The Army Experience Center

The Vision Machine is excited to feature a microdocumentary by one of our own curators, Peter Mantello.  You may remember that Peter previously posted a fascinating video on the company, Strategic Operations, which uses Hollywood special effects to train soldiers.  The Army Experience Center is another installation in this series that looks at the military-entertainment complex.  The following is Mantello’s narrative of his eperience of the Army Experience Center and its life cycle.

The Army Experience Center
by Peter Mantello

This micro doc explores the porous boundaries between 21st century military recruitment and first-person shooter game culture. In 2008, the US Army decided to experiment with finding new solutions to old approaches to regenerating its ranks by substituting dreary recruitment offices located in urban ghettos for exciting yet militarized video arcades in popular suburban shopping malls.  The result was known as the Army Experience Center (AEC). Situated in the Franklin Mills mall just outside Philadelphia, the AEC merged the imaginary and actual worlds of military life, tapping into the popularity of first person shooter games and the wonders of smart phone technology.

Free to the public, the AEC offered young adults a chance to immerse themselves in the hi-tech world of 21st century war craft while discovering well-paid, military career possibilities through touch screen technology. Row upon row of computer terminals allowed participants to play an array of first-person shooter videogames (including America’s Army) while two large simulation halls offered volunteers a chance to experience ‘humanitarian’ combat missions by riding Humvee vehicles and Apache helicopters (while of course shooting their way through never ending waves of faceless, brown-skinned adversaries). Moreover, participants could visit the war room of the digital age where distant war is fed to analysts on 50 inch screens through satellite imagery.

Meanwhile, Army recruiters (often fresh from Iraq/Afghanistan) traded in their military fatigues for polo shirts and jeans and casually circulated through the complex, offering advice, answering questions and ultimately assisting the interested in signing up for stint in the real US military. But by 2010, local public opposition to the AEC garnered negative national attention. Angry parents accused the AEC of attempting to seduce their children with overly sanitized impressions of war. The AEC was officially closed in 2012 becoming a small but important footnote in the increasing synergy between the US military and the entertainment industries.

13 thoughts on “The Army Experience Center

  1. Very good piece of journalism. This topic deserves greater scrutiny and it’s encouraging to see people working on it.

    Just a quick comment based on my own research: Counter-recruiters and other anti-militarism activists take credit for “shutting down” the AEC. However, the army considered this a pilot project and thus it was bound to be short-lived.

    That said, the fact that the army hasn’t yet followed through on its original plan of planting AEC-like facilities in other locales suggests that sustained protest (counter-recruiters holding pickets in the mall parking lot on a regular basis) sent a message that this kind of brazen military marketing to youth would not be tolerated.

    By the way, an anthropologist (Beatrice Jauregui) did some fieldwork at the AEC and presented her findings at the 2009 meeting of the AAA. It’s largely uncritical of the army viewpoint, but offers an excellent description what Mantello calls “the increasing synergy between the US military and the entertainment industries.”

  2. The University of Queensland POLS3512 (Dr. Sebastian Kaempf) Critical Blog Assessment – Semester 2, 2015.
    Callum O’Connor-Cox s4292322

    For many, the symbiotic relationship between the government and media industry has evolved immensely since the propaganda systems seen in the First World War (Andersen 2014 :1). As the influence and accessibility of media outlets have changed so have governments involvement and influence in these channels. From influence in television, radio, film and print media in the early 20th Century, the 21st has seen expansion into more avenues of influence. The booming culture of video games has now been subject to manipulation from government bodies, for recruitment and influence. This inclusive facet of media has subsequently infiltrated the interaction between governments and video game culture.

    Peter Mantello’s article, “The Arm Experience Center” provides a brief insight into the military recruitment phenomenon used by the United States Army. Mantello’s article explores this unique facet of military recruitment as it displays a definite shift from the boring conscription offices throughout America, to a more interactive and enticing form of involvement. This piece will be analyzed and subsequently compared against current literature regarding the government’s use of such facilities but also the video game industry as a whole.

    Mantello’s piece opts for a very clean one sided view of this “Army Experience Center” at Franklin Mills Mall. The short three-minute clip portrays this center as an inherent good necessary in your local shopping mall. One child being interviewed frames this army facility as “helping keep kids off the street”. The article opens on teenagers in a jeep, wielding weapons and shooting at large screens projecting an extremely well made virtual reality game. The immersive facet of this center shows how exciting army life can be, by experiencing the sounds, thrills and camaraderie present in a real life military operation.

    Comparing it to an Apple Store, a soldier, out of uniform in casual clothing takes the viewer through a series of features of the center. This interactive experience where children can access the Internet, engage with other like-minded kids, play video games and ask questions to staff about the army. Throughout this the soldier explicitly assures the viewer that there is no obligation to join the army and that personnel will only engage if they wish to know more things about the army. For instance an interactive touch screen terminal displays weaponry used in the games they are playing and their real life counterparts. Reports from personnel on army engagement, footage from army training, education options within the army, profiles on jobs and army personnel and the salary offered by joining the army. As such this interactive experience frames itself as inherent good but also a necessity for recruitment in this technological age.

    Unfortunately, Mantello’s limited portrayal of this Army Experience center is not very engaging. Throughout his piece no opposition or negative aspects of the centre are portrayed. In fact this piece seems to be a recruitment in believing the reasonability of the use of these centers. Upon further reading, this portrayal was overall not very engaging in the topic, choosing to take a positive stance on the center and its representation of war.

    For many scholars this manipulation of video-game culture is a symbiotic relationship (Der Derian 2001 : 167; Stahl 2010: 94). For Andersen and Mirrless the United States Department of Defense and video game companies seek to turn video game players into virtual soldiers (Andersen 2014 :4). In 2002 the release of America’s Army sought to bring immersive and engaging battle spaces and storylines, coupled with the heroics of modern day warfare into the homes of millions of video game players (Andersen 2014 :4). Unfortunately, Andersen and Mirrless describe this as “influential content in order to shape perceptions, influence opinions and control behavior” (Andersen 2014 : 4).

    This widespread video game sought to alter peoples understanding of the war efforts overseas. By actively engaging with scenarios taken straight from real life with realistically represented weapons, terrain and locations, this was the first time a video game had been used as a manipulative propaganda machine (Andersen 2014 :4). In Mantello’s article it does not say whether the game played within the Army Experience center was America’s Army, upon further investigation, the majority of these recruitment facilities featured the game, along with an array of similar games.

    Stahl notes that America’s Army was not only being used by recruitment centers but by army personnel for simulations and leadership training (Stahl 2010 : 93-94). The repetitive decision making that featured in video games, was a necessity in military education and a key indicator for high positions (Stahl 2006: 117). This integration of hyper realistic video games not only for recruitment but also education was deemed a positive in the portrayal of the center (Der Derian 2001 :164; Stahl 2006:123). Subsequently, in 2005 forty percent of enlisters stated they had played America’s Army at some point (Der Derian 2001 :164; Stahl 2006:123). However, Stahl notes that there was a disconnect between what the game was portraying and the realities that were being promoted in the broader media coverage (Stahl 2006: 124).

    Although Mantello’s article focuses on the Army Experience Center alone, Mantello omits an important discussion on the manipulation of video game culture as a whole. Viewing the Army Experience Center as separate from the video games seen in mainstream culture, this assumption that he portrays is fundamentally flawed. Andersen and Mirrless discuss the fact that since the late 1970’s video game interaction has been influenced by forms of government and its depiction of war (Andersen 2014:11). As such this immersive first and third person battle spaces that video games provide, glorify the brutal spectacle of war as a recruitment and training machine (Andersen 2014:12).

    Andersen builds on this that Medal of Honour explicitly supports notions of a greater influence of militainment and Department of Defenses influence on the medium (Andersen 2014:11). Its promotional goals through digital capitalism profit through a symbiotic relationship between the Department of Defense and video game company, Electronic Arts (Andersen 2014: 11-12 ; Der Derian 2001:167). Electronic Arts portray current events and places to ultimately persuade and alter the perceptions of current operations that the DOD is acting in. They also allow EA realistic and current portrayals that increase interest and sales.

    Ben Clarke discusses video game usage on a wider scale. Clarkes argument revolves around whether or not video games are a positive influence on society and the military personnel who interact with them (Clarke 2012 : 713 -717). Supporting Andersen and Der Derian, Clarke agrees that this interactive form of media is helping military recruitment and training, by transforming the technologies and representations of war (Clarke 2012: 713). However, the argument centers around the humanitarian laws that are missing in video games (Clarke 2012: 725). This refers to indiscriminate shooting of civilians, senseless violence and catastrophic destruction of cities all in the name of entertainment. These breaches within video games are not met with the same punishment that would face a true combatant (Clarke 2012 : 722-725). The desensitization that occurs in video games and sense of a lawless war is far from a true representation (Clarke 2012 :729). The video games used in Mantello’s army experience center feature this kind of indiscriminate, lawless combat situations. This view of justifying the results not the methods is another omission in Mantello’s discussion on this topic (Clarke 2012: 721).

    While Mantello offers a very positive insight into the synergic relationship between the army experience center, video games and the military in his piece, unfortunately this one sided voice is very bland. The discussions provided by other authors offer viewpoints that are ignored from Mantello’s piece. If these viewpoints, that paint a differing opinion on the relationship between the military and the video game industry were included, the piece would have conveyed a more in depth opinion. As such the result is a piece lacking in complexity that the topic ultimately needs and upon investigation the argument was not as convincing as once perceived to be.

    Reference List

    Andersen, Robin and Tanner Mirrlees 2014: ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’ Democratic Comminique 26 No.2

    Mantello, Peter; 2015. The Army Experience Center. The Vision Machine http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/

    Derian, James Der. 2001: Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-industrial-media-entertainment Network. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2001. Print.

    Clarke, Ben, Christian Rouffaer and Francois Senechaud; 2012 ‘Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’ 


    Stahl, Roger: 2010. Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge,

    Stahl,
Roger; (2006) Have You Played the War on Terror?, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23:2, 112-130, DOI: 10.1080/07393180600714489

  3. POLS3512. The University of Queensland. Critical Blog Assessment – Semester 2, 2015.
    Rachel Stewart

    “Will computer games win the war on terror?” (Michael Medved 2001 cited in Stahl, 2009). Well it certainly seems as though the United States Military believes it will. The merging of the media and entertainment industry with the military as resulted in a culture shift changing the way the citizenry view, understand and interact with the war machine. With the integration of the home front and the battlefield, especially since 9/11, the media has become a pivotal weapon in the post-industrial arsenal especially with fighting the war on the home front. Furthermore video games are becoming the number one weapon revolutionizing the battlefield. Therefore we see a transition in to the virtual. The virtual world of where Der Derian (2001: 131) terms the virtual citizen soldier is activated is the result of the military-entertainment complex that is embedded in American culture.

    The Vision machine spotlight created in 2015 featuring a short documentary by Peter Mantello and a small written commentary discusses the Army Experience Center (AEC). This short documentary highlights a new trend in military recruitment and technology. Based in Franklins Mills mall outside Philadelphia the AEC opened in 2008 as an experiment to find new ways to reinvigorate old recruitment techniques by creating “exciting militarized video arcades” that merged the virtual and real world of military life by using popular first person shooter games. Mantello’s documentary almost advertises the AEC by highlighting its ‘soft selling’ strategy and recruitment mentality which overall aims to create a positive image if the military by both showing and participating in Army themed simulators and technology. Additionally the one sided representation of a clean view of war presents the army facilty as not only virtuous but doing a public duty in helping kids get of the streets and doing something for their country. Furthermore it demonstrates the US military’s desire to stay relevant to the next tech-savvy generation and reshape civilians understanding of war, by creating an exciting environment that interacts with every sense in the body.

