Moral Dilemma: Army Recruitment and Video Games

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Moral Dilemma: Army Recruitment and Video Games While watching the documentary “Digital Nation,” produced by Rachel Dretzin, I became interested by a section titled “The Army Experience Center. ” The documentary shows clips of teenagers as young as thirteen playing violent videos games in an arcade run by the Army. The whole goal is to arouse these teenagers’ interest so they enlist. Having strong negative feelings towards war and teenage recruitment to begin with, I decided to research this subject further.
Let me take you through my thought process while I struggle with the question; Is the Army Experience Center’s (AEC) use of war video games a moral way to recruit teenagers? My first source, a radio program titled “War Games Lure for ‘Real Thing” laid the background. Host Jacki Lyden explains how the AEC had closed on July 30, 2010 after being in a Philadelphia shopping mall. It was only open for two years in order to “determine the most effective tools for public outreach” (Army).
The center’s spokesman, Captain John Kirchgessner, said the center was successful and had been a “better way to share our Army story than to simply smile and dial and ask somebody if they thought about joining lately” (War). Brian Lepley adds to this by saying, “We have got to reach them the way that they entertain themselves” (Joel). I found these statements to be true. After all, before building the AEC, the Army had shut down five recruiting offices nearby. With half the staff, the Army was able to recruit the same amount of people and still save money (War).

