IED Disposal Training Using Video Games

March 18, 2011 -

American military research and manufacturing company Picatinny Arsenal, has created the Robotic Vehicle Trainer, a "realistic" video game that can be used to train soldiers to operate bomb disposal robots. Picatinny Arsenal has received a patent for "a process to safely train soldiers how to operate a variety of robots used in Iraq and Afghanistan to detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs."

The company created Robotic Vehicle Trainer to give soldiers a realistic simulation of IED removal in a combat environments. The game uses the same controls used for the real-world robots used in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).

Robotic Vehicle Trainer was created by Bernard Reger, chief of the Combat Support & Munitions Systems Branch under the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Centre (ARDEC).

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Former Apple Global Supply Manager Pleads Not Guilty in Kickback Case

August 17, 2010 -

Former Apple global supply manager Paul Shin Devine plead not guilty Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California. A bail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. Devine was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on 23 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and accepting kickbacks, according to court documents obtained by C|Net.

Devine also faces the wrath of Steve Jobs; Apple has filed a civil suit against him for allegedly accepting more than $1 million in bribes from suppliers over the past few years in return for inside information that was then used to give those companies a better position in bargaining lucrative contracts.

Six Asian companies were named in the indictment including Kaedar Electronics - a division of Asus owned Pegatron (Taiwan), Singapore-based JLJ Holdings's Jin Li Mold Manufacturing, Singapore-based Glocom/Lateral Solutions and Fastening Technologies, Taiwanese company Nishoku Technology and earphone and headset maker Cresyn.

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Theorist: Games Part of Plan to Turn People into Blind Followers

June 29, 2010 -

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.”

Philly Army Experience Center to Close

June 10, 2010 -

A high-tech, videogame-laden Army recruiting center in Philadelphia that was often the center of controversy and protests is shutting down at the end of July.

The Army Experience Center cost approximately $12 million to build and was launched in August of 2008. The 14,500 square foot facility, located in the Franklin Mills Mall, was consistently targeted with protests led by a coalition of national peace groups that operated the website Shutdown the Army Experience Center.  The activists felt that the Army Experience Center glorified killing and depicted war as a game with its realistic simulators.

The protest group claimed victory, stating that the Army center was closed at least partly due to its efforts, noting that it had another planned protest in the works for Saturday, June 19.

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U.S. Military Eying Larger Role for Games in Troop Training

March 15, 2010 -

The U.S. Military, already a big practitioner of videogame-based training for its members, plans to spend even more on the technology in the future.

In a bid to cut battlefield casualties the Pentagon has approved an “unspecified” amount of funding towards research on how to further take advantage of the latest videogame technology reports AFP.

General James Mattis, Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, said the initiative would put soldiers through, “as many tactical and ethical challenges as we can before they go into their first firefight.”

He continued, “…I'm convinced, both ethically and casualties-wise, we can reduce the missteps that we are taking on the battlefield, and reduce them significantly.”

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PBS Prepping All Encompassing Look at Digital Life

January 20, 2010 -

The Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) investigative show Frontline will air a deep look into how digital media and the Internet have transformed human lives and the subject of videogames is featured heavily in the program.

Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier will debut on February 2 at 9:00 ET. The 90 minute show was produced by Rachel Dretzin, who also created the recent Frontline special Growing Up Online, and will feature commentary from Douglas Rushkoff. Segments include Living Faster, Relationships, Waging War, Virtual Worlds and Learning.

Many individual videos are already available for viewing on the PBS website and a trailer for the show offers a quick overview of what it’s all about.

The Waging War section features game-related topics such as the military’s use of virtual reality training, as well as looks at both America’s Army and the Army Experience Center.

Virtual Worlds contains a cornucopia of videogame segments, including the use of virtual reality therapy for veterans, gaming addiction, professional gamers, violent games, Second Life and about 20 more pieces.

Another cool aspect to the program is that the Digital Nation website launched about a year ago ago in a bid to let users collaborate with the project by sharing their own experiences.

CSM: America’s Army Distorts Impressions of War

January 5, 2010 -

While the effectiveness of America’s Army as a recruiting tool is well documented, in light of the U.S. military meeting all of its recruiting goals for the first time in nearly 40 years, a Christian Science Monitor piece explores the consequences of recruitment devices which “ignore the psychological realities of war.”

