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The New Military Recruitment System

This entry was created by a student in Stanford's Rhetoric of Gaming class. For more about the class and the assignment, click here.

The military has been known to use many different mediums to try to increase the number of new recruits each year. With the changes in how people today, especially young people, get their information, how does the military address this? The answer is, through video games. The Army presents a false depiction of war to persuade young people to join the military.

The United States' Army created the popular game franchise "America's Army" in 2002. America's Army is, I admit, a very fun first-person shooter genre game that leads the player, living vicariously as an Army recruit, through the ranks (from a Recruit in Basic Training to a Sergeant Major). I wanted to explore this game a little bit more to get a sense of how the Army is advertising their game to a younger demographic.

To get to the video game, which is actually free to download, you must first go to americasarmy.com. The front page of the site displays a front view of an American soldier in full gear, running and carrying his trusty M-4. As you go a little deeper into the page there are links to popular websites, such as YouTube.com and Facebook, showing off the Official America's Army YouTube channel and videos of players gunning down enemy soldiers. There is also a link showing the America's Army graphic novel and that it is "Available Now!" The use of websites such as these shows that the Army is trying to recruit a younger group of people.

Now lets try to sign-up for the actual game! To register an account all you have to do is put in very simple information and that is it. Then, just download the game and you can play, how simple. It is almost too easy, and in exchange for the rights to play this government subsidized game, all you have to do is give the Army some personal information so they can "contact you about your gaming experience," of course. Well then why is it that ever since I signed up for the original America's Army I have been receiving massive quantities of recruitment material? Must just be a coincidence I guess.

The American Army offers a free online first-person shooter to the general public, which is very generous, but at what cost? The Army depicts glorified battle situations to persuade young people to join. The Army needs recruits, but at the same time also need to properly inform these recruits about the true aspects of war, not this false world they show. You can play again when you die in the game, but that is not so in reality.

Comments

Gold star for being the first to post, Dylan!

I like the way that you choose to analyze this important primary source for your topic. Reading it in context of our conversations over the past couple weeks really makes me think about how the website itself is functioning as a type of advertising.

What I hope you come across in your research is the argument that America's Army actually promotes collaboration, an important idea to the military, despite being a FPS. I have some materials that I can share with you from Envision the reader that might help you get into some of the arguments that distinguish the ideology behind military-recruiting games from that found in military-themed games.

It's a great topic!

I like the flow of the blog post. Your message is very clear and consistent, and your light tone does not intimidate or bore the reader.
However, while your mentioned the America's Army website in some detail, I don't think you presented it properly as a source to fuel your argument that the Military has turned to video games to recruit.
All in all, your topic is still clear and the mention of your personal experience playing the game and receiving emails adds credibility to the post. Good work.

I really like this source for your topic. I find it really fascinating how it is not only the gameplay itself that gives a false depiction about war, but, as you mention, the interface itself is misleading as it prompts the gamer to enter his/her email adress "so that they can contact you about your gaming experience." Consequently, the gamer is bombarded with recruitment email. Such recruitment attempts show how the army is trying both implicitly and explicitly trying to recruit through their games.

Offering free shoot-em-up games to entice people to enlist? Seems like you're better motivating them to sit around and play more video games, but I guess any marketing channel is an effective one, and this targets the right demographic.

I found your topic to be really fascinating. I know that this is one of your research sources for your TiC, but I can really see your point of view and perspective on this issue, as well. I really liked the way you conveyed your information and how straight to the point it was. The information itself is also just really interesting. It's a unique and fresh topic, and I really hope you do well on your paper!

This type of military recruitment is not limited to America's Army. Games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, MAG, and Battlefield Bad Company 2 all depict "modern warfare". These games place the gamer in a combat situation armed with a plethora of guns, equipment, and vehicles. These games are extremely addicting due to their online playing capabilities, so many people, Modern Warfare 2 has been played by 5 million people, are playing these games. Personally, I think that playing modern combat games makes me NOT want to join the army or military. The scary thing is that these games are very realistic. The depict the action very well. All in all, I think these games are actually deterring kids away from the military. The games present war in a "cool' or awesome light, but war is very different from these games and I think most realize this.

Dylan,

I like your topic. The questions you ask are clear, and it is equally clear what your intended direction is as you move forward with the topic.

To add depth to your argument, I would recommend perhaps trying to find an example beyond the Army-endorsed "America's Army". This is one very good example that backs up a potential thesis, but it probably isn't the only example.

Also, it isn't just the Army that portrays the battlefield as a glorious thing, where you can instantly play again after you die. That happens in every video game known to mankind, so what makes this particular game unique? Could the army just be responding to popular demand? Is there anything U.S.-specific when playing the game that is prejudiced towards America?

I want to start off by thanking you all for you comments, they are extremely helpful. Hunter, I agree with you that these games can possibly deter most people from joining the military, but there has been a huge surge in recruitment numbers as a result of America's Army. This shows that some people are attracted to the military lifestyle by these games. For the majority of people these type of games probably keep them away from the military, but I am going to try to focus on the small percent that are almost tricked into taking on military life.

Again, I want to thank you all for posting, I really appreciate it. If you have anything else you would like to say, please feel free.

Hey Dylan,

I preparing my comments on serious/persuasive gaming this morning, I came across this wikipedia reference that might be really helpful to you as a starting point for more research (remember to use wikipedia not as a source in itself, but as a stepping stone for further research): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militainment

Hope you find it helpful!

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