Army’s Video Game-Equipped Recruitment Center Fuels Controversy

The controversy over the United States Army’s use of video games to woo potential recruits rages on…

On Friday Reuters served up a detailed report on a new, $12 million recruiting facility opened by the Army at a Philadelphia shopping mall:

The U.S. Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills shopping mall in northeast Philadelphia has 60 personal computers loaded with military videogames, 19 Xbox 360 video game controllers and a series of interactive screens describing military bases and career options in great detail.

Potential recruits can hang out on couches and listen to rock music that fills the space.

The center is the first of its kind and opened in August as part of a two-year experiment. So far, it has signed up 33 full-time soldiers and five reservists — roughly matching the performance of five traditional recruiting centers it replaced.

However, Iraq war vet Jesse Hamilton criticized the operation:

[The Army Experience Center is] very deceiving and very far from realistic. You can’t simulate the loss when you see people getting killed. It’s not very likely you are going to get into a firefight. The only way to simulate the heat is holding a blow dryer to your face.

GP: This is a tough call. While games like Call of Duty 4 tend to glamorize combat, the Army obviously needs recruits and young men have always been its core recruitment demographic. What do you think, GP readers?

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  1. Chaplain99 says:

    Yep.  That helps me sleep better at night, knowing that the people who serve in the armed forces don’t want to be there, they just deserve to be there.

    "HEY! LISTEN!"

  2. unangbangkay says:

    This is a non-issue. These recruitment centers are nothing more than simple edutainment facilities. They use games and entertainment to draw people in, and then describe them their career options (and in great detail, according to the reuters report).

    No one would ever expect something different from any other flashy job recruitment center. Should call-center recruitment kiosks have to feature a sleepy, stressed person to tell you how brutal the graveyard shift can be?

    Joining the military is a job, and as with any job, one has to do his or her research before signing on the dotted line. This is all the more necessary with as potentially strenuous a career path as in the armed forces. One reaps what one sows, and it isn’t as if people are actively being deceived.

    Worse, many seem to be operating solely off of the notion that everyone who joins the army is either poor, stupid, or being plainly lied to, that no one in their right mind would consider military service.

    I’d like to quote a comment from a person on a Kotaku thread addressing the same issue:

    "…I don’t object to the promotional concepts. As long as ALL fields are being shown/discussed, and the "experience" does not necessarily hound the potential recruits/supporters, then it is merely an edutainment facility in my eyes. I refuse to pacify the notion that every person that walks through any military promotional event is a dullard, and I see nothing wrong about educating (READ: Not conjecting) about the opportunities that the military has to offer.

    The American potential recruit is no more a trigger-happy person than anyone else that plays videogames. And some people come into those ranks with the intent of finding different fields from the "combat arms" field. I am ever amazed that there are alot of ignorant (no offense) comments that conject what these recruit are like or what they aim to be."

  3. halfcuban says:

    I never quite understood why it was essential to prove that videogames were harmless in order to invalidate attempts at censorship; the only point one has to make is that it is more damaging to censor than what may result from letting speech go unregulated. Taking this position does not lead to one having to make logical contortions in an attempt to out-do the Jack Thompson’s of the world, or becoming a shill for whatever over the top nonsense a videogame developer decides to pull.

    Honestly no one should be surprised at the aggressive, and often duplicitous methods of recruitment that the military uses. But the better point is why are we spending money like this when we COULD be spending it on programs that may give people the opportunity to do something other than join the military, which is less the first-choice of an enlisted individual, and more like a last resort for college money and a steady pay check.

  4. MechaTama31 says:

    I love it how when somebody is criticizing violence in games in general, we are so quick to point out that kids are smarter than they’re given credit for, and they know the difference between games and reality.  But when something like this comes up, all of a sudden kids are simpletons who believe video games represent reality.  So which is it?

  5. Wolvenmoon says:

    People can only act on information they’re given, and if all sources of information glamorize army life, they’ll believe that it IS like a video game and join up.


    This is highly ridiculous and deceptive, if they need new troops that badly, they should have stuck with traditional recruiting centers and put the extra money into robotics.

  6. Anomalous says:

    If you count squirming on the ground, trying to get on your feet just to get shot in the face fighting valiantly?

    Sure, why not?

  7. Austin_Lewis says:

    Ah, another European ****.  Let’s put him in the corner and see if he can learn to play nice.

    AE: A bit strong on the name calling there.

  8. Derovius says:

     Oh, we have a new half-native internet warrior. Lets sick him on the US Military and see all the wonderous change he can wrought.

  9. Austin_Lewis says:

    No, they really don’t.  They show a glossed over version, where your weapon rarely (or never) jams, people take two or three shots to the chest and keep on kicking, your teammate manages to always throw the grenades back because the AI can’t figure out how to cook them off a bit, and ammo is plentiful, being grabbed from every corpse who had the same caliber weapon as you.  Your team is always complete, with reinforcements magically reappearing to bolster your numbers, so they too can be sent to the slaughter.  You can just lie down for a few seconds and that red mist on the periphery of your vision will disappear, and you’ll be fighting fit again.  Weapons never jam, no one ever runs out of ammo, and, even when dying, the main characters of the story manage to fight valiantly.  Yeah, bullshit.  That’s not reality, that’s not even close.

