Military-related gaming charity Operation Supply Drop passed along an inspirational story this afternoon about a suicide bomb survivor who received a special post-surgery surprise from the group.
Military-related gaming charity Operation Supply Drop passed along an inspirational story this afternoon about a suicide bomb survivor who received a special post-surgery surprise from the group.
Operation Supply Drop was hoping to raise $12,000 in video game systems, gear and games for six care packages. Five of these packages will be sent to soldiers deployed in combat zones, while a sixth package will be sent to Walter Reed military hospitals. This fundraising drive, codenamed "PIXEL FIREWORKS," is already a huge success, bringing in almost double what was needed with several days left to go. For this particular initiative the charity has raised right around $24,736.
For the second year in a row, World of Tanks maker Wargaming.net will celebrate "National Military Appreciation Month" by donating revenue from select in-app purchases to three charities: AMVETS, Homes For Our Troops, and Military Families Fund. The donations will come from the sale of special bundles available to players throughout the month of May, with 10 percent of the proceeds from those sales divided up among the charities.
The Taliban apparently doesn't like England's Prince Harry. Big shock there, right? But the group accused of various attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and other activities in Pakistan says that Prince Harry has a mental illness. Prince Harry returned from a four-month deployment in Afghanistan Monday, and has been conducting a series of interviews with the British press.
Gamers Outreach passed along word that registration for the Gamers For Giving 2013 LAN event is now open at lanfest.intel.com/gamers-outreach. The event will take place on February 16th and 17th at the EMU Student Center (900 Oakwood Street) in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The event is a collaboration between Gamers Outreach, the Intel LANFest series, and the student government of Eastern Michigan University.
We like the work that the fine folks at Gamers Outreach does for the benefit of U.S. military personnel deployed overseas, so it makes sense that we share a recent TEDx EMU talk delivered by Zach Wigal entitled "Video Games - Helping Others Level Up." Zach writes about his experience delivering the presentation on his web site.
The United States Army is testing a new PC strategy game that teaches captains who are being deployed to Afghanistan how to think like local village elders do. The game is called CultureShock: Afghanistan and is being tested at the U.S. Army Engineer School via the captains’ career course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The purpose of the game, according to its creators is to teach cultural awareness and to show officers what drives the decision making process of local leaders whom U.S. forces will have to encounter and communicate with.
PR CON, a multiplayer LAN gaming event to raise funds for the charity Help for Heroes, will be held at Rivermead Leisure Complex in Reading, England September 17th and 18th. The event is being put on by the creators of the popular Battlefield 2 multiplayer modification, Project Reality. Several of the mod's members of the team have military backgrounds in the armed services, so raising much-needed funds for the Help for Heroes charity is important to them.
To celebrate the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend Gamers Outreach Foundation will host a 24-hour game-a-thon charity with the proceeds going towards entertainment products for troops deployed overseas. Gamers Outreach Foundation has teamed up with The Game Fanatics to offer a cool way for gamers to show appreciation to the military. The Game Fanatics is supporting the Gamers Outreach Foundation’s military division (Fun for Our Troops). Money raised through the fundraiser will go towards a portable gaming kiosk that will be donated to the Dallas Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Dallas, TX. Gamers can also donate games and consoles to GOF.
A Canadian researcher (and conspiracy theorist), who focuses on the “causative forces behind major changes in historical development” and believes that culture is “created and altered by those in control, always to lead the people like sheep into the next pasture,” believes that videogames, of course, are a part of this process.
Alan Watt has written a series of books on the subject and operates a website entitled Cutting Through the Matrix. In a YouTube video, Watts says about humanity, “The average person is so out of touch, so incredibly out of touch, with the only true reality there is, that it’s a different world all together. They cannot tell fact from fiction anymore.”
On entertainment in general he offers, “You cannot be entertained today and enjoy it. If you watch any of these movies… as soon as you’ve identified with these characters, you’ve lost it and you’ve been indoctrinated. They are downloading into you.”
Following last week’s story in which a United Nations investigator called for a ban on the use of CIA drone strikes on suspected Islamic militants in response to fears that such activities could lead to a “PlayStation mentality,” a reporter from the UK’s channel 4 visited an Arizona army base where members of the military are trained to use the unmanned aircraft.
