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: : . - - : Video games in Service of Military Propaganda :

, 2012.

Abstract. This paper makes an overview of the historical development of video games and their use as military propaganda tools. With the emergence of video games that are openly used as tools for recruitment by the U.S. Army, this aspect of the video gaming culture is no longer just a question of content, genre or style. The historical development of video games was dependent on the development of computer technology which originates from the military. Even though in 1990s there was a break in the relationship between video gaming and the military, at the at the very end of the century this relationship was once again reconstituted for the purpose of creating new tools for persuasion and indoctrination.

Keywords: propaganda, video games, ideology, gaming culture, Americas Army, FPS.

Introduction With the development of the video gaming sector as a large profitable entertainment industry, it is clear that video games represent one of the most influential type of new media today in terms of commercial success and widespread presence on a global level. Even in an age of a great global financial crisis, the gaming industry hasn't stooped to make high amounts of profits. According to a report of the Associated Press (2011), U.S. retail sales of video game hardware, software and accessories rose 1 percent to $1.08 billion in October last year. However, the high profits are not the most important aspect of this industry in comparison to the impact that video games have on a cultural level. The themes and issues covered in the game-play of the video games, show us how games play a major role in shaping the worldview of an average player. As Sample (2008) claims, video games nonetheless reveal much about how we think about the real world, how we envision it working, what we regard as proper or wrong, who we imagine possesses power, and who we imagine suffers as a result. Just like in films, certain places and configurations found video games are favored and retroactively shape our perceptions (Von Borries, Walz & Bttger, 2007: 12). As with most cultural products, ideology is also deeply embedded in the gameplay of most of the video games, and especially the ones which follow war narratives and this is one of the main reasons why they have high potential to be used as tools for propaganda and indoctrination. In the shaping of the video games, the corporate initiatives and investments, militarism and masculinity introduced a socially determined view of game production and representation (Doveyand & Kennedy, 2006: 4). It is quite noticeable that most of the contemporary video games represent masculinity and militarism as the highest social values.

Our attention in this paper will be focused mainly the development of on video games that have a militaristic narrative. The main example for analysis will be the free online first person shooter Americas Army (2002) which was published by the U.S. Army itself. Even though the military complex played a major role in the development of video games, America's Army is an excellent example of how far this relationship has gone today. According to Martin and Stauter (2010: 83), America's Army is not just a realistic game, its a recruitment tool and the website of the game links directly to the armys recruitment page. Even though, there were first person shooter games published before the release of America's Army which covered various historical and fictional scenarios, this game goes a step further in the use of video games as a military propaganda, because it is directly connected to a military database. As Halte (2006: 6) claims, cultures have shaped games to represent war, and in turn have used this theme of war to enhance the experience of playing games (). Taking into consideration the type of games which are the most popular among the gaming community, it seems that our culture is still obsessed with war. In this process of bringing war to the computer monitors in the rooms of children and adolescents, the real terror of war becomes transformed into a representation of events which are always happening out there, but never in our own social surroundings. As Martin and Stauter (2010: 17) claim, militarism wraps itself mantle of glory, but it conceals the ugly reality of war, and that's exactly how militarism in video games portrays the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Games as simulations of warfare There are different theoretical concepts which explain the origins of play. Some argue that play is older that culture, but others claim that it's a product of our culture. As Halte (2006:5) claims, as long as humans waged war, they have also played it, the relationship extends to the beginnings of the civilization and no doubt before. Johan Huizinga was the one of the first thinkers who has put play into a modern theoretical framework. According to Huizinga (1949: 4), humans find play as a given magnitude existing before culture itself existed. It's true that it's not only humans who have the capability to play games, but its also a common activity in the animal world as well. Play is a vital part of the adolescence of every sentient species. In his book Homo Ludens: A study of the play-element in culture, Huizinga (1949: 2) gives a review of the previous known theories and definitions of play. According to one theory which Huizinga (1949: 2) presents, play is constituted as a training of the young individual for the serious work that life will demand later on. According to other theories, play serves as an exercise in: a restraint needful to the individual; a certain faculty; or in the desire to dominate or compete (Huizinga,1949: 2). Play can also be interpreted as the necessary restorer of energy wasted by one-sided activity, as wish-fulfillment or as a fiction designed to keep up the feeling of personal value (Huizinga,1949: 2). All of these different theories can be synthesized into one which can describe different aspects of play, but the most important one for this issue is that play prepares the individual for important work in his or hers maturity. On the other hand, some games, for example, the ones that simulate historical events, are indeed product of our culture. Even though engaging in a violent conflict is older than human culture, the concept of engaging a battle for a political interests can hardly exist outside culture. In contrast to Huizinga, Ottosen (2009: 16) reminds us that play is actually a cultural

