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"This trend of creating mass media to distribute propaganda methods is particularly frightening
July 6, 2002 11:11 AM   Subscribe

"This trend of creating mass media to distribute propaganda methods is particularly frightening -- usually the government agencies don't participate directly in mainstream media. It's the difference between using commercial airtime to broadcast anti-drug messages and having a nationwide government-run cable channel that runs programs devoted to the subject."

The government in question? The American one. The Game? America's Army.
posted by jcterminal (34 comments total)

 
for me i think the biggest issue isn't the blatant proganda. whatever. i'm part of the mtv generation, i've grown jaded enough to be able to smell most pr bullshit for what it is.

my problem here is the hypocrisy.

Right now our american gov't is totally supporting this game with tons of labour and resources. yeah, it's neat alright.

but wasn't it just last month they were daemonizing video games as 'murder simulators'? lambasting them for harming our children. and now they're using gaming as a recruitment tool.

i'm really not sure whether to laugh or cry.

thank god the game sucks and no one's playing it.
posted by jcterminal at 11:17 AM on July 6, 2002


I would hardly call it a "government-run cable channel." Sometimes a video game is just a video game.
posted by davidmsc at 11:18 AM on July 6, 2002


From the website: Just prior to its release, the AA website had an average of 750,000 hits/sec

Okay, so if we assume that each hit is a unique user, then we can determine that the entire world's population will have seen this website in 6666.6666666666666667 seconds! The number of the beast! Nooooooooo, this is the End Times! America's Army is a tool of SATAN! NOOOOOOOO!
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:21 AM on July 6, 2002


bradthx1138, please take your blue pill now. Take your blue pill now. It will make everything better. Take your blue pill now. Take your blue pill now.
Thank you.

You are a true believer. Blessings of the state. Blessings of the masses. Thou art a subject of the divine. Created in the image of man, by man, for man. Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy.



That is all.
posted by bradth27 at 11:27 AM on July 6, 2002



but wasn't it just last month they were daemonizing video games as 'murder simulators'?

If you're refering to Dave Grossman, he is retired, and is in no way a spokesperson for the army.
posted by electro at 11:32 AM on July 6, 2002


thank god the game sucks and no one's playing it.
Yeah.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2002


godwin's law called already? (i've seen much worse at museums, couldn't find good link).
posted by dabitch at 11:36 AM on July 6, 2002


as someone that works for a video game company, let me speculate how this game probably came into being: a no-name development company has a generic shooter game. they know someone that works mid -level in Army PR somewhere. the "you stuck your crappy game in my need for cheezy PR marketing" peanut-butter cup scenario happens. and then BAM!! Cheezy game that gets totally hyped out of proportions and is forgotten about in less than a month. this only happens several dozen times a month in the video game industry. :)
posted by stifford at 11:44 AM on July 6, 2002


From the game page linked: "The presence of logos, URLs or other information identifying private companies or other non-federal entities does not constitute an endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense."

I am bit lost on the government supporting the game thing. I see the Go Army logo and link (advertising like all the armed forces do) -- at first I did not believe that was an actual US Army website -- but I am unclear as to what other support is involved. (Although I see the Name Server is NS3.GOARMY.COM.) Help! I'm confused!

From goarmy.com: "Get more information mailed to you about joining the most powerful Army in the world."

Well, since it's the most powerful, of course I'll sign up!
posted by Dick Paris at 11:55 AM on July 6, 2002


I think the government should spend even more money on creating free video games.

Lets have an RTS next, please.
posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on July 6, 2002


Video games should be created solely for enjoyment, not vehicles for propaganda messages. It's ironic that United States senators spent much of the past two decades trashing video games for promoting violence while another branch of the government is now using games to promote its aims. So let me get this straight: Games like Mortal Kombat (to use a typical politician's outdated reference) are deplorable because they teach little Susan to kill people, but super-realistic combat simulations from the US Army are worthwhile tools to teach our boys and men to defend freedom...right?

Making a point can't be much more stark than that.
posted by crasspastor at 12:19 PM on July 6, 2002


Bloodbath on Planet P! Would you like to know more?
posted by muckster at 12:30 PM on July 6, 2002


Talk about a great basic training setup. All those teenage boys now knowing the best way to approach an enemy from an elevated position. They also now know how to best keep the M10A4 from overheating... jamming... etc.

Sure it's blatant propoganda, but having a nation of virtually trained minions is something those commies don't have!
posted by geoff. at 12:31 PM on July 6, 2002


[see also: Thread #17332 - US Army Introduces "America's Army" PC Game]
posted by gluechunk at 1:01 PM on July 6, 2002


Talk about a great basic training setup. All those teenage boys now knowing the best way to approach an enemy from an elevated position. They also now know how to best keep the M10A4 from overheating... jamming... etc.

Yeah also helps when you shoot up your highschool.

If anything these types of games make me want to avoid any type of contact with a gun. Yeah, I want to be shot at in real life. Remember that part when my friend got his head blown off?!?! Yeah I'm gonna go join this for real!

