and popularity of war films in the U.S. increased during wartime over the first fifty years of film history, since the Vietnam conflict war-themed films released during wartime have not done well at the box office (Dorning, 2008). Temporal proximity to actual events seems to be a key factor mitigating audience interest in watching war at the Cineplex while images of war fill the nightly news screen (Beaver, 2008). It took several years to a decade of time distance for films about Vietnam to be popular with moviegoers: Apocalypse Now (1979) $79 million; Platoon (1986) $138 million; and Full Metal Jacket (1987)

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$45 million.2 It is interesting to note that these films were not necessarily prowar, but, despite their ambivalent or even critical narratives, the films were widely seen. Films released since 9/11 about military conflicts in the 1990s did well enough to reinforce the Hollywood rule that time heals the psychic wounds of filmgoers: Black Hawk Down (2001), which made $108.6 million, was a phenomenal success despite studio producers’ worry about the audience’s appetite for a gritty war film just three months after 9/11. Other successful films focusing on conflicts from the 1990s included Jarhead (2005) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), which netted $62.6 million and $66.6 million, respectively. Most recently, well-regarded directors and A-list actors have been unable to lure audiences to films about U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq while troops are still engaged in those regions.3 Box office flops failing to recover production expenses domestically include the Academy Award-winning film In the Valley of Elah (2007) $6.8 million; Redacted (2007) $65,388; Rendition (2007) $9.7 million; Lions for Lambs (2007) $15 million; and Stop-Loss (2008) $10.1 million.4 Though film critics hailed many of these productions, some argue the dark tone and antiwar or anti-military slant of these films kept audiences away (Halbfinger, 2008). Even war films about historical conflicts, most notably World War II, struggled for attention: Hart’sWar (2002) $19 million; Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) $13.8 million; and The Good German (2006) $1.3 million. Only Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006) had a decent box office showing at $33.6 million. In contrast to film, video games about current war have sold relatively well during wartime.5 The best-selling game of 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) sold more than six million units in the U.S., generating $375 million for publisher Activision.6 Its predecessor and World War II-based game, Call of Duty 3 (2006), sold 2.94 million copies. Contemporary military-themed games such as the U.S. Navy SOCOM series saw healthy sales: SOCOM (2002) 2.64 million; SOCOM II (2003) 2.14 million; and SOCOM III (2005) 1.21 million.The uncomplicated view of war, celebratory stance toward U.S. military troops, and the action-oriented gameplay of video games probably accounts for the success of interactive entertainment over character-driven and jaundiced war films. But this view does not explain the popularity of games that question the utility of war, expose the hypocrisy of military power, depict the psychological damage of warfare, and explore the fuzzy similarity between one’s enemies and allies. Most notable in this subgenre is the Metal Gear Solid series, which has released four console titles and several portable games since 1998, selling nearly six million copies in the U.S. alone.The best-selling version of the MGS series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) was released in the U.S. for the Playstation 2 just two months after the attacks of 9/11 and sold over 2.29 million copies (see Tanner Higgin’s chapter in this volume, which reads MGS2 as a challenge to militarized assumptions about control technology). Even the dark comedy/action game Army

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of Two (2008), which unapologetically exploits the Blackwater Worldwide controversy of using private security contractors in place of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, performed very well, grossing over $100 million in sales in eight months. There is clearly something about playing video games versus watching films about war that appeals to people, even (or perhaps especially) during wartime. What is the attraction of military-themed video games that war films do not possess? What experience do wargames provide that the cinematic experience is unable to fulfill? One possible answer to these questions may lie in the emotional appeal of wargames. The Catharsis Hypothesis First proposed by Aristotle to describe a literary effect, the catharsis hypothesis suggests that, by watching or participating in the expression of emotion, particularly fear, aggression and anxiety, an individual can reduce internal levels of these emotions and thus avoid disorders associated with protracted emotional distress. In The Art of Poetry, Aristotle (1920) wrote that the tragic plays of his day aroused feelings of pity and terror.As an audience to these feelings, viewers purge themselves of harmful emotions.This process not only restores the individual to a proper emotional balance and clears their head for rational thought, but also, Aristotle claimed, is necessary in order to maintain a healthy body politic. Communities must collectively share the sadness of their tragedies, lest they repeat them. The hypothesis was adopted for psychoanalysis in the 1890s by Joseph Breuer and Sigmund Freud, who believed that repressed emotions must be released through emotional discharge in order for patients to find peace and clarity. Freud’s hydraulic model of anger proposed that, unless people vent their frustrations in small doses, anger builds up pressure and eventually explodes in a rage. He later rejected the notion that catharsis had lasting psychotherapeutic benefits, but the hypothesis survived to influence popular emotive therapies such as Bioenergetic Analysis based on Wilhelm Reich’s practice of vegetotherapy, and Primal Therapy, a trauma-based psychotherapy developed by Arthur Janov. The catharsis hypothesis was also applied in media effects research in regards to violent television and film content, and aggressive behavior.“Symbolic catharsis” proposes that, by watching violence on the screen, the viewer is purged of aggressive tendencies. It is a convenient and favored response used by media industry proponents when defending against public calls for stricter content controls. However, research in cognitive and behavioral psychology has extensively tested this application of the catharsis hypothesis and concluded that little to no evidence supports the claim that viewing violent media content decreases aggressive behavior. In fact, as Berkowitz (1984) notes, owing to priming effects,

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exposure to symbolic violence has the opposite result of venting or purging:“Both direct and indirect evidence indicates that the observation of aggression evokes aggression-related thoughts and ideas” (p. 415). In other words, prolonged exposure to violent content may actual increase aggressive feelings. Despite these findings, symbolic catharsis persists as a popular explanation for the proliferation of and appetite for violent media. Master the Game, Master Your Fear Symbolic catharsis has acquired new attention in the public discourse about computer and video games. In some ways the argument that playing violent video games is cathartic is more compelling than it is for television and film because, the reasoning goes, playing is even better than watching. Active participation in aggressive scenarios allows players to release violent tendencies in safe, nondestructive and socially acceptable ways, like venting anger on the football field. However, little to no empirical evidence definitively supports the catharsis hypothesis as applied to aggressive behavior and violent video games. Instead, what seems more likely is that people use media to manage their emotions by, for example, making oneself fearful in a controlled environment in order to practice coping with fear. A child may purposefully watch horror films to become scared and figure out how to deal with those emotions in a “safe” way. A fundamental distinction between catharsis and emotional management theory is the belief that subsequent feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety can be reduced through a cathartic purging experience, versus the concept that feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety are permanent components of the human psyche that can be understood and managed, but not eliminated. Along this vein, media studies scholar Torben Grodal (2000) argues that video games may, in fact, be better suited than film for managing emotions because games not only provoke “coping reactions to arousing events” as a frightening film might, but, in the repetitive activity of playing, games encourage the development of “concrete coping procedures” (p. 208). Grodal’s thesis that the coping potential of video games is superior to film rests on the idea that the experience of playing is more unpredictable and personalized than watching. Suspense in a frightening film is highest on first viewing, but upon each viewing the arousal and expectation provoked by the film’s execution of suspense diminishes over time. Since the elements of the story, the actions of the characters, and the outcome of those actions never change, the film viewer is able to passively manage expectation by simply knowing what is around the next dark corner. In a video game however, suspenseful events are less predictable and often the combination of actions a player chooses in response to game events influences the final outcome in varying ways each time the game is played.This is especially true online or in a networked

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game where the unfolding of gameplay depends upon many other players, not the programmed actions of computer-controlled characters. Furthermore, Grodal (2000) explains, video games “allow the player to participate in a selfcontrolled arousing experience” through the various control devices video games offer, such as the ability to save the game before embarking on a challenging task or into an unknown area, to set the game difficulty level, or to use cheat codes (p. 209). These options, as well as the personal responsibility that comes with making choices when confronted by in-game challenges, makes the emotional experience of playing video games a highly individualized one (Grodal, 2003, p. 150). Players get better at games through a learning process, which in Grodal’s (2003) scheme includes building the specific motor interaction skills required, deciphering the logic of the game, and evaluating one’s coping potential in response to confrontations.The emotional experience of a player will change over time as he or she becomes more confident and comfortable, so the challenges that once created despair with each failure turn into triumphant aggression with each success (p. 150). Grodal (2000) suggests that a player will continue to play “until he or she has achieved an optimal arousal equilibrium” (p. 209). Once a game is mastered and the virtual world is too familiar, the emotional appeal of the game may diminish to the point where the player loses interest altogether. The ability of wargame simulations to help players manage their emotions is essentially the premise behind Virtual Iraq (2005), a modified version of Full Spectrum Warrior (2004) that is used atWalter Reed Army Medical Center and other veteran hospitals to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers returning from war zones (Kruzel, 2008).A soldier diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is returned to a traumatic memory via a virtual reality environment customized to resemble the specific place, events, and even smells from the memory. Under the supervision and guidance of a trained prolonged-exposure therapist, the patient learns to revisit the memory without being overwhelmed by his or her reactions to the memory (Kruzel, 2008). The Need for Realism When asked what draws them to military-themed games, the clear majority of my informants indicated exciting or challenging gameplay, which included complex missions, the ability to play with or against other people, frequent opportunities for fast action and engagement with protagonists, and a compelling hero or avatar.A notion of realism was also important, which players described as geographically accurate maps of real-world locations, modern weaponry known or assumed to be used by the military, threats and battle scenarios “ripped from the headlines,” game mechanics in which the player’s avatar could manipulate

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nearly every aspect of the environment, and a belief in the truthfulness of the representation of military strategy and operations. Players were aware of and appreciated games that reflect contemporary geopolitical events and tensions in the real world because those narratives add to the “authenticity” of gameplay.The mastery of fear achieved through video games in part relies upon the perceived realism of a wargame. If the game is seen as fantastic, implausible or taking too many liberties with known history, the game is unable to satisfy the desire to manage the anxiety and fear players have about war.This was particularly salient for players of Kuma\War. Kuma\War is a series of episodic PC games, called missions, modeled on realworld events. Each mission, free to subscribers and downloaded from the Kuma\War website, re-creates a specific military battle primarily drawn from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Described on its website as a “series of playable recreations of real events” that “bring our soldiers’ heroic stories to life,” Kuma\War has launched over eighty missions since the first game released in February 2004 ( Although the Kuma\War series often receives mediocre reviews for poor AI and outdated graphics, the series wins with players for its quick turn-around of genuine military action into downloadable game modules, which allow players to imagine what it was like to be a part of successful and significant moments in the Global War on Terror.The verisimilitude important to players of Kuma\War is related to the perceived accuracy of what happened during the real mission, and less about the look-and-feel realism valued in other wargames. From my conversations with Kuma\War players, this emphasis is tied to skepticism of U.S. media’s news coverage of Iraq as well as a desire to “get closer” to military action. The Kuma\War website encourages a critical attitude toward traditional information sources by demanding players “Stop watching the news and get in the game!” In addition to criticizing the news, each game includes a highly detailed, in-game briefing that resembles CNN Headline News and often features actual retired military personnel as content experts. I met with a group of Kuma\War players shortly after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant Islamist and leader of the Tawhid and Jihad insurgent group, was killed in Iraq on June 7, 2006. They were excited to play the just-released Kuma\War Mission 75:The Death of al-Zarqawi, in which the player becomes a Delta Force operator on an assassination mission. One loyal Kuma\War player described his anticipation for the new game: Kuma\War player: It must of been a real high to be the guy or squad or whatever that took him [al-Zarqawi] out, but we will never know.That sucks. Huntemann:Why does it suck? Kuma\War player:Well, you know, he can’t tell anybody about it. Huntemann: Did you see the news about al-Zarqawi’s death?

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Kuma\War player:Yeah, but you know they aren’t telling you what really happened. It’s just, OK this Al-Qaeda leader is dead and on to the next story. I wanna know how it went down. Huntemann:Why? Kuma\War player:Well, first of all, I don’t think the media give our soldiers enough credit. It’s not about the leaders, it’s about the guys doing the work. And, if you listen to the media, you’d think it’s all going to shit, but it’s not. I know more ’cause, well really, these games have information you can’t get anywhere else. Some of my friends actually ask me about what is going on over there ’cause they know I’m into it. Huntemann: How does that make you feel, knowing more than your friends? Kuma\War player: Good I guess. But actually, no, well, I feel sorry for them. I walk around knowing things are better, going OK, but everyone else doesn’t know.They’re all freaking out and worried. I’m not worried. In conversations with players about the news segments in Kuma\War, respondents frequently discussed how these briefings reiterate what they already know about the conflict in Iraq or that the news segments significantly add to their knowledge.When asked about how the information conveyed in the game compared to information they may find in traditional sources—newspapers, magazines, and television news—respondents were quick to point out an assumed bias in most mainstream news outlets; as one player quipped: “It isn’t any worse than Fox.” While not necessarily defending Kuma\War news as objective reporting, respondents did find value in the level of detail available about specific missions; information not usually reported owing to television news format time constraints or perceived national security concerns. For players, the news segments provide the set up for “how it went down” while the gameplay allows them to “see how it could turn out.” Devotees of Kuma\War say they “learned a lot” about what it is like to be a soldier and “know more” than friends about the internal politics in Iraq.The presentation of information in Kuma\War, and other contemporary war video games that use military consultants, is criticized for not challenging war rhetoric that simplifies military use of force practices without providing a framework for the complex sociopolitical meaning of the events depicted (Bogost, 2006). Regardless of these criticisms, which I address directly below, what is most salient about the perception of realism is just that, players perceive the battles to be realistic enough to quell anxiety about the state of peace or war in Iraq. Military Indoctrination Cultural critics of video games, myself included, allege that military-themed games advance a worldview that military intervention and use of force are the only viable

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responses to global conflict, and that war is inevitable and perpetual, with enemies unmistakably on the side of evil. Furthermore, the depiction of war presented is cleaned up, void of horrific consequences, civilian casualties, and psychic devastation. This normalization and sanitization of war occurs through the game narrative and is acted out by the solider or avatar the player embodies. Roger Stahl in his 2006 article “Have you played the war on terror?” proposes that wargames create a hybrid identity for players to inhabit; the “virtual citizensoldier.” In this identity, the role of the citizen to question the actions of government is eclipsed by the role of the soldier to follow orders. The mechanism for deploying state violence without civic deliberation overshadows the critical stance required for democracy to function (p. 125). He suggests, “the virtual citizensoldier’s integration into a sanitized fantasy of war is a seduction whose pleasures are felt at the expense of the capacity for critical engagement in matters of military might” (p. 126). While I agree with Stahl’s characterization of wargames as sanitized fantasies that not only lack any alternative viewpoint about military action but also glamorize the use of force, I am not convinced that these games inhibit critical engagement.The players I interviewed retained their skepticism about current military actions, questioning the motives, strategies, purported goals, and likely success of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention.Their reading of the U.S. military presence in Iraq was often contextualized in the history of Middle East–U.S. relations, considerate of international politics and energy policy, and suspicions of the inconsistent application of democratic principles.As player SN1P3R83 (read: sniper 83) suggested about why the U.S. sent troops to Iraq,“Everyone pretty much knows it’s not about freedom; it’s about oil. Look at Africa.”When asked to elaborate his Africa comment, SN1P3R83 listed the human rights atrocities executed by dictatorships in Africa that have not prompted the same U.S.-led military response as Saddam Hussein’s crimes against Iraqi civilians. Referring to the surge policy proposed by the Bush administration in early 2007, player kapt_khaotic (read: Capt. Chaotic) said, “More troops, less troops, it won’t matter.We should just leave and let them battle it out.” Moments later in the conversation kapt_khaotic softened his seemingly defeatist stance in order to clarify what he believes is possible in Iraq: “I think covert-ops can gather good intelligence, but the Army can’t make people democratic. I mean, isn’t a forced democracy like a, uh, dictatorship?” While players clearly do not wholly accept the ideology about militarism embedded in these games, they do not wholly reject it either. Instead, players use the sanitized fantasy, uncomplicated by ethical questions and the gory details of warfare, to calm the terror inside.The game becomes a device by which the player temporarily anesthetizes his fear and uncertainties about terrorism.The clear-cut missions, infallible technology and visible enemies offer the player simplicity that does not reflect the confusing reality, another important appeal of wargames:

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Splinter Cell player: In the game, I know I’ll get the guy, stop the bomb. If I don’t, I can try again. SOCOM player and former Navy officer: Nothing is that straightforward [in the Navy].We had assignments, yeah, but it was random. Half the time you had no idea what one mission had to do with the other. Honestly, I think the appeal of [SOCOM] for me and my buddies was the logic, the big picture . . . it is all laid out for you. Rainbow Six player:Well, obviously, in the game you know who the enemy is. Not like in Iraq where women and children are blowing themselves up and shit. But there is little evidence from the conversations I had with players that the simplicity of many video wargame narratives and the obvious good guy/bad guy characters spills over into real life. Players commonly mock the idea that duct tape and plastic shielding or a troop surge will protect America, but concerns about the safety and security of loved ones are overwhelming. Most of the young men I talked with believe another terrorist attack on American soil is probable, but feel powerless to do anything about it.And herein lies the fundamental problem with the catharsis hypothesis. Players may temporarily purge their fear, but the root of their fear persists.The Global War on Terror continues, with no apparent resolution or exit strategy. Thus, continued cathartic activity is required: Playing the game again and again, purchasing sequels with new, frightful scenarios of terrorist attacks and exciting, yet comforting counter-terrorist measures. In this way, military-themed video games provide emotional management tools for real-world fears about terrorism, but in no way delude players into a false sense of long-term security. Conclusion: Requiem for Recovery When conversation with players steered toward politics and the possibility of changing the political leaders who make decisions about foreign policy and military intervention, most of the young men I talked with voiced distrust in government and revealed jingoistic assumptions about Arab people:“Those people” will always fight, and disputes in the Middle East, such as the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, are ultimately unsolvable. When asked about joining the Armed Forces as a way of addressing their fears, players almost universally dismissed this idea, remarking as one did, “Why would I go over there just to be killed?” These players are not willing to risk their lives for ambiguous ends and are disillusioned that their participation would have any effect on national security. When additional suggestions for action at home were made, such as organizing neighborhood watches, preparing an emergency plan, or joining voluntary first responder teams (all of which are recommended by the Department of Homeland Security), players

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were more open to these ideas, but quick to point out that those activities “won’t stop a plane from crashing into the Pru”.7 Of course, neither will playing a video game. But these comments reflect what many Americans may be feeling about life post-9/11.We are all seeking mechanisms for coping with the anxiety and fear we did not carry on September 10, 2001. Susan Faludi points out in The Terror Dream that, despite the parallels drawn to the assault on Pearl Harbor, the call to unified, national sacrifice after 9/11 never came. A country was left reeling from the first and most devastating breech of national security in over sixty years, but “no official moral leadership emerged to challenge Americans to think constructively about our place in the world, to redefine civic commitment and public responsibility” (p. 3). In light of this lack of leadership, military-themed video games may be particularly appealing to young men, many of them in their early twenties, who feel the cultural and familial expectations of masculinity bearing down on them. The Global War on Terror is about insecurity, uncertainty, and loss of control. These issues directly challenge the foundation of America’s superpower ethos established at the end of the Cold War. Boys becoming men are told they must navigate similar unsure ground about their role in a “post-feminist” era, which, according to Faludi, doesn’t actually exist but operates as an extremely powerful ideological fallacy to resurrect ultra-conservative gender relationships. Contemporary video games, particularly war-themed games, offer a tactical way of dealing with terror, focusing on the technical details of how we fight and reducing extremely complex global and local tensions into red versus blue. It is significant that these game spaces present virtually all-male environments within which players can try on powerful and empowering roles. Most of the games my informants use have multiplayer capability. In fact, the majority of players I encountered play these games collaboratively, on local area networks or Internet game servers. Perhaps a side-benefit of wargames in Grodal’s coping potential scheme is that they provide social-bonding opportunities, creating community and solidarity among players around which they can explore and share their fears. I witnessed many hours of gameplay interlaced with comments and heated discussion about politics, current events, and the prospects for world peace. Unfortunately, what was missing from these discussions was any constructive mechanism beyond the game for dealing with this fear. Instead, a lack of faith in the organizations supposedly protecting America and a paralyzing cynicism about the country’s political process prevail. For generations, film and television audiences have watched the cultural industries turn war into entertainment. Often the products of Hollywood spark or, at least, contribute to public conversations about the consquences of global conflict. As a more interactive and participatory medium, video games possess the compelling promise to encourage conversation and perhaps even help the

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player/citizens develop constructive mechanisms for coping with their fears: mechanisms that could contribute to healing the wounds which Faludi claims have been largely unattended, of a nation still grappling with post-9/11 traumatic stress disorder. Notes 1. A handful of examples that have documented or attempted to grapple with the personal and national trauma of post-9/11 America include: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer; Living with War, an album by Neil Young; Trauma at Home: After 9/11, a collection of essays edited by Judith Greenberg; Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature by E. Ann Kaplan; and In the Shadow of No Towers, a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. 2. All box-office data from The Numbers, (accessed July 18, 2008). 3. Interestingly, films specifically about the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., but not about the military response, have drawn audiences: World Trade Center (2006) $70.3 million and United 93 (2006) $31.5 million. 4. While some of these films captured significant audiences overseas, only Lions for Lambs was able to recover its $35 million production budget, grossing $63 million in domestic and international sales. 5. A game that sells over one million copies is considered a successful title by the industry. Unlike the widely publicized revenues for theatrical films, gross sales information for video games is difficult to find. The industry generally reports units sold, not monetary figures. For numbers comparable to box-office revenues, consider that most new video games cost $40–60. All video game sales data from 6. Sales data based on combined sales on all available platforms (Xbox 360, Playstation3 and PC) and an average per unit price of $55.00. 7. This player’s mention of “the Pru” refers to the Prudential Building, the second-tallest building in Boston at 759 feet with 52 floors.