act and can be interpreted just like any other text. According to this theory, we can make a semiotic analysis of most of the existing games. Video games are especially suitable for such an analysis, because they contain a certain narrative which is reproduced in a virtual environment that's full of different imagery that adds a certain symbolic to the story. According Halte (2006:11), starting with the modifications of chess, games went from being aesthetic metaphors for war, or means of mental exercise, to becoming a very real and effective tools for wining battles. He claims that cultivated by military needs and desires, the idea of the war game influenced a whole way of thinking about strategy and tactics through mathematics and that would eventually result in the development of computers (Halte, 2006: 11). However, this link between early war games and contemporary video games has remains divided between two different academic disciplines. (, war gaming historians pay little attention to board gaming digital heir, the video war game; and, on the other hand, video game historians neglect to question where video war games got their ideas, rules and settings (Deterding 2010: 22). Sports can also be seen as a type of war games where players symbolize activities of soldiers. While some sports focus on the physical activities and skills, others focus on tactics and strategy. For example, board games represent a mimic of the strategizing of kings and military commanders who needed to make mental pictures of war, workable schemas, plans, and abstracts (Halte, 2006: 8). If old games represented an exercise in combat and military strategy, than video games have created a new environment in which the simulations of war have become merged with reality. As Martin and Stauter (2010: 85) claim, these video games can serve as training devices for both military tactics and weapons. Today, there are publicly available video games which serve this purpose. If we can trace the origins of computer games in the actual psychical children games

we can see that a significant number of actual ones indeed follow a militaristic narrative. In the region of the Balkans, or more precisely Ex-Yugoslavia, World War II reminiscence games such as Partizans vs. Germans (or its derivative inspired by Western films - Cowboys and Indians and other similar children games) were one of the most common and popular ones before the break up of the Socialist Republic. This game was in line with the dominant ideology of that age, and even though this seemingly naive nature we can read grandiose ideological statements in this game. It can also be seen and interpreted as a kind of propaganda in a way in which it indoctrinates children into the dominant ideology of that age just like any other commercial games existing today which indoctrinate individuals into consumerism and generally into neoliberal ideologies. Even though it is outdated, Monopoly can be taken as an example for such a game. In the analysis of war games we must make a distinction between war-as-game and war game, even though at the first glance these two terms may seem as they signify the same meaning. While war game represents nothing more that a simulation, war-as-game involves the use of game tactics in an actual war scenario. There is no war-as-game without actual battle. As Der Derian (2007: 416) claims, the confusion of war with game would not be possible if there was not a rapid development of war gaming and its convergence with video gaming . The movie Wargames (1983) shows us another distinction, in this case, between a computer war game and an actual war simulator. The young protagonist in the film, named David Lightman, who is a computer hacker, is able to hack in to the military NORAD supercomputer which activates the commands for a nuclear attack. He mistakes the war simulator, and in the same time nuclear command center, for a computer war game. The film Toys (1992) portrays another situation which is more important for the issue of the merging of the militaryindustrial complex with the entertainment industry. In the film, the military is directly in-