At Fort Huachuca, reporter Sara Smith initially noted that, “You can teach almost anyone to use a joystick and fly these drones.” After stating that many young enlisted soldiers—as young as 18 years old—are being trained to pilot the drones, Smith talked to Staff Sergeant Brian Martin who said, “We like to use the younger generation because they’ve been playing the videogames, so they kind of have that mental capacity and their brain is already setup to think that way.”
A United Nations Investigator has called for the cessation of CIA-directed drone strikes on suspected Islamic militants, warning that such remote killings could lead to a “PlayStation” mentality.
Philip Alston, a "U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions," believes that drone attacks should only be carried out if circumstances make it impossible to capture a suspect alive and, if drone strikes do need to be used, only regular U.S. Army personnel, armed with “proper oversight and respect for the rules of war,” should control the craft, according to a Reuters report.
Alston, who will present his opinion to the U.N. Human Rights Council tomorrow, stated:
Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a 'Playstation' mentality to killing.
…another in an occasional series of reports about gamers who gave their all:
Jacob Blaylock wasn't killed during his tour in Iraq, but a pair of his close buddies were. After he rotated back home, Blaylock, like so many other combat veterans, struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a moving report, the Indianapolis Star chronicles Blaylock's troubles and eventual suicide:
Blaylock was known as a more than competent soldier in Iraq, a popular guy who smoked three packs of Marlboros a day and played the video game "Halo" to relax between the many missions logged.
After his death, family members came across a blog entry written by Blaylock:
I am well past gone. I don't care what anyone says, cause they just don't know. They don't understand, and I can't expect them to. I want to remember. I want peace. I want to be happy. All I want to do is live.
The New York Times has a much more detailed report on Blaylock's downward spiral, including gut-wrenching video footage.
GP: Why do we cover these stories? Because this generation of gamers has suffered war like none before it. We hope to honor their sacrifice.
British Private Richard Hunt made the ultimate sacrifice last week when his company was struck by an explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan.
During a well-attended ceremony back home in Monmouthshire on what would have been the fallen soldier's 22nd birthday, Private Hunt's father, Phillip, commemorated the time they spent together playing Call of Duty: World at War.
Along with flowers and other items, a copy of the game was laid at the site of the memorial service. A handwritten not attached to the game read:
Happy Birthday 'Hunty'. Play you again one day. Dad.
In May, GamePolitics provided live coverage of a protest march against the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia. The high-tech recruitment facility employs fast gaming PCs and Xbox 360s as a means of attracting potential recruits.
Seven demonstrators were arrested at the May protest.
It now appears that a second protest at the Army Experience Center is in the planning stages. Details of an action scheduled for September 12th are posted at Shut Down the Army Experience Center.
While the May protest appeared to be coordinated with local authorities, who escorted demonstrators along their line of march, the upcoming event looks to have a more chaotic flavor. From the protest website:
This time, demonstrators are being encouraged to form small affinity groups and enter the mall through one of several locations. Protesters are encouraged to express their outrage in creative, nonviolent ways.
At 2:00 pm people will come out of the woodwork and converge on the Army Experience Center. Organizers feel it may not be wise for participants to congregate into large groups before the demonstration or wear clothing that would suggest participation in the protest...
….another in an occasional series of reports about gamers who gave their all:
A U.S. Army soldier killed in Afghanistan last month was a lifelong gamer, reports the Washington Post.
Army Spec. Anthony Lightfoot, 20, of Riverdale, Georgia died along with three comrades in a roadside attack on July 20th in Wardak Province.
According to his family, Lightfoot beat Mario Bros. as a small child and hoped to become a game designer some day:
He was a video game devotee who beat a Mario Bros. game at age 4 and never looked back, his brother said. "Ever since then, you couldn't move him from the TV," his brother said. "Everything he touched he tried to master, and that was an awesome quality about him."
Lightfoot's passion for video games grew into a desire to study animation and design a game. He drew a lot as a youngster and befriended other fans of Japanese animation and video games.
"He was always happy to meet people, befriend people and help people," his brother said. "He was a giving person."
Spec. Lightfoot was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.
GP: Rest in peace, Anthony...
As GamePolitics has often noted, a large cross-section of U.S. military personnel are gamers.