References Aristotle. (1920). The Art of Poetry (I. Bywater, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bacevich, A. (2008, May 13). The “Long War” fallacy. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from,0,7251551.story. Beaver, F. (2008, June 17). Movies during wartime. Michigan Today. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from Berkowitz, L. (1984). Some effects of thoughts on anti- and prosocial influences of media events: A cognitive-neoassociation analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3): 410–427. Bogost, I. (2006). Playing politics: Videogames for politics, activism, and advocacy. First Monday, Special Issue #7: Command Lines: The Emergence of Governance in Global Cyberspace. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from index.php/fm/article/view/1617. Dorning, A. (2008, March 28). Is America ready for another Iraq war movie? ABC

236 Playing War Retrieved July 18, 2008, from story?id=4538885&page=1. Entertainment Software Association. (2008). Industry facts. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved July 18, 2008 from Faludi, S. (2007). The terror dream: Fear and fantasy in post-9/11 America. New York, NY: Metropolitian Books. Grodal, T. (2000). Video games and the pleasures of control. In D. Zillman and P. Vorderer (eds.), Media entertainment: The psychology of its appeal (pp. 197–213). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum. Grodal, T. (2003). Stories for eye, ear, and muscles: Video games, media, and embodied experiences. In M.J.P. Wolf and B. Perron (eds.), The video game theory reader (pp. 130–155). New York: Routledge. Halbfinger, D. (2008, April 2). Tough marketing calls for film linked to war. New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from movies/02lion.html. Kruzel, J.J. (2008, September 25). “Virtual Iraq” combats horrors of war for troops with PTDS. American Forces Press Service. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved December 15, 2008, from aspx?id=51297. Miles, D. (2008, April 22). Gates: Strategic mistakes must not be repeated. American Forces Press Service. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from Pew Internet & American Life Project. (2008, September). Teens, video games, and civics. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved December 15, 2008, from http://pewinternet .org/PPF/r/263/report_display.asp. Quadrennial Defense Review Report. (2006, February). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved July 18, 2008, from Report20060203.pdf. Stahl, R. (2006). Have you played the war on terror? Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23(2): 112–130.

Part V

Resisting War

Chapter 13

Playing Against the Grain Machinima and Military Gaming 1 Irene Chien

“Machinima” is an awkward portmanteau that joins “machine” and “cinema” to describe animated movies that are shot within video games and distributed primarily online. Originating in the desire of gamers to capture and share their in-game experiences, machinima are created by recording on-screen video gameplay in real time, then editing that captured footage into a digital movie.The difference between machinima and traditional computer-generated imagery (CGI) is that machinima use the interactive 3D graphics engines of existing video games as virtual movie sets in which to perform scenes on-the-fly, rather than rendering custom animation for each scene individually, one frame at a time. Machinima emerged in the late 1990s as video game players started to record their gameplay and then post these clips to aficionado websites in order to show off particularly nimble or audacious on-screen moves to other players. To make this raw footage of gameplay more compelling, players started setting their clips to music, adding their own commentary and voice tracks, and even staging elaborate maneuvers that involved multiple players. Players discovered what game designers now build into the gameplay experience—that adding strategic editing, propulsive soundtracks, and snappy wisecracks to video game footage amplifies the affective drama of having your tautly coordinated team maneuver suddenly sabotaged by one player’s misstep, or of pulling off that perfect comeback attack while tottering on the brink of death. Players also turned their recordings to tricks and glitches within the game environment that are irrelevant to scoring points or leveling up. Instead of simply playing the game to win, players started to test the boundaries of the simulation itself, using the game as a playground, laboratory, or stage. Gamers orchestrated and captured virtuoso in-game stunts such as the synchronized hip-hop dance routine of two alien fighters who are usually attacking each other; the stratospheric pirouette of a military jeep when a live grenade is placed beneath it just so; or a programming bug that results in the disappearance of all vehicle animations from a freeway so that the drivers look like Wonder Woman flying her invisible plane.2 Machinima thus arose from the desire to

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document specific moments experienced in the sprawling, open-ended, imperfectly coded virtual worlds offered up by contemporary video games, and to share these experiences with other players. In the irreverent modes of gameplay enacted in machinima, the original game’s directive to kill enemies is not only abandoned but rendered absurd. This chapter will examine three machinima works that challenge the pervasive militarism of mainstream video games by unsettling them from within.The short piece Deviation (2005) directed by Jon Griggs was the first work of machinima to premiere at a major film festival, marking the breakout of this Internet-fueled, gamer-geek mode of virtual filmmaking into mainstream media. It draws from the linear storytelling of narrative cinema to launch a forceful critique against the circularity of first-person shooters.The popular machinima series Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles (2003–2007), which has attracted an extensive and devoted online following, satirizes the intersection of gamer culture and technowar. The heroic action and thrilling battles of the original video game are withheld, replaced by long stretches of down-time where bored soldiers wait endlessly for something to happen.The machinima work Vietnam Romance (2003) by Eddo Stern takes the long view of media-saturated war mythology by re-enacting images of the Vietnam War, implicating both cinema and video games in the erosion of historical memory.All three films are created within popular combat games that foreground ultra-violent, high-tech warfare. But rather than focusing on the violent content of wargames, each machinima work uses the translation of form between video game and cinema to excavate the formal logic that organizes that violence. In real warfare, death is the ultimate irreversible horror, the horizon of finitude. But in video games, death is a core game mechanism that is infinitely repeatable. Figuring out a game requires discovering through trial and error what actions get you killed, so dying again and again is key to progressing through the game. Death scenes turn the repetition of death into a ritualized pleasure by offering an instant replay of you getting killed, often aestheticized by slow motion and multiple camera angles. Although death must be continually repeated to attain mastery of the game, it also threatens mastery at each repetition because it interrupts the flow of gameplay and communicates failure.The compulsive rehearsal of death as both requirement for and threat to video game mastery bears a striking resemblance to the structure of trauma. In her psychoanalytic examination of war trauma and Hollywood cinema, Kaja Silverman explains that traumatized subjects are compelled to obsessively repeat the traumatic experience in order to master it, “yet the repetition through which psychic mastery is established exists in such an intimate relation with the repetition through which it is jeopardized that [we are] unable to distinguish clearly between them” (1992, p. 61). Because the will to mastery is inextricable from the will to self-disintegration, the masculine subject’s claim to coherence and control is always precarious.The machinima films discussed

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here expose the aggressive and commanding masculine subject-player constructed by military video games as a vulnerable fiction. By restaging the obsessive repetitions of video game death in filmic form, these works help us to see the heretofore suppressed traumatic disturbances of waging video game war alongside the U.S.’s real wars both abroad and at home.3 Machinima boosters assert that the true art of machinima will flourish only when it moves beyond its origins in gamer communities to embrace the narrative conventions and production values of mainstream film.They call for films that do not make any reference to the fact that they are created within a video game. Many machinima movies aspire to Hollywood-style action-adventure and absorb the military fantasies of the video games in which they are created. But the works discussed in this chapter actively work against the grain of the original game to critically examine the war logic that is so systemic to mainstream gaming. Because machinima makers are intimately familiar with the video games in which they stage their films, their translations of gameplay into cinema can get at the heart of what a video game is really about—from its formal grammar to its social meanings. It is precisely the remarkable self-reflexivity of machinima—the way these game–movie hybrids use cinematic narrative to challenge video game logic, and game culture to challenge filmmaking paradigms—that allows them to make such potent critiques of mediated war fantasy. Repetitive Rhythms The machinima short Deviation opens with the staccato drone of helicopters, as white text on a black background informs us that this is “A virtual film created online.With virtual actors performing across different U.S. states.Who have never met each other or the director in the ‘real’ world” (Griggs, 2006).The film follows a team of four soldiers tearing urgently through a maze of underground tunnels. One discontented soldier named Macintyre cynically believes that they have experienced this suicide mission innumerable times before, and vainly tries to convince the others to escape the rote cycle of carnage.Acted out through standard avatars provided in the popular multiplayer video game Counter-Strike, the film imagines the existential horror of actually living one’s life within the bloody, militaristic, single-goal-driven world of a first-person shooter (FPS).As the soldiers charge through the tunnels under the omnipresent threat of attack, Macintyre becomes increasingly vocal about his misgivings. “Doesn’t it strike you as strange, I mean we keep doing the same thing over and over again?” He is silenced by the team leader right before the soldiers climb up through a manhole to be slaughtered off-screen in a rain of bullets and blood. Macintyre looks on in disgust. Counter-Strike is a networked first-person shooter with remarkable longevity. It has remained immensely popular since its 1999 debut as an amateur mod of

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Half-Life, inspiring rabidly competitive players and even professional leagues.The success of the game is often attributed to the simplicity of its game mechanics: players join a small team of counter-terrorists or terrorists who are pitted against each other in a series of brief, frenetic, kill-or-be-killed rounds of combat. Players return to the same battles over and over again in the quest to improve their scores, dying innumerable deaths until attack movements become embedded in muscle memory.Although Counter-Strike produces a sense of forward trajectory by offering players goal-oriented missions and expanding access to new space and equipment, Deviation reminds us that the game is fundamentally organized around an infinitely looping set of actions and counter-actions. Wargames like Counter-Strike do not require a traditional narrative arc of escalating conflict and heroic combat leading to swift victory or tragic defeat. There is no sense of progression according to a central authority’s master strategy.What side you choose to fight on is arbitrary. And players return to the comforting familiarity of the game’s repetitive rhythms again and again, week after week, year after year. Deviation’s critique of militaristic first-person shooters like Counter-Strike is not a simplistic denunciation of excess violence. Rather, the film critiques how that violence is structured by the game’s core mechanics, conditioned into an automatic reflex by repetition across extended durations. Deviation suggests that the perpetual state of alert, small-scale combat and endless replay that are central to FPS video gameplay are uniquely consonant with the structure of modern warfare, particularly the post-9/11 Global War on Terror. The computer game’s inherently recursive, anti-narrative logic—which

Figure 13.1 Close-up on Macintyre from Deviation

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Figure 13.2 Counter-Strike characters are unable to lower their weapons, even when conversing

jumps into relief when translated into cinematic form—allows it to become an inexhaustible ludic machine that routinizes violence and drives endless war. Deviation startlingly recontextualizes the inexpressive faces, hyperbolic assault gear, and uncanny bobble of video game characters by imagining that these characters could be capable of introspection. However, we realize that although they look thrilling in motion—streaking across the screen in a pack or aiming their weapons—game characters are poorly equipped for standing still and carrying on a serious conversation. Each character’s pre-rendered visage is frozen into a scowl that reveals as much hidden life in close-up as a puppet’s face. Moreover, their bodies idle uncomfortably in a state of constant agitation, as if impatient to leap into action.The polygonal fabric of the characters’ facemasks crudely bunches and stretches to indicate when they are talking, their eyelines fail to match, and their weapon-gripping bodies pulse restlessly in animated motion loops. It is precisely this dissonance between video game graphics organized around combat and movie dialogue organized around angst that lends Deviation its defamiliarizing power. Malingering in the Desert Deviation’s serious-minded critique of repetition and futility within the world of first-person shooters owes its “Why are we here” theme if not its tone to the most well-known machinima work to date, the comedy series Red vs.Blue:The Blood Gulch

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Figure 13.3 “Why are we here?” (Red vs. Blue, episode 1)

Chronicles.4 Red vs. Blue remains unabashedly saturated in the lowbrow world of game culture. In the first episode of the series, the camera glides up the face of a precipice to show two Red soldiers in full body armor standing on the ledge of a desolate futuristic landscape. In addition to the familiarity of the battlegeared figures, the ever-present target reticule in the center of the screen reminds us that this is Halo,5 the best-selling Xbox game where you control a cybernetically enhanced warrior fighting a confederacy of alien races that threatens to destroy humankind. We expect the pair of gun-toting storm troopers to bark out military gibberish and leap into action. Instead, they just stand around talking, and we slowly discover through their desultory exchange that they have no idea what they are doing there, nor why they are fighting: “I signed on to fight some aliens. Next thing I know . . . I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere, fighting a bunch of blue guys.” There is a cut to the other side of the canyon, where two Blue soldiers observe their sworn enemies through a sniper rifle. But they save their sharpest hostility for each other as they bicker over how to read the Red soldiers’ puzzling lack of action.This lack of action, as if the soldiers were trapped in dead-end office jobs rather than engaged in high-tech warfare, is Red vs. Blue’s central absurdist premise. With cinematic antecedents in both M*A*S*H (1972) and Office Space (1999), Red vs. Blue points to the affinity between militaristic aggression fantasies and the embittered “cubicle class” of the technically proficient but low-status, white male knowledge-worker. Red vs. Blue debuted shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its parallels to the war in Iraq became more direct over the course of the series. Blood Gulch is a barren canyon that resembles the Iraqi battlegrounds we see in media coverage. And overt swipes at the Bush administration’s mishandling of the war, from reliance on military contractors to the failure of unilateralism, pepper the episodes alongside spoofs of American cultural arrogance. Despite its frequently unflattering portrait of U.S. military culture, the series has been popular with U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, perhaps because its account of war experience is centered

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on the day-to-day reality of down-time and bureaucracy, where soldiers’s hours are spent killing time as much as killing enemies.6 In Red vs. Blue, warfare is primarily experienced as waiting for something to happen. Although it is filmed with the Halo game engine, Red vs. Blue undermines the enemy demonization and zero-hour urgency of the original game narrative, as well as the game’s play mechanics based on conquest of space, constant action, and slaughter. In Red vs. Blue, war is not a grand narrative of battles fought, but an ongoing and unpredictable series of events strung together from accidents, digressions, and asides. Each team of soldiers in Red vs. Blue plots to obliterate the other team, but they actually spend most of their time malingering in the same bleak desert canyon, trading sophomoric insults, and complaining. Many of the gags seem lifted straight from the gamer wisecracks, trash talk, and performative play that accompany a round of multiplayer Halo. Because machinima is recorded in real time, it retains some of the spontaneity of gameplay, where quick decisions and reflex actions ricochet between players and game machine.Thus Red vs. Blue’s satiric banter and meandering serial form reflect the shared social experience of multiplayer gaming from which the show emerged. In counter to alarmist claims that increasingly immersive 3D games absorb players to such an extent that they lose their grip on reality, Red vs. Blue reminds us that gameplay takes place in a structured but open-ended social space. In this space of playful experimentation, unexpected behaviors and identifications occur not only within the game world itself but also in the multiple on- and offline social networks that surround it. Gamer Critique Why should we be interested, then, when gamers use games to make movies about gaming for other gamers? Insofar as the video game industry has intertwined with the war industry, Red vs. Blue’s send-ups of game logic critiques war logic as well. The series actively works against the elaborately detailed Halo mythology in which humans battle for survival against a covenant of alien races unified by their religious fanaticism, a scenario that echoes the U.S.War on Terror.The enemy in Red vs.Blue is not so easily demonized, since they are just another group of bumbling soldiers. In Halo, the protagonist is a hyperbolic incarnation of a masculine empowerment fantasy: a well-armed cyborg super-soldier known only as Master Chief, who is completely encased in battle armor from helmet down to prominent codpiece. In Red vs. Blue, the combat suits and big guns seem ridiculous when the soldiers are cowards and the authorities incompetent. The majestic, gorgeously rendered landscapes that Halo is famous for are absent from the series, which is set in the gravel-strewn desert of Blood Gulch. Instead of penetrating into picturesque terrain that is ripe for exploration and conquest, the characters languish in this empty canyon, ambitionless and bored.

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Figure 13.4 A soldier’s dead body “rotting in the sun for all eternity” (Red vs. Blue, episode 8)

The few action scenes, usually ending in some sort of catastrophe, are the result of malfunction and ineptitude rather than any strategically planned mission.Attacks are initiated by misrecognition and battles are initiated by machines gone haywire. By repeatedly staging gags around the accidental death and re-animation of soldiers on each team, Red vs.Blue points to the fundamental unreality of video game death: it is impermanent. Getting killed in a video game like Halo is a frustrating but temporary setback, a brief hiccup in the drive toward mastering the game. Death is built into the game mechanics. Without taking risks that kill you, or learning through trial and error, you could never progress through each level. Moreover, the game’s “rag doll physics” make each death a unique, kinetic spectacle of collapse. But rather than promising advancement or spectacle, the soldiers’ inability to irrevocably die in Red vs. Blue contributes to the absurdity of their plight.There truly is no way out of this barren wasteland and meaningless war. Not only is warfare a lot of waiting punctuated by random blunders, but these blunders have no real stakes in the absence of permanent death. Digital technology’s transcendence of the human body is pushed to the limit as the characters’ mechwarrior bodies become puppet shells to be comically brutalized, killed, and then discarded for better ones. Faceless and entirely encased in uniform body armor so that not a trace of flesh is visible from head to toe, the human figures in Halo are distinguishable only by the color of their armor. Bodies can be assembled and dissembled like doll parts, and arbitrarily animated by one or another character’s consciousness. Hopping from body to body after getting killed is a central plot device, and decapitation and dismemberment are frequent sight gags. Virtual war promises that the messy fragility of actual human bodies will be removed from the scene, replaced by mechanized bodies that can be commanded from a distance and swapped out at will. Red vs. Blue reminds us that, although video games like Halo are organized entirely around the thrills of violent attack, they have no capacity to register its material consequences.When the ghost

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of an accidentally killed soldier notices that, days after his death, his old body is still ignominiously flopped on the ground where he fell, he demands to be buried. “Buried with what?” his comrade retorts. “All we have are pistols and rifles.What do you want me to do? Shoot you a grave?” Predatory Vision If the casual repetition of violence and death in military-themed video games like Halo desensitizes us to the ethical and material weight of warfare, the machinimabased interventions of artist Eddo Stern endeavor to reinvest wargames with gravity and horror. As an avid gamer and former soldier in the Israeli army, Stern wants to examine how video games mediate our understanding of the historical reality of war. His machinima work Vietnam Romance (2003) gives us a fictionalized account of the Vietnam War by way of cinema and video games in order to excavate the layers through which trauma gets transformed into pleasure in the pop cultural imaginary. Stern uses Vietnam-themed video games to re-enact iconic scenes from Vietnam War films and overlays this footage with MIDI renditions of 1960s rock songs. Streetwalkers sauntering slowly up and down a street in Grand Theft Auto to the tune of Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walking” approximate the

Figure 13.5 Vietnam Romance re-enactment of the death scene from Platoon. Image used with permission from the artist Eddo Stern

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notorious Vietnamese prostitute scene from Full Metal Jacket (1987). Gameplay footage of a helicopter gliding over a mist-drenched landscape accompanied by Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” recreates the famous helicopter attack scene from Apocalypse Now (1979).The kill scenes of a soldier staggering and collapsing to the ground over and over again paired with Creedance Clearwater Revival replays Willem DeFoe’s sacrificial death scene in Platoon (1986). Otherwise banal wargame footage is suddenly flooded with the nostalgia and pathos of these familiar cinematic spectacles, and we automatically reiterate these tropes of our Vietnam War misremembrances: the sexual availability of Vietnamese women; the breathtaking display of U.S. military force; the nation’s collective loss of innocence in a dirty war. But at the same time, our conditioned responses to these classic scenes are hollowed out by the alienating filters of first-person shooters and tinny computer music. Through this uncanny friction between cinema and video game, Vietnam Romance reveals the way that our historical memory of the Vietnam War is inseparable from its sensational pop cultural mediations. Vietnam Romance troubles the central attraction of video games—the thrill of control over movement and space—by continually undercutting our visual mastery of the scene. Rather than inviting us to command and conquer, the nightmarish video game footage in the work induces disorientation and paralysis. In one sequence, a target reticule wavers before a confused, undifferentiated blur until we slowly realize that we are pointing at the sky.With no markers to situate which way is up or down, and nothing but clouds to lock on target, the deadly precision of our weaponized vision is rendered poetically useless.As the camera slides down from the swirl of the sky, a solitary tree on the horizon comes into our sights and re-anchors us in the landscape. But this contemplative moment is quickly interrupted when a target line shoots out from us and the tree is suddenly incinerated.We watch in horror as tree after tree is methodically targeted within our crosshairs, fired upon, and reduced to ashes, the napalming of Vietnam made sickeningly immediate.Vision has become so monstrous in the FPS wargame that it turns everything apprehensible into a target for destruction. The natural landscape is no longer an awesome expanse that inspires spiritual renewal but a field of potential targets. To simply gaze upon a tree is incomprehensible within the logic of the first-person shooter, where the only reason you would focus on something, rather than quickly sweep over it, is so that you can take aim and obliterate it. Unlike the other machinima works discussed, Vietnam Romance specifically foregrounds the first-person subjective camera that defines first-person shooters. In film, as Alexander Galloway has observed, first-person perspective is a marginalized rarity that usually signifies an “alienated, disoriented, or predatory vision” (2006, p. 69) that spectators cringe away from. However, in video games, first-person perspective is a primary form that creates powerful identifications