volved in the production of children toys. It decides to use the factory to produce 3D shooters games that are directly connected to an actual weapon in a war zone. Even though, the film shows a totally imaginary situation, with the emergence of unmanned combat air vehicles such as USA's MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper or Israel's AI Heron and IAI Eitan, it seems that this idea is not far from actual realization, but, in the contrary, it's actually already employed into practice. The only difference is that instead of use of children who are unconscious of the fact that they are operating an actual war machine, there are trained adults who operate these machines. According to Von Borries, Walz and Bttger (2007: 12), many computer games draw spatial inspiration from physical architecture. With all the gadgets that people use for orientation in physical space, or free online services such as Google maps, it seems that, today, our perceptions actual physical space is preceded by its virtual simulation. Our first perception of physical environment is shaped by simulations or virtual renders of cities, neighborhoods, landscapes, perhaps even more then actual video materials or still images in the form of photographers and technical drawings. In this context video games play a vital role in the shaping of our perceptions. How World War II war is represented, for example, in the first person shorter Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002), creates the whole perception of the actual historical event. The game provides the player something which can hardly be represented in reality, a virtual experience in the Allied forces invasion, code named Omaha beach, of German occupied territories. Another interesting aspect of this issue is seeing the development of video games in the context of Augmented Reality. According to Feigenson and Spiese (2009: 165), with augmented reality technologies, data feed from various sources and combined and displayed to people while are viewing the actual world. Games which take place in Augmented Reality

already exist today. For example, ARQuake represents the first Augmented Reality game created for outdoor use. In the game, the user can see the game monsters at their virtual locations, and use real-life props such as a plastic gun with simulated recoil to shoot at the monster (Piekarski & Thomas, 2002: 37). Without creating a moral panic, we can claim that the merging of commercial video games and actual war machines is not an idea that is technologically impossible in the present age. However, the distinction between war-as game and war game prevents this possibility from happening. The effects of video gaming on the human conscience is an issue which has been discussed not only within the academia. Even though this is another issue which is not connected to the one discussed in this paper, we must ask the question of how does the violence and gore in video games effect the behavior of an individual. The catharsis hypothesis is one of the theories which has been used in the context of video gaming to explain the relationship between violence in virtual and actual reality. This theory, which originates from the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, claims that by participating in expressing a certain emotion like aggression or fear, the person reduces the level of these emotions and avoid emotional distress connected with them. In the context of video games, it claims that by participating in an interactive spectacle of virtual violence, the player will lower the potential to conduct violent acts in reality (Huntemann, 2010: 228). However, as Huntemann (2010: 28) concludes, that little to no empirical evidence definitively supports the catharsis hypothesis as aspired to aggressive behavior and violent video games .

The development video games and thier merging with militarism

As the velocity of strategic movement was a force multiplied by the immediacy of the television moment; as the vitality of high technology was enhanced by the reality of low battlefield casualties, as the military and the media as well as weapons systems and sign-systems became mutually embedded, as the viewer became player, war and game melded in real time on prime time. (Der Derian, 2007: 416)

So, how would the army convince young men to volunteer? Trough the genius of marketing, by employing the most sophisticated tools of America's consumer marketplace. (Baile, 2009: 66) Before we go into the development of video games and their use as military propaganda, we must give some background to how the propaganda operates. As Martin and Stauter (2010: 47) claim, states which want to go to war against the wishes of their citizens turn to propaganda as a tool of persuasion. According to Taylor (1998: 7), propaganda is usually concerned with the transmission of ideas and/or values from one person, or a group of persons, to another. In order to get millions of people mobilized and determined to go to war and possibly give their lives for a political interest, the state must provide a sufficient rationale. This reason is most commonly found in an inside or outside threat on the cultural values of that particular society. As Snow (2010: 79) claims, propaganda was thought to characterize primary the activities of twentieth century totalitarian regimes like National