America’s Army, the Army Experience Center and a relatively new graphic novel put out by the Navy to foster recruiting efforts among high school students, are promotions—which combined with a down economy and lack of jobs— have made joining the armed forces an answer for more and more young people:

The current recruiting tactics aimed at America’s youth are especially concerning. Not only do the very tactics that have been boosting recruitment sanitize war and create false expectations, they prey upon the vulnerable imaginations of children.

The article claims that the suicide rate among soldiers reached a post-Vietnam War high for the fifth year running.

The author concludes:

To be sure, Vets from World War II and Vietnam had shell shock and PTSD without video game recruitment, but targeting teens with video games and graphic novels that ignore the psychological realities of war is not the way to solve the recruitment problem at a time when the psychological health of those who are sent to Afghanistan and Iraq should be a top priority.

GP: More damning than America’ recruitment tools themselves may be a bit in the article where it’s noted that the Army is short some 300 substance abuse counselors and 800 behavioral specialists. Perhaps taxpayers can fund a new game aimed at attracting those types of personnel to the military.

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Price Tag of America’$ Army Revealed

December 9, 2009 -

America’s Army, the free-to-play PC game called an extremely effective recruiting tool, has cost taxpayers $32.8 million to-date.

GameSpot filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out the game’s budget, and was rewarded with a year-by-year breakdown of costs. The game was initially planned as a five-year long project with a total operating budget of $7.0 million.

Costs for America's Army over the years:

  • 2000 - $3,500,000
  • 2001 - $5,600,000
  • 2002 - $1,862,985
  • 2003 - $2,600,000
  • 2004 - $3,866,482
  • 2005 - $1,288,552
  • 2006 - $4,050,748
  • 2007 - $2,788,137
  • 2008 - $3,887,450
  • 2009 - $3,395,702

Additional, unspecified information (perhaps on future plans for the series or hard numbers on actual recruitment increasing/decreasing as a result of the game) requested by GameSpot was denied, with the Army writing “disclosure of this information is likely to cause substantial harm to the Department of the Army's competitive position in the gaming industry.”

The game was launched on July 4, 2002.

8 comments

America’s Army Extremely Effective Recruitment Tool

November 17, 2009 -

America’s Army has proven a boon to U.S. Armed Forces recruiting, but opinions are still split as to whether or not gamers have any advantages in the arena of war, according to an article in today’s Washington Examiner.

In testimony to Congress regarding the success of converting virtual soldiers to real ones, the Army called the America’s Army game more effective than “any other method of contact.”  This statement correlates with a study done in 2008 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which found that “30 percent of all Americans age 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the Army because of the game and, even more amazingly, the game had more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”

The story quotes an Air Force Colonel, Commander of a Predator drone squadron, as stating that the younger, videogame generation were naturals at piloting the remote-controlled aircraft; however he thought that the same group suffered when attempting to consider the consequences of their actions:

The video game generation is worse at distorting the reality of it [war] from the virtual nature. They don't have that sense of what really going on. It [videogames] teaches you how to compartmentalize it.

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Organizers Expecting Arrests at Army Experience Center Protest

August 25, 2009 -

Organizers of a September 12th protest planned for a video game-filled Army recruiting facility in Philadelphia are apparently expecting some of their group to be arrested.

A message posted yesterday at SHUT DOWN THE ARMY EXPERIENCE CENTER details the somewhat stealthy tactics planned for the demonstration and contains the following:

We’re expecting national television and print coverage this time around, so we want to make sure our presence is formidable...

Meanwhile, folks willing to risk arrest are being asked to begin showing up at the Army Experience Center as early as noon to sample one of the X Box video murder games or one of the killing simulators. It would be excellent to have folks on the inside throughout the day. 

As GamePolitics previously reported, seven protesters were arrested by police during a demonstration at the Army Experience Center on May 2nd.

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Surveying the Use of Video Games as Propaganda

August 24, 2009 -

Bruce on Games takes a look at the video game as propaganda.

