Thursday, September 28, 2006
A video game called America's Army is VERY responsible for the success of real American Army recruiting efforts
From the article linked above:
"In a recent informal survey of recruits at Fort Benning, Ga., which was conducted by the Army's video-game development team, about 60 percent of recruits said they've played "America's Army" more than five times a week. Four out of 100 said they'd joined the Army specifically because of the game. Nationwide, the game counts some 7.5 million registered users, making it one of the Top 5 online PC games."
OK, so "in the beginning", events in the real world provided examples for the video game world -- an adventure traveling across the country became words on the screen and we played "Oregon Trail," typing B-L-A-M when we needed to shoot bison. And real-life tennis influenced pong.
Then video games took a skip sideways and weren't really connected with reality. Space invaders came along, then PacMan and Ms. PacMan.
In real life, we didn't have ships that fired only vertically, we weren't squonking yellow circle-sectors, and we didn't have dots to eat.
Atari Adventure came along, and there were dragons, and a little arrow for a sword, and a magnet, and we were a square. Still not representational of reality. Oh, except for Missile Command -- exciting and difficult to play, but actually thinking about what that game is about and the fact that I used to put quarters in to play it (peer pressure) even though I was so maladroit with that trackball -- I shudder, on all counts.
Now we have video games that take people to a virtual space that is based on real-space, but the player's virtual character is free to do things in a relatively realistic looking space that are well outside our conventional norms and mores. Grand Theft Auto is a prime example where one drives all over the street and sidewalk, running down peds, and punching people, stealing their cars and helicopters, etc.
In my downtime, I am playing a PS2 game called 'God of War' where the character is not dissimilar to Hercules, and needs to gain strength, endurance and weaponry to be able to eventually fight against Ares, who has declared war on humanity in the ancient Mediterranean. In the game at one point, I was mortified that while fighting against giant cyclopses (See post below - coincidence? Yes, actually. I drew that pic before I knew there were cyclopses in this game.) my character needed to wipe out townspeople who were running amok throughout the town square in terror from the cyclopses, because wiping out the townspeople gives him extra health. This is necessary because the cyclopses' clubs beat down with amazing amounts of damage, and you have to hit them seemingly hundreds of times (and get hit scores of times yourself) before you can defeat them. Then again, the townspeople all eventually get killed by the Cyclopses anyway, until their one-eyed bodies are laying cold on the virtual ground.
I wonder... Which side are cyclopses generally supposed to be on? In the song by The Darkness, they say "His eyes numbered but one and shone like the sun," but yet in both cases, they kind of let loose in a town. Oops, I digress.
I know that I know the difference between reality and fiction here, and I'm not planning on visiting/decimating ancient Athens anytime soon, but still when I get done with a session, I find I'm feeling a little amped up. I can't help but wonder what someone who fights in a simulated America's Army battle would feel like after their session. Likewise, some people who play video games can't tell (or pay little heed to) the difference between virtual and real, or at least the line gets smudg-ey (Proof of point: there are real people who go about collecting virtual items to sell for physical money to other real people for their virtual characters in massively multi-player online role playing games like Everquest).
Now, we see that our young people are signing up for military duty because of the high that they get in a military-simulating video game, and perhaps because of the way the life is portrayed. I wonder if they know that they may have to shell out their own money for better armor over there, they may not make enough money on active duty to care for their families, and need to take out a payday loan(!), and if they get injured or inhale depleted uranium or suffer any of the myriad maladies our returning troops suffer from, the budget for veterans' healthcare has steadily FALLEN over the last six years.
To repeat, some people have a difficult time distinguishing the reality presented in a video game with the reality of physical space. I hope this distinction in our culture doesn't become more blurred, but fear that it will. :(
lyrics: black shuck, by the darkness
chant/prayer/mantra: wisdom of solomon here now, please.