    The ACE, as presented by Mantello, was the result of a series of initiatives put in place by the government to help the image of the military and recruitment (Stahl, 2006: 107). The use of video games a part of a larger strategy that moved away from traditional recruitment approaches including recruitment offices located in urban ghettos and costly TV ads to more cost-effective methods that utilized trending technology was the basis of the documentary. With the use of video games the military has effectively taped in to the 21st century consumer culture that dictates many aspects of American society (Bacevich, 2010). It is not surprising that first person shooter (FPS) games, especially ones that are military themed, were there most popular with four of the top six video games released last year coming from that category. Not only that, out of estimated 25 million teenagers in America (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012), 97% have played video games at least once (Lenhart, 2009: 2). While the military has recognised video games as an effective recruitment tool, there is however no statistics on how many recruits have played FPS games before enlisting and whether it does in fact lead to enlisting (Derby, 2014:20). Hi-tech military equipment links the video games industry and military (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud, 2012: 711). In general, Mantello (2012) and Stahl (2006) agree that the relationship between the military planner and the gaming industry not only helps to reshape the understanding of war but also provides access to and justification for the increasingly clandestine nature of warfare. Video games in this context become a means of truth telling. Although the partnership between the military establishment and the gaming industry makes it difficult to see where the virtual battlefield ends and the physical begins, therefore creating a clear gap between what the ACE is presenting and the actual reality. First person shooter games reflect how political doctrines are constructed in order to validate covert military force as legitimate (Andersen & Mirrlees, 2014). In other words, FPS games reinforce the military behaviour and in Beasly’s (2015) study it was found that those who played FPS games identified them as being both a better sources of new and informative about the military machine. Consequently, it is obviously why the military has used tools like the ACE for recruitment purposes.

    The ‘soft selling’ strategy the AEC maintains, which is drawn from the Apple store concept, where customers can try before they buy is by no means an ineffective selling strategy. However the AEC by extension is selling war by reducing conflict and the military into a product for consumption (White, 2005). As the AEC maintains that it is an “attraction tool. There is no recruiting mission here” and its “more about changing perceptions” it is believe that the best way to become acquainted with the military was through interaction (Hansen, 220202). The AEC was an extension of other proved outreach tool such as the mobile “Virtual Army Experience” and “America’s Army” which both tap into the virtual world. However with the overall aim to create a well informed citizenry, the over stimulus of militarised information through war themed book, film, TV news and games, can in fact as Andersen and Mirrlees (2014; 6), suggests create a state of disinformation as the blurring of the real and virtual which become undistinguishable. “War seems to be the most talked about of activities, and yet the least known” (Derby, 2014:22). In terms of recruitment and a positive military image, in the world of smart phone technology, hyperrealism and interactive games, are now trending, the military aims to stay relevant by using these developments in technology (Bacevich, 2010).

    The AEC creates a space of connection between the public and the military. It is there for citizens become acquainted and interact with the war machine in a “non-threatening environment” (Hansen, 20). However by stepping into the world of consumerism the Military and the AEC has lost the fundamental reality of war. As highlighted in the documentary, the use of video games is important as it give the possible recruits a sense what is would really be like to join the Military. However as discover by Stahl (2006; 2009), Mantello (2012; 2013) Andersen and Mirrlees (2014), and Clarke B, Rouffaer C and Senechaud (2012) video games and similar media platforms used by the military tend to avoid narratives that can possibly interfere with the ability to freely consume creating alternate and distorted realities. These interferences include legal, moral and ideological consideration, gruesome violence and consequences. Furthermore the realism that video games generates is that linked to war being clean without consequences but as one Special Forces Veteran highlighted the clear disconnect between military-style games and real conflict: “You lose an avatar; just reboot the game. In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife” (Barby, 2014: 23). Therefore, a key flaw in the AEC’s argument is that video games and real combats are not at all similar, in fact FPS games such as America’s Army do not aim to misrepresent war but rather are used as tool to see the military image and lifestyle but in doing so distort the realities of combat (Stahl, 2006:125).

    Mantello’s short documentary while brief did outline the basis of the Army Experience Center and what it does. However it did fail to acknowledge the wide and varying protests towards the AEC and the use of FPS games and digital technology for recruitment. Both citizen groups and war veteran the like complained that the experience was misleading and trivialized conflict. Even though, the text that accompanied the documentary momentarily highlights the local public opposition it would be beneficial to both extend and evaluate the merit of the opposition. Additionally, the spotlight would have been enriched further with more academic critics and arguments surrounding this topic. Giving weight to both sides of the story. Finally, as the AEC was brought to a close in 2010, only being a two year project, discussion of the military’s next and current recruiting tools and lessons learned from this experiment would have also provided a fuller discussion.

    In conclusion, Mantello’s spotlight on the AEC, while largely uncritical succinctly present a working element the Military-Entertainment Complex. This documentary highlights the recent trend in military recruitment and advertisement. The AEC offers and interactive non-threating environment to explore different aspects of the military, including combat, jobs and lifestyle. With the merging of the battlefield and the home front, FPS games have become the link. As citizens and war step into the virtual, military recruitment strategy has revolutionized. The use of video games by the military to recruit and create a positive image is both effective and alarming. As a large percentage of Americans play FPS games, which it has been found have the ability to reshape and distort the realities of war while also generating a sense of understanding of the military establishment. The selling of war in an environment based around consumerism, the truth has become the victim as the AEC is making war easy to consume rather then real. However the use of FPS games and interactive technologies in regards to recruitment has been very effective in the eyes of the military. Overall the Vision Machine Spotlight by Peter Mantello offers well-executed documentary that had great insights into the connection between the military, media and entertainment technology.

    Reference List
    Andersen and Mirrlees (2014) ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’ Democratic Communiqué. Vol. 26 no.2 pp. 1-21
    Bacevich, Andrew. (2010) The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. New York: Oxford University Press. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books.
    Beasley ZM (2015). Millennials, the military, and first-person shooter video games. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing; 2015.
    Clarke B, Rouffaer C and Senechaud F (2012) ‘Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross vol.94 no.886 pp.711
    Derby, J. 2014, “Violent Video Games and the Military: Recruitment, Training, and Treating Mental Disability”, Art Education, vol. 67, no. 3, pp. 19-25.
    Der Derian, J. (2001) Virtuous War: Mapping the Military Industrial-Media-Entertainment Net-work. Boulder: Westview Press.
    Der Derian, J. (2000) “Virtuous war/ virtual theory”. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 76, No. 4, pp. 771-788.
    Department of Defense. (2012). 2012 demographics: Profile of the military community. Retrieved from http://www.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/ 2012_Demographics_Report.pdf
    Lenhart, A. (2009). Cheats for marketers: Fresh demographics on teen and adult game play & how games can teach kids to be good citizens. Pew Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2009/03/27/cheats-for-marketers-fresh-demographics-on- teen-and-adult-game-play-how-games-can-teach-kids-to-be-good-citizens/
    Mantello, Peter (2013). “Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first person shooter 
on the witness stand.” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 07, Aug.2013.
    Mantello, Peter. (2012). “Playing discreet war in the US: Negotiating subject hood and 
sovereignty through Special Forces video games.” Media, War & Conflict 5.3: 
269-283
    Stahl, (2006), ‘Have you played the “War on Terror”?’ Critical Studies in Media 
Communication, , Vol. 23, no. 2.
    Stahl (2009) ‘Militainment, Inc. War, Media and popular Culture’. New york: Routledge
    White, J. (2005) It’s a Video Game, and an Army recruiter. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2005/05/26/AR2005052601505.html

  4. POLS3512. The University of Queensland. Critical Blog Assessment – Semester 2 2015
    Alexandra Newton S4301255

    In the United States (US), the growing synergy between the military, the government and commercial industries was first outlined during President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell remarks to the American people in 1961 (Rose 2012: 366). The 20th century saw a growth of the US as a superpower tied to war, facilitated by congressional investment in military agencies and private industries that were directly involved in the preparation and waging of wars (Anderson & Mirrlees 2014: 3; Rose 2012: 367). During this speech, he outlined the problematic ritualization of violence that he referred to as the military-industrial communications complex (MICC) (Anderson & Mirrlees 2014: 3). According to Eisenhower, this symbiosis held grave implications for the development of peaceful motives that would be overshadowed by the ‘unwarranted influence’ of the MICC (Mirrlees 2009: 165). Today, this symbiotic relationship has developed the exact unwarranted influence that Eisenhower forewarned in his speech. The rise of the MICC, driven by profit and the complex interrelationship between the military and the entertainment industries, has resulted in an infiltration of pro-military sentiment in everyday life that is exemplified in this spotlight.

    Peter Mantello’s micro-documentary focuses on the latest installment of the MICC, the Army Experience Centre (AEC), which specifically targets American adolescent teenagers who don’t have a broader understanding of the complexity of military operations. The AEC was opened in 2008 in Philadelphia’s Franklin Mills Mall and was a strategic marketing strategy of the US military in order to combat declining army recruitment levels. The AEC substituted urban recruitment offices for a single recruitment centre that combined popular first-person shooter games (FPS), military technology and appealing smart-phone technology. While the AEC denied the recruitment motives of this centre, it presented a highly sanitized and glamorous image of war in a location that could specifically target young teenagers (Zmuda, 2008). The AEC was shut down in 2012 following complaints from parents that it presented an unrealistic and idealised representation of war. However, the techniques employed in the AEC highlight a wider problem in the increased relationship between the US military and the entertainment industries: the weakening of the moral and psychological impediments to enacting collective violence (Rose 2012: 366).

    The development of the AEC should be placed in the context of how the Pentagon came to rely extensively on FPS games as a tool for recruitment. Roger Stahl (2006; 2010) states that the developments in media and information technology have resulted in the transformation of citizens who were purely receptive to media to the creation of interactive subjects. While television coverage of Desert Storm in 1991 was primarily a spectacle for viewers at home, Operation Iraqi Freedom employed embedded journalism that effectively placed viewers within the fighting ranks themselves and created a sense of subjectivity among citizens (Stahl 2006:125). The growth of video-game technology provided the Pentagon with an alternative outlet that could further extend the notion of viewer subjectivity in war by allowing citizens to directly ‘play’ the war on terror (Power 2007: 275). America’s Army (the FPS game used in the AEC) was developed as a military strategy in 2002 as a more cost-effective method of recruitment (Power 2007: 275; Singer 2010: 92). According to Stahl (2006: 123), as the military spends around an average of $15,000 on ‘wooing’ each recruit, the development of America’s Army was a financially effective way of boosting falling recruitment numbers. Its effectiveness as a recruitment tool has been undeniable, with nearly 73,000 new soldiers out of the 8 million registered members by 2006 (Susca 2012: 40).