A new website, StripesGAMER, hopes to cater to those gamers in uniform. The site, a partnership between Consumer Solutions Gaming, LLC and the military's famed Stars and Stripes newspaper, calls itself "the independent daily news source for the global U.S. military community."
Now, reinforcements have arrived for StripesGAMER with this morning's announcement that Scott Steinberg has been recruited as an ongoing guest columnist. Consumer Solutions Gaming CEO Terry Tognietti comments on StripesGAMER's new squad mate:
Scott’s expertise and knowledge in this realm is a major asset for StripesGAMER.com. Our goal is to be the go-to source for gamers in the armed forces who can’t access mainstream industry news and information as easily as normal consumers, or who don’t have the time to visit multiple gaming sites, so the insight and commentary he brings our audience is indisputably valuable to us and our site’s members.
At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the U.S. Army is testing robotic weapon systems, the origins of which can be traced back to the Xbox 360 and the Roomba vacuum cleaner, reports nextgov:
Spec. Ronald Wagle is a 23-year-old video gamer turned grunt... The handheld gizmo he uses to control a robot "is almost exactly the same as an Xbox  controller," he said.
Wagle uses the controller to deftly steer the robot, whose camera-equipped head gives it more than a passing resemblance to the R2-D2 robot in Star Wars, to check buildings in the village for weapons, including trip wires that could set off an improvised explosive device.
The robot, built by iRobot Corp., the same company that makes the Roomba vacuum cleaner, features cameras that can see in daylight and dark, has flexible treads that allow it to climb stairs, and radio links...
GP: Note the Xbox 360 controller carried by the soldier in the picture at left. More info on the Army's SUGV program is available on Wikipedia.
There are many gamers serving with U.S. armed forces around the globe and a new online gaming network aims to help them enjoy their down time by gaming online.
As reported by Shacknews, the Military Online Gaming program is being offered by Pro vs GI Joe, a non-profit best known for facilitating online game competitions between troops and athletes. The new network is powered by the GGL Global Gaming platform.
MOG launched over the July 4th weekend with a Call of Duty: WaW tournament between military personnel and members of the Atlanta Falcons. Pro vs GI Joe founder Greg Zinone commented:
We created the MOG exclusively for the hundreds of thousands of military gamers around the world, to serve as a virtual connection among branches and bases, during deployments, and as a source of entertainment. Our partnership with the USO allows troops to play wherever they are serving.
The Xbox 360 will be supported initially as it is apparently the gaming weapon of choice for most military gamers.
Larry Hyrb, aka Major Nelson, is currently in Baghdad.
The Director of Programming for Xbox Live tipped readers to the surprise 10-day trip in a blog post on June 7th:
I am a few hours away from stepping on a plane for the first leg of my journey to Baghdad, Iraq for the Iroq-Band competition taking place next week. I am honored to be asked to support the event, and I am looking forward to meeting many of service men and women that are Xbox LIVE members...
With all of the travel and security involved in this trip, my online time... will be extremely limited... I want to warn you that I’ll be unusually quiet (which I am sure won’t bother some of you) during my radio silence.
Major Nelson arrived in Iraq on Wednesday. Despite the heavy security of a war zone, he has been providing numerous updates via Twitter. Some of his recent tweets give the flavor of the experience:
It takes you back when the staff where we are staying have sidearms and automatic weapons.
Taking a scenic tour of downtown Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk heli.
Apparently I slept through a mortar attack last night. No one was injured.
Seems like Xbox 360 is everywhere on this base. The only thing they don't have is LIVE due to the poor connectivity.
Most popular games on the base? Rock Band, Halo, COD (any of 'em) and all sports games.
The pic at left is from the Major's ride-along with a Blackhawk sortie over Baghdad.
It is a Memorial Day tradition here at GamePolitics to pay tribute to the many gamers who serve our country as part of the armed forces.
Putting the politics of war aside, it's simply a fact that the current generation of military personnel is inextricably linked to the gamer generation.
Today we are reminded of people like Dan Rosenthal, an Iraq War veteran who edits the excellent gameslaw.net blog and Stefanie Doctor Shea, who, after her husband Sgt. Michael Shea was deployed to Iraq, founded Fun For Our Troops. The non-profit organization collects video games for use by our military personnel overseas.
But mostly we think of those soldier/gamers who gave their all.