Socialism or Stalinist communism that used state-sanctioned methods to deliberately distort the truth. However, today we are encountered with the fact that propaganda is a tool of persuasion of democratic regimes as well. Even though its the goals are the same, the contemporary means of propaganda are quite different from the ones that were used before the era of the digital culture. According to Pasquinelli (2008: 190), today bureaucratic propaganda wars which war typical for the predigital era are a thing of the past. Despite the fact that political propaganda exists in its generic form, new media has generated guerrilla combat opening up a molecular front for grassroots resistance (Pasquinelli, 2008: 190). As new media contributed to development of more efficient means for grassroots activists to resist the dominant propaganda, it has also opened up with new ways for state propagandists to disseminate their doctrines and thus today video games represent a valuable and resourceful medium for propagandist activity. Our everyday lives in the so-called post-industrial cities would be unimaginable without the use certain products of digital culture. According to Nicholls, & Ryan (2008: 170), many celebrate digital culture generally as a fluid and open ended form that has finally dispensed with the stifling panopticism of industrial capital. However, we have to ask the question how much is digital culture independent from industrial capital and is it possible at all to make such a distinction today. It seems that blind faith in technology and the belief in its liberating potential is certainly unproductive in creating a genuine critique of the so-called post-ideological society. In the context of video games, we shell see that the gaming industry and the military industrial complex go hand in hand from the very emergence of video games. As a form of digital culture, computer games consist of diverse, layered and heterogeneous images and sounds unfolding in decentered and under-motivated ways (Nicholls, & Ryan, 2008: 170). As Baudrillard (1994: 5) claims, behind the baroqueness of

images hides the eminence grise of politics In the case of video games such as America's Army or Kuma/War, politics, or more precisely militaristic ideology, is visible on every level. The development of video games has gone through different stages in its history. Unlike other games, video games are impossible without computer technology and are thus completely embedded within the history of computer hardware (Danahay, 2009: 367). The history of video games is also a history of the increasing of the power of the computers (Danahay, 2009: 367). The first occurrence of a video game is recorded in 1949 when the American patent office issued a patent for the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device to Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann, which marked the beginning of the era of games that used interactive electronic devices (Mitra, 2010: 11). The militaristic narratives are a common place in the history of video games and there is a good reason why it's so. According to Ottosen (2009: 37), the origin of video games can be traced back to the Cold War. In his essay Targeting the Player: Computer Games as Propaganda for the Military-Industrial Complex, Ottosen (2009) provides a short history of the development of video games and explains how from the very start they have been merged with the military industrial complex. The genesis of this process can be traced to a project of the helicopter company Bell in which PDP-1 computers were used and in which MIT Lincoln Labs provided an ultrasonic head-position acoustic sensor which became an important component of the new video-game technology (Ottosen, 2009: 37). The early video games looked nothing like today's complex games with 3D graphics, highly developed game narratives and high availability to most of the urban households. As Deterding (2010: 22) claims, early video war games inherited from board war games their game mechanics, settings, fan communities, developers, and professional relations with the military. In 1952, behind a cloak of secrecy, the first military simulation games were programmed by Bob

Chapman; and in 1955 the first theater level war game was programmed at the Research Analysis Corporation in McLean, Virginia (Ahl, 2008: 31-32). One of the earliest video games produced in 1962 titled Spacewar! was a shooter game (Wolf, 2008: xvii). However, the video gaming has come a long way since the 1960s, when only those who had access to the large computers in the science laboratories had the possibility to play the early video games. According to Wolf (2008:29), the period from 1971 to 1985 saw video games change from an electronic novelty into a worldwide industry and set the stage for all the development that were to follow. Video games begin to change in the 1990s with both the increased computational power of computers and the steady improving graphic capability of monitors. They went from being primarily side scrolling to being capable of rendering three dimensional images and movement through virtual environments (Danahay, 2009: 368). The reason for this was that after the Cold War ended, there was a huge change in which the possession of the computational power shifted from the hands of the military to the private sector. As Dyer-Witheford, & De Peute (2009: 101) claim, by the 1990s, with the military budgets declining after the end of the Cold war, commercial games had advanced so fast as to be superior to the Pentagon in-house simulations. In that decade, consumer computing and video and computer games became familiar household activities rather than specialized activities taking place in designated social places outside the home such as video arcades and university campuses (Cates, 2011: 159). As with television in the previous era, the 1990's marked video games as the dominant form of entertainment. As the U.S. military uses the same simulation technologies as commercial game developers do, boundaries between commercial games and governmental military simulations are seemingly eroding (Nieborg, 2006). As Halte (2006: 11) claims, the militarization of gaming continues up until the