    Mantello’s argument regarding recruitment strategies of the US military targeted at adolescents through FPS games and advanced technology is discussed in the works of Margot Susca (2012), James Der Derian (2009) and Stahl (2006; 2010). America’s Army and the AEC 13+ age restriction is representative of the Pentagon’s strategy to take advantage of the adolescent market (Zmuda, 2008). Susca (2012; 19) argues that the Pentagon targets teenagers as it is a period of development that is easily influenced and characterized by the desire for independence and thrill seeking behavior. America’s Army and the AEC fulfill adolescent thrill-seeking desires by engaging in simulated virtual combat that simultaneously allows them to exercise varying levels of independence and choice making (Susca 2012: 19). This is inherently problematic as during the ages of 13-16, adolescents begin to develop morals that will influence their actions throughout adulthood (Susca 2012: 20). According to Ben Clarke, Christian Rouffaer and Francois Senechaud (2012), video game scripts and scenarios dictate to players when violence is acceptable and unacceptable through point accumulation and reward systems. Therefore, by being able to ‘play’ the war at a young age, it can significantly shape an adolescents understanding of what constitutes morally acceptable violence during war (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud 2012: 717). Der Derian (2009) builds on this analysis by explaining that the video-game war is a virtuous war, one that is clean and good through the virtue of being bloodless. By transporting adolescents into a conflict zone without revealing any of the destructive realities of war, America’s Army presents a positive image of war that legitimizes American foreign policy and desensitizes the player to the psychological affects committing violence (Der Derian 2009: 155). Mantello’s spotlight builds on this literature by examining the AEC and how it has implemented the concept of a clean and interactive war. The thrill of holding fake machine guns and playing ‘real time’ overshadows the emotional truth and negative consequences of war (Susca 2012: 18). The inclusion of army profiles in the AEC is a further attempt at glamorizing war for adolescent males by idealising career roles in the army. For example, one video testimony is an army cadet that controls the gunner of a tank. The individual boasts he can ‘hit things from over 200 miles away’ while he ‘engages targets’. The use of abstract words, such as ‘engage targets’ and the focus on the high-tech side of technology, is what Stahl (2010) refers to as technofetishism, which essentially renders the destructive side of war invisible, contributing to a sanitized and bloodless portrayal of war. Furthermore, targeting this glamorized image of the army at adolescents, according to Susca (2012), appeals to adolescent thrill-seeking behavior and their search for power and independence.

    Implicit in Mantello’s spotlight, and the literature surrounding the discussion of the growth of FPS games, is the transformation of media that focuses on ‘why we fight’ to ‘how we fight’. However, this discussion is too simplistic and overlooks a secondary reason for why video games are the preferred recruitment choice for the US military. As war is the ultimate example of rationalised state violence, maintaining public consent is essential for its continuation (Power 2007: 275). Mantello examines this link in another article, where he examines how the use of FPS conflates the authenticity of gameplay and the legitimacy of political reality in order to implicate the gamer as a witness to the reality of war (Mantello 2013: 18). Therefore, FPS bridges war’s legitimacy in a way television has never, by inviting the gamer into the conflict in order to re-witness the truth and participate in the ‘good war’ on terrorism (Mantello 2013: 18). This is a valid point and its inclusion would have provided a deeper analysis in Mantello’s spotlight. The language of gameplay conflates sociocultural identifies, for example, Terrorist/Muslim/Arab/bad guy, that simplifies political conflicts as good versus evil, in which America occupies the position of good (Mantello 2013: 16). Therefore, not only is the use of America’s Army and places like the AEC useful for communicating information to potential recruits, but also a tool for inculcating military values and generating popular support (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud 2012: 717). By presenting the narrative of good against evil, video games provide an explanation for ‘why we fight’ (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud 2012: 721). The framing of video games presents to American society a positive moral perspective of military intervention and legitimizes American foreign policy during war.

    The creation of the AEC marks a significant moment in the ever- evolving relationship between the military and the entertainment industries. While the US military has denied that the AEC was designed as a recruitment tool, it is evident that its direct marketing at adolescents through the use of popular first-person shooter games was a strategy designed to spark interest in the army amongst young people. Furthermore, by presenting an experience of war that focused on high power military technology and idealised military careers, the AEC presented an overly sanitized view of war that overlooked the negative reality of war. Although the AEC closed in 2012, it remains a monumental chapter in the narrative of the military-industrial-communications complex which seeks to weaken moral and psychological attitudes towards war in American consumer society.

    Reference List
    Anderson, Robin & Tanner Mirrlees. 2014. Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society. Democratic Communiqué 26(2): 1-21
    Clarke, Ben, Christian Rouffaer and François Sénéchaud. 2012. ‘Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross 94(886): 711.
    Der Derian, James. 2009. Virtuous war: mapping the military-industrial-media-entertainment network, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.
    Mantello, Peter. 2013. ‘Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first-person shooter on the witness stand’. Australian Journal of International Affairs 67(5): 638-658.
    Mirrlees, Tanner. 2009. ‘Digital militainment by design: producing and playing SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs: 1’. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics 5(3): 161.
    Power, Marcus. 2007. ‘Digitized Virtuosity: Video War Games and Post-9/11 Cyber-Deterrence’. Security Dialogue 38(2): 271-288.
    Rose, Phil. 2012. ‘Divinising Technology and Violence: Technopoly, the Warfare State, and the Revolution in Military Affairs’.Journal of Contemporary Religion 27(3): 365.
    Singer, Peter. 2010. ‘MEET THE SIMS … and Shoot Them’. Foreign Policy (178): 91-95.
    Stahl, Roger. 2006. ‘Have you played the war on terror?’. Critical Studies in Media Communication 23(2): 112-130.
    Stahl, Roger. 2010. Militainment, Inc: war, media, and popular culture. New York: Routledge.
    Susca, Margot. 2012. ‘Why we still fight: Adolescents, virtual war, and the government-gaming nexus’. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
    Zmuda, Natalie. 2008. ‘Are the Army’s new marketing tactics a little too kid-friendly?’. Advertising Age 79(33): 1.

  5. The University of Queensland POLS 3512
    Critical Blog Assessment (Semester 2, 2015)
    Tessa Hourigan S4350344

    Mantello’s spotlight, ‘The Army Experience Center’ documents the installation of a new type of army recruitment center in an American shopping mall in 2008. More of a video arcade than traditional recruitment office, the Army Experience Center worked to merge the imagined and real worlds of the military experience into one in order to boost recruitment numbers. Just one example of the symbiotic relationship between the American army and the media and entertainment industries, the Army Experience Center exemplified the new ways that entertainment, information and propaganda are produced by the military for public consumption.

    The spotlight provides a largely positive, face-value assessment of the Army Experience Center. The images shown throughout the spotlight are highly sanitized, and provoke an understanding of the war experience through a virtual reality, distancing the viewer from the lived reality of warfare. Modeled on the design of the Apple store, the Army Experience Center is stated to attempt to project a soft sell environment where potential members are able to come in and ‘test out the product’ in order to determine whether they are interested or not. It features interactive video game play and the career profiles of past and current servicemen. Much of the game play is with ‘America’s Army’, a video game designed by the American Army for promotional purposes. The game is highly popular within the gaming community, and works to promote what is termed by Stahl as ‘lifestyle marketing’ (2006, p.124-125). The recruiters in the store are largely Army members recently returned from combat, and are presented as wholesome soldiers who are all highly enthusiastic about the army experience. They aim to fulfill a mentor role and are there to answer questions about conscription and the army experience if necessary. The spotlight aims to place emphasis on the ‘if necessary’, stating that visitors to the center can purely choose to engage in the game play instead if they wish. Visitors to the Army Experience Centre are also presented as largely enthusiastic about their in store experiences, with one boy featured expressing his happiness at the center helping to ‘keep the kids off the street’. The language utilized by the employees of the Army Experience Center throughout the spotlight is also entirely positive. They interestingly frame the Army Experience Centre as just that: an experience. This framing fails to consider the more serious aspects of the reality of army conscription, such as moving away from family and friends and risks of injury and death. The recruiters themselves also do not appear to have any visible injuries or mental health issues gained from their conflict experience. This serves to further the sanitized, positive images of war presented in the spotlight, and frames life in the army as a fun and engaging yet lucrative career.

    The spotlight’s message is largely convincing in promoting the Army Experience Center as a highly positive, informative, fun recruitment center. However, in conjunction with existing literature surrounding the Army Experience Center and the military entertainment industrial complex, this message is increasingly less convincing. While the framing of the Army Experience Center as a sanitized form of recruitment remains highly convincing, there is a significant disjuncture between the portrayed intentions of the American military in the clip, and discussion of their intentions within the literature. While the recruitment officers within the spotlight work hard to acknowledge the freedom of visitors to the centre, it is clear that the American Army highly values the use of video games as a recruitment tool. Spending $75 million on America’s Army in 2004 alone, the game comprises a significant portion of the military’s advertising and promotional strategies (Stahl, 2006, p.123)

    Mantello’s spotlight fails to provide a well-rounded analysis of the Army Experience Center. By including only positive representations and feedback throughout the spotlight, it is clear that Mantello’s representation is somewhat lacking. Upon further examination it is clear that the Army Experience Centre and the media entertainment complex that the Centre embodied a number of highly controversial debates surrounding the place of modern conscription and propaganda techniques, and the intersection between the two. The fact that Mantello does not mention this, albeit briefly in his written work underneath the video, signifies a serious gap in the message of the spotlight. It is also important to note that the military does not purely consider video games, as they are represented within the spotlight, a tool for garnering the interest of young men and women into coming into recruitment centers. Instead, as explored by Stahl in ‘Militainment’, first person shooter games form the basis of many new training programs in the military, air force and the navy (2010, p.93). These games are carefully crafted by military professionals in order to reach as many target audiences as possible, to reflect contemporary events in a realistic sense, to promote military ideals and yet also to provide highly sanitized, unrealistic images that prevent the loss of potential conscripts (Stahl, 2006, p.123-124).

    Mantello’s spotlight provides a number of significant insights into the military entertainment industrial complex, and the relationship that this complex shares with recruitment. It provides a clear example of how the introduction of new technologies and cultural norms has shaped the processes of recruitment in a contemporary setting, and how they are shaped to fit the interests of a specific target group. However, while Mantello’s spotlight is highly successful in the provision of these insights, it does fail to mention any of the counter-narratives that are used to criticize the intended use and design of the Army Experience Center. Thus, it can be argued that as it remains at its current face-value level of analysis, it is not altogether convincing.