While blogger Bruce Everiss concludes that games have generally been ignored for propaganda purposes, he argues this is because government officials are basically old school types:

The reason we have been left alone is quite obvious. Games are just another media, albeit a technically superior media. But the people with all the power, the politicians and journalists, don’t realise this because mostly they just don’t understand video games at all. We see this in the way they blame video games for violence in society when the opposite is true. And now that ignorance is protecting video game players from propaganda.

GP: we're not so sure we agree, given that a new issue-oriented Flash game pops up about once a week on the web.

At any rate, Bruce has identified a list of propaganda games. Among others they include several PC mods produced by Islamic extremists, the Religious Right's Left Behind, and the Defense Department's controversial America's Army, of which Bruce is clearly not a fan:

America’s Army is the big one. A series of games designed to foster the American Army view of the world on an unsuspecting public and also to work as a recruitment tool. This has been a remarkable success at promoting gung ho American militarism.

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America's Army Game Used to Create Machinima About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

August 10, 2009 -

Machinima artist Paolo Pedercini turns the tables on the U.S. Defense Department's controversial America's Army recruiting game in Welcome to the desert of the real.

The 6:37 video uses footage from America's Army to highlight symptions of post-traumatic stress disorder, an increasingly prevalent condition among U.S. service personnel returning from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you're expecting action, however, this is not the machinima for you. Pedercini's work is low-key, almost ponderous. The artist seems to want to capture the feeling of detachment that is typical of those suffering from PTSD.

Via: Betterverse

For a list of PTSD symptoms, click here.

3 comments

6 Days in Call of Duty 4 Machinima Offers Anti-War Message

August 6, 2009 -

When we last heard from Joseph DeLappe, the artist/professor was was participating in online matches of the Defense Department's own America's Army game as a means of protesting the war in Iraq.

Now DeLappe and machinima artist J. Joshua Diltz have collaborated on 6 Days in Call of Duty 4. The anti-war video project combines a static view of CoD4 multiplayer action with a mobile cam. The kill count scrolls in a separate window. Diltz describes the project, which incorporates the recent Six Days in Fallujah controversy in its title:

"6 Days" is an experimental documentary that examines the consequences of a military conflict that rages over a period of six consecutive days in a virtual game world.  Through the lens of both a static and roaming ground camera, the movie captures both  visceral action and a sobering body count.

Based in the game "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare", the film pays homage to the lives, both military and civilian lost during the Second War of Fallujah.

Download a copy here...

Partially via: Kotaku

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Another Protest Planned for Army's Video Game Recruitment Center

August 5, 2009 -

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... 

33 comments

More Lists of Patriotic Video Games

July 3, 2009 -

Here are a few more lists of allegedly patriotic games for your July 4th weekend perusal. Some choices seem spot-on, others a bit of a stretch.

1up (2008): Top 5 Insanely Patriotic Video Games

  • Fugitive Hunter
  • The Sims 2: IKEA Expansion
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
  • Operation Secret Storm
  • Metal Wolf Chaos

RipTen (2008): Top Five Patriotic Games of All Time

  • Independence Day
  • America's Army
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Oregon Trail
  • Bad Dudes

GamesRadar (2008): 20 Most Rabidly Patriotic Video Games

  • America's Army
  • 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
  • Patriotic Pinball
  • Frontlines: Fuel of War
  • Christian Founders 3D Computer Game
  • 18 Wheels of Steel: American Long Haul
  • America: The Game
  • Freedom Fighters
  • Desert Strike/Jungle Strike/Urban Strike
  • Metal Wolf Chaos
  • Tycoon games
  • Terrorist Takedown
  • GRAW 2
  • Political Machine 2008
  • Oregon Trail
  • NARC
  • American Gladiators
  • Fugitive Hunter
  • Halo
  • FDNY: American Hero - Fire Fighter

GP: If we spot new lists, we'll update.

34 comments

In Congress, Rep. Kucinich Argues Against Army's Video Game-Fueled Recruiting Road Show

June 25, 2009 -

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is no fan of the controversial Virtual Army Experience, a traveling, high-tech, video game-driven military recruiting program.

As GamePolitics reported in March, Kucinich urged the House Armed Services committee to eliminate funding for the project, charging that it "give[s] participants as young as 13 years old a naïve and unrealistic glimpse into the world of soldiering..."

