Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

In response to this week’s leak of a video that appears to show U.S. troops in Iraq shooting civilians, an article on Slate examines how videogames could possibly assist in preventing such tragedies from happening in the future.

WikiLeaks spokesperson Julian Assange said about the video, “The behavior of the pilots is like they’re playing a video game. It’s like they want to get high-scores in that computer game.” And indeed, the Slate piece notes the similarities between the leaked footage and missions in both Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (pictured) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Slate offers the following interpretation of Assange’s quote:

To be fair, Assange’s point is more subtle than that. He’s not saying American gunners mistakenly shoot innocent men because they grew up playing video games. He’s suggesting they do so because the killing itself feels like a game.

The author then assesses his own assessment:

But even this is too simplistic. Modern warfare is becoming more like a video game, most obviously by increasing the distance between soldiers and their targets. But at the same time, warfare video games are becoming more realistic—and not just in the blood-and-guts way. Many of them force players to follow the rules of engagement and make difficult judgment calls about when to shoot—and when not to.

After serving up a wide range of realistic games and training simulators as examples, the Slate author concludes:

While improvements in technology make video-game violence ever more realistic—and desensitizing—they also make the games more complex, and therefore more useful as tools for training soldiers.


…the best games can help soldiers anticipate real-world conditions. Video games are hardly to blame for the 2007 tragedy in Baghdad. But they could help to prevent the next one.

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