    • Mantello, Peter; 2015. The Army Experience Center. The Vision Machine http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/
    • Stahl, Roger: 2010. Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge,
    • Stahl,
Roger; (2006) Have You Played the War on Terror?, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23:2, 112-130, DOI: 10.1080/07393180600714489

  6. POLS3512. The University of Queensland. Critical Blog Assessment – Semester 2 2015
    Alya Munirah Yusoff 44024934

    In 2009, The Army Experience Centre (AEC) providing its visitors the chance to experience a first-person shooter (FPS) computer games. The AEC was funded by the American Army in order to use a more contemporary ways of recruitment instead of the traditional military propaganda. AEC was complete with the new technologies where visitors are able to find information in a more visualize and interactive ways. The technologies used has made it possible for the visitor the pathways of becoming a part of the American Army comrade including virtual experience being in war. AEC was located in typical neighborhood mall just outside Philadelphia which has managed to attract mainly male teenagers. Furthermore, AEC popularity spike through as it provides no charge for anyone who interested in becoming an army or simply just to play the games. AEC ground also full with an experienced army which traded their army fatigue to the typical polo shirt, which will mentoring interested visitors signing up for the army. A year after its opening AEC was opposed by the local public opposition as it attempting to sanitize war in its visitors. Finally, in 2012 AEC was officially closed and mark as proof of the synergy between US military and entertainment industries. However it closing does not stop any army FPS games from rising popularity in its player (Sweet 2016). FPS games are still popular and keep on upgrading in order to visualize a more realistic condition. Thus, the argument of this paper is AEC is more than just an entertainment media by discussing its purpose, relation to real conflict and effect on the players.
    Firstly, the AEC claimed purpose, where it was not meant to be an army recruitment center instead just a normal entertainment arcade location, was indeed negative. In the video, it was stated that AEC ideas were drawn from an Apple Store concept. The visitors then will have a firsthand experience of the product in order to give guidance on visitors liking of the products. The AEC operators were also not responsible for explaining the product except if the visitor interested in more information. This created an environment where AEC was similar to any arcade locations. However, despite AEC claimed concept, where only interested visitors wish to join the army will be provided with army recruitment pathways information, still, the FPS games which are America’s Army that being used as the main product in AEC was meant to be a recruiting tool for the American military. Thus, without visitor’s consents, they were indirectly affected by the main purpose of America’s Army game. America’s Army was first introduced two weeks after Iraq Invasion declaration in a large scale press conferences complete with soldier presents and the games was indeed designed by the army for recruiting process (Stahl 2006). In order to keep civilians interest on the game, the game creator had kept on updating its software’s by adding new “operation”. There was also a definite evidence of that the games have put recruiters in contact with future recruits through a formal walk-ins program and public gaming events. While American soldiers were running military exercise in Iraqi Border, a number of the student have deployed in the virtual war game through America’s Army. This showed that initially claimed of AEC as an entertainment center was negative as the game used by AEC was directly a recruitment medium created by the American Army.
    Secondly, the relation between the games landscaped and real conflict has created a realm of false truth which gradually closing the legitimacy gap. The Ever since, the first Gulf War, the civilian has been terrorized with the idea of the war on terror. Right after 9/11 attack, most of the media has tried to find the link between the terrorist and the attack. Furthermore, most of the Medias tried to compile all the terrorist characteristic in one module. The concept on finding who the terrorist is inside a typical community has attracted many of the terrified civilians. Many of civilians begin to feel the importance of this concept in making sure their own security. However, the media during that time has subtly spreading new on typical terrorist profiles. The interest showed by the civilians in finding and combating terrorist group has transcended in most of the FPS games. The games were designed to have a hyper-realistic background in order create a third personality, “virtual citizen soldier”. The games managed to create false truth environment as most of the game were inspired by past or ongoing conflict especially the conflict in Middle Eastern states. In a way, the FPS has endorsed the concept war on terror as the player will feel the need to fight the terrorist group. Thus, now there is no legitimate boundary between the life of a soldier and civilians. Every single person is now capable to become a soldier despite being formally trained. Despite having a hyper-realistic background, the games were indeed lacking in a certain condition. In 1995 Baudrillard had presaged the idea of hyperreal do not have a direct referent to its real world reality (Mantello 2013). Most of the games character will be directly controlled the player, and they are able to shoot or crash anyone who appeared in front of them including humanitarian group. This is certainly different to what actually happen in a real war. According to the international law, invading a humanitarian group will be considered as a war crime. However, if this happens in the games, the player will not receive any merit and are still able to play the game. Thus, if the usage of FPS games is considered the best way to train and recruit a soldier, it means that most of the soldier that undergone this process are the soldier who lacks the sense of humanity. In the real war, most of the soldier will not only face enemy but also civilian from many stages of ages.
    Thirdly, inside the video, also one of the visitors said about how AEC is one of the platforms provided if the visitor wants to join the army. He also added that other than that, AEC provides internet access where they either just play the game or even can receive mentoring from any of the soldiers that mostly came straight from a conflict war zone. The visitor also stated that AEC helps to create a positive and ‘soft silence’ environment. Through FPS games the image of war has been sanitized. The advancement of the mediatization of war has view war as positive issues. The act of going and fighting in war will be considered heroic despite the dangerous effect of war in the conflict areas. The FPS game player will not have the same experience as the real soldier. According to Arthur Asa Berger, games might never claim to be a realistic interpretation of the reality however, it still influenced in generating desired fantasies in players mind (Stahl 2009). Another mind blowing effect is that the war is still happening while the FPS receive so much attention from the civilians. The landscape of war happened in both virtual and reality which may lead to a broader acceptance of war in civilians. If the FPS games and AEC are still being in the limelight at the same time the military-industry-complex horizon will also increase.
    In conclusion, AEC should not only be viewed as a mere arcade place as indirectly AEC has brought many effects especially in the expansion of militainment. Through the FPS games, a positive side of war has been shown directly to the visitor which finally sanitized war image. Next, it also creates a false truth environment that closing the legitimacy gap between real war and virtual war. Finally, AEC was also used subtly as recruiting tools for the United States Army.

    References
    Mantello, Peter. 2013. “Legitimacy And The Virtual Battlefield: Putting The First-Person Shooter On The Witness Stand”. Australian Journal Of International Affairs 67 (5): 2. doi:10.1080/10357718.2013.817523.
    Stahl, Roger. 2006. “Have You Played The War On Terror?”. Critical Studies In Media Communication23 (2): 122. doi:10.1080/07393180600714489.
    Stahl, Roger. 2009. Militainment, Inc. New York: Routledge.
    Sweet, Debra. 2016. “Shutting Down The Army Experience Center: An Effective And Important Protest – World Can’t Wait”. Worldcantwait.Net. http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/organizers-mainmenu-223/from-the-director-mainmenu-293/5853-shutting-down-the-army-experience-center-an-effective-and-important-protest.

  7. POLS 3512, The University of Queensland
    Critical Blog Assesment- Semester 2, 2016
    Tavleen Tarrant, 43381993
    Army recruitment methods have evolved throughout the years from the wartime posters of World War II, to the digital era of virtual reality and video games to entice new recruits to the US Army. This form of recruitment has been controversial with debate surrounding the ethics and realism of virtual reality games and whether this trivializes war. This is a result of the military-industrial complex (MIC), its recent transformation and rise of the military industrial media entertainment network/ military entertainment complex. The military-industrial complex refers to the informal alliance between the nations’ military and defense industry (Merriam-Webster). Long gone are the days when Eisenhower (1961) warned citizens about the dangerous influence of the MIC in American politics as the MIC has grown and expanded to include the military industrial media entertainment network/ military entertainment complex (MIME-net), which describes the military using media to harness militarism and increase recruitment
    As the US defense budget increases, the MIME-net grows- with production of Hollywood movies such as Top Gun, supported by the Pentagon to create a favorable view of the army and increase recruitment, to the introduction of army themed virtual reality and video games. Peter Mantello’s micro-documentary and accompanying brief explores the new era of army recruitment in the digital age- through virtual reality games. Specifically regarding the now defunct Army Experience Center (AEC) in Franklin mills Mall, Philadelphia. The Army experience center was a virtual reality installation by the US army that was met with much contestation, raising concerns over the use of virtual reality in encouraging a pro-war sentiment in the United States. This essay will critically review Mantello’s spotlight piece and examine the core message through engaging with relevant literature on the military industrial media entertainment network as well as provide counter evidence to the piece.
    Mantello’s written brief describes the center explaining that the rationale behind this center is that the military wanted to replace the old recruitment offices for exciting, virtual reality simulations to entice a younger generation. The center allows young people to engage in first person shooter games through a military setting whilst discovering career paths in the army through touch screen technology. The center also allows people to engage in ‘ humanitarian missions’ where Mantello states, “ whilst shooting their way through never ending waves of faceless, brown skinned adversaries.
    Accompanying the article is a 3-minute micro-documentary that starts off with adolescent men in a jeep shooting in a virtual reality environment. The video then shows a young man, explaining that the AEC is not ‘ just about the army’ but ‘ keeps kids off the street’. Throughout the video, the message that this place is not a “ traditional” place for recruitment, but rather, a positive place to have fun, is reiterated, although the whole purpose of the AEC is in fact to recruit people to the army. Then, the video discusses a touch screen “ career navigator” that works like an “ iPod touch” where future potential recruits can gloss over various military careers. The video displays an army personnel driving a tank promoting the career if “ you love being the biggest baddest thing out there”, in a grand display of technofetishism (Stahl 2009: 28).
    Mantello paints the picture of the center in a rather ‘sanitized’ fashion- brushing over the implications such a center can have, leaving out broader critical discussions about relationships between the expanding militarism of the United States and growing influences of the MIME-net. For example, there is little critical analysis when it comes to the use of first person shooter games as military recruitment in the center and the apparent, grandiose displays of technofetishism seen with the display of large tanks and army vehicles.
    The accompanying 3-minute micro-documentary too offers little critical depth and insight into greater discussions about the center and its relations to MIME-net. The documentary paints the center as an innovative place for young people to hang out and less so as an explicit recruitment center that uses the military industrial media entertainment network for its own advantage. Although Mantello gives a solid description of the centre, there is little deeper engagement about the potential implications such a recruiting centre can have and what this means for the military, American geopolitics and foreign intervention. One of the main things this article lacks is engagement with the literature regarding the blurred lines between reality and virtual reality depicted in the army experience center and army recruitment games such as ‘America’s Army’.
    While the article depicts the recruitment center positively, there is damaging counter evidence regarding using ‘militainment’ as a form of recruitment. Often times, virtual reality does not accurately depict the dire realities of war and there is a blurring between reality and virtual war. Games such as America’s army are used by centers such as the AEC to promote the army and encourage people to join. This is seen as America’s army has been ranked fourth in strategies to make the army look more favorable (Stahl 2009: 107). However, these games show a skewed reality to the gruesome nature of war. Games such as America’s army have been noted to be realistic in all aspects except death (Stahl 2009: 108). For example, when humans are shot, they crumple noiselessly to the ground. Victims neither “ flail nor cry” as bodies disappear like going up to heaven. The army has responded to critics of the game by saying that the aim of the game is to promote jobs within the army, not promote violence (Stahl 2009: 108). By including violence and gore, the recruitment method would be seriously undermined, following the spirit of “ clean war”, a manner of presenting war that maximizes viewers alienation from death and suffering in war to maximize the war’s capacity to be consumed (Stahl 2009: 25). This is exemplified through invisible body counts and not showing uncensored violence like the Vietnam war where the war effort was undermined, and games like America’s army (Stahl 2009: 26).
    The lack of consequences of real life war is also apparent in both the recruitment center and virtual reality recruitment methods itself. Video games offer players the opportunity to play “ realistic” war games without facing the consequences of real life. There is a notion of lawlessness- just randomly killing without International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud 2012: 712). Anything alive is an enemy and killing them is the only option (Clarke, Rouffaer & Senechaud 2012: 721). This feeling of impunity is further reinforced on the real battlefields (I.e. IHL states that one cannot maim another person via arms unless they pose a direct threat). Video games and virtual reality scenarios allow players to engage in gross human rights violations without any consequences. These simulations can send the message that war is just a game and a law-free zone where the ends justify the means with unlimited methods of warfare. Thus, showing that that virtual reality can lack the realities of war despite being touted as “ hyperrealist”. Mantello fails to discuss this in his brief nor does he discuss the blurred lines between reality and virtual reality.
    Mantello himself noted that Pentagon-Hollywood synergies could be thought of as “ hyperrealist” because they blur the lines between reality and representation and take it a step further by determining a reality of their own (Mantello 2013: 2). This hyper real reflects little of the real world, embracing false truths (Mantello 2013: 2). Therefore, based on the broader literature, engaging in such recruitment strategies may leave future army personnel in a shocking awakening to the harsh realities of war.
    In conclusion, while Mantello’s piece is informative and insightful in providing a neutral piece regarding the Army Experience Center, the lack of critical engagement makes this piece fall short. There is a lack of discussion in how video game and virtual reality culture can fail to show realistic depictions of the ‘unglamorous’ sides of war amidst the apparent technofetishism, but also a broader conversation about the influence governments play in these virtual reality games and the military soft power in these “ advergames’ for propaganda usage (Huntmann & Payne 2009: 55). This is used to push the “ support the troops rhetoric” as discussed by Stahl (2009: 29) and help the MIME-net and thus, a broader set of viewpoints is needed to facilitate the critical discussion this topic so desperately needs.

