by Michael B. Reagan,
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
In May of 2002, the United States Army invaded E3, the annual video game convention held in Los Angeles. At the city's Convention Center, young game enthusiasts mixed with camouflaged soldiers, Humvees and a small tank parked near the entrance. Thundering helicopter sound effects drew the curious to the Army's interactive display, where a giant video screen flashed the words "Empower yourself. Defend America ... You will be a soldier."(1)
The Army was unveiling its latest recruitment tool, the "America's Army" video game, free to download online or pick up at a recruiting station, and now available for purchase on the Xbox, PlayStation, cell phones and Gameboy game consoles. Since its release, the "game" has gone on to attain enormous popularity with over 30,000 players everyday, more than nine million registered users, and version 3.0 set for launch in September. "America's Army" simulates the Army experience, immersing players in basic training before they can go on to play specialized combat roles. Most of the gameplay takes place in cyberspace where virtual Mideast cities, hospitals and oil rigs serve as backdrops for players to obliterate each other. As a "first person shooter," the game allows players to "see what a soldier sees" in real combat situations - peek around corners, take fine aim, chose weapons that replicate those actually used by the US Army.
For the game's commercial developers, realism is one its strongest selling points. Console version programmers were shipped to military training facilities in Wyoming, where they ran boot camp obstacle courses, fired weapons at the shooting range and got whisked around on helicopters. Back at hip, safe San Francisco Bay Area game companies, Army weapons specialists worked with developers to ensure aim, fire, sound and reload functions for all of the game's weapons were as close to the real thing as possible. The Army also ensured that players learn real weapons skills such as breath control and the reload time for a M4 carbine. And in order to edge closer to the Army's goal of "realism" and "authenticity," several of the game's missions are based on actual combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the training simulators and firing ranges are modeled on the real life versions at Ft. Benning, Ft. Lewis and Ft. Polk. In a 2005 press release, Ubisoft, the multimillion-dollar publisher of the console version of the game, wrote that "America's Army" is the "deepest and most realistic military game ever to hit consoles," hoping that it gave players a "realistic, action-packed, military experience."(2)--MORE--