Army Specialist Stephen Fortunato hoped to design video games one day. A roadside bomb in Iraq ended that dream. Another IED took the life of Specialist Kyle Norris. PFC Tan Quoc Ngo enjoyed GTA and Halo. Sgt. Shane Duffy loved Rock Band; Senator John Kerry spoke of Shane's intense virtual guitar work at his funeral.
Today, let's remember the sacrifices of all of our military personnel.
PICTURED AT LEFT: (clockwise) PFC Tan Quoc Ngo, Specialist Stephen Fortunato, Specialist Kyle Norris, Sgt. Shane Duffy
UPDATE: Tech Bytes reports on a Google Earth tribute to fallen soldiers.
The U.S. Navy is equipping some of its vessels with Israeli-made Mini-Typhoon 12.7mm remotely controlled machine-guns.
The 370-pound system, which can be fired by an operator in a remote location, holds 230 rounds, sufficient for 25 seconds of rat-tat-tat. Strategy Page notes that the weapon is an effective defense against small boats such as those used by suicide bombers.
So, who might the Navy turn to for Mini-Typhoon duty? Gamers, reports Strategy Page:
The Mini-Typhoon uses a day/night vidcam and a stabilizer. The remote operator has an automatic target tracker, and can easily hit small boats two kilometers away... Operators with video game experience can be quickly trained to operate the weapon.
Just announced on Monday, Konami's upcoming Iraq War game Six Days in Fallujah is already into its third day of controversy.
Yesterday, GamePolitics reported on concerns expressed by several critics in the U.K., including a decorated former army colonel and the father of a Royal Marine who was killed in Iraq.
Today's interview with Dan Rosenthal is a little closer to home. Actually, make that a lot closer to home.
Dan (left) is a veteran of the Iraq War. He's a longtime gamer. He's also a law student and edits the excellent gameslaw.net blog, which we cite with regularity here on GamePolitics. I first met Dan at PAX 08. He attended GDC last month on on IGDA scholarship. So when he speaks from the heart about his war experience and his feelings about Six Days in Fallujah, I listen. As it happened, yesterday Dan and I interacted on Twitter about Konami's controversial game. Afterward, Dan was gracious enough to consent to this interview:
GP: Dan, when were you in Iraq? What unit did you serve with?
DR: I served in the U.S. Army, 3rd Battalion 124th Infantry Regiment... Our unit was based out of Florida with the Florida National Guard, but during our time in Iraq we were attached to several units... I arrived in Kuwait in February 2003, participated in the invasion of Iraq in March, and left around a year later.
GP: Where were you stationed for the bulk of your Iraq tour?
DR: During the invasion, we drove upwards through southern Iraq, helped secure the area around Nasiriyah, then moved northward and conducted operations out of Baghdad for the remainder of the time... If you've ever seen the movie Gunner Palace, that base was a few hundred meters away from our compound, a former Republican Guard general officer's quarters.
GP: Did you see any combat?
The Orlando Sentinel reports that several members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will celebrate Veterans Day by gaming with U.S. troops stationed overseas.
Pro vs. G.I. Joe, the nonprofit group which arranged the event, reports that Madden 09 and the brand-new Call of Duty: World at War will be the weapons of choice. Tamps Bay CB Phillip Buchanon, LB Cato June, TE Alex Smith and CB Aqib Talib will take on service personnel in Germany, Japan, Kuwait and a secret Middle-east location to be revealed during the match.
UPDATE: Activision deserves some kudos here as well. In a press release the publisher points out that it supplied CoD:WaW for today's event and will continue to do so for future Pro vs. G.I. Joe matchups.
As we look forward to Veteran's Day tomorrow, we're reminded that serving with the military in Iraq or Afghanistan must be very difficult, indeed. Our troops face constant danger and are far removed from their families and the things they enjoyed at home.
But a Philadelphia-area woman, Stefanie Doctor Shea, works hard to bring at least one of the comforts of home to the front lines: video games.
As GamePolitics first reported on Veteran's Day, 2007, Stefanie takes a very personal interest in how our military personnel are faring overseas. That's because her husband, Sgt. Michael Shea, spent the last year with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq before returning home recently (Stefanie and Michael are pictured at left).