    References
    Clarke, Ben, Christian Rouffaer, and François Sénéchaud. 2012. “Beyond The Call Of Duty: Why Shouldn’t Video Game Players Face The Same Dilemmas As Real Soldiers?”. International Review Of The Red Cross 94 (886): 712-721. doi:10.1017/s1816383113000167.
    “Definition Of Military Industrial Complex”. 2016. Merriam-Webster.Com. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/military%20industrial%20complex.
    Eisenhower, Dwight. 1961. “President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address”. Speech. 38. NAID.
    Huntemann, Nina and Matthew Thomas Payne. 2010. Joystick Soldiers. New York: Routledge.
    Mantello, Peter. 2013. “Legitimacy And The Virtual Battlefield: Putting The First-Person Shooter On The Witness Stand”. Australian Journal Of International Affairs 67 (5): 2. doi:10.1080/10357718.2013.817523.
    Stahl, Roger. 2009. Militainment, Inc.. New York: Routledge.

    • POLS 3512, The University of Queensland
      Critical Blog Assesment- Semester 2, 2016
      Caitlin Power, 42902663

      Stahl ends his piece with a highly pertinent quote, he notes that the closure of the AEC is ‘a small but important footnote in the increasing synergy between the US military and the entertainment industries’ (Stahl, 2016). This quote proves a useful starting point to investigating the central point of this spotlight – the relationship between the military and the entertainment industry. A key part of Stahl’s spotlight is the use of video-game technology for military recruitment. This analysis will briefly unpack this relationship, before assessing the critique and viability of gaming technology for the purpose of military recruitment.

      Nina Huntermann notes that for many years the military has utilised video-game technology (Rayner, 2012). In his investigation into the military-entertainment complex, Schulzke notes how game developers and the military have a mutually beneficial relationship. Game developers benefit as they receive military technical assistance and financial support. While on the other hand the military draws on civilian game developers and their technical knowledge (Schulzke, 2013). In considering the benefits of game technology and the military, it is possible to deduce two distinct uses. Firstly to recruit soldiers and secondly to train military personnel. A prominent example of this mutually beneficial relationship between the two industries is the Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT), a multi-million dollar centre at the University of Southern California. Stahl points out that in this centre, screenwriter aid in the development of ideas for terrorist polite and academics give input into the strategies behind urban conflict (Stahl, 2006, 117). Another eminent example of this close relationship is the first-person shooter game, America’s Army. It is argued that the game was muddled on ‘culturally pervasive’ first-person shooter (FPS) games to be a recruitment tool for the US military. The primary target of the game is teenagers to young adults, however this does not exclude anyone from being able to play the game (Shaban, 2013). In regards to FPS games, Mantello postulates the notion that when the gamer uses a weapon on ‘destructible objects’ or enemies, the gamer is empowered through a sense of agency (Manetllo, 17). Arguably it is this sense of agency which crafters of these games are seeking to tap into during the recruitment process. A further benefit of utilising FPS games such as America’s army is that they’re arguably one of the most cost-effective methods of recruiting (Stahl, 2016: 123)(Clarke, Rouffaer and Sénéchaud 2012: 719). Supporters of FPS and military recruitment point out that games like America’s Army can aid in facilitating a greater depth of understanding between the military (Schultze, 2013: 257).

      Vis-à-vis the game America’s Army and more broadly the use of FPS for recruitment purposes, it is argued that the games fail to depict the true realities of warfare, instead choosing to portray a more sterilised adaptation of war (Shaban, 2013). Stahl also agrees with this argument and in his article he argues that FPS games deliberately hide the ‘gory side of war’ (Stahl, 2006). The common argument is that FPS games are ‘hyperrealist,’ and they deliberately obfuscate the line between reality and representation. Furthermore, they frequently create their own versions of ‘reality.’ This notion forms the back-bone of Clarke et al.’s argument that FPS convey a negative message to participants about the existence of humanitarian norms in armed conflicts. The point out that games like America’s Army depict ‘lawless armed conflicts’ (Clarke, Rouffaer and Sénéchaud 2012: 719). Furthermore, they point to a pertinent finding from one of the studies cited in the article, that ‘the moral disengagement’ of fighters can be pegged to two key reasons. Firstly, the permissibility to justify these humanitarian violations and secondly by ‘dehumanising’ the enemy (Clarke, Rouffaer and Sénéchaud 2012: 727). They argue that FPS create the perfect environment for these conditions to occur. Truse argues that gaming and war are a ‘toxic’ combination. She highlights that ‘gaming leads to a reliance on remote-controlled warfare, and this in turn makes combat more palatable. (Rayner, 2012). To substantiate this argument she points to the close link between drone technology and the simulator training which drone pilots undertake (Rayner, 2013). While the arguments presented about FPS and the blurred line between civilian and military are not entirely incorrect, it is worth considering them from the other perspective.

      Huntermann refutes the arguments that FPS games completely eradicate the line between civilian and military. In line with the greater theme of this spotlight – recruitment tactics used by the army, she raises an interesting point to consider. She argues that “when you look at why people enlist, it is overwhelmingly tied to history of military service in the family, socio-economic status and the current state of the economy” (Rayner, 2013). Crump, an ex-British army-man mirrors the sentiments behind Huntermann’s point. He points out that if individuals are expecting an environment like what is depicted in FPS games ‘they are going to be disappointed’ (Rayner, 2013). These two arguments both implicitly refute that there is complete blurring between the civilian and military in FPS games. Schulzke is a scholar who also refutes the argument that FPS games blur this distinction. He argues that it is incomplete to argue military games such as America’s Army, promote or encourage soldiers to commit immoral actions. He mirrors Crump quote when he points out that military games in no comparable way resemble real-life infantry combat, stating that ‘no amount of practice with a mouse and keyboard in America’s Army can prepare one for firing a rifle or leaping over obstacles’ (Schulzke, 2013: 65). He concludes by arguing that it is weak to claim that FPS transmits military skills to players as it overlooks key differences between military training and game simulations. He warns that pragmatism is necessary when considering army style games, reminding the importance of ‘analysing’ through a reasonable and pragmatic eye.

      Considering the arguments presented from both perspectives, it is worth emphasising that it is difficult to reach a conclusive conclusion vis-à-vis the use of game technology for military purposes. As this analysis has clearly pointed out, the army and entertainment industry have for a long time enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship. In conclusion, arguing that games like America’s Army serve no constructive purpose or that they blur the distinction between civilian and military, silences the critical arguments articulated by Schulzke and Cromp, that FPS games and gaming technology cannot and do not seek to immediate the realities of war. Further, it silences the particularly pertinent argument of Huntermann, that amongst the reasons of joining the army, being compelled because of a FPS game does not feature as a key answer.

      References:
      Clarke, Ben, Christian Rouffaer, and François Sénéchaud. 2012. “Beyond The Call Of Duty: Why Shouldn’t Video Game Players Face The Same Dilemmas As Real Soldiers?”. International Review Of The Red Cross 94 (886): 711-737. doi:10.1017/s1816383113000167.

      Mantello, Peter. 2013. “Legitimacy And The Virtual Battlefield: Putting The First-Person Shooter On The Witness Stand”. Australian Journal Of International Affairs 67 (5): 638-658. doi:10.1080/10357718.2013.817523.

      Rayner, Alex. 2012. “Are Video Games Just Propaganda And Training Tools For The Military?”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/mar/18/video-games-propaganda-tools-military.

      Schulzke, Marcus Schulzke. 2013. “Rethinking Military Gaming: America’s Army And Its Critics”. Games And Culture 82 (2): 59 – 76. doi:10.1177/1555412013478686.

      Schulzke, Marcus. 2013. “Serving In The Virtual Army: Military Games And The Civil-Military Divide”. Journal Of Applied Security Research 8 (2): 246-261. doi:10.1080/19361610.2013.765342.

      Shaban, Hamza. 2013. “Playing War: How The Military Uses Video Games”. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/playing-war-how-the-military-uses-video-games/280486/.

      Stahl, Roger. 2016. “The Army Experience Center.” http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/.

      Stahl, Roger. 2006. “Have You Played The War On Terror?”. Critical Studies In Media Communication 23 (2): 112-130. doi:10.1080/07393180600714489.

  8. The University of Queensland: POLS3512: Critical Blog Assessment
    (42945372)

    In what ways can you convince your fellow citizens to support whatever cause you may be advocating for? If we look towards the military, we might ponder the various methods used to inspire people to join the ranks of their country’s army. From sheer patriotism to fear, hate, tradition, or even the passion to fight for what’s ‘supposedly’ right. Citizens have answered the call of their nations to join their brothers (and sisters) in arms for one reason or another. However, in the 21st century, the nature of war has changed significantly due to impacts such as globalization and increased advancements in technology. In order to keep up with the changing nature of war, militaries have had to revise their methods of recruitment. ‘The Army Experience Center’ (AEC) by Peter Mantello, a micro documentary about the synergising of the US military and entertainment industries, highlights a particularly interesting method of military recruitment. This method takes full immersion of the military entertainment complex (MEC), and as Mantello states, “[taps] into the popularity of the first person shooter games”. (2015) It is interesting to discuss how this method of recruitment has pinpointed certain target audiences to facilitate military marketing, ensuring full use of the MEC.

    Mantello’s micro documentary illustrates how gaming culture can be beneficial in raising awareness and interest in the military. However, it conveys a blurring of boundaries between military recruitment and first-person shooter game culture. The AEC immerses young adults into an arcade-like military fantasy, where they can seek, explore and discover all aspects of military career possibilities under the guise of video games and simulation technology. Army recruiters stand by, the emphasis of the AEC portrayed in Mantello’s film, is that there is no pressure to join the army. Essentially, the AEC exists here to allow the public to test-drive what their ‘product’ is like. In other words, to get a sense of what it is like in the army, and as such, the ‘product’ the AEC is selling.

    Soldiers and recruitment officers play the role of mentor. They assist patrons to the AEC in answering any questions they might have and perhaps converse with them further regarding details about their military experience. All the while, a cool facade is emphasised in Mantello’s film, to take the pressure off recruitment and allow the mainly young adult men to enjoy their video-game experience. By focussing on the entertainment aspect of militarised video-games, patrons are bypassed the underlying intents of military recruitment through the active participation and stimulation of video games and touch screen technology.