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with a position of freedom and control. This is because first-person perspective organizes the environment around the player into actionable space, allowing the player to experience “an intuitive sense of motion and action” (p. 40). By fusing Vietnam War cinema with the first-person shooter perspective, the machinima work Vietnam Romance positions us as simultaneously cinematic spectator and game player. But the traditional pleasures of each position are compromised in this uneasy combination.The subjective camera perspective, translated from game to film, makes us directly complicit in the violence before us, but unable to control the action. In a particularly chilling sequence, we stand over a human skull on the ground and proceed to shoot it repeatedly at close range, pausing only to reload our assault rifle between rounds of fire, until it is deformed into a clump of blackened bone. To subject something already long-dead and defeated to the targeting gaze of a rifle scope, and then to plug it over and over again with pointblank shots is such a gruesome excess of force that the scene verges on unwatchable.Target practice on a skull in ordinary FPS gameplay would probably pass as a mildly pleasurable but un-noteworthy exploration of what happens to objects in the game environment when you shoot them. But here, in cinematic form where the viewer cannot direct the action, the shooting seems protracted and pathologically repetitive. The immersiveness of first-person shooter perspective forces us to see ourselves committing these brutal actions that echo the atrocities of the Vietnam War. The final breakdown of vision in Vietnam Romance’s last sequence echoes the breakdown in our capacity to adequately represent the horror of war in either cinema or video game. Significantly, Vietnam Romance manifests this breakdown as a technical glitch. For it is the technologized, programmed vision of the firstperson shooter that fuses looking with targeting and joins the player with the algorithm of the game machine.As if to escape the horrors of the previous scenes of human cruelty, we suddenly rush through scrubby fields and jungle underbrush, far away from battlegrounds.The camera hovers low to the ground, skimming the surface of the land.Through a rendering error in the video game, we are able to drop below the horizon line, so that the camera view plunges beneath the earth’s surface as if it were water rather than solid ground. But the system cannot compute this impossible view. The rational, perspectival order of the computationally produced landscape before us suddenly explodes into an unintelligible riot of polygons that we continue to charge into. Fragments of terrain spike downward instead of up, the bottom half of the screen goes blank, and we float just beneath the surface of a jagged, partially transparent landscape, as if heaven and earth have been reversed. Stern uses a bug in the video game’s rendering system to plunge us into a disorienting dreamscape. Here, the boundless fluidity and spatial mastery endemic to the first-person shooter collapse into incoherence and fragmentation. But rather than making us experience this relinquishing of control as loss, Vietnam

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Romance stages the shattering of first-person perspective as release and redemption. It is as if the untenable moral ambivalence of the first-person wargame collapses under its own weight. The discourse on the future of machinima views machinima’s self-referentiality as a limitation that machinima films must move beyond in order to reach an audience beyond gamers. For example, Henry Lowood raises the cautionary question “Will limitations embedded in this culture ranging from steadfast selfreferentiality to scant regard for intellectual property throttle the expansion of machinima spectatorship to a wider audience?” (2008, p. 169) But asking machinima to emulate mainstream narrative film robs it of the critical potency of its formal experimentation. Moreover, as the video game industry outpaces the movie industry in box office revenues, and video game projects increasingly merge with Hollywood productions, it no longer holds to assume that gamer culture is an exclusive or subcultural category peripheral to the “wider” universe of mainstream culture. Precisely because militaristic video games have moved so forcefully into the center of mainstream culture to colonize the way we imagine high-tech war, laying bare the mechanisms by which wargames work is an important form of resistance.The excessive performances of mastery and control that players rehearse within military games cover over the programmatic structures that players must internalize and execute in order to succeed in the game. As Lev Manovich points out, video games “require algorithm-like behavior from players” (2001, p. 223). Players must submit to the game algorithm, letting themselves be played by the game, in order to partake in its fantasy of control.Thus player death is a central game mechanism that both threatens mastery and is essential to it. The loss of control inherent to the military video game’s empowerment fantasy is an unexamined crack in the wargame’s seemingly impervious body armor, the place where it registers killing and being killed as trauma. By foregrounding rather than erasing the unpredictable ways that we play video games, machinima can resist the efforts of dominant war mythologies to codify and contain the trauma of war. Notes 1. Portions of this chapter were previously published by the author as “Deviation Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles” in Film Quarterly (Vol. 60, No. 4: 2007). For the portions reprinted here, permission was granted by the University of California Press. 2. Dance, Voldo, Dance (2005) made in the fighting game SoulCalibur; Warthog Jumper (2002) made in the science-fiction first-person shooter Halo; and Buggy Saints Row: The Musical (2006) made in the criminal action game Saints Row. 3. When Deviation, Red vs. Blue, and Vietnam Romance were being created and released, the U.S. was involved in military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Global War on Terror. 4. Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles series ended in May 2007 with its 100th episode. A new action-comedy sequel, Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, was released in serial form

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on the Rooster Teeth website from May 2008–October 2008. See http://rvb. 5. In first-person shooters such as Halo, seeing is synonymous with targeting, so the target reticule remains a stark reminder of the analogy between camera and gun. The Red vs. Blue creators do block out the Halo game’s heads-up display (the display of data such as player health and ammunition levels) with letterboxing over the top and bottom of the screen. 6. See Clive Thompson, “The Xbox auteurs,” New York Times Magazine (August 7, 2005): 20–25, where the Red vs. Blue production office is described as “festooned with letters, plaques and an enormous American flag, gifts from grateful American troops, many of whom are currently stationed in Iraq” (p. 24).

References Burns, B. (Director) and Hullum, M. (Director). (2003–2007). Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles [Video Series]. United States: Rooster Teeth Productions. Galloway, A. (2006). Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Griggs, J. (Director). (2006). Deviation [Video]. United States: Hard Light Films. Lowood, H. (2008). Found technology: Players as innovators in the making of machinima. In Tara MacPherson (ed.), Digital youth, innovation, and the unexpected (pp. 165–196). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Silverman, K. (1992). Male subjectivity at the margins. New York, NY: Routledge. Stern, E. (Artist). (2003). Vietnam Romance [Video]. United States: Eddo Stern.

Chapter 14

“Turn the Game Console off Right Now!” War, Subjectivity, and Control in Metal Gear Solid 2 Tanner Higgin

Misreading Few video games polarize fans like Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear.The series is famous for its stealth action, odd humor, convoluted storylines, and its technically marvelous cut-scenes. Kojima is an auteur capable of creating ambitious games that, as opposed to most triple AAA video game titles, tend to conform less to market research and focus groups.The result is a deep divide between the Kojima loyalists, for whom the designer can do no wrong, and his detractors, who fill message boards and review sites with strident critiques of Metal Gear’s obtuse control schemes and pretentious cinematic interludes.With the release of Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty (MGS2) (2001), the gulf between these camps narrowed. Following the popular and critical reception of Metal Gear Solid (MGS) (1998), MGS2 was expected to continue the adventures of the popular main character Solid Snake.While the game does begin with the player controlling Snake, the bulk of the gameplay focuses on Raiden—a younger, less masculine, and more vulnerable hero. Many fans were aggravated with this change and castigated Kojima’s hubris and disingenuousness (many of the promotional materials emphasized Snake). But what those critics misunderstood, then and now, is that the feelings of frustration are not the consequence of a design misstep or miscalculation, but are instead an integral part of MGS2’s gaming experience. As a consequence of this seemingly “bait and switch” trick, players are initiated into MGS2’s subversive logics of control and affect. Thus, one of the greatest misunderstandings about the Metal Gear series is that Hideo Kojima’s vision envies and mimics cinema when, in fact, it exhaustively exploits and highlights its gamic form. Many critics of MGS2 attribute the game’s incomprehensibility to a self-indulgent design strategy that relies too heavily on movie-like cut-scenes. Patrick Redding, a designer for Ubisoft Montreal, echoed this sentiment in his presentation at the Austin Game Developers’ Conference (2007):

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Among the many positive things cited about this game:The incredibly detailed graphic environments, the rich set of stealth and combat systems (supporting, among other things, the player’s ability to choose to complete the game using non-lethal measures against guards and other foot-soldiers), smart level design and unique boss battles. What wasn’t so universally well-loved was a story that jarringly shifted the player perspective from Snake to Raiden; maddeningly overlong cut-scenes . . . and extremely disruptive in-game dialogues (usually delivered via Snake’s Codec implant) that dragged on and on . . . In the end, loyal MGS fans who have a high tolerance for Hideo Kojima’s idiosyncratic plots and themes were pissed off by how the moment-by-moment manifestation of the story interfered with the gameplay. Redding’s discussion of MGS2 prefaces his next point that “story must support gameplay.” In his view, MGS2 exemplifies a disjunction between the narrative and the player’s actions since the player is often forced to sit through, rather than participate in, large portions of the game. However, MGS2 cannot and should not be interpreted or evaluated using traditional frameworks of narrative or ludic design.Yes, the game’s narrative is communicated through long cut-scenes and talking-head communications via the codec interface,1 but the game is meaningful and noteworthy precisely because the player is deliberately placed within the very nexus of this frustration. To understand MGS2, and a growing number of postmodern games that foreground their gamic form, is to focus on affect and technics. The frustration and confusion of MGS2 rests precisely in the affect the game engenders as it flaunts the very technologies of its creation, and questions the medium’s conventions and the relationship between algorithm and player.The player is supposed to be confused and frustrated by the narrative’s delivery. She is not only told she is being controlled but she is meant to feel and intuit it.Thus, an analysis of MGS2 cannot rely solely on an evaluation of its narrative coherence or its gameplay mechanics, but must combine considerations of how its unique storytelling mode interacts with the procedural elements of play.What is needed presently is an extension of Ian Bogost’s (2006) claim that, “[w]e should attempt to evaluate all texts as configurative systems built out of expressive units” (p. 70). Understanding video games in this way allows game studies to give equal attention to the structures of play and the construction of meaning (p. 53). Regrettably, many scholars as well as media critics, journalists, and players view games as interesting cultural artifacts, but do not believe that games are sufficiently sophisticated to offer deep textual readings. For example, Steven Johnson in his best-seller Everything Bad is Good for You (2005) equates the content of a video game to a math-ematical word problem. Using the Zelda series as an example, he makes the claim that “the least interesting thing about [Zelda] is the substance of the story”

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(p. 60). For Johnson, games do not possess the same power of thematics, characterization, and story as literary works, although games do offer cognitive challenges that “teach abstract skills in probability, in pattern recognition, in understanding causal relations that can be applied in countless situations, both personal and professional” (p. 59). MGS2 challenges this dismissive and reductive view through the sheer complexity of its storyline. More importantly, the game demands a critical hermeneutic that can account for how its technical gameplay capabilities present new opportunities for communicating the kinds of narrative elements (e.g., story, character, drama) Johnson sees games lacking. Embracing the idea that video games do have the capability to generate emotional affect, while tackling complex and controversial narrative material, this chapter focuses on how MGS2 offers a critical rather than a celebratory perspective on the military-entertainment complex.This is particularly interesting because it is a political stance atypical of popular wargames.Tracy Fullerton (2007) argues that game design needs to break free of the restrictive structures, assumptions, and mechanics that appeal to the mythical “hardcore” gamer and expand the expressive capabilities of games beyond the pattern set by military and war titles. Game criticism can also contribute to this project by identifying and understanding subversive forms of representation and play built into major releases like MGS2.2 As Ed Halter reports in From Sun Tzu to Xbox (2006), “While computer games were not directly created for military purposes, they nevertheless arose out of an intellectual environment predicated in defense research” (p. 82).3 Not surprisingly, many games revel in battlefield fantasies instead of addressing the horrors of military violence. As an espionage game, MGS2 glorifies violence and combat yet it also exposes and theorizes about the biopolitical, infopolitical, and disciplinary consequences of modern military formations and technology. These concerns are framed in the game primarily as questions about posthumanity, or how to conceptualize the shifting or disappearing definition of the human in light of digital technology, in an era when distinctions between human/computer, freedom/control, and war/game are increasingly blurred.4 Human/Computer As with many studies of posthumanity, this argument begins with Alan Turing (1950) who in the provocative opening to “Computing machinery and intelligence” proposes the question “Can machines think?” and then quickly dismisses it. As he later clarifies, he finds the question “too meaningless to deserve discussion” (p. 442). For Turing, this simple question limits the complicated cognitive and philosophical issues of humanity to the failures of language. He suggests that the question invites us to draw up definitions of the terms “machine” and “think” and

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then perform a statistical survey based on the parameters set by the terms. This exercise would ultimately defeat the purpose of Turing’s posthumanist project because the restrictive terminology cannot account for dynamic new forms of subjectivity.Thus, instead of evaluating the categorizations of thought, the human, the machine, and the subject against existing definitions that are inherently exclusionary and historically determined,Turing revised the question into an entirely new ludic rather than linguistic form—namely, the imitation game.5 What is of special interest to contemporary media studies, and game studies in particular, is how gaming becomes the technique for demonstrating intelligence at the interface. As Turing sees it, the imitation game provides the ideal testing platform because it ejects the complications of terminology for the manipulation of symbols in a cognitive exchange which, in his estimation, enacts the very essence of thought—play. Video games, as simulation, involve staging various forms of the imitation game. Players are meant to immerse themselves in fictional worlds with digital actors and agents where the boundaries between human and machine blur. Moreover, while many times the fun of the game is in suspending one’s disbelief, often the tendency to internalize the algorithm overtakes or becomes indistinguishable from traditional play activity (Galloway, 2006, p. 92).When engaged in this mode, and in striking similarity to the interrogator’s attempts (from Turing’s game) to remove the veil from the test subjects, the player looks for exploits with which to escape the suggestions and restrictions of the game to expose its artifice. MGS2 is a noteworthy outlier in the military game genre because it makes explicit its manufacture of and participation in a digital imitation game that provocatively plays against its own algorithm. This is expressed in the narrative through the shifting roles of Raiden, who is first characterized as an agentive actor; then a rogue threat attempting to take the system down from within; and finally not a threat at all, but revealed as a gamer who generates valuable simulation data with each press of the button for the surveilling game technology. While a functional plot summary of this convoluted and multilayered game franchise is almost impossible to manage, some background information is necessary before this analysis can continue.6 MGS2 positions the player for most of the game as Raiden, a new operative in the Foxhound special operations unit.7 Foxhound is a small, elite operation run by Colonel Campbell and utilized by the United States government for sensitive, clandestine missions. Raiden infiltrates what is known as the Big Shell, a large series of platforms in the Hudson River. The Big Shell is supposedly a cleanup facility built over the wreckage of a destroyed oil tanker. Via the codec interface (Raiden’s nanomachine-powered communications device seen in Figure 14.1) Colonel Campbell informs Raiden that the Big Shell facility has been taken over by the Dead Cell terrorist organization and that they have also captured the President of the United States.Their leader, Solid Snake, is demanding a $30 billion ransom. Raiden is tasked with sneaking into the

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Figure 14.1 A conversation between Colonel Campbell (left) and Raiden (right) in the codecinterface, MGS2

Big Shell and rescuing the President. Progression through the game relies on peeling back the seemingly endless layers of deception within this story. It is eventually revealed that behind all the plot twists and deceptive communications is a committee of twelve influential world leaders known as the Sons of Liberty. These individuals, as it is revealed at the end, have all been deceased for a century. They exist as a computational form of intelligence stored within the massive weapon Arsenal Gear which the Big Shell was built to conceal. The following codec exchange between Raiden and his boss Colonel Campbell and love interest Rose details how the Sons of Liberty (who, in this scene, Raiden now realizes are manipulating the Colonel and Rose) are positioned as an amorphous and networked form of world government dedicated to managing the global informational flow: Colonel: The mapping of the human genome was completed early this century. As a result, the evolutionary log of the human race lay open to us. Rose:We started with genetic engineering, and in the end, we succeeded in digitizing life itself.

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Colonel: But there are things not covered by genetic information. Human memories, ideas. Culture. History. Rose: Genes don’t contain any record of human history. Colonel: Is it something that should not be passed on? Should that information be left at the mercy of nature? Rose: We’ve always kept records of our lives. Through words, pictures, symbols . . . from tablets to books . . . But not all the information was inherited by later generations. Colonel: A small percentage of the whole was selected and processed, then passed on. Not unlike genes, really. Rose:That’s what history is, Jack. Colonel: But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible. Rose: Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander . . . Colonel: All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate. Rose: It will only slow down social progress, reduce the rate of evolution. Colonel: Raiden, you seem to think that our plan is one of censorship. Raiden: Are you telling me it’s not!? Rose:You’re being silly! What we propose to do is not to control content, but to create context.8 This expressed mission of creating context but not controlling content seems especially poignant in light of predominant understandings of gaming.The content of gameplay arises out of play itself (how the player uniquely traverses the game)9 and not from the programmed and prescribed limitations of the game. Thus, gameplay is an emergent and unique affective and cognitive experience shaped within—not determined by—the gameplay context.The Sons of Liberty, much like game designers, are committed to creating spaces of potential action that suggest outcomes, but do not prescribe them.As the Colonel and Rose explain to Raiden, the objective of his mission was not to accomplish a predetermined goal but to play the game as Raiden saw fit. Although it is never made explicit, fans of the series might recognize that the entire game is a rough re-creation of the course of events of MGS2’s predecessor MGS. In terms of the narrative, everything has been orchestrated to test the simulation capabilities of the Sons of Liberty. Raiden is essentially a beta-tester for virtual world software. For Raiden, MGS2 ends with the frustrating realization that his life has been an experiment and that there was never any mission to accomplish and no endgame. For the player, there is no fulfilling climax, only the epiphany that MGS2 is a superficial update of MGS.This game (the Sons of Liberty simulation) within a game (MGS2) based on a game

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(MGS) disciplines the subjectivity of Raiden through contextual framing and the setting of conditions and mechanics of play. Similar to the Turing Test then, the game is not about whether or not Raiden can excavate some hidden truth about the difference between human and machine, or reality and simulation (e.g., discover if the Sons of Liberty are human or a machine); rather, the act of participation in the simulation makes these distinctions functionally irrelevant. Updating the work of Donna Haraway on cyborg subjectivity, N. Katherine Hayles has situated contemporary life within what she terms the Regime of Computation. Reality has become saturated with data flows and computational processes that so permeate biological, political, social, and economic constructions that reality itself is “ ‘made’ but not necessarily ‘made up.’ ” Borrowing a term coined by Thomas Whalen, Hayles calls the “globally interconnected cognitive systems in which humans are increasingly embedded” the cognisphere (2006, p.161). This phenomenon, by definition, assumes the liveliness of machines and their cognitive equivalence to humans just as in MGS2. Hayles, in her characteristically techno-skeptical manner, emphasizes that the “Regime of Computation” is purely a conceptual term designed for interrogation rather than acceptance or denial. She uses it to describe the historical, philosophical, and cultural processes through which reality has been constructed and understood as computational, rather than as representational. MGS2 is a textual example par excellence that simulates the computational through its envisioning of bodies as informatic, its fetishization of the digital interface, the ubiquity of nanomachines and genetic enhancement, and the inescapability of digital surveillance. In light of Hayles’s (2006) claim that “ ‘[w]hat we make and what (we think) we are co-evolve together’ ” (p. 164),Turing’s question “Can machines think?” can be reformulated for MGS2 as: “What are we now that we think with machines (games)?” This question takes on particular salience in light of wargames such as MGS2 that complicate the convergence of mass entertainment and militarism. War/Game Games in the Metal Gear series set in the years prior to MGS2 deal with traditional military conflicts, often waged between national powers, and involving nuclear threats embodied in the metal gear weaponry. Metal Gear Ray, and to some extent Arsenal Gear, function as decoys within the story of MGS2. Relying on the traditional conceptualizations of warfare that structure video game conventions, one expects that the central conflict of the game will involve destroying these weapons and thus avoiding disaster. As is eventually revealed, only Solidus Snake, the evil genetic super-soldier and brother of Solid Snake, is interested in this kind of project, and even he is being manipulated by the Sons of Liberty. The real threat of MGS2 is the computer intelligence housed inside Arsenal Gear—the