But while Stefanie's hubby may be back, the nonprofit organization she founded, Fun For Our Troops, is still engaged in its mission. A just-issued press release offers Stefanie's thoughts:
In our first year we were able to provide gaming relief to over 200 deployed troops and several Morale, Wellness, and Recreation (MWR) stations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We hope to continue the momentum this Veteran’s Day and in 2009.
SPC Joseph Burris adds:
As a soldier, I just wanted to say thanks for Fun for Our Troops. Words cannot describe the feelings I get when I see people like you selflessly donate time, money, and energy just to make our lives a little better. Something as simple as a videogame can mean a lot to a soldier who has nothing more to look forward to than another dusty day on convoy.
The Sheas are gamers themselves. While waiting for Michael to be deployed last fall, the couple spent a good deal of time playing the Wii. Stefanie attended PAX for the first time in August of this year.
Fun for our Troops is seeking tax-deductible donations of new or gently used game systems, video games, PC games or MP3 players as well as gift cards for distributors of games and gaming systems. The organization can also make use of monetary donations which are used primarily toward shipping costs and purchasing used gaming systems.
Donations can be sent to:
Fun for our Troops, Inc.
506 Corporate Drive West
Langhorne, PA 19047
...or via PayPal.
A U.S. Marine serving in Iraq bested a member of the Green Bay Packers in an online game of Madden on Friday.
According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Cpl. Tim Headricks, a Green Bay native, beat Packers lineman Mark Tauscher in a close game. Headricks controlled the Packers, while Taushcer too the reigns of the Indianapolis Colts.
The competition was arranged by a nonprofit group called Pro vs. Joe, which arranges matches between professional athletes and military personnel serving overseas.
Two other Packer linemen, Mike Montgomery and Tony Moll, played Halo 3 against Staff Sgt. James Wagner, who is stationed in Guantanamo Bay. The Marine lost:
I got slaughtered. I thought my video game skills were better, but we made it credible. The kids took care of business. Those Packers players must have a lot of time on their hands.
Here's a bit more on the Pro vs. Joe program, including news that three Philadelphia Eagles participated in Madden games with military personnel last month.
Another in an all-too-frequent series honoring gamers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country...
A dedicated soldier who wanted more than a virtual war experience has been killed in Afghanistan.
As reported by the Boston Globe, Army Specialist Stephen Fortunato was killed on Tuesday when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. From the newspaper report:
According to his family, Fortunato's decision to enlist into a war-time Army was driven by a powerful feeling of patriotism; a desire to experience war personally, not only through a video game; and the opportunity to use the GI Bill to pay for college.
"He wanted to change the world," his father, Richard, said in a phone interview from his Florida home yesterday. "How he was going to do it single-handedly, I don't know. But he wanted to change the world."
The Boston Herald reports that Fortunato planned to return to school, possibly for training in video game design.
Occasionally here at GamePolitics we pay honor to the sacrifices made by gamers serving in the military.
Along that line, we note an unusual human interest story posted on The Mad Blog, which is penned by Mad magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond.
Richmond writes about visiting a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany with a group of fellow cartoonists. There they came upon a soldier who had been badly injured while gaming during his free time:
Eventually we made it up to the ICU, where we saw a few seriously wounded soldiers. The first young man we saw told us a story of how he had been serving in Afghanistan and was in his tent taking a little R&R playing a video game when a projectile explosive hit. He was missing a part of one leg and the other was damaged.
Chip did a hilarious drawing of him playing his video game which was exploding and he was thinking “Man, this video game is so realistic!” That sounds a little insensitive but the fact is these guys like to talk about their injuries, how they happened and what was going on. He got a big laugh out of that. He was hurt but was going to be okay. He was in a lot of pain but I think we brought some laughs to him.
Another in an irregular - but all too frequent - series:
This morning comes word that 20-year-old Army PFC Tan Quoc Ngo was killed in an August 27th ambush in Afghanistan.
As reported by a lengthy obituary on Oregon Live, Ngo's parents were refugees from Vietnam. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski was among those who attended the young man's funeral on Friday. From the news coverage:
He liked nothing better than playing pickup basketball or football, or playing cards with friends in his Beaverton neighborhood... He also liked video games, including Grand Theft Auto and Halo...
GP: Why do we do this? The gamer generation is much maligned these days. With so many gamers currently serving in U.S. military forces around the world, GamePolitics makes it a point to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Thanks to: Reader Kojiro for the link.