    Mantello’s film depicts how the AEC represents only one side of war; that of fun, virtuous, hero-centric warfare. Especially in the way it highlights one’s patrons perspective of the AEC. This patron states that the AEC, “keeps kids off the street from doing bad things” (Mantello, 2015) consequently depicting a more educational, stimulated atmosphere, instead of its obvious military marketing.
    Furthermore, the portrayal and idea of the AEC sugar-coats the representation of war, overlooking the negative realities of war. It is evident how the U.S military makes efficient use of consumer-culture to attract potential recruits. Relationships between consumers and video games have long be influenced by governmental forms and their resulting depictions of war. (Andersen 2014: 10-11) Consequently, the interactive atmosphere of the AEC, supplemented by the video game components, idealises the gruesome realities of war for the use of militarized training and recruitment. (Andersen 2014: 11-12) It is also clear that representations of the humanitarian aspects of military engagement are omitted in video games, focusing instead on the violence and bad v.s good complex centered in most storylines. (Clarke 2012: 725-728) Thus, a sort of disconnect occurs when the gruesome aspects of war portrayed in video-games are desensitized to players who do not receive the same consequences faced by real-life soldiers. (Clarke 2012: 722-725).

    The U.S militaries clearly understands its target audience in the way it strives to stay technologically relevant by imploring aspects of youth culture, ie, first-person shooter games. This target audience being mainly young-adult males making up the bulk of players interested in first-person shooter games. (Roseboom 2016) Through creating an immersive, simulated military atmosphere, the AEC establishes an exciting place for young adults to participate in an environment familiar to their interests and tech-savvy know-how. Here, the content of video games is used to shape the perceptions of young adults, whilst influencing their opinions and behavior surrounding the military. (Andersen 2014: 5) (Bacevich 2010) Contrastingly, as technology and warfare advances it seems that the integration of video-games into the military sphere is inevitable. As Robinson depicts, there is, “… a military ethos towards ‘net-centric warfare’ in which computer technology has become increasingly integral to military supremacy on the battlefield…”. (2012: 509) This suits quite well with a young 21st Century tech-savvy generation, equipped with the latest technology and games to fulfil the requirements for ‘net-centric warfare’.

    In conclusion, Mantellos insight into ‘The Army Experience Center’ reveals the changing strategies employed by the U.S army to make a military career more appealing and relevant to young-adults. As engaging, immersive and creative the AEC is in its different approach to military recruitment, it is very much criticised for its disconnect in the realities of war. As such, Mantello’s micro documentary fails to capture this reality of war and truly encapsulates the military-entertainment complex that is structured to deliver to a consumer-culture society.

    References:

    Andersen and Mirrlees (2014) ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’ Democratic Communiqué. Vol. 26 no.2 pp. 1-21

    Bacevich, Andrew. (2010) The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. New York: Oxford University Press. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books.

    Clarke B, Rouffaer C and Senechaud F (2012) ‘Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross vol.94 no.886 pp.711

    Mantello, Peter; 2015. The Army Experience Center. The Vision Machine http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/

    Robinson, Nick. “Videogames, Persuasion And The War On Terror: Escaping Or Embedding The Military-Entertainment Complex?”. Political Studies 60.3 (2012): 504-522. Web. 27 Oct. 2016.

    Roseboom, I. (2016). Gender split in F2P games: Who’s playing what – deltadna.com. deltadna.com. Retrieved 24 October 2016, from https://deltadna.com/blog/gender-split-in-f2p-games/

  9. POLS3512 Critical Review: “The Army Experience Center”

    The Army Experience Center (AEC), was a mobile US military simulator that acted as an interactive, life-sized exhibit, to provide visitors – or, preferably, future recruits – with an experience of “real” soldiering. The exhibit consisted of several mock-up vehicles and fake weaponry, providing an arcade simulator experience to the Army-published America’s Army: Special Forces (Overmatch), before ultimately closing in 2012.

    Mantello’s micro-documentary, a titular three minutes and forty-three seconds in length, showcases the rather grand-looking AEC, opening with four adolescents intently firing off virtual rounds inside a mock Humvee simulator. None of them appeared to be over the age of eighteen, and the snapshot of in-game footage that we glimpse appears rather exciting: helicopters, explosions, and a fast-paced Humvee ride through the outskirts of a non-descript village.

    Later, we’re shown more of the centre. Described as offering a similar experience to an Apple Store (“try the product and see if you like it), a huge touch-display of Army jobs, opening with a video testimonial from actual serving military personnel, followed up with relevant details about pay and remunerations, qualifications, post-military tuition funding – the GI Bill – and so on.

    Andersen and Mirrlees (2014: 4) describe how the US Department of Defence co-designed video games war games such as America’s Army to “turn citizens into virtual soldiers”, who, in turn, are deployed to the virtual battlefield to take part in the rituals of military training and what they call “state coercion”. Mantello (2015) describes how volunteers were offered the chance to ride Humvee vehicles and Apache helicopters – “shooting their way through never ending waves of brown-skinned adversaries” – through a bloodless “humanitarian” mission.

    By all accounts, the simulator was a continuation of what Mantello (2013: 2) calls the Pentagon-Hollywood nexus, using the term “hyperrealist”: due to the dissolution of the boundaries between representation and reality. Anyone who’s ever played a First-Person Shooter (FPS) game knows this all too well: a single soldier single-handedly laying waste to battalions of enemy troops, usually while going it solo, with blood and gore minimised to a mere caricature of the ultraviolence of modern warfare.

    A bloodless corpse in Call of Duty: Black Ops (source: http://i1198.photobucket.com/albums/aa447/aloneliu/dead.jpg )

    Eco (1987: 47) argues that “technology can give us more reality than nature can”, with Mantello (2013: 3) describing how FPS games “[provide] us with an ‘eyewitness’ experience and ‘firstperson’ truth unlike any media before”. On examination, the notion of “reality” and “truth” are skewed beyond most recognition of the term. Modern FPS franchises may give you a hyperrealist representation of storming a compound in a nameless country in the Middle East, in stunning HD, and with startlingly accurate rendering of modern weaponry, but a grenade exploding near you and killing your avatar may be followed by mere prompt to be more careful of them. The reality of that happening is, obviously, severe injury or death.

    On this theme: a sniper shooting one in the head is of little consequence to the gamer. If a convoy is struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), the gamer doesn’t have to face life without his limbs. When a gamer dies in the game, he has the luxury of easy and painless reanimation. Fallen soldiers, tragically, do not. A more literal description of this phenomenon may be “high-technology, low-realism”, and the AEC – or America’s Army – takes this to an entirely different level. It is on this ground that the hyperrealism of the AEC must be examined. Greenwald (2007) describes his player experience of America’s Army at the AEC, calling it “surprisingly real”, but commenting on the non-existence of “risk” in the game. Bullets flew past the Humvee, and bombs exploded around the players, but no player lives were lost, and nobody was damaged. The glimpse of in-game footage appears to back up this testimony. While it naturally wouldn’t be of interest to Army recruitment numbers to have an interactive display on the ferocity of IEDs deployed against coalition troops by Shiite militias, or have badly wounded ex-veterans pulling on polo shirts and telling AEC participants their “Army stories” – as one of the recruiters in the documentary was, this isn’t explored in any depth by Mantello.

    In his accompanying TVM piece, Mantello describes how angry parents accused the AEC of attempting to seduce their children to enlist by offering a sanitary, Nintendo-clean image of war. In the accompanying micro-documentary, polo-shirted staff (or, recruiters) claim that the centre is merely functioning as an entertainment precinct for “kids to play video games”, describing themselves as not being “used-car salesmen”, and outright denying that they’re actively approaching people at the centre for recruitment.

    That may very well be the case at the level of literalism, but utterly disingenuous upon any kind of critical reflection. It is, for example, deeply unlikely that the US Army spent $12 million on the AEC merely to placate groups of bored teenagers, or serve as a surrogate to their Xbox or PlayStation. Greenwald (2007) describes how the “debriefing” for visitors included a recruitment video, free copies of America’s Army, and an action figure of Sergeant Tommy Rieman, one of the game’s “real heroes”. To put the icing on the cake, Rieman himself showed up afterward to meet the players (Greenwald 2007). Stahl (2006: 123) describes how America’s Army is part of a paradigm shift away from television advertising as a mode of recruitment, to more cost-effective, and arguably more effective, methods of recruiting, such as video games and NASCAR sponsorship. Or, as Mike Boykin rather aptly put it, “to get the 18-to-34s…. you better get the 12-to-17s” (Susca 2012: 8).

    For much of this within his documentary, Mantello invites his viewers to read between the lines. The slightly brazen half-truths told by recruiters regarding how the AEC isn’t supposed to serve as a recruitment centre is left to hang in the air of absurdity it deserves. This phenomenon reflects what scholars refer to as the “military-entertainment” complex, or, more accurately in this case, the “government-gaming nexus” (Susca 2012: 4-5). While the micro-documentary doesn’t present a “for” or “against” case against the AEC, it would’ve been deeply interesting to hear the views of former soldiers who weren’t still on the payroll of the military. An examination of the dual interests of both the military – keeping recruitment numbers up as unpopular, long-term engagements are continuing – and the private sector – keeping players interested and purchasing their products – would’ve been welcome. Ultimately, the micro-documentary’s titular length and lack of depth was its main downfall. This could have been remedied by extending the accompanying piece on The Vision Machine, which was an opportunity arguably wasted.

    The AEC follows a medium-term trend in terms of the military-media corollary, with perhaps its most passive incarnation being “embedded journalism”. Where video games, no matter how realistic, contain that fragment of fantasy that keeps the gamer from becoming completely submerged, embedded journalism has the advantage of being almost completely authentic. By turning viewers into passengers in Humvees, or witnesses to ambushes and the general chaos of warfare, viewers become passive witnesses to actual warfare (Stahl 2006: 125). On the other hand, a gamer will “pull” the trigger, rather than simply witness the mortar shell land near “their” vehicle. I’d imagine that as virtual reality technology becomes more advanced and affordable, that the grey area between the passive witness (watching warfare via embedded journalism) and passive participant (playing at warfare via simulation) will become significantly more distorted. Having closed in 2012, it’ll be interesting to see how the AEC, being a pilot scheme, is perhaps reborn in the future. In the medium to long-term, we can expect the military-media nexus to continue its phenomenon of engaged, passive participation, both through coverage of warfare, and video games. This ultimately serves the interest of all parties.

    References

    • Andersen, Robin, and Tanner Mirrlees. “Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society.” Democratic Communiqué 26, no. 2 (2014): 1.

    • Mantello, Peter. 2015. “The Army Experience Center | The Vision Machine”. Thevisionmachine.Com. http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/.

    • Mantello, Peter. 2013. “Legitimacy And The Virtual Battlefield: Putting The First-Person Shooter On The Witness Stand”. Australian Journal Of International Affairs 67 (5): 638-658. doi:10.1080/10357718.2013.817523.

    • Eco, Umberto. 1987. Travels in Hyperreality: Essays. Translated by William Weaver. London: Picador.

    • Greenwald, Will. 2007. “The Virtual Army Experience”. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/au/news/the-virtual-army-experience/.

    • Susca, Margot A. “Why We Still Fight: Adolescents, America’s Army, and the Government-Gaming Nexus.” Global Media Journal 12, no. 20 (2012).