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disembodied processing unit that has designed and run the simulation that is the entire game. MGS2’s representation of warfare is thus biopolitical: networks of power are focused on the management of life rather than administration of death. In this sense the Sons of Liberty “ ‘make’ live and ‘let’ die,” rather than “take life or let live” (Foucault, 2003, p. 241). Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker (2007) argue that this form of “regulative power” is made available by a convergence of biology and informatics (as represented in MGS2) that transforms biopolitical power into a productive force which, in its practice, is meant to “impel, enhance, and optimize the species-population” (p. 74). Nikolas Rose (2007), addressing medical and scientific technologies, echoes this formulation. He uses the term “technologies of optimization” for the various tools and processes which “control vital processes of body and mind” (p. 16). MGS2 makes significant use of the Dual Shock technology, a haptic feedback device, built into the Playstation 2 controller to communicate the theme of biological and informatic convergence.To this end the bumps, jerks, and rumbles that are triggered by the game code are meant to simultaneously mimic visceral responses of surprise, tension, or danger and affectively incite and engage the player. Most effective, perhaps, is the rhythmic throb that accompanies a dangerously low health gauge. This tactile feeling can most closely be likened to the feeling of a beating heart inside the controller’s plastic casing. Obviously, MGS2 is not the only game to include such special effects to cue players to their status within the game world. However, this game convention can be examined from the perspective of biopolitics as a form of informaticization of the human body. Vital statistics bars and other codified ways of managing oneself in the game world communicate an informatic, quantifiable, and measurable essence of the body informed by developments in medical technology based on concepts of the body as measurable and technical.10 MGS2 takes this conceptualization rather far with its series of computerized interfaces and technologies of bodily communication and surveillance.The opening credit sequence (Figure 14.2) and the introductory menu screen (Figure 14.3) both use molecular diagrams reminiscent of honeycombs as a stylistic and thematic trope. This notion of the building blocks of life is architecturally mapped within the game itself.When viewed as a map, the Big Shell (Figure 14.4) is strikingly similar to the visuals of chemical or genetic diagramming. Given this metaphor, Raiden can be read as a form of biological infiltrator, or a virus traveling through the facility’s body.This connection is made explicit once the player reaches Arsenal Gear and must literally travel through it. Each section of the weapon is named after a part of the digestive system (e.g., ascending colon, sigmoid colon, etc.). This is just one example of how MGS2 maps its narrative themes onto the aesthetic structures and technical architectures of the game. Contrary to the fear of technophillic disembodiment and visions of downloaded consciousness often attached to new media technologies and theory, Rose, as well

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Figure 14.2 MGS2: Example of opening credit’s animation using molecular diagrams that transform into names

Figure 14.3 MGS2: Menu screen with molecular diagram visible on the right

Figure 14.4 MSG2: Cinematic shot of the big shell where the majority of the game takes place. Note the similarity in structure to the molecular diagrams

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as Galloway and Thacker, argues that these biopolitical processes envision and configure the body as all the more biological rather than purely informational. While MGS2 is interested in notions of artificial life and dreams of informational consciousness, it is equally invested in the subjectivity and physicality of the human player at the interface.This is accomplished, in large part, through the controller’s haptic feedback that communicates tension and alarm while also breaking the diegetic fourth wall by hailing the player as the embodied gamer (e.g., “Raiden! Turn the game console off right now!”; and, “You’ll ruin your eyes playing so close to the TV!”). One should recall Hayles’s claim that the technologies we create and the way we envision ourselves develop together. MGS2 models the formations of new subjectivities and overtly references them, effectively forcing the player to consider her posthuman relation to the game technology. Raiden himself is not only embedded with nanocommunicators but is clothed in a “Skull Suit” that monitors his biological function. This suit, as part of the simulation, turns out to be feeding its information directly to the Sons of Liberty. Solid Snake, as a symbolic counterpart to Raiden, is less technologically advanced; indeed, he represents a different historical construction of the full spectrum warrior—that is, a soldier capable, through training and equipment, of deploying and succeeding in a variety of battlefields. Snake’s technicity lies in his genetic engineering.As part of the Les Enfants Terribles project, he is the genetic progeny of Big Boss, one of the most famous Special Forces soldiers in military history. Snake can be read as a creation of the gene sequencing era, in which the human was reduced to a sequence of configurable code in popular imagination not altogether separate from Turing’s understanding of the human mind as a processing unit executing algorithms. Contrarily, Raiden, with his biometric suit and a history of intense indoctrination and training, is deeply rooted in an era of biomedia. His body is not so much compiled, like Snake’s, but read and rewritten. Eugene Thacker’s (2004) understanding of biomedia fuels this reading of Raiden: The “goal” of biomedia is not simply the use of computer technology in the service of biology, but rather an emphasis on the ways in which an intersection between genetic and computer “codes” can facilitate a qualitatively different notion of the biological body—one that is technically enhanced, and yet still fully biological. (p. 6) Raiden’s body is informatic to the extent that its biological basis can be exploited, modified, managed, and reworked as needed to fuse with and execute the simulation. From his childhood on he has been inscribed, erased, and repurposed as needed but, in the end, he remains uniquely biological and human. Snake, however,

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is a technological product of military genetic experimentation with an accompanying expiry date (his accelerated aging becomes an issue in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots [2008]) emphasizing his rapidly depleting use value in the new age of warfare. MGS2’s treatment of the modern soldier and war agrees with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s (2004) assertion that “[w]ar has become a regime of biopower” in that “daily life and the normal functioning of power has been permeated with the threat of violence of warfare” (p. 13). MGS2 activates a form of anxiety over the looming presence of war. Hardt and Negri also connect biopower to the corporatization of military powers and neoliberal strategies for expanding markets and spheres of influence. Given these conditions, the world has been placed in a “global state of war” where wars are not isolated events but bound within a web of conflicts (p. 5). To cope with these destabilized and distributed warfare zones, military powers must be configured as networks (p. 59). Hardt and Negri’s analysis focuses primarily on the reorganization and retooling of the U.S. military in response to increased demands to conduct protracted counterterrorist, counterinsurgency, and nation-building operations in multiple sites around the globe. Building on the work of Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer, Robin Andersen (2006), argues that the endless rehearsal, preparation, and simulation of warfare resulting from the marriage of the military and entertainment sectors has caused the boundaries between war and peace to blur (p. 256).The reformulation of the military and warfare into network structures is not limited to strategic, tactical, and logistic reorganization within the Armed Forces; rather, the war machine extends to the “entertainment sector” and the video game industry which, along with the Defense Department, “work together to advance the state of the art” in modeling and simulation technology (Halter, 2006, p. 211). The end result of these kinds of collaborations are games such as America’s Army (2002) which provide novel ways to recruit and advertise military service to key demographics. However, many other video games with less explicit connections to the U.S.Armed Forces provide other military benefits.The proliferation of war-themed video games which stage modern and historical conflicts normalizes the global state of war. They provide additional media experiences that supplement the video, photographic, and textual reportage from contemporary and historical battlefields. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these virtual experiences fit into a narrow ideological and political frame that mythologizes and legitimizes these conflicts by reducing them to battles of good vs. evil. Immersed in this cognisphere of war-media consumption, players are often hailed into certain subject formations which are more conducive to the conditions and expectations of the global state of war. Raiden, in many ways, is representative of this type of monitored, indexed, and disciplined subject. In a codec dialogue between Solid Snake, the post-Vietnam era Special Forces genetic super soldier, and Raiden, the post-9/11 biomediated counterinsurgency

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agent, Snake (assuming the codename Pliskin) addresses the historical gap between their two forms of development: Raiden: I’ve had extensive training—the kind that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. Pliskin: Like what? Raiden: Sneaking mission 60,Weapons 80. Pliskin:VR [Virtual Reality], huh. Raiden: But realistic in every way. Pliskin: A virtual grunt of the digital age.That’s just great. Raiden:That’s far more effective than live exercises. Pliskin:You don’t get injured in VR, do you? Every year, a few soldiers die in field exercises. Raiden:There’s pain sensation in VR, and even a sense of reality and urgency. The only difference is that it isn’t actually happening. Pliskin:That’s the way they want you to think, to remove you from the fear that goes with battle situations. War as a video game—what better way to raise the ultimate soldier? As opposed to Snake’s genetic construction, Raiden has been managed, manipulated, and optimized from birth. Much is made throughout the game of Raiden’s prior military experience taking place entirely through virtual reality (VR) training which, as Snake observes, conveniently omits the more visceral and horrifying aspects of combat. Michael Macedonia, technology officer for the Orlando branch of the U.S. Army Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Command, also recognizes this but does not see it as detrimental to the efficacy of simulation in training. He explains that “a lot of what we’re doing in [Army simulation] training is creating memories” that can be recalled and triggered in combat (qtd. in Halter, 2006, p. 198). Halter goes on to explain that Macedonia and other military researchers view “consciousness as a result of complex, but ultimately tweakable, informatic systems.And indeed, the idea of the brain as a kind of reprogrammable computer” (p. 199). When Raiden’s VR training is referenced within MGS2, clips of gameplay from previous iterations of the Metal Gear series often appear within the interface. Many players will remember these scenes from their previous experiences. Players of MGS can draw upon memories of prior gameplay in order to successfully navigate MGS2 in the same way Raiden’s VR training was meant to prepare him for the Big Shell infiltration.This, of course, is part of the overall strategy behind games like America’s Army—it extends the reach of the training taking place within the armed forces to the home. Individuals with high technical aptitude, problemsolving skills, and familiarity with military conflicts and computerized interfaces

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are likely to make a much easier transition into military service. However, such a subject formation is in no way limited to games explicitly created for military recruitment. Instead, many different video games can be seen as not only creating certain kinds of memories but significantly shaping opinions and perceptions of warfare. The military-entertainment complex is thus a productive form of power which actively attempts to shape the social and cultural landscape. One of the rhetorical features of this strategy has been a “shift from ‘defense’ to ‘security’ ” (Hardt and Negri, 2004, p. 20).What this means is that, as a networked and distributed global formation, the U.S. no longer has a concern only for the defense of boundaries but seeks actively to sculpt its circumstances through unilateral interventionist strategies. Hence, war is transformed from a “destabilizing force” to “an active mechanism that constantly creates and reinforces the present global order” (p. 21). MGS2 figures this change as the Sons of Liberty simulation, which, rather than engaging in destructive nuclear tactics, attempts to shape and reimagine life itself. Raiden, as the infiltrator, can be viewed as a form of infection, breaching the boundaries of security, and worming his way into the core. But, as the Sons of Liberty reveal, this activity is not unwelcome; Raiden is testing the system. As Galloway and Thacker (2007) have theorized, the notion of security in the cognisphere is all about “the creation of boundaries that are selectively permeable” (p. 75). Security then can be redefined as a form of network administration or the granting of access, the setting of codes, and mapping of relations. Provocatively, Galloway and Thacker present gaming as the future revision of security in their table of binaries, prognosticating the journey in power regimes from Deleuzian “Societies of Control” to “. . . the Future” (p. 101).The Sons of Liberty simulation seems to solve the administrative problems of network security through gaming. The simulation accepts subjects into its envelope and then, through the subjectivity-shaping process of gaming, creates the ideal subject. Raiden-as-virus may permeate the boundary and attempt to infect the core, but his intervention simply becomes part of the database—synthesized and banked as user experience data for later use. In this way, gaming accepts all experiences as well as mythologizes and glorifies freedom, but ultimately maintains firm protological and algorithmic control.The seemingly infinite calculations and iterations of the gamic act provide for the ultimate process of generative data-gathering, offering a sense of false freedom for the player while being strictly monitored, controlled, and indexed. One can imagine how gameplay could be transformed into a process whereby subjectivity is formulated and then used to harvest data for a variety of purposes. As the gamic and social spheres increasingly blur, exploiting crossovers will become increasingly valuable for a variety of political and economic interests, and theorizing disruptions and subversions will be even more important.11

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Freedom/Control Gilles Deleuze’s “Postscript on the societies of control” (1992) has served as the theoretical foundation for much of the work on power in contemporary networked and computational society.12 Deleuze conceives of the control society as one in which individuals are tracked, sorted, and conceived of as data-sets. Access is granted but monitored and mapped. He uses the term “modulation” to describe this shift from disciplinary enclosure to management and control (pp. 4 and 7). While aware of the watchful eye of Foxhound (and the Sons of Liberty), Raiden is unaware his actions are anticipated, expected, and desired. He believes his infiltration is clandestine and that his ultimate goal of saving the President and destroying the weapons on board the Big Shell are subversive. In short, he knows he is being modulated, but not controlled. Similarly, players of video games understand the restrictive interfaces and guidance of the rules of play, yet still, if marketing rhetoric is any indication, find the “freedom” of digital play alluring. Although it is bound within the inherent informatic directives of the algorithm, Galloway (2006) has pointed out that MGS2 is one of the few video games to struggle over its own mechanisms of control. The narrative and gameplay consistently register this anxiety and battle of wills.13 The game forces the player along its path, but refuses to cloak itself in the pretense of liberation that other games rely on, going as far as to implicate the player in its operations of power. Whereas Raiden is trapped within and shaped by the Sons of Liberty simulation, the modern player is ensnared within the seductive mythologies and trappings of the war video game which accustoms her to a world of conflict. But this relationship eventually concludes in a stark psychic break between player and Raiden when Snake calls attention to Raiden’s dog tags. Earlier in the game the player, upon accessing a computer terminal, was given the opportunity to emboss the tags with a name of his or her choosing (see Figure 14.5). Raiden now looks at the tags as Snake asks, “Anyone you know?” Raiden responds, “No, never heard the name before. I’ll pick my own name . . . and my own life. I’ll find something worth passing on.” Play itself is revised in this moment, as the player’s earlier actions are recontextualized as a form of interpellation. Raiden’s psychic break with the player can be read as a form of “rupture” which Judith Butler (1993) insists can take place between the subject and the interpellating law: “The law might not only be refused, but it might also be ruptured, forced into a rearticulation that calls into question the monotheistic force of its own unilateral operation” (p. 122). The player is identified as another node within the network of power, interpellating Raiden’s subjectivity just as much as the simulation.This scene forces the player to recognize her simultaneous affinity with Raiden and empathy for his plight, as well as her own participation in, and subjection to, the control schema. Given this

Figure 14.5 MGS2: Dog tag embossing sequence. Screenshot used with permission from James Howell

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relationship with Raiden and power, perhaps what we (as disciplined and simulated) need is our own mutation. At the game’s end, Snake counsels Raiden on the streets of New York on how to proceed amidst the recognition of the inescapability of regimes of control. Snake’s solution is to locate lines of flight within subjective experience: “I know you didn’t have much in terms of choices this time. But everything you felt, thought about during this mission is yours. And what you decide to do with them is your choice.” The idea here is that the player of the game, once “freed” of the restrictive architectures of gamespace (hence the outdoor setting where this conversation takes place) can recontextualize and rearticulate the gaming experience for themselves. The credit sequence, interspersed with footage of the streets of contemporary New York City (Figure 14.6), draws this final message to its conclusion. After the credits stop, Snake explains that “Life isn’t just about passing on your genes. We can leave behind much more than just DNA.Through speech, music, literature and movies . . . what we’ve seen, heard, felt . . . anger, joy and sorrow . . . these are the things I will pass on. That’s what I live for.” In other words, Snake posits culture as a means of psychic flight or refuge in a society that overdetermines subjectivity. Notably, Snake does not mention video games as one of the forms of culture which provide an escape from the apparent determinism of genetics.This suggests that games represent a disturbingly reductive set of ideologies and investments incapable of the kind of resistance MGS2 preaches.

Figure 14.6 MGS2: Example of footage of New York shown during end sequence

On/Off Certainly, the video game industry is not only indebted in many ways to the military-entertainment complex but is also steeped in reductive notions of what

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constitutes play, gamers, and suitable candidates for game industry positions.Yet these problems are not intrinsic to play. Freud’s famous analysis of the fort/da game in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1961) provides an archetypal example of the ways in which gaming can serve as a form of mastery. In the game, a toddler copes with his mother’s repeated departure and return by staging her loss with a reel and string. Repeatedly, the child makes the reel disappear (by throwing it over the edge of his cot) and then brings it back, rehearsing the pain of her absence and subsequent exultation of presence of his mother. The game repositions the boy from a passive to an active role in his own loss and makes him “master of the situation” (p. 16). MGS2, and other games, can also be read as participating in a similar shift, allowing the player to assume an active role in some situation wherein she is traditionally passive.The problem is that the conditions of this play, as discussed in this chapter, as well as in the work of Galloway, are incredibly restrictive.Thus, gaming might provide a form of psychic catharsis but little in the way of liberation. But is the solution to be found in, as the ending of MGS2 apparently endorses, turning the game console off and seeking other methods of subversion? McKenzie Wark (2007) criticizes a strategic turn to a “real world” free of the problems of the digital: “The utopian dream of liberating play from the game, of a pure play beyond the game, merely opened the way for the extension of gamespace into every aspect of everyday life” (p. 16). As Wark explains it, this new reality of a game-like everyday is an effect of the military-entertainment complex’s emergence. Consequently, finding forms of play free of the oppressive digital architectures of the simulation replaces technological problems with new ones. However, as the political battlefield expands, it also opens up the possibility for a variety of game forms to exist at the threshold of the physical and virtual: flash mobs, alternative reality games, and various forms of strategic protest and performance art, play, parody, and appropriate spaces to locate exploits in the network and cognisphere. If our lives are becoming increasingly ludic, the answer to the problematic of the control society cannot be found in turning off the game console, but in recognizing the irrelevance of identifying gamespace only on a screen or a tabletop.The simulation is already running before we sit down at the TV or computer. Our task now is to learn how to become better gamers, and come to terms with what it means to play with or against military games of all stripes. Notes 1. Players can open a menu system that allows them to punch in key codes acquired during gameplay to speak with the game’s characters. These communications provide story, background information, and hints, and even serve as the save game function.

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2. It must be emphasized that what is being discussed here is very different from forms of modding, countergaming, hacking, and performance that are traditionally associated with subversive gaming. In the forms just mentioned various player-activists recontextualize, reshape, and repurpose an existent, often regressive, video game. What is of interest to me is how select games may in fact be read as entering into progressive discourse without this kind of technical intervention. 3. For further reading consult Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood’s excellent summation “Theaters of war: the military-entertainment complex,” class/sts145/Library/Lenoir-Lowood_TheatersOfWar.pdf. 4. This chapter analyzes both what is presented in MGS2 and how it is presented given the mediation of the game’s interface. This is a critical perspective lifted from N. Katherine Hayles (1999), who has issued the following call: “By adopting a double vision that looks simultaneously at the power of simulation and at the materialities that produce it, we can better understand the implications of articulating posthuman constructions together with embodied actualities” (p. 47). 5. The ideal setup for the game would involve a “teleprinter” or keyboard, with accompanying screen or monitor to read the symbols, as the interface between the room of the test subjects and interrogator. The test subjects, either a man (“A”) and a woman (“B”) or a machine (“A”) and a human (“B”), are asked a series of questions that test the adequacy of their performance of gender or humanity. The game involves test subject “A” manipulating the flickering signifiers on the interrogator’s screen in order to have him or her misidentify him or it as a woman or machine respectively. 6. Thankfully, a large community of amateur and independent Metal Gear scholars has blossomed on the Internet. One of these individuals, Grant Morrissey, has drawn up a full plot summary of all the games: solid_plot.txt. 7. The very beginning of the game, also known as “The Tanker Chapter,” occurs two years prior. In this chapter the player assumes control of Solid Snake, the beloved protagonist of the Metal Gear series. Snake, as a rogue agent, is investigating the transportation of a new Metal Gear weapon, the RAY, which is being held onboard by the United States Marine Corps. Snake quickly discovers after arriving that the tanker has been seized by Russian terrorists led by Revolve Ocelot, one of the main villains from MGS. Eventually, Ocelot kills the commanders of both the Marine forces and Russian terrorists aboard the ship, seizes RAY, and sinks the tanker. Snake disappears into the depths of the river. These events provide the backdrop for the main storyline involving Raiden. 8. Dialogue obtained from Metal Gear Solid 2 Ending Analysis website: http:// 9. I am drawing here from Espen Aarseth’s Cybertext (1997). 10. One of the more interesting innovations of the health bar interface is contained within the follow-up to MGS2, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004). This game contains a separate menu interface with which to administer first aid (bandages, splints, antiseptic, etc.) to manage the various injuries the main character receives. 11. Galloway’s (2006) “countergaming” in Gaming: Essays on algorithmic control and McKenzie Wark’s (2007) Gamer theory both provide good examples of how to think through these issues. 12. See Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (2006), Alexander Galloway (2004), and Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker (2007).

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13. The primary antagonist of MGS1–4 is the most glaring representative of this control anxiety. In MGS, Revolver Ocelot lost his hand in a confrontation with Solid Snake and the Cyborg Ninja. It is revealed in MGS2 that Ocelot replaced his arm with that of Liquid Snake, however, this has caused their two personalities to enter into conflict for the control of Ocelot’s consciousness. In Metal Gear Solid 4, it appears that the two beings have completely merged forming Liquid Ocelot.