In addition, Kucinich has taken the debate over the VAE to the floor of Congress. A C-SPAN video posted yesterday on YouTube shows the former presidential hopeful once again expressing concern over the recruiting program. Engaging in a colloquy with House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO). Kucinich said:

Children as young as 13-years-old are participating in the Virtual Army Experience, which paints an innaccurate picture of war by glorifying it while sanitizing the real effects. More than a mere video game, it includes interactions with real veterans, who appear to be in perfect health. It also requires that the user, regardless of age, share personal information as a condition of participation...

 

I think we can agree that the Virtual Army Experience video game must be revalidated to ensure that its age-appropriate rating is accurate in the context of how it's being employed; that the Virtual Army Experience content should be reviewed to ensure it accurately reflects the consequences of war; and that there must be increased transparency with regard to how the personal information of the participants, collected during participation, will be used by the Army.

Skelton's response is of interest in that he didn't exactly disagree with Kucinich:

I support the VAE. At the same time, I know it can be improved. And I would be happy, of course, to work with this gentleman to address the issues that you have so aptly raised.

GP: At this point we're not entirely sure when Kucinich made the remarks in the House; given that they just hit YouTube, we assume that they are recent. Any GamePolitics reader input on the timing of Kucinich's comments will be gratefully accepted.

Thanks to: GP correspondent Andrew Eisen...

America's Army Launches New Version, Sacks Developers, Moves HQ

June 20, 2009 -

The launch of America's Army 3.0 this week didn't go smoothly thanks to problems with the game's authentication servers. Laying off the entire development team probably didn't help the situation.

As Shacknews reports, the Emeryville, California-based studio was closed with future work on the series transferred to Alabama's Redstone Arsenal.

A post on the official AA message board (since removed) by an anonymous team member was captured by VE3D and shows the apparent level of frustation felt by developers.

Imagine trying to build a game with an impossible deadline, steadily declining workforce (via firings), A hiring freeze, constantly being fed misinformation, having the "higher ups" completely ignore your weekly plea for either A) more time, or B) more manpower, working a ton of unpaid overtime, pouring your heart and soul into a misadventure only to have the uniformed community scoff at you for uncontrollable variables...

 

In fact, the bureaucracy is so convoluted that you can't even begin to imagine the breadth and scope of B.S. the devs had to deal with daily... imagine being the subcontractor of a subcontractor of a contractor to the government...

 

I'm not sure why i've felt compelled to write this when I'm sure it will get deleted, or even scoffed at further, but I hoped to let the fans know that we tried as hard as we could and are very bummed to see the fruits of our labor shoved at gamers like a heaping pile of crap.

GP: Interestingly, there is a launch event for America's Army 3.0 today at the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, which was the site of a large-scale protest against the game in May.

Partially Via: Blue's News

28 comments

Steam to Carry New Version of America's Army

June 10, 2009 -

America's Army, the only video game in recent memory to generate a full-blown protest march, is getting an upgrade to v3.0; the new version will be carried by Valve's Steam service.

A press release issued by America's Army's P.R. consultant this morning announced that AA3 will be available as a free Steam download beginning on June 17th. In addition to Steam, fans can download the new version from other locations listed on the AA3 site.

Of the game's availability on Steam, Marsha Berry, senior executive producer for America's Army said:

We are very excited to work with Valve to distribute AA3 on Steam as it gives us access to great distribution technology as well as a tremendous user base. Additionally, we have incorporated Steamworks features such as Achievements and Steam Cloud to create a richer experience for Steam users.

 

Our relationship with Steam will broaden our reach to a new community and it offers our current players a great new way to get the America's Army game and keep it updated. Players will also be able to download AA3 using the America's Army Deploy Client from the Deploy network of providers listed on the America's Army download site.

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America's Army Gets a Graphic Novel

June 5, 2009 -

America's Army, the first-person shooter freely distributed as a recruiting tool, has been supplemented with a graphic novel.

Written by M. Zachary Sherman and inked by Michael Penick and J. Brown, the work spins the tale of the Army's struggle to save innocents in the fictional Democratic Republic of the Ostregals.

The expansion from games to comic books is likely to rile critics who object to the Army's incursion into pop culture for recruitment purposes.