current era, and worms its way through the story of video games in some expected ways . Among the most genres and types of video games today, the so-called first person shooter (FPS) is one of the most popular one. Considering the popularity of the FPS, we can see one reason why the Unites States Army has chosen exactly this genre in which it produced the game America's Army (United States Army, 2002). As a video game genre, the FPS made a paradigm shift from a visual point of view the general objective perspective of the player shifted to a personal and highly subjective one, directly from the view of the protagonist in the game. As Hitchens (2011) claims, the FPS is characterized by a firstperson viewpoint and a heavy emphasis on combat, typically involving firearms. Some theorists trace the origins of the first person point of view in certain techniques used previously in cinema. According to Galloway (2006), FPS games are played in the subjective, or first-person, perspective and therefore are the visual progeny of subjective camera techniques in the cinema (p. 57). Most of the FPS games, for example, franchisee Call of Duty, follow a militaristic narrative that bares resemblance to some actual historical events. Others such as Half-Life or Quake present totally imaginary scenarios which are closer to science fiction genre in cinema and literature. With the release of Wolfenstein 3D (id Software, 1992), this video game genre started to gain popularity in the gaming world. Wolfenstein 3D marked the new era of video gaming in which FPS games would remain on the top of list of popular video game genres. The story of the game puts the player in the role of the American spy William J. "B.J." Blazkowicz whose mission is to infiltrate the Nazi fortress Castle Hollehammer and find the plans for Operation Eisenfaust, the Nazi's blueprint for building the perfect army (3D Realms, n.d). According to Cates (2011: 159), the subjective point of view and embodied virtual camera position with its presence and direction of action contributed to the cultural interpretation or

perception of realism of Wolfenstein 3D in particular and the first person shooter genre in general The further development of the FPS genre continues with the game which was made from the same company named Doom. According to Lowood (2006: 26), Doom added improvements such as a superior graphics engine, fast peer to peer networking for multilayer gaming, a modular design that encouraged independent authors to create new levels, and a new mode of competitive play . The other FPS games that flowed the release of Doom were already operating in a safe market environment in which this genre of video game has been well established as a highly popular one. The most significant example of the merging of the military complex and the gaming industry is the video game America's Army published by the United States Army. The game, released for the first time in 2001, represents a multi-player FPS which put the player in the role of a U.S. Army recruit. The game was supposed to be launched with two titles "Soldiers", a role-playing game that lets the player live boot camp life, and "Operations," a multi-player first-person shooter that was supposed to accurately reflects rules of engagement and squad teamwork (Morris, 2002). Its current third version is available free of charge on its official website. As Ottosen (2009: 40) claims the most obvious answer to the question why the game is offered free when it has such global potential is that it's a tool for recruitment in the American market. For this recruitment tool and PR drive for America's military, the U.S. army has invested $32.8 million (Chacksfield, 2010). Even though, the budget of this game is not as high compared to other video games, the main difference between this game and other commercial video games is that the cost for the game were payed with tax payers money. Americas Army is a video game which reproduces a positive and uncritical image of the U.S. Army and and generally contributes to the process of comodification of war. In order for a player to improve his ranking in the game, the player has to go through a series of