References Aarseth, E.J. (1997). Cybertext: Perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Andersen, R. (2006). A century of media, a century of war. New York: Peter Lang. Bogost, I. (2006). Unit operations: An approach to videogame criticism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex.” New York: Routledge. Chun, W.H.K. (2006). Control and freedom: Power and paranoia in the age of fiber optics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Deleuze, G. (Winter 1992). Postscript on the societies of control. October, 59: 3–7. Foucault, M. (2003). “Society must be defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975–1976. New York: Picador. Freud, S. (1961). Beyond the pleasure principle. New York: Norton. Fullerton, T. (2007). Beyond the hegemony of play. Paper presented at the Mellon Workshop on Affect, Technics, and Ethics. Galloway, A.R. (2004). Protocol: How control exists after decentralization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Galloway, A.R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Galloway, A.R. and Thacker, E. (2007). The exploit: A theory of networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Halter, E. (2006). From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2004). Multitude: War and democracy in the age of empire. New York: Penguin Press. Hayles, N.K. (1999). How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Hayles, N.K. (2006). Unfinished work: From cyborg to cognisphere. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(7–8): 159–166. Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you: How today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter. New York: Riverhead Books. Morrissey, G. (2004). A complete plot summary & analysis of the Metal Gear Series. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from ps2/file/913941/31765. Redding, P. (2007). Familiarity breeds contempt: Building game stories that flow. Lecture presented at the Austin Game Developers Conference. Full text and slides retrieved August 29, 2008, from Rose, N. (2007). The politics of life itself: Biomedicine, power, and subjectivity in the twenty-first century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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Thacker, E. (2004). Biomedia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Turing, A.M. (October 1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind: A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy, LIX(236): 433–461. Urbina, A. (2002). Metal Gear Solid 2 ending analysis. Retrieved July 20, 2008, from Junker HQ Wark, M. (2007). Gamer theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chapter 15

Dead-in-Iraq The Spatial Politics of Digital Game Art Activism and the In-Game Protest Dean Chan

Online games offer newly emergent contexts for negotiating notions of public order and civic propriety in contemporary interactive communication environments. Complex regimes of governance and self-governance, complete with seemingly ritualized practices for gamer “netiquette” and other forms of acceptable interactive player behavior, are continually evolving in these “synthetic worlds” (Castronova, 2005), even in the most rudimentary networked multiplayer games. But what happens when these social codes are wilfully transgressed? More to the point, is it possible to imagine genuinely democratic participatory cultures in these synthetic worlds, to the extent of accommodating alterity, protest, and dissent? As a form of digital game art activism and in-game protest, Dead-in-Iraq is the ludic equivalent of an online pacifist act of civil disobedience; and it serves as an expanded case study in this chapter to consider how issues of social, political, and artistic rights and responsibilities are spatialized in networked games. The Project Dead-in-Iraq is both a memorial to dead soldiers and a war protest. It also takes place within an online multiplayer game. Conceived by United States artist Joseph DeLappe, this project commenced in March 2006 on the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion. As part of this work, DeLappe periodically logs into the U.S. Army online game America’s Army (2002) with his digital avatar named “dead-in-iraq.” Using the in-game text messaging system that scrolls across the screen for all users to see, he manually types in the name, age, service branch, and date of death of U.S. service persons killed in Iraq since the war started. By August 2008, 4,128 personnel had died. DeLappe (2006) describes his role within the project as follows: I am a neutral visitor as I do not participate in the proscribed mayhem. Rather, I stand in position and type until I am killed.After death, I hover over my dead

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avatar’s body and continue to type. Upon being re-incarnated in the next round, I continue the cycle. (n.p.) As of May 2008, he has inputted 4,002 names in chronological order according to the date of death. He regularly updates these input figures on the project website (, where he also provides the latest figures for the growing number of U.S. war dead. He plans to continue with Dead-in-Iraq until the war is over. For DeLappe, Dead-in-Iraq serves a double function: “The work is essentially a fleeting, online memorial to those military personnel who have been killed in this ongoing conflict. My actions are also intended as a cautionary gesture” (DeLappe, 2006). He calls Dead-in-Iraq an “online gaming intervention” because “[b]y bringing these names into that context it’s not only a way of remembering, it’s bringing a reality into the fantasy” (qtd. in Craig, 2006, p. 2). Developed by the U.S. Army and launched on Independence Day 2002, America’s Army has attracted much media and scholarly attention. Henry Giroux (2006), for example, is critical of how “domestic militarization” in the U.S. has become “widespread in the realm of culture and functions as a mode of public pedagogy, instilling the values and the aesthetic of militarization through a variety of pedagogical sites and cultural venues” (p. 197). The production and consumption of games like America’s Army substantiate Giroux’s concern that “the pedagogical force of popular culture itself ” has become “a major tool used by the armed forces to educate young people about the ideology and social relations that inform military life—minus a few of the unpleasantries” (p. 199). DeLappe echoes this line of criticism. On the project website, he describes America’s Army, which is free to download and free to play, as “the online recruiting game and [public relations] tool of the United States Army.” He regards America’s Army as “tax-payer funded propaganda” (qtd. in Kuo, 2006, p. 1). For him, the game is collusive in promulgating and perpetuating “a fantasy about killing and being in the military, but nobody dies, there are no consequences. It’s a complete fabrication . . . it’s free, it’s fun to play, it’s seductive, it presents a fantasy portrait of what war is like” (qtd. in Kuo, 2006, p. 1). Dead-in-Iraq is clearly designed to provoke an alternative conversation.Yet, at the same time, perhaps one of the most glaring flaws in DeLappe’s work—and possibly one of its major contradictions—is that, for a project which essentially aspires to create critical dialogic space with and for other gamers, dead-in-iraq’s unresponsive typing (he never directly engages with any of the other players) might seem to be obscurantist and wilfully monologic. The core question remains: Can, and should, Dead-in-Iraq still be conceived of as a viable agentive act and productive polemical expression? Individual acts of agency and polemical expression obviously do not operate in a social void.At stake

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here is a twinned consideration of the right to protest and the efficacy of protest. Such attentiveness to the viability and productivity of the project highlights both the possibilities and challenges inherent in evaluating DeLappe’s project. The myriad readings of the project nonetheless deserve to be placed in context. Accordingly, this chapter aims to contextualize key interpretations of Dead-in-Iraq as a site-specific performance artwork, a micro-protest, a commemorative act, and an interventionist act of culture jamming. Spatializing Protest DeLappe’s online intervention in state-sanctioned information flows may be interpreted as a form of culture jamming. In general, culture jamming attempts to make people rethink their relationship to the everyday, usually by drawing attention to the social and economic inequities inscribed within mass culture. Culture jammers frequently target advertising in public spaces and seek to intervene in the communication process by satirically defacing or altering the ad’s intended message.While jamming has often been directed at advertising culture, adbusting is by no means its only function. Spanning a broad genealogy that encompasses the Situationists, Critical Art Ensemble, Hacktivists, and Electronic Disturbance Theater, the act of jamming cultural circuitries of hegemonic, and increasingly corporatized, information flows has today evolved to become a significant activist and artistic mode of critique, protest, and disruption. Dead-in-Iraq clearly belongs within this genealogy. Nevertheless, Henry Jenkins (2006) argues that “the old politics of culture jamming” (p. 248), while marking an important juncture in the history of do-ityourself counter-perspectives on mass media, has outlived its usefulness. He wearily notes that, within this “old” paradigm, “debate keeps getting framed as if the only true alternative were to opt out of media altogether and live in the woods . . . Resistance becomes an end in and of itself ” (pp. 248–249). This generalized view is overly simplistic. As Naomi Klein (2001) clarifies, “The most sophisticated culture jams are not stand-alone ad parodies but interceptions— counter-messages that hack into a corporation’s own method of communication to send a message starkly at odds with the one that was intended” (p. 281). DeLappe’s project is a reflexive interrogation of the possibilities for agentive consumer action within new digital environments.The project serves to highlight how artists and activists are responding to ever-changing media conditions, thus demonstrating the way in which jamming continues to evolve as a topical and relevant form of intervention. At the same time, the legacy of historical traditions of anti-war protest and other “old” political gambits is importantly acknowledged. As a tactic of intervention, Dead-in-Iraq highlights the spatial politics at stake in contemporary culture—

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specifically, the spatialization of protest within mediated culture. The project references older traditions of war protest.Aaron Delwiche (2006) points out that the project’s location within an army recruitment tool harkens back to anti-war activism linked to recruitment centers in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s. More explicitly, DeLappe’s project is part of a lineage of protests that involve the symbolic invocation and naming of the war dead. Some of these acts have been revived in response to the Iraq war. Examples include the “Naming of the Dead” public ceremonies in 2004 organized by the International Stop the War Coalition (Dabrowska, 2004; Stop the War Coalition, n.d.), and the reading of the names of U.S. war dead on an episode of Nightline televised in the U.S. in 2004 (Carter, 2004). At the same time, however, the process of invoking names of the war dead in public spaces of protest almost always involves specific rhetorical maneuvering in anticipation that it will be inevitably indicted by some as an act that exploits or dishonors the troops. This is especially so when the war is still in progress and while the lists of names continue to grow. Coterminous space for commemoration, memorialization, and remembrance must seemingly be created. Moreover, it is not uncommon for such an honorific memorial space to literally precede and be privileged over the act of protest itself. Thus, by rhetorical obligation, DeLappe has to present his project as a specifically ordered conjunction—memorial and protest—lest it overly transgress the social boundaries of civil propriety and sanctioned critique. Yet, through the persistent typing of names, Dead-in-Iraq provokes salient questions.What happens if there are instead no names to publicly reflect on or mourn?What happens when the war dead die again when edited and editorialized out of mediated existence? What public sphere is born in their absent space? The answers might lie in Judith Butler’s (2004) observation about the symbolic effects and social consequences of only sanctioning selected types of public grieving.Certain images are not disseminated through the media,certain names of the dead are never publicly mentioned, and certain losses become rigorously disavowed in the public sphere.The enactments of such prohibitions “not only shore up a nationalism based on its military aims and practices, but they also suppress any internal dissent that would expose the concrete, human effects of its violence” (p. 38). On the question of honoring the privacy of families who might not wish to see their loved one’s name in his memorial, DeLappe responded in a CNN (2006) interview that “if we only allow the family members to mourn the losses in Iraq, that’s part of the problem, that . . . we have not as a nation been given an opportunity to grieve.We don’t see the coffins, we don’t see the funerals, we don’t see the deaths” (pp. 10–11). In this regard, Dead-in-Iraq reinscribes corporeal presence into mediated absence.The naming of U.S. war dead in DeLappe’s project is thereby not only necessary, it is also necessarily nation-specific in order to function as a domestic intervention into America’s Army.When he interrogates the

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game’s method and content of communication—be it in terms of its ostensible “hyper-reality” (GamePolitics, 2006) or its sanitization of the brutalities of war (Craig, 2006)—he is not peddling in scare-mongering abstractions.This is a game with considerable social impact, political consequence, and economic underpinning. As Salon writer Rebecca Clarren (2006) reports: As of June [2006], America’s Army users had clicked on [the U.S. Army’s recruitment information website] 1.35 million times. With users having spent more than 160 million hours playing America’s Army, the military figures its investment of $2.5 million per year to expand and update the game is well worth it. (p. 18) The names in Dead-in-Iraq provide textual dissonance within this nexus of entertainment, recruitment, and the economic bottom-line.When one of the other players, “BgRobSmith,” observes the names being typed in by dead-in-iraq and momentarily pauses mid-game to ask, “are those real people?” (Figure 15.1), the corporeal dimensions of this textual dissonance are brought home.

Figure 15.1 Dead-in-Iraq, Joseph DeLappe (2006). Used with permission from the artist

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Interventionist Performance DeLappe once received an email from the brother of a killed soldier requesting that the soldier’s name be left out of Dead-in-Iraq. As DeLappe explained in an interview, he was prepared to comply with this request but discovered from his records that he had already inputted the name: And I apologized, but I also told him that I’m impassioned in my belief that part of the problem today in our country is that . . . we don’t share in the sacrifice, it is only the family members who are able to mourn and consider the very real cost of what is going on.This is my way of paying tribute to them while at the same time questioning this game, the war, and what is going on. (CNN, 2006, p. 10) Such momentary recognition of the “real cost” and enforced negotiations of “real people” are designed in DeLappe’s project to fleetingly rupture the surfaces of mediated realism. His insistence on recognizing the fact of corporeal physicality is mimetically inferred through the project’s methodology. DeLappe manually types the names and details, line-by-line, rather than simplifying the task using a “cut and paste” technique. According to him, it is “a kind of penance” and “like writing something over and over again on a chalkboard” to the extent that he can only type “around 75 or so [names and their associated personal details] per sitting taking at least two hours before my hands ache” (qtd. in Halter, 2006b, p. 37).The laborious physicality involved in this procedure in turn produces a form of embodied experience, a kind of sensate knowledge largely denied in most mainstream media representation: “It’s a slow process and purposely so because I’m conscious of this being a meaningful activity and not wanting to rush through it . . . The very methodical, careful typing in of the names, even reading through all the names, is intense because it starts to individualize it” (qtd. in Hutcheon, 2007, ¶13). The process of typing therefore becomes an intensely focused and intrinsically politicized act within the performative locus of this project. However, this is not to say that such insularity becomes a means and end in itself. DeLappe takes his cues from art history, citing Dada as his creative and polemical touchstone for “bringing art to the street, taking that kind of thinking and translating it to computer game space” (qtd. in Kuo, 2006, p. 3). Dada performance art in particular was often confrontational. Artists delighted in startling unsuspecting passers-by with their impromptu street performances, for example.The historical project of European avant-garde movements such as Dada and surrealism in the early twentieth century can be regarded as a multifaceted cultural project that strove to wake people up, as it were, and resuscitate a social function for artistic practice, rescuing it from the confinements of bourgeois institutional art intended

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for display only in the museum (Bürger, 1984). By claiming such a lineage of radical cultural practice for Dead-in-Iraq and by bringing a type of online performance art to the virtual streets this time, DeLappe is in essence advocating a social refunctioning of art in general and digital game art in particular. His work draws attention to how online spaces have effectively become normalized. Such virtual turf is now considered part of everyday space. By performing his work in this public arena and quotidian environment, DeLappe’s art is obviously intended to provoke further reflection or commentary (see Figure 15.2). He does not make works purely to be exhibited in the gallery or museum; rather, his public performances are always highly specific and responsive to their respective locations. His online site-specific art is therefore a performative act of intervention into digitalized quotidian existence. Interventionist performances are recurrent in DeLappe’s artistic practice. His first online performance Howl: Elite ForceVoyager Online took place in 2001. In this work, he logged into Star Trek:Voyager Elite Force (2001) using “Allen Ginsberg” as his avatar name and proceeded to type Ginsberg’s renowned beat poem “Howl” in its entirety, taking over six hours to complete the performance. Since then, he has worked on a wide variety of solo and collaborative performances set in multiplayer

Figure 15.2 Dead-in-Iraq, Joseph DeLappe (2006). Used with permission from the artist

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online games, including ET tu, Sir Alfred? (2003), Quake/Friends (2003), and The Great Debates (2004). Bearing a discernible affinity to Dead-in-Iraq in form, content, and approach, War Poetry: Medal of Honor (2003), was a solo performance where DeLappe typed poems by World War I English poet Siegfried Sassoon, whose work powerfully detailed the brutal realities of war, in the text messaging window in the networked game Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002). Such projects collectively saw DeLappe developing his technique of decontextualizing familiar texts by inserting them in seemingly incongruous settings in order to recontextualize not only their meanings but also the meanings of the settings the texts were placed in. The Great Debates 1,2,and 3 provide a case in point:They were performative reenactments of the three 2004 Presidential debates, using published transcripts of the sessions between Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush, which DeLappe staged in three networked games, Battlefield Vietnam (2004), Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002), and The Sims Online (2002). He also experimented with various dialogic possibilities in this project, including entering into direct conversation with other players. He would momentarily pause keying in the transcript to ad-lib responses to other players while still keeping in character as either one of the presidential candidates. It would appear that, for DeLappe, different projects clearly warrant different communication strategies and dialogic options. Dead-in-Iraq therefore needs to be contextualized in relation to his creative oeuvre.This includes the broad range of online interventionist performances that preceded the project thereby crucially emphasizing his ongoing commitment to exploring varied uses of the medium to mobilize commentary on topical concerns. Dead-in-Iraq also deserves to be contextualized as part of a diverse international range of anti-wargame art projects being developed in response to the so-called “Global War on Terror.” Prominent examples include: September 12th, a Toy World (2003), and Madrid (2004), by, a Uruguay-based project collective headed up by game designer and theorist Gonzalo Frasca, as well as Frasca’s own Kabul Kaboom! (2001), New Zealander Josh On’s Antiwargame (2002), and the Serbian-designed online game project titled Lapsus Memoriae (2002) (Halter, 2006a, pp. 308–314). Velvet Strike warrants special mention. Like Deadin-Iraq, this project proposes a set of methodological gambits for staging protest in an online game. Created in 2002 by artists Anne-Marie Schleiner (U.S.), Joan Leandre (Spain), and Brody Condon (U.S.), Velvet Strike is a collection of downloadable “sprays”—anti-war, pro-peace, and satiric spray-paint images (such as terrorists embracing counter-terrorists in homoerotic poses) and slogans (such as “Hostages in Military Fantasy” and “Refugee Camp Here”)—that can be used as posters and graffiti-tags inside the popular networked multiplayer shooter CounterStrike (1999).The project title references Czechoslovakia’s bloodless 1989 Velvet Revolution in which the communist government was peacefully overthrown. As

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part of Velvet Strike, “intervention recipes” for enacting pacifist scenarios within Counter-Strike are also included, as well as a program for adding a hopscotch diagram on the battleground floor in a sly subversion of this normally hypermasculine environment. The in-game use of graffiti-tags, which is a distinctive gameplay feature in Counter-Strike, is therefore cleverly subverted and re-purposed. Instead of functioning purely as territorial and colonizing markers, Velvet Strike enables the act of tagging to become a self-reflexive interrogation of staid gaming conventions while overtly linking game space to broader socio-cultural concerns. Suffice to say that not everyone appreciated Velvet Strike, not least the other players who happened to inhabit the project’s shared game space. Ed Halter (2006a) catalogues a litany of player criticisms alleging that the project has “ruined” their game (pp. 326–327). These responses foreshadow a similar range of complaints levelled at DeLappe’s project (although the overtly gendered commentary in Velvet Strike elicited a more vociferously misogynistic range of responses). Halter offers a way to negotiate this seeming interpretive impasse: In a medium known for so many other kinds of unauthorized hacks, cheats, and mods, “ruining” the game could otherwise be seen as just another way to play it. If the Counter-Strike world was created as a place in which gamers could play war, what’s to stop anyone from using it to play antiwar? After all, civilian protests are as much a part of the experience of modern conflict as anything else, and fantasizing about the power of AK-47s is not too different from fantasizing about the power of protest. (p. 327) Halter makes some pertinent points about the right to protest in multiplayer game space and the primacy of protest as a form of polemical play. There is a seductive symmetry in this reasoned argument. Nevertheless, Halter’s reasoning potentially glosses over the nuances of the affective dimensions of player criticisms of such projects.That is to say, the emotive aspects of their responses need to be more carefully mapped and examined:Why do the players feel the way they do? To this end, I want to return to Dead-in-Iraq. In particular, I want to focus on the spatial logic—of place and belonging, of rights and responsibilities—underpinning the responses of both the intended audience and DeLappe himself. Whose Space? DeLappe’s project directs attention to questions about the ownership of Internet space. At issue here is the increasing corporate encroachment into public and private space as highlighted in free-to-play game spaces like America’s Army.At the same time, the sense of spatial ownership and territorial propriety deserves equally

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close scrutiny. DeLappe is aware of the negative response he usually provokes but he is committed to challenging game spaces with this project. As he states: What are these spaces? People say,“We come into these games to do A, B, and C, not C, D, and F.” My response is to say, “who says you’re only allowed to do those things in these spaces? . . .The Internet is a space designed for public environments”. (qtd. in Kuo, 2006, p. 2) One irate gamer however retorts: “This isn’t freedom of speech. If I were a server admin I would ban him. He can write an editorial, or do a plethora of other things that are protected under the notion of freedom of speech. Going into a server paid by someone else, and doing this against their wishes is not protected under freedom of speech” (qtd. in Lahti, 2006, p. 14). Another gamer is similarly critical: “Personally, I’d kick him out of a game I was hosting because he wasn’t participating in the game. The idea that I should be subjected to someone else’s ego trip just because we happen to be inhabiting the same virtual real estate is foolish” (qtd. in Lahti, 2006, p. 15).These views, DeLappe’s included, belie an indexical range of typical presuppositions about the putative freedoms available on the Internet. But who actually “owns” the ludic space in America’s Army? From a legal perspective, the project is not in direct contravention of America’s Army’s end-user license agreement (EULA). The EULA addresses copyright infringement and hacks, but not in-game actions. For example, unauthorized game modifications (mods) of America’s Army are illegal. These are assiduously tracked down and removed from general circulation. David B. Nieborg (2006), who has also contributed a chapter to this collection, suggests that this strong stance against the creation and circulation of unauthorized mods of America’s Army underscores how this game has been carefully designed to market the Army’s image and core agenda. In contrast, Dead-in-Iraq has substantive legal grounds to continue operating. It has indeed been widely noted that the U.S. Army has not directly intervened in the project partly because of this legal aspect; DeLappe has not actually flouted the game’s EULA (Halter, 2006b; Craig, 2006; Kuo, 2006; Lahti, 2006). At any rate, dead-in-iraq can still be voted off the game.The Code of Conduct in America’s Army functions as a self-regulating community tool. Improper conduct that is deemed to have a negative impact on the experiences of other players includes harassment, the use of derogatory language, and wilful failure to follow the orders of squad leaders. Offenders may be vote-kicked from the game session by the other players—or banned by the server administrator in extreme cases. DeLappe’s actions have been interpreted as contravening the Code of Conduct. More pointedly, he has often been voted off the game on the grounds of

