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The Military Gaming Industry


  • The Military Gaming Industry

    This video-article explores the relationship between the military-industrial complex and the gaming industry. Many scholars argue that military-style first person shooter games invariably promote the ideology of empire, further the agenda of American military interests, and transform gamers into supporters of the "war on terror."

    In the following video, Dr. Strangelove explores one such argument and suggests that gamers such as the members of the Tactical Gaming community are not mindless dupes of the ideologies of empire and American society.

    Strangelove critiques Johan Höglund's paper, "Electronic Empire: Orientalism Revisited in the Military Shooter," wherein Höglund claims that:
    "From the perspective of the gaming experience, the Middle East remains forever a space where Americans can participate in an everlasting War on Terror. Through reducing the Middle East to a perpetual frontier within this game space, war is effectively transformed from an extreme and unusual measure to a state of normality. In other words, in the military shooter, warfare as performed by American soldiers in the Middle East ceases to be a politically problematic and expensive confusion of resources and instead appears to be a part of the natural order. In the end, this effectively conveys to the gamer that continuous warfare lends safety and cohesion to society rather than destabilizing the world."

    While Höglund argues that the "most important purpose" of military-style first person shooters is "undoubtedly that they seek to produce a subject comfortable with the prosecution of a perpetual war" it remains less than clear that this aim is in fact achieved among active audiences as diverse as the Tactical Gamer community. The intention of behind a media product and its actual reception and use are often two very different things.

    In the end, Höglund grossly underestimates the political astuteness and intelligence of the online gaming community. He is quite wrong to suggest that "The generation that grows up reading the mainstream magazines and visiting the most popular game sites and looking for them to explain the game experience, will be very poorly equipped indeed to deal with the political dimension of what they are playing."

    Playing online military-style games and participating in gaming communities such as Tactical Gamer may in fact contribute to the politicization of the individual gamer and create a much more critical and aware media consumer.

    Dr. Strangelove (a.k.a. [TG] E-Male)
    Author of The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-capitalist Movement, and
    Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People, (University of Toronto Press).

    • Extinct
      Extinct commented
      Editing a comment
      Quite an interesting symbiotic relationship between the media and the military.

    • Spindoc
      Spindoc commented
      Editing a comment
      Interesting use of journalistic license to portray an image, "the ideologies of empire and American society," and "American military imperialism." I find it fascinating how many journalists selectively pick events and issues to portray "facts" in a manner consistent with their own thinking.
      In this case, perpetuating the grand conspiracy that America plans to take over the world and that the government's invisible hand extends so far as to manipulate video games to influence young minds. Perhaps, as Occam's razor suggests, the reality is far more benign, and the video game industry just creates games that sell, without any secret agenda.
      Nah... that'd be boring, and we need to sensationalize our news/art to get attention; you're right, it's part of America's plan to take over the world. You found us out. The secret agents will knock on your door any minute to take you away to our "re-education" camps. ;)

    • E-Male
      E-Male commented
      Editing a comment
      Re: The Military Gaming Industry

      This is not journalism, it is critical theory.

      Very few scholars think that America plans to take over the world. You build a straw man here.

      As to the use of video games, the connection between the military and certain aspects of the industry are well documented -- one does not need a conspiracy theory to analyze what is out in the open.

      Now if you care to actually attend to the argument as I presented it, and not as you imagine it, we could have a conversation . ..
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