War in Games
Video games simulate combat scenarios in the virtual world, as entertainment it not only deliver pleasure but also a surreal experience that isolates the gamer from reality. The responsibility of killing is abruptly suspended in its place a score screen is displayed promoting a sense of achievement and superiority, since the player on the other side of the television screen is exempt from the consequence of post-mortem and is simply revived to carry on the fight.1 However the visual effects and the dedicated use of millions of dollars on graphic technology delivers such realistic impressions of combat that American consumer associate war with false expectations, because of it being thrilling and on the cutting edge. Thus video games as part of media help generate false impressions of war and a soldier mentality devoid of accountability. Sadly games like Call of Duty and Halo, two gaming franchise that generate hundreds of millions also unintentionally lead young impressionable Americans to enlist.2
Terrorists Airport – Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Post 9/11 have influenced and given the opportunity for the gaming industry to promote their products by selling the theme of War on Terror. With the advent of powerful gaming consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3, the gaming experience have almost become mirror images of reality, almost. In this video, one plays the part of a terrorist gunning down innocent civilians in a Russian Airport.
Although you play the role of a terrorist it ultimately reinforces the idea that terrorism is bad but it does not address the violence that the player is exposed to or evaluate the value of life because it is not real, it is entertainment, the purpose is not to impose morality but rather deliver a fun experience. The consumers no doubt understand that it is a game, but the realism and the possibility it reflects unavoidably influences contemporary perception of terrorism and give rise to feelings of hatred and discuss. Yet this reaction for the video game gives it credibility in the sense that the designers managed to create something that evokes real feelings, it immerses the player in a quasi environment in a world after 9/11.
In fact the use of the gaming culture to promote war and thereby recruit new soldiers is nothing new in this day and age of cutting edge cinematic and game design. The U.S. Army used the same media that convinced the public to support the war to convince young people that fighting is fun and a great option as a job.4 In fact the Pentagon uses advertising agencies, shelling out 350$ millions of dollars in 2005, to promote campaigns aimed towards recruiting young adults from ethnic groups to enlist in the war.5 An online website was even sponsored by the Department of Defense which allowed kids to play online games like America’s Army.
The America’s Army Website
The game promoted the picture of well equipped elite soldiers and certain victory, in a struggle where one side is obviously superior who is well-trained and has access to the latest technologies of war. This same picture was reflect the confidence that led the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Some comment that although the video game was delivers violence and the opportunity to destroying things, it avoid graphic images of death and the real consequences of war, in effect the player merely get an edited and sanitized version of fantasy combat.
A stark contrast to a soldier’s description of war in an interview captured in Micheal Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, “when real people die, it’s not like a video game.”8 Soldiers within the army began to understand that real war is different from the imagined perspective created by games and advertising campaigns backed by U.S. and game developers trying to make a buck.
War Culture in Television
The series 24 that aired on Fox network played a role in making the actions of the military and U.S. government agents acceptable while depicting ideas that although absent from ‘straight’ media (news), were nonetheless floating about in the minds of Americans.9 Theses shows that depict torture and cruel punishments to the supposed enemy of America do not actually create coherent counter arguments against such despicable actions.
The 24 Show
The way in which the hero or rather the protagonist is depicted, the audience merely associate him as a possible character defending innocent Americans. In the particular case of 24’s protagonist, Jack Bauer, despite the tactics of torture and coercion exercised to obtain crucial information of a plausible terrorist attack, the audience inevitably accepts the plots justification because ultimately not only is the events represented not real, it is entertainment.
However in the minds of the people, they feel relief and are comforted by the fact that possibly out there somewhere, there are agents who are willing to do anything to protect them. Producers of such shows understand that they are tapping into the public’s fear and fulfillment fantasy, something that the U.S. government’s public relations strategy were incredibly successful in the War on Terror campaign. Whereas shows like 24 gain viewership, government gain support for their wars.
Torture often leads to the most inaccurate information because the victim would confess to anything given enough pain and suffering. Yet the television program 24, perpetuate the notion that torture results in accurate information, and that the information is key to stopping an imminent terrorist attack. In fact, “such practices only make U.S. soldiers more vulnerable, and further isolates America from the global community.”12 Ultimately shows like 24 slowly skew American public minds and their sensitivity to morality which opens the door to accepting “belligerent warfare”.13 “As war is woven into popular media culture, its entertainments serve to suppress the realities and support the fantasies of war.”14 The facts of reality has essentially become fiction and fantassies can be readily created with authenticity. The extent of evolution in terms of media use and the design of media has created an environment where people can no longer with certainty differ between what is the truth and what is attempting to represent the truth. 15
1) Andersen, Robin. A Century of Media, A Century of War. (New York; Peter Lang Publishing, 2006), 254.
3) Keldererik, “Terrorists Airport – Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.” YouTube, 10 Nov. 2009, 13 Dec, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KXAre19g2k>.
4) Robin, 295.
6) America’s Army. 2010, 13 Dec, 2010 <http://www.americasarmy.com/>.
7) Machinima, “Americas Army 3 Extended Soldier Trailer.” YouTube, 15 Jun. 2009, 13 Dec, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DTQqdFdlas>.
8) Robin, 296.
9) Ibid, 297.
10) Entertainment Wallpaper, 13 Dec, 2010 <http://www.entertainmentwallpaper.com/download/20012001/>.
11) Mperfjell, “Jack Bauer Interogation Scene.” YouTube. 09 Jun. 2009, 13 Dec, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4og1_SickXY.
12) Robin, 297.
13) Ibid, 299.
15) Ibid, 300.