Via: Blue's News

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Army Building Virtual Support Group For Amputee Soldiers

May 28, 2009 -

The United States Army plans to develop an online virtual support group for soldiers who have lost limbs in combat, reports Virtual World News. The families of the soldiers would also be able to participate in the group.

The idea is still quite preliminary and there is no information available as to what form the virtual support group might eventually take. One could easily imagine, however, an avatar-based system along the lines of Second Life or PlayStation Home.

At this point, the Army is still soliciting proposals for the project on the Federal Business Opportunities website. From the RFP:

Studies have shown that a patients major concern is that of dying alone, either literally or figuratively. The second major concern is that of having unmanaged pain.... quality of life has been much improved by the use of simple support groups...

 

We therefore believe that giving patients and their families access to a virtual support group environment will enable them to have access to a critical resource which they may not be able to be part of in the physical world...

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Philly Columnist Defends Army's Video Game Recruitment Center

May 25, 2009 -

The Army's use of video games to promote recruitment has been a source of controversy in recent times. Most recently, GamePolitics reported on a large-scale protest march at the Army Experience Center, located at a Philadelphia mall.

Taking the opposing view ot that of the protesters, attorney Christine Flowers defends the AEC in a Memorial Day weekend column for the Philadelphia Daily News:

A few [military] vets have been on the front lines in targeting the Army Experience Center... AEC incorporates high-tech virtual experiences, more traditional media and one-on-one interaction to reach young men and women who might be considering a life in the service...

According to Maj. Larry Dillard, the center's program manager, the fundamental purpose is to give young people a more realistic and authentic idea of what it means to be a soldier in the 21st century. "The virtual experience allows for transparency, and is more effective in communicating our message than still photos or written materials."...

WHAT'S SO insidious?...

It is only because of [our military personnel's] sacrifices that the protesters have the right to raise their voices. It is only because of their willingness to believe in something greater than themselves, a collective sense of duty and obligation, that we have a country where dissent is privileged.

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Protester Writes About Her Arrest at Army Video Game Recruiting Center

May 7, 2009 -

Last weekend GamePolitics served up live Twitter coverage as anti-war protesters marched on the Army Experience Center.

The high-tech recruiting facility in Philadelphia uses PC and Xbox 360 games to attract potential recruits.

As we reported, seven protesters were peacefully arrested when they refused an order by police to leave. One of those arrested, Elaine Brower, the mother of a U.S. Marine, writes about the experience for Op Ed News:

I myself, was part of a group of protesters who donned death masks and the names of fallen soldiers and stood directly in front of the AEC, which was at that point surrounded by police...

It seemed to me that the recruiters were becoming a bit unnerved, and the police were becoming extremely impatient... since the AEC is open to the “public” many demanded to go inside, but weren’t allowed...

After only one warning, the police decided to aggressively arrest seven of the protesters who were wearing death masks, peacefully standing in front of the AEC and not blocking the entrance.  Taken to a distant precinct, the civil affairs Captain vowed vengeance by trying to charge the seven with a “misdemeanor in the third degree.”  After 6 hours in the most deplorable conditions, they were released to return to court in June...

What is happening right under our noses is a transformation of the way in which the military plans on re-wiring the brains of kids at a very young and impressionable age to turn them into silent killers.  By allowing anyone from the age of 13 to 18 to handle a machine gun, or use games that promote violence, it creates a generation that is wired to kill and think that killing is something that is easy and sanctioned. 

GP: My observation was that the police gave at least two warnings; this can be seen on the video footage I took at the protest. In any case, it seemed like the masked protesters planned to be locked up in order to make their point.

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Protesters Arrested at Army's Video Game Recruitment Center

May 3, 2009 -

This video shows anti-war protesters yesterday as they marched with police escort to the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia where they delivered a symbolic "criminal complaint" to U.S. Army recruiters and the mall's management company.

The demonstrators were protesting the Army's use of a high-tech, video game-equipped recruitment center located in the mall.

There was a significant police presence as the protesters arrived. They were permitted to enter the mall and stage their rally at the entrance to the Army Experience Center.

As the rally ended, seven protesters, mostly in white masks, were arrested, presumably for refusing to disperse. The arrests were peaceful and appeared to be scripted by the protesters as a symbolic gesture.