No thanks. I'll happily play Return to Castle Wolfenstein and do Nazi salutes at my monitor. I'll leave the penis envy to all the army recruits.

Jawhol[sic]!
posted by andryeevna at 2:06 PM on July 6, 2002


I just went through the opening page all the way to the download section and found no ESRB rating. Now we have hypocrisy on the part of the self-regulation police. Where are moralists and concered parents? Assuming parents actually use the ESRB ratings ( or the tv ones for that matter) then why isn't available?

From what I can guess, this game would recieve an Adults Only and would limit downloads or cause more of a stir than it already has. Its only fair. If they can label GTA3 and other games as Mature or Adult. There's no reason for this government freebie to get a, ahem, free ride.
posted by skallas at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2002


I did find the ESRB rating but only on an off-site mirror. Surprisingly its only Teen.
posted by skallas at 2:25 PM on July 6, 2002


The linked article is laughably misinformed.

This trend of creating mass media to distribute propaganda methods is particularly frightening -- usually the government agencies don't participate directly in mainstream media.

Bullshit. Recruiting posters? TV ads? Radio? Who do you think pioneered telemarketing? Recruiters.

Recently, an underground racist organization caused a minor stir when it released Ethnic Cleansing, a PC game that allowed players to slaughter minorities. Media coverage noted the alarming use of video games to spread hate to young and impressionable children. The government is doing the exact same thing with America's Army, just inserting a different message.

So it's exactly the same, except that it's different. Right. And it's different in exactly what matters, the values it conveys.

Bullshit from beginning to end.
posted by NortonDC at 2:35 PM on July 6, 2002


Well, there may be more to this than just a FPS blood-bath. In 'Soldier', the first module (with role-playing!):

players go through Army training as they "navigate life's challenges," overcoming obstacles both on- and off-duty.

Imagine the possibilities - you return to your trailer on base housing. Your wife is bored and petulant and she wants you to take her out on Saturday night and buy her something nice. But the truck payment is due and there is not enough money in your Specialist I paycheck for both! Do you:

1) Return to the barracks and look for a poker game
2) Cruise the strip of pawn shops outside the base trying to sell your VCR
3) Get drunk and be mean to your wife until she cries and runs away?
posted by crunchburger at 2:43 PM on July 6, 2002


I would comment but I am too busy figuring out Warcraft III. See y'all in about a month when I am done playing.
posted by srboisvert at 3:55 PM on July 6, 2002


Unrelated to the issue of whether or not the game is A Bad Thing, I love this comment on the linked page:

The game is free, and it should be -- it appears to have been developed using taxpayer-funded Army and Department of Defense (DOD) resources.

Oh, so I should be able to go into any Army/Navy surplus store and take stuff for free? How about mailing away for a free rifle? Maybe a fighter jet? How about all that other stuff that I've funded with my tax dollars, like Midwest farm products? How about the American auto industry? Are all the products that my tax dollars have touched free to me?

I'm starting to really like the sound of that.
posted by delfuego at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2002


Delfuego, would you rather they charge for it? Would that make any sense at all?

When something is produced with your tax dollars, you can reasonably expect to benefit from it without having to pay anything more. Nobody knocks on your door asking for a dime every time a fighter jet goes on a patrol, for example.

In this case, the game was developed for us. We've already paid for it, so it would be ridiculous for them to charge us for it.
posted by whatnotever at 4:48 PM on July 6, 2002


I've downloaded it and played with it a little bit. I've actually been through basic and served, and the parts I've played are pretty realistic to training. Of course, the game starts out in the sixth week of basic, so all those people who think that after playing the game they'll be qualified to waltz through basic have a rude awakening coming. It is realistic. It's not bad. Registration? Oh yeah, I'll give them my hotmail email address and fish anything I feel like reading out of the junk mail folder. They don't ask name, age, or anything else. Just an email address.

delfuego, the game was developed for public consumption, unlike the M16 or grenades or fighter jets.
posted by Apoch at 5:57 PM on July 6, 2002


It's ironic that United States senators spent much of the past two decades trashing video games for promoting violence while another branch of the government is now using games to promote its aims.

Yes, how ironic that different people in an entirely different branch of government might not share the same opinion. Who would have imagined? Maybe they didn't all get the same memo.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:08 PM on July 6, 2002


I understand that it was developed for public consumption, and thus should be free. That's not what the quote says, though, but rather that it should be free because it was developed with public tax dollars. The two aren't equivalent, and the notion that everything developed with tax dollars should be free isn't true either; there are plenty of examples otherwise.
posted by delfuego at 7:23 PM on July 6, 2002


crunchburger, you forgot choice 4:

4) get busy with your wife and conceive a child or two or three that you can't afford, then get on food stamps.
posted by beth at 8:19 PM on July 6, 2002


delfuego's right, of course: the opposite argument could as easily be mooted, that because it was developed with taxpayer money the government should recoup its costs. But that would be the Republican argument; and clearly the complainer, in this case, is on the other side, dare I say the one that favors entitlements. Consistency is good to see, sometimes ...

