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).