UPDATE: A press release on yesterday's protest has been issued by its organizers.

UPDATE 2: The local Fox outlet has a video report.

93 comments

Covering a Video Game Protest March via Twitter

May 3, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics utilized Twitter to provide live coverage as anti-war demonstrators staged a rally and march against the U.S. Army Experience Center in Philadelphia. The experimental recruiting facility located at Franklin Mills Mall uses an elaborate video game setup equipped with high-end gaming PCs and Xbox 360s to attract potential recruits.

For those who didn't catch yesterday's Twitter feed, I've pasted it below as it offers a detailed chronological picture of how the protest evolved; ultimately it would end with the peaceful arrest of seven protesters by police (see pic at left).

Here's the Twitter feed, including my answers to some questions by readers at the end. My tweets are in blue:

# LIVE Twitter coverage of protest march against US Army video game recruitment center in Phillly today. Please RT: http://tinyurl.com/cy9olkabout

# Heading down to Philly now to cover protest march against Army video game recruitment center

# Scattered showers here in philly, but I don't think it will interrupt the protest march targeting the US Army video game recruiting ctr

# Rain has stopped and sun is out. Weather will not interfere with today's protest march against US Army video game recruiting center in phila

# Protest starting soon. My crowd estimate is maybe 100, so somewhat less than what protest organizers were hoping for. There is at least [one counter protester here] (this message was truncated by Twitter)

# Looks like a peaceful crowd as u might expect for antiwar protesters. Generally older, average age 40+

# Philadelphia PD is on hand, both uniformed and plainclothes. They are low profile, seem to be coordinating w protest leaders
(click "read more" below for the rest of the report)

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TODAY: Follow GP's Live Coverage of Protest March Against Army Video Game Recruitment Center

May 2, 2009 -

Anti-war activists will stage a rally today in Philadelphia to protest the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall - and GamePolitics will be on hand to provide live coverage.

The $12 million experimental recruitment facility, equipped with PCs, Xbox 360s and violent games, is the first of its kind. While the Army hopes that the AEC's video games, sofas and rock music will attract potential recruits, anti-war groups charge that the Army is using video games to militarize youth.

Today's protest is scheduled to begin with a 1:00 P.M. rally at a nearby church. Speakers will include veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Celeste Zappala of Gold Star Families for Peace and a former State Department official, Col. Anne Wright.

After the speeches, organizers say that several hundred bullhorn-equipped and sign-carrying protesters will march from the church to the mall, which is about a mile away. Along the way the protesters will unfurl a 12-foot banner reading:

War is Not a Game, Shut Down the Army Experience Center

Upon arrival at the mall, the protesters will attempt to serve a "criminal complaint" on the Army Experience Center and the company which owns the mall. It is likely, however, that they will be denied access.

The protesters have apparently revised their original, potentially chaotic plan which, as GamePolitics reported in March, called for them to pose as mall shoppers and then descend upon the AEC.

GamePolitics will have full coverage of this unprecedented video game protest. I will provide a live Twitter feed as the event unfolds. I will also be taking plenty of photos and video and will post a recap after the event.

To keep up with my live Twitter feed, follow GamePolitics.

UPDATE: Pic at left shows the protesters arrving at the mall.

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British Army Attacks Recruitment Issue With Online Game

April 7, 2009 -

While the U.S. Army has enjoyed success with game-based recruiting for the better part of a decade, the British Army is launching its first probe into the game arena.

As reported by GameSpot:

A campaign entitled "Start Thinking Solider" will include an online game where players have to escape enemy tunnels from a first-person perspective, find the parts to make a bomb in an enemy stronghold, and answer multiple-choice questions.

Research conducted for the British Army recently found that 68 percent of 17-21 year olds had no career path in mind. The campaign, consisting of four television commercials, will be targeted at that group...

While the America's Army series has helped promote military careers to American youth, the use of video games for recruitment has become an increasingly controversial subject in recent times. Among other charges, some critics have claimed that the America's Army games violate United Nations protocols against recruiting children for military service.

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Large Scale Protest Planned for Army Video Game Center in Philadelphia

March 23, 2009 -

An experimental, high tech Army recruitment center in Philadelphia has been targeted for protest by an anti-war activist group.