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disseminating “chat spam” (Brucker-Cohen, 2006, p. 3)—that is, flooding the ingame communication system with what are regarded as superfluous messages. The question of territoriality in online games is made even more complex when it is recognized that ludic space is also created through play practices however broadly configured. The underlying sentiment among some gamers is that this is their space, a space for unfettered play, unencumbered by real-world inconveniences (Craig, 2006). It is not necessarily deemed to be the “right” space for DeLappe’s project, even though a few might agree in principle with his views (Lahti, 2006, pp. 16–17). Such objections might be best accounted for with reference to anthropologist Johan Huizinga’s (1970) observation that play tends to take place within the “magic circle,” a sanctioned time and space for such activity. The “magic circle” also constitutes an unspoken social contract among players on the requisite paradigms of participation and engagement.Accordingly, DeLappe’s project attracts adverse reactions by dint of its fundamental impropriety—for deliberately rupturing the perceived protocol of the “magic circle.” Not least of all, by insistently using capital letters in all his typed entries, dead-in-iraq is persistent in “shouting” his unsolicited message in this space. The myriad provocations evinced by digital game art projects like Dead-in-Iraq do not lend themselves to tidy resolution. Critics of DeLappe’s project, and its kind, consistently question the actual impact created (Craig, 2006; Lahti, 2006). To be certain, reflexive self-questioning will raise comparable niggling doubts: “What if, despite all the rhetorical flair its adherents can muster, culture jamming doesn’t actually matter? What if there is . . . only semiotic shadowboxing?” (Klein, 2001, p. 296). DeLappe is himself somewhat circumspect when asked to gauge the impact of his project thus far. As he concedes, “A lot of times I’m completely ignored. More often than not I am vote-kicked” (qtd. in Kuo, 2006, p. 2). Even then, the act of being vote-kicked from the game session may itself be regarded as part of the project’s performative ambit. It powerfully dramatizes the machinations and underlying precepts of self-regulating community gatekeeping. At any rate, DeLappe remains pragmatic about generally being pilloried by other players within the game: “This is, of course, to be expected—as an act of online remembrance and civil disobedience, the work truly raises the general ire of those participating in this game environment” (qtd. in Brucker-Cohen, 2006, p. 3). However, the reception in blogs and emails tells a rather different story; and DeLappe’s own account of this deserves quoting at length: What has been fascinating and unanticipated by me is the level of dialogue that has ensued on the various blogs and comment spaces associated with online news stories regarding the project. On the blogs, the reactions are roughly 50–50 with righteous gamers furious that I would impose myself into any game space for any reason other than to play the game (“we are trying

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to escape”, etc).The project is often dismissed as chat spam. Others are more thoughtful in their consideration of the work—considering this taxpayerfunded recruiting/marketing game as an appropriate space for such an act of memorial and protest. I have received emails and engaged in online dialogue with veterans, soldiers, and, in one instance, the relative of a soldier who had been killed in the war. I have received hate emails, been flamed mercilessly— balanced by respectful dialogue and input from those questioning or supporting my efforts. (qtd. in Brucker-Cohen, 2006, p. 3) DeLappe’s interpretive biases notwithstanding, this statement vividly testifies to the percolation of discourse and debate triggered by Dead-in-Iraq.The importance of blogs and emails as key sites for commentary and contestation is underscored. Indeed, if anything, it transpires that a parallel space of online dialogue has emerged for the project—its second life, so to speak. DeLappe regularly participates in these blogs, forums, and email exchanges, so they have in turn come to serve as vital ancillary project platforms for elaboration, clarification, and further discussion. As a consequence of the availability and accessibility of these newly proliferating forms in networked communication environments, the shape of contemporary activism is changing, not least of all in its ludic incarnations. Micro-Protest Critics might be quick to point out that, despite receiving considerable blog and press coverage, Dead-in-Iraq remains at best a micro-protest, localized in its expression and outreach, limited in its efficacy as an act of civil disobedience.Yet this seeming fact may in itself be indexical of the techno-cultural constituencies of the contemporary moment.As Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith (2007) argue in a Nation article, “the antiwar movement needs to adapt to the forms of selfexpression that people find most congenial today—even if they are very different from the mass mobilizations that drew people in the past” (p. 20).They contend that vernacular idioms of micro-resistance “may well be the mobilization of the future” (p. 22).Anti-wargame art projects, interventionist performances, and ingame protests illustrate salient aspects of this societal orientation. Such works must of course remain open to being called into account and interrogated accordingly; nonetheless Halter proposes that a keen sense of their intrinsic possibilities must be retained: [Q]uestions about whether dead-in-iraq or Velvet Strike will attract new converts to the cause or preach to the choir are the least interesting ones raised by these projects; they’re probably the most typical critiques of any kind of

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protest, virtual or otherwise, and only extend the win-or-lose logic of games onto another level.A more significant issue is raised by the very possibility of such activity inside these virtual spaces in the first place. (2006b, p. 38) This is not simply a case of new media “frontierism.” My analysis has tracked a genealogy of Dead-in-Iraq vis-à-vis historical, rhetorical, and artistic antecedents, however, a new genealogy of in-game protest, activism, and civil disobedience is already rapidly unfolding. Large-scale player congregations have taken place within massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as Ultima Online (1997) and StarWars Galaxies (2003) in order to deliberately crash the servers in forceful collective expressions of player grievances pertaining to issues such as persistent customer service problems and the introduction of inadequate new character classes. Other protests are more specifically directed at social justice concerns arising from in-game politics. For example, when the server administrator of World of Warcraft (2004) banned the formation of a gay-friendly guild within this MMORPG, some players sent their avatars to in-game heterosexual weddings to protest against the game company’s discriminatory policy of allowing only certain public displays of sexual orientation (Halter, 2006b, p. 43). Such emergent paradigms of protest strengthen the importance of maintaining diverse tactical approaches that are equally attentive to both the nature and the actual site of the activism. America’s Army is a game where players can only ever view themselves on-screen as members of the U.S. Army.You might well see and target terrorists on your computer screen, but the “terrorists” look at their screens and see themselves as U.S. Army members hunting you, their terrorist. Representational politics, perspectival affinities, and the terms of ludic engagement remain tightly orchestrated and insidiously controlled in this virtual hall of mirrors.Therein lies an analogous tale about interactive communication environments and the relative freedoms currently available within online synthetic worlds. An evaluative approach that negotiates the overarching sum of Dead-in-Iraq’s contextual parts is crucial, if only because it allows for a reading of the project in terms of how it proffers an ideological counterpoint and a sense of critical alterity that is not enabled within America’s Army. Furthermore, DeLappe has allowed Dead-in-Iraq to be used as part of Iraq Moratorium Day, which refits the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium concept into a contemporary monthly event, commencing in the U.S. on September 21, 2007, calling for an end to the war through a formalized coalition of largely informal activities, community expressions, and viral activities online. “The Moratorium project is important in that it creates an opportunity to involve individuals in actions, however small, in bringing an end to this war,” declares DeLappe (qtd. in Brecher and Smith, 2007, p. 11). His participation is also premised on the

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commitment “to utilize the new modes of communication made possible through the Internet” and to capitalize on current possibilities for developing usergenerated content as “a wellspring of unique opportunities for protest” (p. 11). To this end, DeLappe has created, which directly follows from the Dead-in-Iraq project. Officially launched on November 29, 2007, aims to “honor and commemorate the deaths of thousands of civilians killed since the commencement of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ on March 19, 2003” (DeLappe, 2007, n.p.). It is still intended to serve as “a living memorial” but now expressly focuses on the Iraqi casualties, a notable omission from the Dead-in-Iraq project that was criticized in several online forums. invites and hosts memorial proposals from international artists and designers. In this sense, it is ostensibly a “commemorative repository of project proposals” for works that may or may not be actually made in the future. The onus is instead on the public expression and sharing of creative ideas.The project functions to initiate and archive dialogic interchange. This point is reinforced by the establishment of an online forum for “dialogue, debate and discussion surrounding the project and the issue of civilian casualties in the Iraq war.” Dead-in-Iraq the solo interventionist performance and the collaborative living memorialarchive may be best construed as two sides of the same aesthetico-political coin. In the end, an outcomes-based approach to quantifying the success of digital game art activism is inadequate, especially when the latter adopts an interventionist mode of practice. Surely the point of a project such as Dead-in-Iraq is not to demand how its effects are to be measured. Instead, the point must lie in asking, again and again, what such acts of jamming, intervention, and dissent collectively imply. As Klein would say, “Perhaps the gravest miscalculation on the part of both markets and media is the insistence on seeing culture jamming solely as harmless satire, a game that exists in isolation from a genuine political movement or ideology” (2001, pp. 308–309). Dead-in-Iraq may well be a single project, but it is neither a lone voice nor an aberrant act of protest. References Brecher, J. and Smith, B. (2007, June 18). A moratorium wired to stop the war. The Nation. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from 200070702/brechersmith. Brucker-Cohen, J. (2006). Gizmodo Gallery: Joseph DeLappe [Interview with Joseph DeLappe]. Gizmodo. Retrieved September 26, 2006, from gadgets/art/gizmodo-gallery-joseph-delappe-186276.php. Bürger, P. (1984). Theory of the avant-garde. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Butler, J. (2004). Precarious life: The powers of mourning and violence. London and New York: Verso. Carter, B. (2004, April 28). “Nightline” to read off Iraq war dead. The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2006, from

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business/media/28TUBELONG.html?ex=1398484800&en=f599bbf49cfdd600&ei= 5007&partner=USERLAND. Castranova, E. (2005). Synthetic worlds: The business and culture of online games. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Clarren, R. (2006, September 16). Virtually dead in Iraq. Salon. Retrieved October 11, 2006, from CNN. (2006, September 24). CNN Newsroom Transcript. Retrieved November 8, 2006, from Craig, K. (2006, June 6). Dead in Iraq: It’s no game. Wired News. Retrieved September 13, 2006, from,71052-0.html?m_E Dabrowska, K. (2004, November 4). Naming the dead in Iraq. Retrieved October 11, 2006, from =5714. DeLappe, J. (2006). dead-in-iraq [Project Website]. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from GS.html. DeLappe, J. (2007). [Project Website]. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from Delwiche, A. (2006, November 1). Kill or be killed. Metro Times Detroit. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from .asp?id =9799. GamePolitics. (2006, June 8). GP interviews Dead in Iraq game protester. Retrieved September 13, 2006, from Giroux, H. A. (2006). America on the edge: Henry Giroux on politics, culture, and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Halter, E. (2006a). From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and video games. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Halter, E. (2006b, July). Playing dead. Arthur Magazine, 23: 36–39, 43. Hutcheon, T. (2007, May 23). Game activist becomes cannon fodder for a cause. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from news/games/cannon-fodder-for-a-cause/2007/05/23/ 1179601419205.html. Huizinga, J. (1970). Homo ludens: A study of the play element in culture. London: Paladin Press. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York and London: New York University Press. Klein, N. (2001). No logo. London: Flamingo. Kuo, L.C. (2006, May 23). A new kind of art form leads to a new kind of protest. GameSpy. Retrieved September 13, 2006, from americas-army/709854p1.html. Lahti, E. (2006, May 30). Digital protest: Artist uses U.S. Army’s video game to make a statement. Gaming Horizon. Retrieved September 13, 2006, from http://articles Nieborg, D.B. (2006). Mods, nay! Tournaments, yay!—The appropriation of contemporary game culture by the U.S. military. Fibreculture, 8. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from Olson, M. (2006, May 5). Deadly games. Rhizome News. Retrieved October 11, 2006, from Stop the War Coalition. (n.d.). Naming the dead [Official Website]. Retrieved October 11, 2006, from


Boardgames Adler Luftverteidigungsspiel. (1941). Dresden, Germany: Verlag Hugo Graefe. Ansell, B., Halliwell, R. and Priestley, R. (1983). Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Nottingham, UK: Games Workshop. Bomben auf England. (1939). Nuernberg, Germany: J. W. Spear & Spiele. Calhamer, A.B. (1959). Diplomacy. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Conflict: Land—Sea—Air. (1940). Salem, MA: Parker Brothers. Dowdall, H.G. and Glason, J.H. (1929). Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers. New York, NY: Knopf. Dunnigan, J.F. (1967). Jutland. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1970). PanzerBlitz. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1972). Outdoor Survival. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1976). Firefight. New York, NY: SPI. ——. (1991). Arabian Nightmare. New York, NY: SPI. Edan, H. and Gibson, H. A. (1910). L’Attaque. London, UK: Harry P. Gibson and Sons. Garfield, R. (1994). Magic: The Gathering. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast. Greenwood, D. (1985). Advanced Squad Leader. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Gygax, G. and Arneson, D. (1974). Dungeons and Dragons. Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures. Lake Geneva WI: Tactical Studies Rules. Harris, L.H.A. (1981). Axis & Allies. Springfield, MA: Milton Bradley. Hellwig, J.C.L. (1780). Versuch eines aufs Schachspiel gebaueten taktischen Spiels von zwey und mehreren Personen zu spielen. Leipzig, Germany: Siegfried Cruzius. Herman, M. (1983). Gulf Strike. New York, NY: Victory Games. Jane, F.T. (1898). Rules for the Jane Naval Wargame. London, UK: Sampson Low, Marston and Company. Lamorisse, A. (1957). La Conquête du Monde. Paris, France: Miro. Lamorisse, A. and Levin, M.I. (1959). Risk. Salem, MA: Parker Brothers. Livermore, W. R. (1879/1882). The American Kriegsspiel. A Game for Practicing the Art of War upon a Topographical Map. Boston, MA: Houghton & Co. Nuclear Destruction. (1970). Scottsdale, AZ: Flying Buffalo. Priestly, R. (1987). Warhammer 40,000. Nottingham, UK: Games Workshop. Ranger Commandos. (1942). Salem, MA: Parker Brothers.

288 Gameography

Reinherz, N. (1941). Blockade: A Game for Armchair Admirals. Boston, MA: Corey Game Company. ——. (1943) Air-Attack: Fight Planes in Action! 1943. Boston, MA: Corey Game Company. Reisswitz, G.H.L. v., Freiherr von Kaderzin und Grabowska (1824). Anleitung zur Darstellung militairischer Manöver mit dem Apparat des Kriegs-Spieles. Berlin, Germany: Trowitzsch. Roberts, C. S. (1954). Tactics. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Game Company. ——. (1958). Tactics II. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Game Company. ——. (1959). U-Boat. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1961). Chancellorsville. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1961). D-Day. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1961). Gettysburg. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. ——. (1961). Civil War. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Shaw, T. (1962). Waterloo. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Shaw, T. and Schutz, L. (1963). Stalingrad. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Shaw, T., Roberts, C.S., Uhl, M., and Greene, J. (1962). Bismarck. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill. Stratego. (1947). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Jumbo. The Great War Game. (1910). London, UK: Gale & Polden. Weisman, J. (1985). Battletech. Chicago, IL: FASA. Wells, H.G. (1973). Little Wars. New York, NY: Da Capo. [1913]

Video Games Adventure. (1979). [Atari 2600]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. Air Force: Delta Storm. (2001). [Microsoft Xbox]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. America’s Army. (2002). [PC]. West Point, NY: U.S. Army. America’s Army: Operations. (2002). [PC]. West Point, NY: U.S. Army. America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier. (2005). [Microsoft Xbox]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. America’s Army: Special Forces. (2003). [PC]. West Point, NY: U.S. Army. America’s Army: Special Forces (Overmatch). (2008). [PC]. West Point, NY: U.S. Army. America’s Army: Special Operations. (2007). [Mobile phone]. Paris, France: Gameloft SA. America’s Army: True Soldiers. (2007). [Microsoft Xbox 360]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. America’s Army 3.0 (2009). [PC]. West Point, NY: U.S. Army. Army of Two. (2008). [Sony Playstation 3; Microsoft Xbox 360]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, Inc. Army Men: Sarge’s War. (2004). [PC]. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: Global Star Software, Inc. Asteroids. (1979). [Arcade]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. B-1 Nuclear Bomber. (1980). [Apple II; TRS-80]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Battle Command 2010. (2000). [Simulator]. Cambirdge, MA: MÄK Technologies. Battlefield 2: Special Forces. (2005). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Battle Stations 21. (2005). [Simulation]. Orlando, FL: Integrity Arts and Technology, Inc. Battlefield 1942. (2002). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts.

Gameography 289

Battlefield Vietnam. (2004). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Battlezone. (1980). [Arcade]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. Bradley Trainer. (1981). [Arcade]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. BioShock. (2007). [PC: Microsoft Xbox 360]. Novato, CA: 2K Games. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. (2005). [Sony Playstation 2; Microsoft Xbox]. Montreuilsous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Call of Duty. (2003). [PC]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Call of Duty: United Offensive. (2004). [PC]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Call of Duty 2. (2005). [PC]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Call of Duty 3. (2006). [PC]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. (2007). [Microsoft Xbox 360; Sony Playstation 3; PC; Nintendo DS]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Children of Jerusalem (Fata al-Quds). (1995). [PC]. Lebanon: Hezbollah. Civilization. (1991). [PC]. Alameda, CA: MicroProse Software, Inc. Close Combat: First to Fight. (2005) [Microsoft Xbox]. Novato, CA: 2K Games. Colossal Cave Adventure. (1976). [PDP-10]. Stanford, CA: Don Woods. Combat. (1977). [Atari 2600]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. Command & Conquer. (1995). [PC]. Las Vegas, NV: Westwood Studios. Computer Bismarck. (1980). [Apple II]. Mountain View, CA: Strategic Simulations, Inc. Computer Space. (1971). [Arcade]. Mountain View, CA: Nutting Associates. Conflict: Desert Storm. (2002). [Sony Playstation 2]. New York, NY: Gotham Games. Conflict: Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad. (2003). [Sony Playstation 2]. New York, NY: Gotham Games. Conquest of the Aegean. (2006). [PC]. Staten Island, NY: Matrix Games. Counter-Strike. (1999). [PC]. Self-published, third part modification of Half-Life: Minh Le and Jess Cliffe. Dawn of War. (2004). [PC]. Agoura Hills, CA: THQ Inc. Dance Dance Revolution. (1999). [Sony Playstation]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. Darfur is Dying. (2006). [Online]. New York, NY: Viacom. DARWARS Ambush! (2005). [PC]. Cambridge, MA: BBN Technologies. Decisive Action. (2001) [PC]. Santa Clara, CA: HPS Simulations. DEFCON. (2006). [PC]. Kirkland, WA: Valve, Corp. Doom. (1993). [Macintosh]. Mesquite, TX: id Software, Inc. Doom II: Hell on Earth. (1994). [PC]. Mesquite, TX: id Software, Inc. Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. (1992). [PC]. Las Vegas, NV: Westwood Studios. Ecco the Dolphin. (1992). [Sega Genesis]. Ota, Tokyo, Japan: SEGA Enterprises, Ltd. Endwar. (2008). [Sony Playstation 3]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. (2007). [PC]. Moscow, Russa: I. C. Company. Enhanced Learning Environments with Creative Technologies (ELECT) Bi-Lateral Negotiation (BiLAT). (2008). [PC]. Marina Del Rey, CA: USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Falcon 4.0. (1998). [PC]. Alameda, CA: MicroProse, Inc. Full Spectrum Command. (2003). [PC]. Marina del Ray, CA: USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Full Spectrum Leader. (2005). [PC]. Marina del Ray, CA: USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Full Spectrum Warrior. (2004). [PC]. Marina del Ray, CA: USC Institute for Creative Technologies.

290 Gameography

Full Spectrum Warrior. (2004). [Sony Playstation 2; Microsoft Xbox]. Agoura Hills, CA: THQ Inc. Future Force Company Commander. (2006). [PC]. La Jolla, CA: SAIC. Galaga. (1981). [Arcade]. Tokyo, Japan: Namco. Gears of War. (2006). [Microsoft Xbox 360]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Game Studios. Global Conflicts: Palestine. (2007). [PC; Macintosh]. Copenhagen, Denmark: Serious Games Interactive. Global War. (1979) [Apple II]. Austin, TX: Muse Software. Grand Theft Auto IV. (2008). [Sony Playstation 3]. New York, NY: Rockstar Games, Inc. Guitar Hero. (2005). [Sony Playstation 2]. Sunnyvale, CA: RedOctane, Inc. Gun Fight. (1975). [Arcade]. Chicago, IL: Midway Manufacturing Company. Half-Life. (1998). [PC]. Bellevue, WA: Sierra-Online, Inc. Half-Life 2. (2004). [PC]. Paris, France: Vivendi Universal Games, Inc. Half-Life: Counter-Strike. (2000). [PC]. Bellevue, WA: Sierra-Online, Inc. Halo: Combat Evolved. (2001). [Microsoft Xbox]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft. Halo 3. (2007). [Microsoft Xbox 360]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft. Harpoon2. (2000). [PC]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft. Haze. (2008). [SonyPlaystation 3]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Heroes of Might and Magic. (1996). [PC]. Hollywood, CA: New World Computing, Inc. Highway to the Reich. (2003). [PC]. Staten Island, NY: Matrix Games. Immune Attack. (2007). [PC]. Washington, DC: Federation of American Scientists. inFamous. (2009). [Sony Playstation 3]. Bellevue, WA: Sucker Punch Productions. Jane’s Fleet Command. (1999). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Kuma\War. (2004). [PC]. New York, NY: Kuma Reality Games. Marathon. (1994). [Macintosh]. Chicago, IL: Bungie Software. Max Payne. (2001). [PC]. Dallas, TX: Gathering of Developers. Medal of Honor. (1999). [Sony Playstation]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. (2002). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Metal Gear Solid. (1998). [Sony Playstation]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. (2001). [Sony Playstation 2]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. (2004). [Sony Playstation 2]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. (2008). [Sony Playstation 3]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. Microsoft Flight Simulator. (1982). [PC]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft. Microsoft Flight Simulator X. (2006). [PC]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft. Midway Campaign. (1980). [TRS-80; Atari 8-bit; Commodore PET]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Mirror’s Edge. (2008). [Sony Playstation 3; Microsoft Xbox 360]. Stockholm, Sweden: EA Digital Illusions CE. Nintendogs. (2005). [Nintendo DS]. Redmond, WA: Nintendo of America, Inc. No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way (2002). [PC]. Los Angeles, CA: Sierra Entertainment, Inc. North Atlantic Convoy Raider. (1980). [Apple II; TRS-80]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games.