    • Stahl, Roger. 2006. “Have You Played The War On Terror?”. Critical Studies In Media Communication 23 (2): 112-130. doi:10.1080/07393180600714489.

  10. The University of Queensland: POLS3512: Critical Blog Assessment

    42589998

    Critical Review: The Army Experience Centre Spotlight

    Mantello (2015) in the form of a microdocumentary showcases the Army Experience Centre (AEC), a militarized video arcade set up by the U.S. Army’s recruitment office. The objective of this spotlight is to explore the relationship between military recruitment and the virtual sphere of videogames that has become an important synergy between the entertainment industry and the U.S. military. In the video, a proponent likens the centre to an Apple store, remarking “you go in, you feel, you touch, you kind of get a sense of what the products like, and it kind of influences you to either, you know, like the product or not like the product”. Video games, interactive environments and media have become a vector for restructuring the way we produce, represent and execute war. Video games, in particular, act as an attraction for young people with events such as E3 or the AEC that place them in contact with recruitment personnel, who, within a “soft-sell environment”, are able to effectively promote military careers. The spotlight illustrates how the evolution of the military-industrial complex to what Der Derian (2009) terms the military-industrial-media-entertainment network, has utilized video games to create a sanitized representation of war.

    The opening scene of the spotlight depicts a group of teenagers participating in an interactive war game that transforms them into a U.S. army patrol in an Iraqi war zone. This blurring of entertainment and warfare has created what Andersen and Mirrlees (2014:4) term ‘ virtual soldiers’, whereby the video game industry, with gaming franchises such as America’s Army, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, create immersive environments that parallel real-world events and shape the player’s perceptions, behavior and opinions of war. The authors argue that this further perpetuates the military-industrial complex by orientating identities, interests and values with those of national security and the military.

    The main objective of the AEC, outlined by the recruitment officer, is to provide young people with a comfortable environment in which they have the option to learn more about the military. While interactive educational systems in the form of touch screens and videos provide descriptions of jobs, pay scales and education requirements, the real recruitment process takes place within the virtual sphere of war themed games such as America’s Army.

    Stahl (2006: 123-124) addresses the success of America’s Army, the newest recruitment weapon in the U.S. Army’s arsenal. The recruitment tool, costing $7.5 million to produce, has been highly successful in increasing the military’s exposure through its ability to incorporate entertainment and militarization. The game, free to download, and accessible by players as young as thirteen, includes virtual boot camps, weapons training and missions that deal with contemporary international events. Major Chris Chambers, deputy director of the game, asserts that the game play inculcates discipline and encourages the participant to abide by the rules of war while reducing loss of life.

    Clarke, Rouffaer and Senechaud (2012: 714-721) show how many video games that celebrate realism and authenticity actually perpetuate misperceptions of the normative framework that preside over the use of force. They argue that many first person shooter (FPS) games have the effect of portraying battlefields as an ‘open shooting range’, reducing the complexities of warfare by eliminating aspects such as ‘friendly fire’, civilians and the projection of achieving the objective by any means possible. They also demonstrate how the processes of dehumanization and demonization within a game’s narrative can legitimize acts such as extrajudicial killing and torture.

    America’s Army, according to Lt. Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Army’s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis, was not a recruiting tool, but a means of communication intended to educate by showcasing the exciting, diverse and high tech environment of the army (Stahl 2006: 124). This narrative supports Stahl’s (2006: 124) point that war gaming has become commercialized through the militaries use of language and its efforts to further assimilate itself in today’s pop culture. The author describes a reframing of the connection between the domestic sphere and the war zone. He outlines this process as a transformation of the media in which news stories of war are depicted like a video game while video games simultaneously replicate the news, thus confusing what is virtual reality and what is reality. This creates a rhetoric designed to militarize the population and thus perpetuate the symbiotic relationship between the entertainment industry, the military, the arms industry and U.S. foreign policy.
    Ottosen (2009: 40) refutes Lt. Col. Casey Wardynski’s claim, arguing that a game with “such global potential” was released for free on purpose as both a recruitment tool and to strengthen the U.S. Army’s image in the international and domestic sphere. It does this, as the author shows, through the use of rhetoric of moral authority, modesty and responsibility. The game frames the player’s perception by only allowing gameplay from the viewpoint of American forces, eliminating the possibility of “unrealistic excesses and undisciplined play”.

    While FPS games can force players to follow a particular military sponsored narrative, they can also encourage us to see the contradictions and critique the relationship between the military and the game industry. Payne’s (2014) investigation into how some FPS games provide a self-reflective critique of virtual violence is an example of this. The article reveals, through an analysis of Spec Ops: The Line (2012), that the use of unconventional narratives and gameplay demands can be effective in forcing the player to reexamine the parameters of the virtual world and question the conventional rhetoric of militainment.

    Robinson (2016) explores the interrelationship between militarism, videogames and opposition further. He demonstrates how games can also create heated debate and opposition from players, politicians and the military. Realistic depictions of American forces clashing with Taliban forces in the multiplayer component of Electronic Art’s Medal of Honour sparked backlash from politicians, the retail sector and representatives of victims’ families, who argued that players being able to assume the role of enemy forces and participate in the act of killing American soldiers was insensitive and shocking. Opposition to such criticisms highlighted the hypocrisy evident with the existence of various gaming titles that depict historical wars between Americans, Russians the Vietnamese and the Nazis (Robinson 2016: 12).
    Manetello’s (2015) microdocumentary gives a very unbiased snapshot of how the military would like to present the concept of the AEC and the new method of recruitment that it represents. The main criticism of this project is that through its brevity it fails to provide a clear argument. For international relations scholars, the claim by ‘mentors’ and recruitment officers that the recruitment process only takes place with consent from the participant is laughable, yet it would be far more effective if Mantello had provided more guidance, perhaps through a narrative that problematized the process. Yet that being said, by placing the viewer in a position from which to unobjectionably observe, the author has created media that allows the viewer to find their own contradictions in the AEC, which is fitting considering the usual framing of perceptions that take place.

    The synergies between entertainment, the media and the military-industrial complex have grave implications for the future of democratic states. As Kumar (2006: 49) has shown, governments have historically utilized media apparatuses to distort world events and propagate their own narrative. Stahl’s (2006: 125) ‘virtual citizen-soldier’, where the role of the citizen and soldier become confused and the public sphere becomes depoliticized while politics are played out in the virtual sphere, suggests a phenomenon that allows citizens to see war as an extension of political means without human consequence. The insight into new recruitment concepts such as the AEC that Mantello’s (2015) microdocumentary provides, elicits a drastic need for citizens to oppose the spread of militarism within their culture.

    References:

    Clarke, Ben, Rouffaer, Christian and Senechaud, Francois. 2012. Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers? International Review of the Red Cross, 94(886), 711-737
    Der Derian, James. 2009. Virtuous War: Mapping the military-industrial-media-entertainment network. New York: Routledge
    Kumar, Deepa. 2006. Media, War, and Propaganda: Strategies of Information Management During the 2003 Iraq War, Communication and Critical/Cultural Information Management During the 2003 Iraq War. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 3(1), 48-69
    Mantello, Peter. 2015. The Army Experience Centre. The Vision Machine, http://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/, Accessed 30/09/2016
    Payne, Mathew. 2014. War Bytes: The Critique of Militainment in Spec Ops: The Line. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 31(4), 265-282
    Robinson, Nick. 2016. Militarism and opposition in the living room: the case of military videogames. Critical Studies on Security, 1-21, Accessed Online: http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/21624887.2015.1130491?needAccess=true
    Stahl, Roger. 2006. Have You Played the War on Terror? Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23(2), 112-130

  11. The University of Queensland: POLS3512: Critical Blog Assessment
    (43619034).

    In the last 10-20 years, with the emergence of new and more advanced technologies, the military and the media industry has continuously merged together since the beginning of the First World War and its propaganda tools (Power 2007: 275). With the arrival of new technologies, there became new types of war – that of the ‘media war’ and the real one (Der Derian 2000: 772; Andersen & Mirrlees 2014: 1-2). From this the governments and the media corporations have adapted themselves in how they influence the individuals’ perspective of war and its industrial machine. The 21st Century saw the greater consolidation, in particular after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, between the military on the battlefield and the citizens on the home front (Stahl 2006: 113-114). As such the video games are now becoming the tool of how war is being projected to the ‘audience’. It is a virtual world where the gamer becomes a soldier. That is the result of the military-entertainment industry that is now an integral part of the American culture.

    In Peter Mantello’s documentary and its short commentary description named ‘The Army Experience Center’ (AEC), details as to how the American military has adapted to the new forms of military recruitment and technology. This rather short documentary takes place in the new American military gaming instillation at the Franklin Mills mall, just outside of Philadelphia. It was opened in 2008 as a recruitment tool by utilizing traditional and contemporary techniques of recruitment – through the use of first person shoot games (FPS) – in order to attract young individuals for the US armed forces. On the very first aspects that come in to mind with Mantello’s documentary is that it is almost an advertisement of its own. It portrays AEC’s recruitment strategy from a positive perspective, that is, it projects the military’s promotion of its recruitment strategy and mentality from a one sided perspective. It does so by creating a brighter picture of the military and warfare in general, by having the audience participate in FPS games that involve simulators and technology directly or indirectly linked with the US military. This is naturally troublesome as it depicts a highly sanitized version of war in which the ‘good guys’ (US military) are not just noble in their work, but also depicts it as an institution of social good, where the military helps young individuals give a sense of national and community pride by getting them of the streets. We saw this type of a sanitized warfare in Operation Iraqi Freedom where the media and the military very rarely portrayed any casualties or suffering in general (Stahl 2006: 124). Moreover the documentary shows how the US military tries to adapt itself in order to remain a contemporary force in the new highly technologized society and try to instil a ‘greener’ version of the understanding of war to the general population.

    Perhaps not so shockingly the establishment of the AEC goes hand in hand with the US military’s shaping strategy of recruiting through FPS games. As Roger Stahl has argued that the transpirations of technology in terms of the media and other entertainment facilities have created a situation where the individual citizen is now a highly interactive agent in warfare then previously when they were nothing more than receptive ones (2009; 2006). For an example, in previous American wars such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where the war was portrayed as from above and glorious to the people back home, whilst more recent ones (Operation Iraqi Freedom) placed the media in embedded journalism. This form of journalism placed the audience directly at the front in ‘the trenches’ with the fighting soldiers; creating a narrow and biased view of the conflict. The media and FPS games shifted the question from ‘why we fight’ to ‘how we fight’ (Stahl 2006: 124-126). America’s current war is on terrorism, a war that does not have a clear end in sight, to keep the people back supportive of it is crucial Power 2007: 283). David Morgan states that, even America’s enemies, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda use FPS games to rationalize war where they are the ‘good guys and the US soldiers the ‘bad guys’ (2006). Not only that the military-entertainment industry distorted the view of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, as the bad guys are Middle Eastern, Muslim, Arab people for the Americans and vice versa. What it does is that it overly simplifies the war as being good against evil (Clarke, Rouffaer, Senechaud 2012: 728-729; Mantello 2013: 648-650). Hence, the FPS games such as Americas Army give a hollowed view to the public to why America fights terrorism. The weaponry, airplane, ships, armoured vehicles and tanks display how they fight.