military exercises in the training mode of the game. Of course, this doesn't represent a novelty in the FPS genre, however the training mode itself wasn't vital part of other FPS games as it is in America's Army. By successfully going trough the exercises which vary from obstacles courses to marksmanship tests, other interactive parts of the game are being unlocked. For example, the player can visit the virtual recruitment office of the U.S. Army in which he can watch videos of real war veterans who stress the importance and values of a military lifestyle. Although the game is part of the sub-genre of tactical FPS games, America's Army is more than 'just a game; or only a 'sophisticated advergame (Nieborg, 2006). Unlike other even more sophisticated military FPS games which are not available for free, as mentioned before, America's Army is a game that can be downloaded and played free of charge. This makes the game more available for the lower social classes who have access to a average performing personal computer and an broadband internet connection. Its wide availability equips the game with a large audience of potential U.S. Army recruits. We have to take notice of the fact that a big part of of America's Army players play the game not because it represents a tool for propaganda and indoctrination or because players themselves praise the U.S. Army, but as a form of entertainment just like any other commercial video games. We can't say that the only effect that the game has on its players is brainwashing them into having an uncritical point of view of the military, however it reveals the modes of thinking and operating in a militaristic way. MIT did a study that found that 30 per cent of all Americans age 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the army because of the game and the game has had more of an impact on recruits than any form of army advertising before it (Chacksfield, 2010). Another example of the close relationship between the military complex and the

gaming insularity is the real-time tactics video game Full spectrum warrior. It started out as a military training simulation commissioned by the US Army which was later released commercially by publisher THQ and developer Pandemic Studios as a modern squad tactics video game (Kasavin, 2004). Before the commercial release it was used by the U.S, army as a digital combat simulator for the training of U. S. infantry in the early years of the twenty first century (Dyer-Witheford & De Peute, 2009: 98). The game has been adapted by psychologists to assist veterans from Iraq overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder called Virtual Iraq. The whole system included a head-mounted display, earphones, a scent-producing machine, and a modified version of Full Spectrum Warrior, a popular video game (Halpern, 2008). In combat simulators corporal activity of the war is rendered into a digital world that rehearses subjects for battle, learning on screen to make choices that than translates into life for some and death for others (Dyer-Witheford & De Peute, 2009: 98). The appropriation of a global game culture seems to result in a reciprocal relationship between the hierarchical nature of the U.S. military and the participatory character of numerous game community clusters (Nieborg, 2006). Other games, which are also worth mentioning for putting this issue a local context are SOCOM: US Navys seals and the local Macedonian version of the first person shooter Counter Strike. The game SOCOM: US Navys seals was produced with the assistance of US Naval special Warfare command, and the Department of Defense and ICT (Martin and Stauter, 2010:85). According to Nieborg (2006) the war on terror is both explicitly and implicitly simulated in a wide range of FPS PC-games such as Battlefield 2, Kuma War, and Counter-Strike. Even though Counter Strike doesn't have a close connection to a military institution such as America's Army, it also shows exactly how militaristic ideologies are deeply embedded in video gaming. The local version of Counter Strike simulated the conflict

between the Macedonian government military forces and the para military NLA in the conflict in 2001.

Conclusion The aim of this paper was not to analyze propaganda in video games on a subliminal level, but actually how it is openly presented to catch the attention of the player. As we've seen through the examples of some of the games, military propaganda and video gaming today represent two media which can easily be merged together in order to create more efficient tools for indoctrination. We can not tell with certainty how much this strategy of using video games as propaganda is successful, but being aware of the ideology and the aims behind it will make us more resistant to its influence. Since as Martin and Stauter (2010: 85) claim, militarism occupies more time of the civilian, and civilian concerns occupy less time of the active-duty service member, video game players represent a valuable target group for the military propaganda in the aim to recruit new soldiers, in this particular case, in the U.S. Army. What's more interesting about this issue is finding new ways to create ways of resistance to the ever present hegemony of the military-industrial complex. This may be a very hard task to do for activists since they lack the resources in money, equipment and human capital which military-industrial complex has.

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