Artist Continues “Dead in Iraq” Video Game Protest

Nearly two years ago Joseph DeLappe, an artist and academic, created a virtual protest of the Iraq war – with a video game twist.

DeLappe used the Defense Department’s own, freely-distributed recruiting game, America’s Army, as his vehicle to protest the conflict. As we reported on GamePolitcs in 2006:

DeLappe began joining online matches. He doesn’t play the game, however. He simply uses the game’s chat interface to type in the name, rank and date of death of U.S. military personnel killed in the Iraq conflict. When his avatar is killed, he simply waits for the next round to begin and continues to enter the names of the dead.

DeLappe’s goal is to eventually enter the name of every service member lost in the war.

The New Media Research Studio blog reports that DeLappe is still at it and will present a live performance of his protest in New York City tomorrow with a discussion to follow. Last week GamePolitics detailed another DeLappe project, a Second Life re-enactment of Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March protest.

DeLappe is also working on a project to create memorials to civilians killed in the Iraq war.

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  1. 0
    Skyler ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    That’s a pretty lame protest if you ask me. And he calls it art? That could cast me gaming into a hole new light if I wanted it to then 😉

    Well spoken. You read thoughts.

  2. 0
    Elalonna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As annoying as this guy may be, and as much as I want to stop him from spamming, this game, even if it isn’t so in practice, is meant to be a recruitment tool. It’s meant for those who want to join the army. As such, it is an appropriate medium for this spamming that can loosely be called a peaceful protest.

    And besides which, games are past the stage of being just games. You can find books less intricate or complicated(and no, I dont mean kiddie books) than some of the high end games.

    What this guy is doing may not be art, or even a good idea, it’s something he’s allowed to do. Of course, the right to free speech doesn’t necessarily mean we have to listen…

  3. 0
    Tom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What pisses me off is the way this schmuck uses the names of soldiers in his “protest” – and I’m sorry, but I have a hard time being sympathetic to a person’s cause if they don’t care enough to leave their house – without consideration to the soldiers who would disagree with him.

    As to whether or not AA is a recruiting tool, it may have been initially designed to help recruiting efforts, but we have to consider the practical effect it has. How many people play AA and then say, “well, that sold me. Sign me up!” It’s not a recruiting tool, it’s a game. Granted it is a propaganda game, but it’s still a game.

  4. 0
    JustChris says:

    Right-o, DurWrathi. As annoying as being stuck on the same team with this protester would be, doing this in any other game would be totally irrelevant.

    But if he really cared about making waves, he would have to invite some of his friends to join the “protest”. Such a move might pull a load on AA’s servers and get some kind of reaction from the US Army.

  5. 0
    DurWrathi says:

    So what if AA is a game? Can anyone here seriously argue that a game cannot be a recruitment tool, send a message, or act as propaganda? AA was originally pitched as, approved as, funded as, and continues to be thought of as a recruitment tool for the pentagon. How does its status as a game make it the “wrong” place to spread a political message opposing the game’s purpose?

    I understand and agree that protests within games are disruptive and annoying, but so are protests in real life. I hate getting held up in traffic by war protesters, but I don’t tell them they shouldn’t be on the sidewalks distracting drivers and causing a slow-down. Annoying yes, but my annoyance can’t trump the protesters right to be there and speak their mind.

    Like it or not, AA is the ideal place for a protest of this sort to take place not only because AA is a government project and tool, but because the protest itself opposes the goal of that tool.

  6. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ JimK

    Yeah I wouldn’t blame Clinton for those deaths or the military for that matter. Let’s blame whos fault it really is, Congress. They Can choose to go to war, and wether or not to fund it. Personally I’m agreeing with the

    “I *am* saying that this guy doesn’t give a fig for the ACTUAL dead soldiers. He only cares about his “protest” and his “art.” He comes off like Cindy Shehan minus the foaming at the mouth.

  7. 0
    TheBird says:

    it’s a protest. protests rarely stop people from doing something, they influence other people to join the cause.

    for the first time, trolling is an art

  8. 0
    Tonkarz says:

    @ Marlowe,

    Any arguments about the war in Iraq should be made to the people who can influence America’s withdrawal: the policy makers. If someone plays America’s army and decides to join the army, then that has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. Stopping a handful of people from joining the army will not end the war.

  9. 0
    JimK says:

    I wonder if he’d be willing to list the names of ever service member lost in the first five years of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

    Because there were more. A lot more, actually. Not saying Clinton had any responsibility beyond that of any normal CiC. It’s just the way the numbers worked out.

    I *am* saying that this guy doesn’t give a fig for the ACTUAL dead soldiers. He only cares about his “protest” and his “art.”

  10. 0
    Artifex says:

    I’m sure I could think of more reasons if I had the EULA or TOU for America’s Army on hand, but here’s three reasons that come to the top of my mind almost immediately:

    1. Chat Spamming
    2. Griefing and Interupting the game for other players
    3. Team Stacking (Creating an unfair team balance by not playing the game)

    A game (yes, it is a Game at the end of the day, regardless of how many people want to call it a ‘recruitment tool’) is NOT the place for this kind of behavior, let alone “voice” this kind of anti-war dissent. His supposed “message” doesn’t make him any less of a jackass. This is a guy who makes a living on controversy and calls it “art”, I sincerely doubt that he gives a damn about his “message” other than the amount of attention that it gets him.

  11. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Marlowe

    Except 90% of the people who play AA don’t give a crap about what the guy is doing there fore it’s the wrong place. Now if he did it in front of a recruiting station, hey the guy has something.

  12. 0
    Tonkarz says:

    If he wants to protest against the war, that’s fair enough. I don’t think America’s Army is the place for that, because his message isn’t getting to the people who count.

    But it’s hard to tell what he is actually protesting about, because he didn’t give a straight answer when asked in that GP interview. Why didn’t he give a straight answer? Either he doesn’t know the answer, or the answer is something he doesn’t want us to know.

    With something like this, I think he should have figured out why he was doing it and what he was trying to say, and if these reasons stood up to the example set by the people on his list. Doesn’t he owe them that, at least?

  13. 0
    Jonathan, aka Soul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    He’ll type in every name soon enough I suppose.

    The war in Iraq has cost the U.S. 3 Trillion dollars, yes 3 Trillion dollars I kid you not.

  14. 0
    Elalonna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, at least this is fairly peaceful and ironic, if not quite “art”. Videogames being used in a peaceful way has to say something

  15. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For an artist, he’s fairly random. Is this even art he’s doing? Well at least his anti-war protests are peaceful than most “peaceful” anti-war rallies (only noting the irnoy nothing more)

  16. 0
    Marlowe says:

    America’s Army is absolutely the place to do it and I would like to ask those of you who said otherwise why. He’s using a recruiting tool of the United States Army to voice dissent to the war, what’s wrong with that? It does get to people who count, people who are thinking about joining the army, he’s giving another side to doing that.

  17. 0
    JustChris says:

    I wonder if this is why every artistic piece of video/computer media I see that deals with anti-war rhetoric is either too vague, too non-sequitur or too cliche. Because as we’ve seen with the shutdown of Bilal’s exhibit, you can’t hope to hammer close to people’s hearts without causing a big stir from authorities.

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