How did this get developed? Well, if you go back in Wired a ways you'll find early stories on Marine Doom which was developed as a lark by a couple of Marines and ended up getting funding and imprimatur as an official supplementary training regimen, especially for shipboard Marines. It went through later iterations in Quake and, I believe, Unreal Tournament. So the use of FPS gaming is already well-established in the military.

This certainly isn't September 11, or even Bush administration, propaganda: the genesis was over three years ago, and was specifically developed as a recruiting tool rather than "propaganda". Whether you agree with the war or not, we still need an army, and even in peacetime keeping the ranks of a wholly volunteer army filled is no slam dunk of a task. (It was especially hard a couple of years ago, during the boom -- the recession, as they typically do, has helped make the low pay and other deprivations seem not so bad.) The primary demographic for recruitment is, of course, males aged 18-24, and the existing popularity of FPS games in this group means it doesn't take a genius to put them together. (Although it probably took one to get program approval!).

It's amazingly fortuitous that it's turned out to be a good game, by the reviews that have come in. (I have yet to snag it.) But in the larger scheme of things it's not going to make that big a dent; most hardcore gamers go through half-a-dozen a year, suggesting an average two-month attention span. Will this one game be more effective at militarizing youth than the other twenty-five they'll play until they reach adulthood?

Which brings me to the issue of consistency. Yes, there was some brouhaha, mostly stirred up by professional pot-stirrers. It reached congressional hearings, harsh words were spoken, the industry regulated and labeled itself, and that declawed the threat. End of issue, and of course we should applaud the government for taking the more sensible course, rather than deride it for having been wrong before (to the extent that "the government" is an unbroken entity worth discussing intelligently). The consistency problem is in the gaming community -- here they were up in arms over the idea of regulation, insisting that games didn't affect their consumers. Now this columnist -- whom I do not know -- has his panties in a twist over the idea that games do affect their consumers. He's the one who should be on the spot for consistency. Did he say different during the regulation flap? That would be amusing to check out.
posted by dhartung at 8:39 PM on July 6, 2002


Who do you think pioneered telemarketing? Recruiters.

and thank god for that!

Yes, how ironic that different people in an entirely different branch of government might not share the same opinion. Who would have imagined?

I see you point. why should the government act consistently when only a couple thousand people are gonna notice?
posted by mcsweetie at 10:34 PM on July 6, 2002


Whether you agree with the war or not, we still need an army, and even in peacetime keeping the ranks of a wholly volunteer army filled is no slam dunk of a task.

What are we at now? One million professional soldiers. The army is volunteers? Don't tell the people at armypay.com that, Dan! Or were you trying to say military duty is noncompulsory in the US. There's a world of difference there.

This game is unnecessary and a waste of 6 million dollars. Lets face it, this is something for the Geforce4 kiddies to shoot each other up with. Its really a free demo. The advanced missions and mods like playing a Ranger are going to cost money. Hopefully, they'll make back the 6 mill they wasted, but I seriously doubt it. If anyone knows how to waste money its the military. With more genius ideas like this we'll all be forced to join the military just to pay our taxes.
posted by skallas at 11:19 PM on July 6, 2002


Ok. So you got this great Multiplayer game from the US gov. Something seems odd. Its so kewl how you have to put down the firewall(that is if you have one) to play these brand new shiny Multiplayer games. This would make a great Movie. Small group of People create a multiplayer game and gain control of "Elite Fighting Force". Add some robots on the ground in "Evil terrorist" camps and we will have the only army in the world where the soldiers pay for there own bandwith.
posted by Niahmas at 2:25 AM on July 7, 2002


Yes, how ironic that different people in an entirely different branch of government might not share the same opinion. Who would have imagined?

I see you point. why should the government act consistently when only a couple thousand people are gonna notice?


Governments made of freely elected people are never going to be entirely consistent. That would seem pretty obvious (except, I suppose, to you and the author of this article.)
posted by ljromanoff at 6:38 AM on July 7, 2002


Governments made of freely elected people are never going to be entirely consistent. That would seem pretty obvious (except, I suppose, to you and the author of this article.)

yeah, Dane Baker and I aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the happy meal, are we? my god we are morons! oh well, it's not like we elect these people to make the best decisions, just the most popular ones.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:30 AM on July 7, 2002


There are sharp tools in any Happy Meal? Does the Consumer Product Safety Commission know about this?

In fact, we elect our governments to be responsive, rather than consistent. If you want absolute consistency, there's a collective farm in North Korea I can show you. Hasn't changed a lick in fifty years. But it's fun to say "the government changed its mind! hypocrites! o tempore! o mores!". I know.
posted by dhartung at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2002


Company X creates a realistic American Army simulation / shooter -- the full experience and all -- and it's great mindless fun!

US Army creates a realistic American Army simulation / shooter -- the full experience and all -- and it's evil Army Propaganda!

shrug.
posted by mkn at 7:15 PM on July 7, 2002


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