    Furthermore, the further expansion and betterment of FPS game technology gave the US military another tool to narrow the view even further with biased perception of war by facilitating games that let the individual interact extremely closely with the modern day war on terror (Power 2007: 279). The game ‘America’s Army, the very same game you can see in Mantello’s documentary, was just such a game; created as a more economical tool of recruitment. This is self-evident, as the game has harnessed almost 8 million registered users in its website (Power 2007: 279). As it cost the US military nearly 15 000$ to recruit one single individual, the American Army game only needs roughly 300 recruits to make up the cost (Stahl 2006: 123). Proving perhaps that AEC’s and the wider military strategy of recruitment through FPS games is working, as the game can and have at the very least “help in a very difficult recruiting environment” (White 2005).

    Even though Peter Mantello’s documentary does explain the purpose and the function of AEC, albeit briefly; what it does is that it neglects the varied protests which took place against the Amery Experience Center with its use of FPS games and other digital apparatus for recruitment to distort the reality of war (Kall 2011; Milazzo 2011). Activists, even former war veterans came out to protest the AEC on the line of being misleading to the public. We can see the reasoning when we turn our gaze at Der Derian’s article, stating that ‘virtuous war’, in which the ‘virtual’ is the disembodied simulation and the virtuous being the description of war as a bloodless, clean, good and abstract (2001; Power 2007: 275). With Mantello’s short articulation of these protests, it would have been more resounded to express further the reasoning of the protests and also including some academic arguments in regards to this topic. It would have instilled an objective argument of the media-entertainment industry with its AEC. Furthermore, as the Army Experience Center was eventually closed down, surviving only for two years, some further arguments about the US military’s newer and future recruiting strategies from they would have learned from AEC, could have given a more intrigued debate.

    In conclusion, the military-entertainment, which Peter Mantello’s documentary and short written description describes have vastly changed the arena of how the military goes about to recruit new soldiers in the new highly technical society. The use of the Army Experience Center is one of the US military strategies of recruitment purposes; something which that proven to be very useful. Not only has the military – through the use of the media and video games – managed to portray a ‘virtuous’ view of war but it also manage to show that going to war is not that much different from playing a FPS game. Even with the protests that ensued. However, maybe it was Mantello’s idea (even if he didn’t write this in the spotlight) that we needed to see how the moral and psychological standards were being slowly eroded by these new technological recruitment strategies and of war in general.

    Reference List

    Power, Marcus. 2007. ‘Digitized Virtuosity: Video War Games and Post-9/11 Cyber-Deterrence’. Security Dialogue 38(2): 271-288.

    Robin Andersen and Tanner Mirrlees. 2014. ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’. Democratic Communiqué 26(2): 1-21.

    Ben Clarke, Christian Rouffaer and Francois Senechaud. 2012. Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross 94(886): 711-737.

    Mantello, Peter. 2013. ‘Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first-person shooter on the witness stand’. Journal of International Affairs 67(5): 638-658.
    Milazzo, Linda. 2011. OpedNews Journalist and Six Protesters Charged With Criminal Conspiracy After Arrest at “Army Experience Center”. Accessed 28 October 2016. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-milazzo/opednews-journalist-and-s_b_284725.html

    Kall, Rob. 2011. Reporter Arrested While Photographing Protest at Army Experience Center’. Accessed. Accessed 28 October 2016. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-kall/reporter-arrested-while-p_b_286009.html

    Der Derian, James. 2000. ‘Virtuous war/virtual theory’. International Affairs 76(4): 771-788.

    Stahl, Roger. 2006. ‘Have You Played the War on Terror?’. Critical Studies in Media Communication 23(2): 112-130.

    Stahl, Roger. 2009. Militainment, Inc: War, Media and Popular Culture. New York and London: Routledge.

    White, Josh. 2005. It’s a Video Game, And an Army Recruiter. Accessed 26 October 2016. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/26/AR2005052601505.html

  12. The University of Queensland: POLS3512: Critical Blog Assessment
    (43619034)

    The military and the entertainment industry have continuously merged since the beginning of the First World War and terms of its technological propaganda tools (Power 2007: 275). In particular, the arrival of new technologies within the past two decades has led to the emergence of new forms of war – a ‘media war’ and the real one (the media being that of war is portrayed to the citizens and the real one being the reality of war) (Der Derian 2000: 772; Andersen & Mirrlees 2014: 1-2). The governments and the media corporations have adapted themselves in how they influence their citizens’ perspective of war. This is evident, especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when what the soldiers on the battlefield experienced and what the citizens see on the home front was vastly different (Stahl 2006: 113-114). As such video games are now the tool of how war is being projected to the ‘audience’, which for the military is cheaper and more efficient in recruiting; creating a people that are subjective to whichever conflict America find itself in. That is the result of the military-entertainment industry.

    In Peter Mantello’s documentary and its short commentary description named ‘The Army Experience Center’ (AEC), details as to how the American military has adapted to the new forms of military recruitment and technology. This rather short documentary takes place in the new American military gaming instillation at the Franklin Mills mall in the outskirts of Philadelphia. It was opened in 2008 as a recruitment tool by utilizing traditional and contemporary techniques of recruitment – through the use of first person shoot games (FPS) – in order to attract young individuals for the US armed forces. One of the very first aspects that come in to mind with Mantello’s documentary is that it is almost an advertisement in its own right. It portrays AEC’s recruitment strategy from a positive perspective, that is, it projects the military’s promotion of its recruitment strategy and mentality from a one sided perspective only. It does so by creating a ‘greener’ picture of the military and its wars, by having the audience play in FPS games that involve simulators and technology directly or indirectly linked with the US military. This is naturally troublesome as it depicts a highly sanitized version of war in which the ‘good guys’ (US military) are not just noble in their work, but also depicts it as an institution of social good, where the military helps young individuals give a sense of national pride by getting them of the streets and ‘to work’. Example of this type sanitized warfare can be found with Operation Iraqi Freedom where the media and the military very rarely portrayed any casualties or suffering in general (Stahl 2006: 124). Moreover, Mantello’s documentary shows how the US military tries to adapt itself in order to remain a contemporary force in the new highly technological society and try to instill a ‘greener’ version its understanding of war to the general population.

    Perhaps not so shockingly the establishment of the AEC goes hand in hand with the US military’s shaping strategy of recruiting through FPS games. As Roger Stahl has argued that the transpiration’s of technology in terms of the media and other entertainment facilities have created a situation where the individual citizen is now a highly interactive agent in warfare then previously when they were nothing more than receptive ones (2009; 2006). For an example, in previous American wars such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where the war was portrayed as from above and glorious to the people back home, whilst more recent ones (Operation Iraqi Freedom) placed the media in embedded journalism. This form of journalism placed the audience directly at the front in ‘the trenches’ with the fighting soldiers; creating a narrow and biased view of the conflict. The media and FPS games shifted the question from ‘why we fight’ to ‘how we fight’ (Stahl 2006: 124-126). America’s current war on terrorism (which does not have clear end in sight), has forced the military to find new ways to keep the home front supportive of its struggle of the war (Power 2007: 283). David Morgan states that, even America’s enemies, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda use FPS games to rationalize war where they are the ‘good guys and the US soldiers the ‘bad guys’ (2006). Not only that the military-entertainment industry distorts the view of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds, as the bad guys in FPS games are almost always Muslim, Arab, Russian, Iranian and Chinese. What it does is that it overly simplifies the war as being simply good against evil (Clarke, Rouffaer, Senechaud 2012: 728-729; Mantello 2013: 648-650). Hence, the FPS games such as Americas’Army give a hollowed view to the public as to why America fights this war on terror, and the weaponries, airplanes, ships, armored vehicles and tanks display how they fight that war.

    Furthermore, the further expansion and betterment of FPS game technology gave the US military another tool to narrow the view of war even further with biased perception, by facilitating games that let the individual interact extremely closely with the modern day war on terror (Power 2007: 279). The game ‘America’s Army, the very same game you can see in Mantello’s documentary, was just such a game; created as a more economical tool of recruitment. This is self-evident, as the game has harnessed almost 8 million registered users in its website (Power 2007: 279). As it costs the US military nearly 15 000$ to recruit one single individual, the American Army game only needs roughly 300 recruits to make up the cost (Stahl 2006: 123). Proving perhaps that AEC’s and the wider military strategy of recruitment through FPS games is working, as the game can and have at the very least “help in a very difficult recruiting environment” (White 2005).

    Even though Peter Mantello’s documentary does explain the purpose and the function of AEC, albeit briefly; what it does is that it neglects the varied protests which took place against the Army Experience Center with its use of FPS games and other digital apparatus for recruitment to distort the reality of war (Kall 2011; Milazzo 2011). Activists and even former war veterans came out to protest the AEC on the basis of being misleading to the public. Something that can found in Der Derian’s article, who states that ‘virtuous war’, in which the ‘virtual’ is the disembodied simulation and the virtuous being the description of war as a bloodless, clean, good and abstract (2001; Power 2007: 275). With Mantello’s short articulation of these protests, it would have been more logical and academically heavier to express further the reasoning of the protests and also including some academic arguments in regards to this topic. It would have instilled an objective argument of the media-entertainment industry with its AEC as its case study. Furthermore, the Army Experience Center was eventually closed down, lasting only for two years, some further arguments about the US military’s today and future recruiting strategies from which they would have learned from AEC, could have given a more intrigued debate.

    In conclusion, the military-entertainment, which Peter Mantello’s documentary and short written description describes have vastly changed the arena of how the military goes about to recruit new soldiers in the new highly technical society. The use of the Army Experience Center is one of the US military strategies of recruitment purposes; something which that proven to be very useful. Not only has the military – through the use of the media and video games – managed to portray a ‘virtuous’ view of war but it also manage to show that going to war is not that much different from playing a FPS game. Even with the protests that ensued. However, maybe it was Mantello’s idea (even if he didn’t write this in the spotlight) that we needed to see how the moral and psychological standards were being slowly eroded by these new technological recruitment strategies and of war in general.

    Reference List

    Power, Marcus. 2007. ‘Digitized Virtuosity: Video War Games and Post-9/11 Cyber-Deterrence’. Security Dialogue 38(2): 271-288.

    Robin Andersen and Tanner Mirrlees. 2014. ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’. Democratic Communiqué 26(2): 1-21.

    Ben Clarke, Christian Rouffaer and Francois Senechaud. 2012. Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross 94(886): 711-737.

    Mantello, Peter. 2013. ‘Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first-person shooter on the witness stand’. Journal of International Affairs 67(5): 638-658.
    Milazzo, Linda. 2011. OpedNews Journalist and Six Protesters Charged With Criminal Conspiracy After Arrest at “Army Experience Center”. Accessed 28 October 2016. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-milazzo/opednews-journalist-and-s_b_284725.html

    Kall, Rob. 2011. Reporter Arrested While Photographing Protest at Army Experience Center’. Accessed. Accessed 28 October 2016. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-kall/reporter-arrested-while-p_b_286009.html

    Der Derian, James. 2000. ‘Virtuous war/virtual theory’. International Affairs 76(4): 771-788.

    Stahl, Roger. 2006. ‘Have You Played the War on Terror?’. Critical Studies in Media Communication 23(2): 112-130.

    Stahl, Roger. 2009. Militainment, Inc: War, Media and Popular Culture. New York and London: Routledge.

    White, Josh. 2005. It’s a Video Game, And an Army Recruiter. Accessed 26 October 2016. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/26/AR2005052601505.html


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