Gameography 291

Noughts and Crosses. (1952). [EDSAC]. University of Cambridge, UK: Alexander S. Douglas. Nukewar. (1980). [Atari 8-bit; Apple II; TRS-80]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Operation Flashpoint. (2001). [PC]. Warwickshire, England: Codemasters Software Company Ltd. Pacman. (1980). [Arcade]. Tokyo, Japan: Namco. Panther PLATO. (1975). [PLATO System]. Fort Knox, KY: U.S. Army Armor School. Perfect Dark. (2000). [Nintendo 64]. Leicestershire, UK: Rare, Ltd. Planet Miners. (1980). [Apple II; TRS-80]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Pulse!! (under development). [PC]. Corpus Christi, TX: Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi and U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research. Pong. (1972). [Arcade]. Sunnyvale, CA: Atari, Inc. Portal. (2007). [Sony Playstation 3]. Kirkland, WA: Valve Corp. Quake. (1996). [PC]. Mesquite, TX: id Software, Inc. Quake II. (1997). [Macintosh]. Mesquite, TX: id Software, Inc. The ReDistricting Game. (2006). [Online]. Los Angeles, CA: USC Game Innovation Lab. Red Orchestra Ostfront 41–45. (2006). [PC]. Kirkland, WA: Valve Corp. Resident Evil. (1996). [Sony PlayStation]. Osaka, Japan: Capcom Company, Ltd. Resistance: Fall of Man. (2006). [Sony Playstation 3]. Burbank, CA: Insomniac Games, Inc. Return to Castle Wolfenstein. (2001). [PC]. Mesquite, TX: id Software, Inc. Rock Band. (2007). [Sony Playstation 3]. New York, NY: MTV Games. Saints Row. (2006). [Microsoft Xbox 360]. Agoura Hills, CA: THO Inc. Saving Sergeant Pabletti. (1998). [PC]. Potomac, MD: Will Interactive. Sea Battle. (1980). [Intellivision; Atari 2600]. El Segundo, CA: Mattel Electronics. Silent Hill. (1999). [Sony Playstation]. Tokyo, Japan: Konami Computer Entertainment, Inc. SimCity 2000. (1993). [PC]. Emeryville, CA: Maxis. Software, Inc. The Sims Online. (2002). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Sneak King. (2006). [Microsoft Xbox; Microsoft Xbox 360]. Miami, FL: King Games. SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals. (2002). [Sony Playstation2]. Foster City, CA: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals. (2003). [Sony Playstation 2]. Foster City, CA: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. SOCOM III: U.S. Navy Seals. (2005). [Sony Playstation 2]. Foster City, CA: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. Soldier of Fortune. (2000). [PC]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Soul Calibur. (1999). [Sega Dreamcast]. Tokyo, Japan: Namco. Space Invaders. (1978). [Arcade]. Tokyo, Japan: Taito Corp. Space Giraffe. (2007). [ Microsoft Xbox 360]. Ann Arbor, MI: Llamasoft. Spacewar!. (1962). [PDP-1]. Cambridge, MA: Steven Russell. Special Force. (2003). [PC]. Lebanon: Hezbollah. Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force. (2001). [PC; Macintosh]. Santa Monica, CA: Activision. Star Wars Galaxies. (2003). [PC]. San Francisco, CA: LucasArts. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast. (2002). [PC]. San Francisco, CA: LucasArts. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. (2003). [PC; Microsoft Xbox]. San Francisco, CA: LucasArts. Starcraft. (1998). [PC]. Irvine, CA: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. Street Fighter II. (1991). [Arcade]. Osaka, Japan: Capcom Company, Ltd.

292 Gameography

Sub Command. (2001). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, Inc. Super Smash Bros. Brawl. (2008). [Nintendo Wii]. Redmond, WA: Nintendo of America, Inc. TacOps. (1994). [PC; Macintosh]. TacOps 4. (1999). [PC; Macintosh]. TacOpsCav. (1999). [PC; Macintosh]. Tactical Iraqi. (2004). [PC]. Marina Del Rey, CA: USC Information Sciences Institute. Tank. (1974). [Arcade]. Sunnyvale, CA: Kee Games. Tanktics: Computer Game of Armored Combat on the Eastern Front. (1977/1981). [Commodore PET; Apple II; TRS-80; Atari 8-bit]. Baltimore, MD: Avalon Hill Microcomputer Games. Tennis for Two. (1958). [Oscilloscope]. Upton, NY: William Higinbotham. The Howard Dean for Iowa Game. (2003). [PC]. Atlanta, GA: Persuasive Games. The Thing. (2002). [Sony Playstation 2]. Los Angeles, CA: Black Label Games. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. (2002). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. (2006). [Microsoft Xbox; Xbox 360; Sony Playstation 2; PC]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder. (2003). [Microsoft Xbox]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm. (2004). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. (1998). [Sony Playstation]. Morrisville, NC: Red Storm Entertainment, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Raven Shield. (2003). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. (2001). [Sony Playstation]. Morrisville, NC: Red Storm Entertainment, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas. (2006). [Sony Playstation 3]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. (2002). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. (2005). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent. (2006). [Microsoft Xbox]. Montreuil-sous-Bois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. (2004). [Sony Playstation 2]. Montreuil-sousBois, France: Ubisoft, Inc. 24 Blue. (2006). [PC]. Hunt Valley, MD: BreakAway, Ltd. and the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research. Ultima Online. (1997). [PC]. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts. Under Ash. (2001). [PC]. Damascus, Syria: Atkar Media. Under Siege. (2005). [PC]. Damascus, Syria: Atkar Media. Unreal. (1998). [Macintosh]. New York, NY: GT Interactive Software Corp. Unreal Tournament 3. (1997). [PC]. Chicago, IL: Midway Games, Inc. Virtual Iraq. (2005). [PC]. Marina Del Rey, CA: USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. (1994). [PC]. Irvine, CA: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Gameography 293

World of Warcraft. (2004). [PC; Macintosh]. Irvine, CA: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. World in Conflict. (2007). [PC]. Los Angeles, CA: Sierra Entertainment, Inc. WW II: Tank Commander. (2006). [PC]. Weston, CT: Got Game Entertainment, LLC.

List of Contributors

Ian Bogost is an associate professor in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a video game designer and critic, and founding partner of the independent video game studio Persuasive Games, which develops games about social and political issues. Along with Nick Montfort, Bogost recently wrote Racing the Beam: The AtariVideo Computer System published in 2009 by MIT Press. He is also the author of Unit Operations: An Approach toVideogame Criticism (2008) and Persuasive Games:The Expressive Power of Videogames (2007). Dean Chan teaches at the School of Communications and Contemporary Arts, Edith Cowan University, in Perth,Australia. His current research focuses on East Asian game cultures, diasporic Asian cultural production (especially visual arts and comics), and digital game art. He is the co-editor of Gaming Cultures and Place in Asia-Pacific (Routledge, 2009), and he has published widely on Asian gaming tropes, practices, and representations in journals such as Games and Culture, International Review of Information Ethics, Fibreculture Journal, EnterText, and Meanjin. Irene Chien is a Ph.D. candidate in Film Studies and New Media at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is writing a dissertation on racial performance and video games. Her research focuses on race, gender and embodiment in popular old and new media forms, with a focus on video games. She has published articles on Dance Dance Revolution, Grand Theft Auto, survival horror, and Nintendo vs. Playstation aesthetics in Film Quarterly. Sebastian Deterding is a free researcher affiliated with the Chair for General Sociology at the Technical University Dortmund, Germany, publishing on Games and Civic Education, Persuasive Design, the Governance of New Media, and transmedia ?ctional worlds. He is a member of DiGRA and the Review Board of the International Journal for Roleplaying. For several years, he was a program

List of Contributors 295

specialist for New Media at the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany, and is currently working as a user experience designer at Gruner+Jahr, Germany. Tanner Higgin is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on race, gender, and power in video game culture. He has published a chapter on violence in the collection The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto and an article on race in the journal Games and Culture. For recent writing, research, and updates please visit: Nina B. Huntemann is an associate professor at Suffolk University in the Department of Communication and Journalism. Her interests include communication policy, new media technologies, game studies, and media literacy. She produced and directed Game Over:Gender,Race andViolence inVideo Games, distributed by the Media Education Foundation. She has published articles on the image of women in video games, women’s use of the Internet for social change, and the political economy of the U.S. radio industry. C. Richard King is professor of comparative ethnic studies at Washington State University. He has written extensively on the changing contours of race in post-Civil Rights America, the colonial legacies and postcolonial predicaments of American culture, and struggles over Indianness in public culture. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, such as American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Public Historian, and Qualitative Inquiry. He is also the author or editor of several books, including Team Spirits:The Native American Mascot Controversy (a CHOICE 2001 Outstanding Academic Title) and Postcolonial America. He has recently completed Visual Economies in/of Motion: Sport and Film. David J. Leonard is assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies at Washington State University. He has written on sports, video games, film, and social movements, appearing in both popular and academic mediums. He recently published, with C. Richard King, Visual Economies of/in Motion: Sport and Film (Peter Lang Publishing Group: 2006) an edited volume on sports films, and a monograph, Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema, with Praeger Publishers. He is currently working on a monograph looking at race and the NBA (SUNY Press—forthcoming), and another (with C. Richard King) analyzing the production and consumption of media culture within white nationalist communities (University of Mississippi Press—forthcoming). Dan Leopard is an associate professor of media studies at Saint Mary’s College in the San Francisco BayArea. He has a Ph.D. from the School of Cinema-Television

296 List of Contributors

at the University of Southern California and a Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has worked as an independent filmmaker and has taught teens to produce TV. He is completing a book on transformations of pedagogy in response to screen technologies and entertainment culture. Jeffrey Leser is a retired military officer, has been Chief of the Simulation Division at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College since 2001, and has been involved in using simulations to support military training and education since 1981. His experience includes positions at the National Training Center, the Battle Command Training Program, and with the U.S. State Department’s African Crisis Response Initiative Program. A longtime wargamer, Jeff has also been involved with scenario design work on the Der Weltkreig series of board games. Elizabeth Losh is the author of Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (MIT Press, 2009). She has published articles about video games for the military and emergency first-responders, government websites and online video channels, national digital libraries, state-funded distance learning efforts, online communities, and political resistance by digital artists. Scott A. Lukas is chair of the Anthropology/Sociology Department at Lake Tahoe College. His most recent books include The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nature and Self (Lexington Books, 2007); Fear, Cultural Anxiety and Transformation: Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films Remade (with John Marmysz, Lexington Books, 2008); Theme Park (Reaktion Books, 2008), and Recent Developments in Criminological Theory (with S. Henry, Ashgate, 2009). Randy Nichols is an assistant professor in the Department of English's Media and Culture program at Bentley University. His work focuses on the production of video games and the use of games by other cultural industries. He is currently completing a book on the global video game industry for the British Film Institute, and has published articles on the economic history of the SimCity franchise and on the interplay between Hollywood and the video game industry. He is also serving as one of the editors of the international online journal Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, available online at David B. Nieborg is a Ph.D. researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on the interaction among the military-entertainment complex, participatory culture, game technology and the political economy of the game industry. He

List of Contributors 297

contributes to discussions surrounding game culture in various journals, (online) magazines, and national newspapers. Matthew Thomas Payne is a doctoral candidate in the Department of RadioTV-Film at the University of Texas-Austin. His research focuses on communication technologies, video games, and media literacy. He holds a Master’s degree in Media Studies from UT-Austin, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Film Production from Boston University. He has previously served as the Coordinating Editor for FlowTV (, a critical forum dedicated to television and new media culture, and is a co-editor of Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence (Routledge, forthcoming). Joel Penney is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor’s degree in Radio/ TV/Film from Northwestern University.At Northwestern, he received the 2003 Undergraduate Research Grant for a project which monitored the radio airplay of politically outspoken musicians in the early stages of the war in Iraq. Since then, he has pursued further research investigating issues of political ideology in contemporary popular culture. Josh Smicker is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is an associate editor of Cultural Studies, and has previously presented his work on video games and contemporary militarization at conferences such as NCA, SCMS, and Crossroads. James Sterrett has been supporting exercises and teaching the use of simulations in training since 2004 as a Northrop Grumman contractor on the Simulation Division of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. James’s experience includes design work on the award-winning games AttackVector:Tactical (Ad Astra Games) and Steel Beasts (eSim Games) and several years as a reviewer for Games Domain and CombatSim. His academic background includes a Ph.D. in Soviet military history from King’s College London, teaching at the University of Glasgow, and publication of Soviet Air Force Theory, 1918–1945 (Routledge, 2007).


Page numbers in bold refer to illustrations, page numbers in italic refer to tables Aarseth, Espen 269n9 action figures 45–6, 55 addictiveness 69 Adler Luftverteidigungsspiel 25 Advanced Squad Leader 27 advergames 45, 47, 58–9 advertising 47, 55, 60 aesthetic forms 32–3 affect 252, 253, 254, 257, 259 Afghanistan 57, 91, 98, 102, 224, 250n3 AFKARMedia 43 aggression, purging 227–8 Air-Attack: Fight Planes in Action! 25 Alienware 214 Al-Qaeda 53, 57, 63 alternative reality games 268 America’s Army 1, 7, 11–12, 13, 14, 22, 39–49, 54–64, 89, 111, 163, 203, 262; see also Dead-in-Iraq; advergame 58–9; arcade cabinet 56; bad guys 181–2; Code of Conduct 281–2; costs 8, 44, 184–5, 187; demographics 45; design criteria 180–2; development 40–2, 178–88; edugame 59–60, 185–6; end-user license agreement (EULA) 281; ethos 60–1; franchise 41, 55; level editor 10, 48, 186–7; number of hits 8; platform 54–5, 57; production 43–4; project timeline 183–4; promotional video 98–9; propaganda 59–61; rules 181; as soft power 58–64; the Soldier’s Creed 60;

strategic communications 62–3; success 49, 98; training module 41, 181; and U.S. Army recruitment 44, 44–6, 47, 49, 54–5, 60, 98, 180, 184, 185; users 40 America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier 55, 91, 122–8, 200 America’s Army: Special Forces 55, 98 America’s Army: True Soldiers 41, 55, 113 analytic history 68 Andersen, Robin 262 anti-wargame protest 283–4 anti-war protest 16; see also Dead-in-Iraq; micro-protest 283–5; range of 279–80; tradition 274–5 Apocalypse Now (film) 248 Arabian Nightmare 68 Aristotle 227 armament culture 207–8, 213, 220n4 Army Experience Center 2–3 Army Infantry School, Ft. Benning 99–100 Army Men: Sarge’s War 47 Army of Two 226–7 Army War College 29 Art of Poetry, The (Aristotle) 227 artificial intelligence 150, 169, 187, 254–8 Asteroids 78 Atari 5, 29, 31 Austin Game Developers’ Conference (2007) 252–3

Index 299

Avalon Hill 12, 25, 25–6, 30, 31, 67, 154 Axis & Allies 32 Babel (film) 88 Bacevich, Andrew 224 Baer, Ralph 4, 5 Band of Brothers (TV program) 191, 192 Barnett, Scott 7 Battlefield 2 53–4, 58 Battlefield Vietnam 279 Battletech 28 Battlezone 5, 29, 39 Baudrillard, Jean 96–7, 103, 162 Bay Area Direct Action 46, 48 BBN Technologies 165 Beavis, Catherine 210, 216 Berkowitz, Leonard 227–8 Beyond the pleasure principle (Freud) 268 big fucking gun (BFG) 78, 79, 83 Billings, Joel 31 biomedia 261–2 biopower 262 blackboxing 34–5 Blizzard 28 Blockade: A Game for Armchair Admirals 25 boardgames 12, 21, 22, 24, 34, 67–72; gameography 287–8 Bogost, Ian 5, 163, 172, 203, 253 Bolter, David 11, 22, 32 Bomben auf England 25 Bordieu, Pierre 163 boundaries, testing 239 Bowker, Greg 174 Bradley Trainer xiii, xiv, 5 BreakAway, Ltd 41 Brecher, Jeremy 283 Breuer, Joseph 227 Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 80–1, 85–6, 112 Brothers in Arms: The Untold Story of the 502 (TV program) 85–6 Brownlee, Les 57 Buggy Saints Row: The Musical 250n2 Bush, George H. W. 118–19n3 Bush, George W. 118–19n3, 162, 191, 224 Bushnell, Nolan xiii, 4, 5 Butler, Judith 265

Caillois, Roger 220n2 Calhamer, Allan B. 26 Call of Duty 86, 112, 191–204; good war/bad war comparisons 202; historical experience 197–8; internationalism 202–3; participants attitudes survey 193–9, 195; sales 193; soft power 203–4; strong defense interpretation 200–1 Call of Duty 2 193 Call of Duty 3 193, 226 Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare 58, 61, 206, 211, 212, 226 Call of Duty: United Offensive 47 Card, Orson Scott 14, 131–2, 142–3 Castells, Michael 162, 170 catharsis hypothesis, the 227–8 causality 150–1 Chan, Dean 16 Charles, Claire 210, 216 cheating 218 Chess 23 Chien, Irene 15 Chin, Wendy Hui Kyong 269n9 Christopherson, Thomas 210, 213–14, 220n9 cinema 84–6 citizenship 232 Civilization 32 Clancy, Tom 113 cognisphere 258, 262, 264, 268 Cold War, the 21, 62, 71, 192, 234 colonization of gaming environment 91–104 Columbine High School massacre 75–6, 77 Comaroff, Jean 117 Comaroff, John L. 117 Combat 39 Command & Conquer 32 communication, face-to-face 143 Complete Wargames Handbook, The (Dunnigan) 67 Computer Bismarck 30, 31 Computer Gaming World (magazine) 33 computer opponents 34 Conflict 25 Conflict: Desert Storm 91, 100–1, 101, 109

300 Index

Conflict: Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad 91, 101 Conquest of the Aegean 150 control society, the 265–7 Cooke, Grayson 76 Counter-Strike 61, 211, 212, 241–3, 243, 280 Crary, Jonathan 142 Crawford, Chris 30, 33–4 critical performance studies 13 cross-industry partnerships see military-entertainment complex culture jamming 274 “Cyberspace and the world we live in” (Robins) 92–3 Dance, Voldo, Dance 250n2 Dance Dance Revolution 108, 118n2 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) 162–3, 165 Dartmouth Interactive Media Laboratory 175n4 DARWARS Ambush! 165 De Landa, Manuel 4 De Plater, Michael 107 Dead-in-Iraq 16, 272–85, 276, 278; interventionist performances 277–80; as micro-protest 283–5; naming the dead 275–6, 277; project 272–4; reactions to 280–3; and spatial politics 274–5, 280–3 Dean for Iowa 43 death 111, 240–1, 246, 246–7, 250 Decisive Action 14, 152, 154–5, 157 defense industry 29 Defense Science Board (U.S.) 58, 62, 62–3, 63–4 DeLappe, Joseph 16, 272–85; influences on 277–8; interventionist performances 277–80; naming the dead 275–6, 277; participation in the Iraq Moratorium Day 284–5; project 272–4; and spatial politics 280–3 Deleuze, Gilles 264, 265 Delwiche, Aaron 275 demographics 43–4, 45, 194 Department of Defense (U.S.) 6, 46, 98–9; wargames 21–2

Department of Homeland Security (U.S.) 46, 233 Der Derian, James 59, 96–7 Derrida, Jacques 116 design challenges 122–8 Deterding, Sebastian 11 development systems 43, 69–70 Deviation 240, 241–3, 242, 243 digital game art activism 272–85 Diplomacy 26 Diplomacy see Public Diplomacy discernibility, principle of 77 disembodiment 107 distance learning 165 documentary games 196 Doom 39, 75–6, 79, 83, 84, 88, 97, 124 Doom II 9 Dual Shock technology 259 Dungeons & Dragons 27, 71 Dunnigan, James F. 12, 26, 28–9, 29, 35, 35–6, 36, 67–72 Easter Eggs 163 echelon-specific simulation 150 economic discourses 117–18 education 132–3 edugames 59–60, 125–6, 185–6 Eisenhower, Dwight D. 62, 161 ELECT BiLAT 14, 160–75, 168; background and development 161–5; dialogue 166; game mechanics 166–70; Iraqis 167, 168, 168–9, 173; media archeology 163–4, 174; paper documentation 166; preparation room 166–7, 167; production 170–5; scenarios 166; trust meter 168–9 Elmer, Greg 113 emotional content 139–43 emotional experience 229, 254 Ender’s Game (Card) 14, 131–2, 142–3 Endwar 106–7 engagement 43, 55, 183, 255 Entertainment Software Association 44 Entertainment Software Rating Board 78 ET tu, Sir Alfred? 279 Everything bad is good for you (Johnson) 253–4