  10. MervinBunter says:

    All advertising downplays the weaknesses of its product. Why should the military be any different? The risks are documented when one signs up for military service. I don’t expect them to give potential recruits a tour of the morgue.

  11. Im_Blue says:

    It’s not about LITERALLY what they say, because of course they wouldn’t be aloud to blatently lie. But if they really did have games with COD 4 on then yeah thats a little messed up. Not because they would be "pretending" thats what war is like (although if they don’t say anything people might get that impression) but because they would be glamorizing war.

    Its the equivilant to everyone sitting around watching Chuck Norris’ Delta Force. When teenagers go to join the army they need to be FULLY aware of the dangers and atrocities of war, not be lulled into a false sense of glamour.

    So yes of course the army isn’t going to say "Come on kids join the army its just like COD4." But they can sure as hell try and make army life seem really fun and relaxed, and implicitly support media which portrays war as ‘cool’. Hence despite LITERALLY telling that to kids, they are pretty cleary trying to get something of the same affect across.

  12. Derovius says:

     They should know full well the implied meaning of their actions, politics is hardly a new game for the military. If they are as innocent as you’re trying to imply, they are blissfully ignorant. I’m not sure whats scarier, a malicious military or an ignorant one.

  13. Derovius says:

     When they are playing war games, yes. If they were playing Super Mario Brothers or Tetris you’d have some room to argue. However, letting kids play "war" and saying, "Hey guys, that game doesn’t even have half the fun of a real war, read this. Oh by the way, there is the smallest, slightest chance you might come home with no hands to play this game ever again."

  14. Derovius says:

     Its the worst kind of false advertising; not only do you get screwed out of the truth, but there is a very good probability you will end up dead because of it. Compounding this is that they are preying on the weak minded youth, glorifying their feelings of immortality and invincibility.

  15. Austin_Lewis says:

    No, it really doesn’t.  I know, a lot of people who’ve played those games think they’re ‘really showing what its like’, but they’re not.

  16. Anomalous says:

    I really gotta disagree with the "You can’t simulate the loss when you see people getting killed" part. One of the reasons that I liked CoD4 is because it shows you what it is like on the battlefield. Sure, those small fries die and you would probably keep pushing forward without looking at them the second time, but there are also times where they show battlefields as they are.

  17. Krono says:

    It kinda depends on what the costs are. If it performs equal to five regular centers, but costs the same as six regular centers, they aren’t exactly coming out ahead.


  18. Pirce says:

    Personally I don’t see it as all that big of a deal. I mean sure it might not be the most moral recruitment practise, but then again they tend not to. Using video games to get recruits is no different than the videos they used to show which glorified military service and what not.


    Eggy Weggs

  19. zel says:

    I don’t see a problem with this either personally. Like any other form of recruitment they’re just using people’s interests to get the chance to pitch them a career in the military. Not a bad thing IMO since I feel the military is an absolute necessity to the stability of the country. It’s not like in the JROTC in highschool they "simulate the loss when you see people getting killed." so why would this center be required to? besides, nothing can simulate that.

    I’ve never been in the service but my father has and i grew up on base. I’ve known many vets and spoke to them about some of the things they’ve been through. The vacant expression they get when they think about what happened to old friends, its like they aren’t even in their body at that moment, like they’ve left and went back to where it happened to relived it. There is absolutely no way you’re ever going to simulate that and IMO you shouldn’t even try. It’s an inescapable part of the military, not that everyone will experience it but you can’t seperate the possibility of it from the job.

    Moral of the story: Talk to some vets that actually experienced combat, figure out if you want to subject yourself to that possibility. You can always pick a path that shies away from combat but you always have to face the fact you might be put in a situation like that. then go to this place and play some video games! 🙂


    I am a signature virus, please copy and paste me into your signature to help me propagate.

  20. axiomatic says:

    Who cares? How is using video games that different from using TV commercials? What I think is worse is when they allow people to sign up for the military when they are DRUNK!

  21. insanejedi says:

    Guess what? The army does not tell you how it feels to lose your buddies in a second either in any other recuiting center. They want to recruit kids, not make them anti-war protesters.

    There is a lot more to being in the army than shooting and dying. But there is a lot more to the army than facing the horrors of war too.

  22. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Oy oy….the people they recruit tend to be young….sub or under 30..thus they use the things young people like to get them to come in so they can talk to them.


    Churches try and do this… to varying degrees of lulz.

    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes
    of transportation of story and thought, to take them from
    society and you create a society of children and nannys.

  23. NutMan says:

    I don’t see the problem. People act like young guys will walk in there and get tricked into joining the Army. Sorry, but if a videogame and interactive screens convince you to join the Army then chances are the only place you would end up in life was frontline infantry anyway.

  24. the1jeffy says:

    There are many, many opportunities between recruitment and overseas deployment to be fully awakened (if a persona is follish enough to believe this) to the fact that war is not a game, and a recruit is routinely given the opportunity to just wash out.  The only issue is one of degree, is this very expensive center worth the extra tax dollars when compared to a more standard version? 

    Recruitment is down.  The military has budget for this, I assume.  If you don’t like the money being spent this way, write your Senator/Representative about why they approved the military spending for this.

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

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