This saving of money was good business practices and even benefits tax payers. My perception of the AEC was already looking better. Though Kirshgessner is confident that these recruits were aware of the difference between war and videogame, Staff Sergeant Jesse Hamilton has a different perspective. He worries that the use of video games as a recruitment tool takes away from the reality of war. He goes on to say, “People screaming, blood, flies, horrible smells – the list goes on and on. And they’ve taken all of that out, and what they’ve effectively left is the portion which they consider to be the fun part” (War).
Reading this statement reminded me of why I felt ashamed of the AEC to begin with. It gives kids, who don’t know any better, a false idea of all the different aspects of war. I found myself back to my initial, negative perception of the AEC. At this point, I knew I needed more first-hand information about the AEC. Keeping with radio programs, I stumbled across one hosted by Rebecca Roberts who goes into more detail about the center as she takes a tour. She describes it as “slick and gadget-heavy as an Apple store” (Army).
There are two simulators: a Humvee and two Blackhawk helicopter, a career navigator, a global-base locator, and rows of Xbox game counsels. Everything is free, as long as you are thirteen or older. It seems so innocent, like a teenage boy’s dream come true. While thinking more about the nature of boys, I reminded myself that boys have been known through all generations to play war games. Weather it is Cowboys and Indians, Battleship, or the latest video game. It’s in their nature. The more I thought about violent video games, the more I accepted it as a modern day childhood game.
Maybe the AEC is more innocent then I thought. Yet, even with an acceptance of violent videos games, I still had not applied that to the Army’s use of video games to persuade teenagers into war. Roberts mentions that some have criticized the AEC “for bait-and-switch tactics, masquerading as an arcade when it’s really an Army recruiting station” (Army). The Army calling itself an arcade when it’s really a recruitment center brings a whole new problem to the subject. The Army is not allowed to recruit teenagers who are underage.
This makes the Army look untruthful. Though the AEC isn’t called a recruitment center, it is. They shut down those five nearby recruitment centers because they planned to recruit teenagers, instead, at the AEC. Staff denies that the AEC is a recruitment center, but then turn around and boast about how many kids they have recruited (War). Bill Deckhart describes it as, “The Army people would talk about it and say, ‘Oh it's not a recruiting center,’ [and] at the end of their statement, they would talk about how recruiting was doing.
To me, it was very dishonest” (Joel). The dishonesty of the Army became my major turnoff. After all, if the Army was not doing anything wrong then why would they have to lie? In “Playing War,” Ian Graham and Ronald Shaw argue for a more innocent view of war video games. Their term ‘transitional space’ (790) for video games suggests that they are used to help ready soldiers and recruit new ones (796). Video games, in Graham and Shaw’s minds, are purely tools to help soldiers experience war and help civilians understand it.
The Army Experience Center’s use of video games is not a new concept in American Army history. In fact, the Army’s use of digital media dates all the back to the 1970s and from 1996 when the video game Doom II: Hell on Earth came out for training purposes (794). I asked myself, “Why was there so much controversy over the AEC when the Army has been using video games for years? ” Perhaps it has something to do with all the negative science floating around out, claiming violent video games have disastrous effects on young minds. I decided to research this further in my forth source.
In the presence of so many studies about the correlation between video games and violent behavior, Author Christopher Ferguson begs to differ. He claims that “measures used in video game studies claiming to represent ‘aggression’ in fact don’t correlate will with actual real-life aggressive acts or violent behaviors” (79). This is clear and can be proven by the fact that the number of violent crimes from youth and adults have decreased while video game sales have risen (Ulanoff). Being intrigued by this new idea that violent video games are safe for society, I ventured on with my research.
Lance Ulanoff has a son who loves video games, especially violent ones. He has seen no difference in his son’s behavior since he has started playing video games and trusts that his son knows fact from fiction. When talking about today’s youth, Ulanoff says, “when they turn off those games, they go back to being the same teen they were before they turned it on” (Ulanoff). In his writing, Ulanoff stresses that parents should be responsible over what their kids do. This made me realize something so basic about the fight against the AEC. If parents don’t like it, then they have the right to tell their kids not to go.
If parents are concerned their kid is too naive about the dangers of war, they can educate their kids. If a child enlists in the Army because they developed a false sense of war from playing video games at the AEC, whose fault is that? At this point of my research, I now believed that this is the parent’s responsibility, not the Army’s. In the article titled “I Wish I were a Warrior,” authors Konijam, Bijvank, and Bushman state that video games are harmful to adolescence boy minds. They are too influential to have role models who “show no remorse for their aggressive actions, and are rarely punished for behaving aggressively” (Konijam).
The authors, also, relates lower education with vulnerability, which made me come to my own explanation as to why there are disproportionately more African Americans in the Army. In many ways, this article is true. We should be mindful of the effects that violent media has on us. Maybe we won’t go out killing people, but we are becoming less sensitive of the horrors of war because of it. A life is too precious to take a chance. While on the subject of desensitization, I came across an article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The issue of war video games and desensitization took a spin.
The authors admit that video games blur the lines between reality and fiction, and that this can be bad for children civilians. Yet, while reading, I realized not all desensitization was bad. The article points out that just as medical students need to be desensitized from blood, so do soldiers when it comes to killing and facing tragedy (Carnagey 490). The video games are the bridge between civilian and soldier life and troops benefit from that slow transition into war that video games provide. After reading this article, I had a completely new perspective on what desensitization is.
Yet, this article continues to say that desensitization, while good for people planning to go into war, isn’t good for the regular, thirteen year old civilian. Though this article had valid points, the average kid visiting the AEC wouldn’t benefit from desensitization. With my views about the AEC going back and forth between good and bad, I continued to research on. I came to the article “Conflict of Interest,” written by Lev Grossman and Evan Narcisse. The article describes our nation’s high demand for video games. It, also, describes the realness so many of today’s games have.
Talk about video game’s strong influence on our society had me thinking. We have seen people try to reenact graphic movies such as the “Dark Knight” movie theater shooting in Colorado, but we have never seen such reenactments based off of video games. If video games are so influential and detrimental, there are no facts to proof it. I began to think that the AEC’s use of video games wasn’t really that big of a deal. As I read on, I found a quote by Hirshberg that reads, “I think there will be a time when we look back and find it quaint that video games were so controversial” (Grossman).
By this time in my research, this quote summed up my thinking, though I still was uncertain about where I stood on the issue of the AEC. My last source was an interview with a World War II veteran, Rudy White. The moment I mentioned video games with recruitment he shook his head and said “no” (White). White reiterated my very first thoughts about how videogames the AEC desensitized people and put falsehoods into the realities of war. He said there are no consequences to face in games, while real war is filled with consequences. White gives an example that a man killed is a son, a brother, and father, and a friend who is now dead forever.
There is no reset button in real life (White). After hearing White, I felt that all the research I did trying to justify the AEC was almost useless. I realized that it was better to trust my instincts that said war video games have their place in society, but not in Army recruitment. Through all my research, I have had a lot of mixed feelings. My initial thinking was that the AEC’s use of video games as a recruitment tool was destructive. It was a dishonest tools used by the Army that gives a false idea about war. It, also, desensitizes kids to the horrors and consequences of war.
Yet through my research, I have seen valid counter argument to my own thinking. Some of these arguments are really quite simple, like the Army is just trying to connect with what kids like to do. Others are that the AEC gives people a more well-rounded idea of the Army than if they were playing the same video games alone in their rooms. Through it all, my final perception of the AEC came after talking to veteran Rudy White. I realized that there are many good things about the AEC, but the negatives outweigh them all. War is too serious to be a game and thirteen is too young to recruit.
The AEC and its use of violent video games is not a moral way to recruit teens to the Army. Works Cited "Army Complex - Arcade Or Recruiting Center? " Weekend All Things Considered 17 Jan. 2009. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. Carnagey, Nicholas L. , Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman. “The Effects of Video Games Violence on Physiological Desensitization on Real-Life Violence. ” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43. 3 (2006): 489-496. Print. Ferguson, Christopher J. "Blazing Angels Or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games Be A Force For Good?. " Review Of General Psychology 14. (2010): 68-81. PsycARTICLES. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. Graham, Ian, and Ronald Shaw. “Playing War. ” Social and Cultural Geography 11. 8 (2010): 789, 803. Print. Grossman, Lev, and Evan Narcisse. "Conflict Of Interest. " Time 178. 17 (2011): 70-75. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. Joel, R. (2012). The Army Experience Center. On Marketplace [Record]. Philadelphia: American Public Media Konijn, Elly A. , Marije Nije Bijvank, and Brad J. Bushman. "I Wish I Were A Warrior: The Role Of Wishful Identification In The Effects Of Violent Video Games On Aggression In Adolescent Boys. Developmental Psychology 43. 4 (2007): 1038-1044. PsycARTICLES. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. Swanson, David. "The Army Experience Center's Bad Experience: Turns Out Training Kids To Kill Not Popular With Public. " Humanist 69. 6 (2009): 5. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. Ulanoff, Lance. "Violent Video Games: Our Responsibility, Not The Courts. " PC Magazine 29. 12 (2010): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. “War Games Lure Recruits For ‘Real Thing’” Weekend Edition 31, Jul. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. White, Rudy. Personal interview. 31 Oct. 2012.

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