Index 301

Faludi, Susan 223, 225, 234, 235 FASA Corporation 28 fear, mastering 228–9, 231, 233, 233–5 feedback devices 259, 261 female gamers 45, 216 fidelity 78–81, 150 field manuals 166 film industry 225–6, 234–5, 235n3, 235n4, 250 Final Fantasy 83 Firefight 29 first-person shooters 54, 59–61, 75–6, 79, 81, 87, 124–5, 248–9, 251n5; machinima critique 241–3 flaming 217 flash mobs 268 formalizations 138 Frasca, Gonzalo 35, 279 freedom 57–8, 60–1, 265–7 Freud, Sigmund 227, 268 From Sun Tzu to Xbox (Halter) 98–9, 254 Full Metal Jacket (film) 248 Full Spectrum Command 99 Full Spectrum Warrior 22, 91, 99–100, 115, 229 Fullerton, Tracy 254 funding 46 future combat games 106–18 Future Combat Systems (FCS) program 114–15, 119n8 Future Force Company Commander 115–16 futurity 116–18 Galloway, Alexander 248–9, 259, 261, 264, 268 Game Assistant Programs (GAP) 30 Game Design Workshop (Swain) 171 game designers 162–3, 170–5 game technology, performance of 108 game theory 117 gameography 287–93 gamer performance 108 games production 43–4 Games Workshop 28 gaming environment 15; American colonization of 91–104; military colonization of 13; theming 81–4

gaming etiquette 216–18 Gates, Bill 75, 77 Gates, Robert 224 Gears of War 194–5, 196, 199 General, The (magazine) 26 General Accounting Office (U.S.) 147 geography 101–2 Geren, Pete 3 Gibson and Sons, Harry P. 24 Giroux, Henry 273 Gitelman, Lisa 31 Global War 30 Global War on Terror 13, 43, 57–8, 60, 62, 72, 92, 100, 110, 162, 223, 225, 230, 233, 234, 245, 250n3, 279 GNN Visualization 41 Godfather, The (film) 84 Goldstein, Jeffrey 213–14 good war/bad war comparisons 201–2, 203 Gordon, Robert 180 Grand Theft Auto 94, 247–8 Grand Theft Auto IV 82, 86 graphics capture 239–50 Gray, Christopher Hables 114 Great Debates 1, 2, and 3, The 279 Great War Game, The 24 Griggs, John 240 Grodal, Torben 228–9, 234 Grossberg, Lawrence 109 Grossman, David 77 Grosz, Elizabeth 116 Grusin, Richard 11, 22, 32 Guitar Hero 108, 118n2 Gulf War (1990–91) 6, 68, 93, 101, 103, 118–19n3, 193 gun, representations of 12–13, 75–89, 80, 82, 85, 126, 212–13; armament culture 207–8; choice 79, 87–8; and the cinema 84–6; fidelity 78–81; the future 88–9; and genre 83–4; identifications with 80; pleasure in 80–1, 83; real 76; and rewards 87; significance 76–8; strategic requirements 87–8; theming 81–4; typology 78, 79; and violence 86–8, 88–9 Gun Fight 78–9

302 Index

hackers 21 Half-Life 48, 88, 242 Half-Life 2 41 Hall, Stuart 192, 199–200 Halo 80, 87–8, 194–5, 196, 199, 244, 245, 247, 251n5 Halo 3 83–4, 87 Halper, Keith 102 Halter, Ed 24, 98–9, 254, 280, 283–4 Haraway, Donna 138, 258 hard power 58 Hardt, Michael 262 Hardwick, Rachel 13, 122–8 Harris, Eric 75 “Have you played the war on terror?” (Stahl) 232 Hayles, N. Katherine 258, 269n4 Haze 81, 83 Hedges, Chris 61 Hellwig, Christian Ludwig 11, 23 Heroes of Might and Magic 36 Herz, J. C. 4 Hezbollah 43 Higgin, Tanner 15–16 Highway to the Reich 150 Higinbotham, William 4, 5 historic wargames 13 history and historical authenticity 15, 101–2, 196–7, 200–1 History Channel 85–6 Holladay, A.J. 24 Howl: Elite Force Voyager Online 278 Huhtamo, Erkki 164 Huizinga, Johan 282 humor 219, 243–7 Huntemann, Nina 15, 95 hypermediacy 22, 32 hyperreal 96 hyperrealist 96 hypothetical war 68

Information Operations 62–3 Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California 9–10, 13–14, 46, 99, 132–43, 165, 166 interactive media 138 intermedia effects 84 Internet, the 48, 280–3 interpellation 265 invisibilizing 34 Iraq 62, 91, 98, 102, 118–19n3, 161, 165, 191, 194–5, 195, 199, 224, 232, 244–5, 250n3, 272 Iraq Moratorium Day 284–5 285 Islamists 53

ideology 40, 61, 95, 163, 192–3, 198, 262; embedded 35, 232; strong defense 199–201; U.S. Army ideology 63 immediacy 22, 32–3 Immune Attack 172 inFamous 89

Lamorisse, Albert 26 LAN (local area network) gaming centers 208, 209–11 LANopolis 209–11, 213–14, 216, 219, 220n10 Latour, Bruno 164 L’Attaque 24

Jameson, Fredric 220n4 Janov, Arthur 227 Jenkins, Henry 274 Jihadi recruitment 54 Johnson, Steven 253–4 Jomini, Antoine-Henri 33 Judkins, Phil 92 Jutland 67 Juul, Jesper 207 Kim, Julia 172–3 King, Richard 13 Kittler, Friedrich 21 Klebold, Dylan 75 Klein, Naomi 274, 285 Kline, Stephen 6, 59 Kluitenberg, Eric 163–4 Kojima, Hideo 15–16, 252 Koppel, Ted 68 Kriegsspiel 11, 23–4, 165 Kristol, William 104n3 Kuma\War 91, 101–2, 109, 112, 117–18, 223, 230–1

Index 303

Lazarus, Richard 139–43, 141 learning models 146 Lefebvre, Henri 97 Lenoir, Timothy 9–10, 59, 107, 161, 165, 269n3 Leo Burnett advertising agency 45 Leonard, David 13, 193 Leopard, Dan 14 Leser, Jeff 14 life, militarization of 13, 109, 110–11, 273 limited information 34 Lindheim, Richard 132 Little Wars (Wells) 24 Long War military doctrine 223, 224–5 Longoni, Samantha 92 Losh, Elizabeth 14 Lotringer, Sylvere 262 Lowood, Henry 59, 165, 250, 269n3 Luckham, Robin 207, 213 ludic space 282 ludic war 15, 206–19; cheating 218; collaboration 211, 211–12; definition 207; discourse of domination 211, 216–18; female gamers 216; gaming etiquette 216–18; homosocial constitution 218; humor 219; inviolable transgressions 218; playful transgressions 217; setting 208, 209–11; technology fetishism 211, 212–15; tolerable transgressions 217–18 Lukas, Scott 12–13 Lunsford, Jim 154 M*A*S*H (film) 244 MacDonald, J. Fred 192 Macedonia, Michael 263 Macedonia, Raymond M. 29 machinima 15, 239–50, 242, 243, 244, 246, 247 McLuhan, Marshall 31 Maine Air Show, 2008 1–2, 2 Mäk Technologies 165 Mannheim, Karl 142 Manovich, Lev 138, 250 maps 33 Marine Doom 9

Martin, Randy 113–14 Marx, Karl 208 Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games 28, 284 Matrix, The (film) 84 Max Payne 84–5, 85 Mead, Walter Russell 58 MechWarrior 28 Medal of Honor: Allied Assault 32, 196, 279 Medal of Honor series 32, 112, 191–204; good war/bad war comparisons 202; historical experience 197–8; participants attitudes survey 193–9, 195; soft power 203–4; strong defense interpretation 200–1 media archeology 14, 163–4, 174 media effects research 11 media studies 118n1 medical simulation 60–1, 134, 134–7, 136 Mellencamp, Patricia 93 Memory practices in the sciences (Bowker) 174 Metal Gear Solid 223, 226, 252, 257 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty 15–16, 252–68, 256, 260; biomedia 261–2; contextual framing 255–8; credits sequence 267; dog tag embossing sequence 265, 266; feedback devices 259, 261; freedom and control in 265–7; plot summary 255–7; representation of warfare 258–64; The Tanker Chapter 269n7 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 269n10 Metal Gear Solid 4:Guns of the Patriots 262 Michael, Eric 54 micro-protest 283–5 Middle East 100, 101, 233 military game design 149–52 military indoctrination 231–3 military intervention 231–3 military marketing 1–3, 8 military recruitment 22, 44–6, 47, 49, 54–5, 60, 98, 125, 180, 184, 185 military training 5, 7–8, 9, 13–14, 22, 28, 59, 63, 97, 132–3, 185–6, 263–4; see also ELECT BiLAT; U.S. Army Command & General Staff College

304 Index

146–59; America’s Army and 39, 40, 41, 41–2, 42, 48, 49; Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) 147; Combat Training Centers 147; costs 16n1, 147; decision making 150–1, 152–8; planning and execution 151–2; role-playing games 160–1; SASO-ST 133–43, 134, 136; simulations 148–9 military-entertainment complex 3–8, 59, 109, 161–3, 172, 262, 264, 267–8 military-entertainment-educational complex 93, 96–101, 103–4 military indoctrination 60–3 military-industrial complex 59, 161 military marketing 54–5, 58–9 military-romanticism 192 Mirror’s Edge 89 30 modding 8–10, 48 Modeling and simulation: Linking entertainment and defense (National Research Council) 6 monitoring, military 48 Morrissey, Grant 296n6 Moulthrop, Stuart 163 Muffling, Karl von 23–4 Murray, Janet 170 Muse Software 30 narrative 138–9, 233, 242 National Counterterrorism Center (U.S.) 186–7 National Defense University 29 National Research Council 6 National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California 160–1 Naval Aviation Technical Training 41 Naval Postgraduate School 40, 98; Virtual Environment and Simulation Institute 40–1 Negri, Antonio 262 neoliberal 262 network play 33–4 New York Times 114 news coverage 93, 96 279

Nichols, Randy 11–12 Nieborg, David 9, 12, 54–5, 59, 281 Nintendo DS 118n2 Nintendogs 118n2 No Child Left Behind Act 110 Nuclear Destruction 27 Nye, Joseph 58 Obama, Barak 224 ocularcentrism 107 Office of Naval Research 41 Office Space (film) 244 Official Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms 59–60 Ohle, Dave 179 On, Josh 279 online gaming communities 48 Opel, Andy 113 Operation Flashpoint 39, 165 Osgood, Kenneth 62 Outdoor Survival 69 Panther Games 150 Panther PLATO 29 PanzerBlitz 12, 26, 67 Parker Brothers 26 Payne, Matthew 15 Penney, Joel 14–15 Penny, Simon 172 Pentagon, the 5, 6, 7–8, 13, 46 perfect situation, the 78 performance studies 107–9 performative realism 14, 131–43 Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (U.S.) 53–4 Persuasive Games (Bogost) 163 Pew Internet & American Life Project 224 Pew Research Center 57–8 place, construction of 91 planned obsolescence 43 Plato 76 Platoon (film) 248 play: alternative 267–8; defining 206, 220n2 play-by-mail (PBM) games 27, 33 player characters 61, 77, 252 player feedback 40

Index 305

political attitudes, WWII gamers 193–9, 195 Pollock, Della 112 Pong 4, 5 popular culture 96–7; militarization 57, 97–101, 179, 185; war and 225–7; WWII and 191–3 posthuman 254, 255, 261, 269n4 postmodernism 253 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 165, 229 Power, terror, peace, and war—America’s grand strategy in a world at risk (Mead) 58 privacy 180, 275–6 procedural rhetoric 172, 203 production budgets 126–7 Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) 7–8 programming decisions 163–4 Project for the New American Century 95, 104n3 proleptic histories 106, 113–16 propaganda 15, 54–5, 59–60, 62, 63–4, 95 Prussia 23–4 Psychic Bunny 173 Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) 62–3 public diplomacy 62–3 public opinion 63 publishing 43 Pulse!!! 41 Quadrennial Defense Review Report 224 Quake 48, 124, 125 Quake II 83 Quake/Friends 279 Quick & Dirty Guide to War, A (Dunnigan) 67

realism 70–1, 75, 86, 96, 101–2, 124, 126, 137–9, 184, 196, 199, 229–31 real-time play 34 Red Orchestra Ostfront 41–5 78–81 Red Storm Entertainment 41, 113 Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction 250n4 Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles 240, 243–7, 244, 246 Redding, Patrick 252–3 ReDistricting Game, The 170–1, 171, 172 re-enactment games 112 Regime of Computation, the 258 Regimental Surgeon 175n4 Reich, Wilhelm 227 Reisswitz, Georg Leopold Baron von 23–4 remediation 11, 22, 31; and aesthetic forms 32–3; fanbase 35–6; game-mechanical innovations 33–4 repetition 240–1, 241–3 representational choices 163–4 Republic, The (Plato) 76 Resident Evil 84 Resistance: Fall of Man 82 retailing 43 Return to Castle Wolfenstein 32 Reuters 53–4 revisionist games 112–13 Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) 114, 117 Risk 26, 32 Roberts, Charles S. 25, 28 Robins, Kevin 92–3 role-playing games 27, 160–1 Rose, Nikolas 259 Rotberg, Ed 5 rule systems 34–5, 181 Rumsfeld, Donald 57, 224 Russell, Steve xiii, 4, 5

race 91, 101 Raessens, Joost 196 Rage Against the Machine 97–8 Rand Corporation 21, 28, 165 Ranger Commandos 25 rank, progression of 124 Rasmussen, Larry 136–7, 141 rational-choice theory 117

Saddam Hussein 101, 132–3, 232 SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.) 165 sales 8, 226, 235n5 Samir 53–4 SASO-ST (Stability and Support Operations Simulation and Training) 133–43, 134, 136

306 Index

Saving Private Ryan (film) 86, 191, 192 Scarry, Elaine 100 Schmitt, Gary 104n3 Schoomaker, Peter J. 57 Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) 53 science-fiction gamers 15; participants attitudes survey 194–7, 195, 199 scopophilic pleasure 80 Second Life 162 secret training 48 security 264 Sengers, Phoebe 138 September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks 10, 91, 223, 224–5 Shaw, Tom 67, 69 Sherman, Barrie 92 Silent Hill 84 Silverman, Kaja 240 Sims Online, The 279 Simulation Publications (SPI) 12, 26–7, 28–9, 67–72 simulations, costs 7–8 situational awareness 148 Smicker, Josh 13 Smith, Brendan 283–5 Smith, Julian 192 social codes and conventions 15 social performance 108–9 social practices, LAN gamers 208–9, 219, 234; collaboration 211–12; discourse of domination 216–18; gaming etiquette 216–18; humor 219; technology fetishism 212–15 SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals 223, 226 SOCOM II:U.S.Navy Seals 99 soft power 53–64, 203–4 software 36, 43 Soja, Edward 13, 97, 103 Soldier’s Creed 60 solitaire games 34 “SonicJihad: A Day in the Life of a Resistance Fighter” 53–4 sound quality 144n5 space: ludic 282; ownership of 280–3; politics of 274–5, 280–3; public and private 93–4; Thirdspace 97, 102–3; and virtual warfare 94–5

Spacewar! 4, 5 Special Force 43 Splinter Cell 116, 223, 233 Stahl, Roger 232 Stallabrass, Julian 192–3 standards 7 Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV program) 132–3 Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force 278 Star Wars Galaxies 284 Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast 279 stereotypes 144n4 Stern, Eddo 240, 247 Sterrett, James 14 Steuer, Jonathan 170 STEVE (Soar Training Expert for Virtual Environments) 139 Strategic Analysis Simulation 29 strategic communication 62–3 Strategic Simulation, Inc 30, 31 Stratego 24 Strategy & Tactics (S&T) (magazine) 12, 26, 29, 67, 69–70 Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) 122–3, 124, 125 subliminal messages 163 Suchman, Lucy 142 Super Smash Bros. Brawl 217 Sutton-Smith, Brian 206 Swain, Christopher 170–3 sweet power 58 symbolic catharsis 227–9 TacOpsCav 14, 155–8 Tactical Iraqi 164, 165, 169, 173 tactical shooters 124–5 Tactics 25 Tactics II 31 Tanktics 30 target audience 171 Taylor, Justin 96 Taylor, T. L. 206 technical illusionism 96 technology fetishism 211, 212–15 terrain 156–7, 245 Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America, The (Faludi) 225, 234 terrorism 57–8, 233

Index 307

Thacker, Eugene 259, 261, 264 Theater-Level Gaming and Analysis Workshop for Force Planning conference 29 theming 81–4 third person effect 204n3 Thirdspace 13, 97, 102–3 Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places (Soja) 97 TINA (There Is No Alternative) discourse 117 Toffler, Alvin 62 Toffler, Heidi 62 Toles, Terri 39 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 58, 116 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 116, 223, 233 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six :Raven Shield 99 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear 98 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 82, 82 toy soldiers 24 transparent immediacy 32, 137 Turing, A.M. 254–5, 258 Turing test, the 141–2 Turse, Nick 103 24Blue 41 Ubisoft 182 Ultima Online 284 Under Ash 43 Under Siege 43 United States Army Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Command 263 United States Military Academy, Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis 14 United States of America: colonization of gaming environment 91–104; foreign policy 57–8, 61, 98, 102; hegemony 103; strong defense policy 199–201 University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies 9–10, 13–14, 46, 99, 132–43, 165, 166 Unreal Tournament 125 Unreal Tournament 3 220n8 upgrades 43 U.S. Army: advertising 47; Armor School

157; co-production of games 43, 44, 46–8, 122–8, 178–88; ethos 60–1; increased respect for 198–9, 200, 201; military marketing 1–3; National Simulation Center 157–8; rebranding 45; recruitment 40, 44, 44–6, 47, 49, 54–5, 60, 98, 125, 180, 184, 185; Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Command 263; structure 182–3; Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) 29; training simulations 149; values 60–1 U.S. Army Command & General Staff College 14, 146–58; echelon-specific simulation 150; exercises 152–8; Experiential Learning Model 147–9; game design 149–52; learning objectives 153; Simulation Division 148–9, 154, 155 U.S. Forestry Service 41 U.S. Marine Corps 7, 9, 98 U.S. Panama war (1989) 193 utopianism 92–3 variables 34–5 Velvet Strike 279–80 Victory at Sea (TV program) 192 video game industry 43–4, 46–8 video games: core audience 179; gameography 288–93; “half-real” status 207; military collaborations see America’s Army; military contributions 3–6, 59, 98–101, 161–3; military-themed 10; origins 4–5; pervasiveness 223–4; popularity during wartime 226–7 Vietnam Romance 240, 247, 247–50 Vietnam War 62, 71, 192, 199, 225–6, 240, 247–8 Vigil, Jesse 173 violence 86–8, 88–9, 94, 111, 254; effects on players 11; justification of 60–1; symbolic and real 77; toy play 213–14 Virilio, Paul 96–7, 161, 262 Virtual Army Experience (VAE) 1–2, 2, 3, 185, 188n1 virtual geographies 94–5

308 Index

Virtual Geography (Wark) 94–5 Virtual Heroes 165 virtual humans: emotional content 139–43; realism 137–9 Virtual Iraq 22, 164, 165, 229 virtual reality 92–3 Wagner, Chris 26 Walter Reed Army Medical Center 229 war: biopolitical 258–64; decontextualized 101; fear of 72; films 225–6; horror of 247–50, 254; normalization and sanitization of 232; popular culture and 225–7; postmodern 114; virtual 94–5, 96–7, 100–1, 102–4, 246–7 War Game Digest (magazine) 27 War Poetry: Medal of Honor 279 Warcraft 28, 32 Wardynski, Casey 8, 14, 40, 46, 178–88 Wargame Design (SPI) 27 wargaming 11, 21–36, 96, 117; aesthetic forms 32–3; conventions 27; development of 23–31, 67–72; digitalization 29–33, 36, 71; game-mechanical innovations 33–4; medium 31; military links 28–9, 68; origins of civil 24; rule systems 34–5; subculture 27–8, 35–6, 70–1 Warhammer 28

Warhammer 40,000 28 Warhammer Fantasy Battle 28 Wark, McKenzie 94, 268 Warthog Jumper 250n2 Weil, Peggy 170, 173, 174 Wells, H. G. 24 Westwell, Guy 192 Whalen, Thomas 258 World in Conflict 32 World of Warcraft 28, 108, 284 World War II 24–5, 191, 194, 201–2, 203 World War II games 14–15, 81, 112, 191–204; good war/bad war comparisons 201–2; hero figure 191; historical authenticity 196–7, 200–1; historical experience 197–8; and increased respect for U.S. military 198–9, 200, 201; internationalism 202–3; participants attitudes survey 193–9, 195; realism 196, 199; sales 193; soft power 203–4; strong defense interpretation 199–201 World War III games 72, 106 Wright, Talmadge 82 WWII: Tank Commander 47 al-Zarqawi, Abu Musab 230–1 Zelda series 253–4 Zielinski, Siegfried 164 Zimbardo, Philip 175n1 Zˇizˇek, Slavoj 175n3