According to a post on the website of After Downing Street, the protest is being planned for the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall on the afternoon of Saturday, May 2nd at 2:00 P.M. The group also quite openly details how the protest will be staged:

Please join us... show up early at the mall and spend some time shopping... Shopping bags are an excellent decoy. (The cops will suspect everyone with a shopping bag!) At 2:00 pm people will come out of the woodwork and converge on the Army Experience Center... We think it's possible for hundreds of us to arrive at the mall without being detected. And it is a free country, sort of...

We can enter the Army Experience Center and cause a great big fuss at 2:00 pm until we're asked to leave and then we can take our time to get out. We'll go to peacefully and artistically express our indignation at this abomination. Some are planning on singing. Some will unfurl banners, some will chant and some will cry. There's talk of a die-in. We are people of peace. We're nonviolent. The Army is Shock and Awe, Abu Ghraib, recruiting lies, a thousand rapes, and cool video games.

Immediately after the action, we have a location picked out for a demonstration on public property -- on the street -- right outside of Franklin Mills Mall where we have the "right" to peacefully assemble.

We demand the Army close up shop at Franklin Mills Mall and we're determined to block the expansion of this monstrosity in malls across the nation...

After Downing Street describes itself as "a nonpartisan coalition of over 200 veterans groups, peace groups, and political activist groups that has worked since May 2005 to pressure both Congress and the media to investigate whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war."

The Army's use of interactive games and exhibits for recruitment purposes has spurred a variety of protests in recent times. The practice has come in for some negative political attention, as well. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) recently urged the elimination of funding for the Virtual Army Experience, a traveling recruitment exhibit which the military takes to county fairs and other large-scale public events.

GP: As the protest location is fairly local to GamePolitics HQ, we hope to provide live coverage.

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Game Journo Objects to Army's Presence at Best Buy RE5 Launch Event

March 21, 2009 -

As GamePolitics has reported, the U.S. Army has taken a fair amount of heat in recent times over its use of video games and game-related events for recruitment.

Over at ripten, Chad Lakkis notes with a disapproving eye the Army's presence at a Best Buy midnight launch event for the recently-released Resident Evil 5:

I couldn’t help but notice the “GO ARMY” recruitment tent mixed into the Best Buy Resident Evil 5 launch party video... I don’t mind the idea of recruiters but what I do mind is the methods by which they often recruit.

This isn’t the first time the U.S. Army has been accused of blurring the lines between gaming and recruiting. Promoting an official U.S. Army videogame and lacing their official army game website to contain soldier bios designed to look like videogame stat cards is youth marketing at its finest. Look at all the stats you can wrack up kids - assuming you don’t die first.

56 comments

In Congress, Dennis Kucinich Urges Elimination of Funding for Army Recruitment Game

March 12, 2009 -

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has requested that Congressional leaders remove funding for the Defense Department's Virtual Army Experience, according to a report on the raw story.

The VAE is a recruiting and public relations exhibit which the Army deploys at large public events around the United States. It has generated protests at a number of venues.

In a letter to the House Armed Service Committee, Kucinich writes:

I urge you to eliminate budget authority for the Virtual Army Experience (VAE) in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The VAE is a state-of-the-art, interactive recruiting tool used by the Army to give participants as young as 13 years old a naïve and unrealistic glimpse into the world of Soldiering...

 

The VAE shields participants from the realities of killing while glorifying the taking of human life in a thinly veiled attempt to recruit new soldiers. Making matters worse, if a child wants to take part in the simulation, the Army collects his or her contact information, as well as an assessment of the child’s performance in the simulator.

The VAE travels around the country to family oriented venues such as amusement parks, air shows and county fairs. When the VAE came to the Cleveland Air Show in 2008, I raised concerns and objections with the Army. Allowing children as young as thirteen years of age to participate in a simulation endorsed by the United States Government that glorifies and sanitizes extreme violence is unacceptable.

Kucinich conducted an unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

GP: For clarity's sake, Kucinich is targeting the traveling VAE, not the PC-based, freely-distributed America's Army computer game.

10 comments

Incoming: America's Army 3.0

January 21, 2009 -

America's Army, the increasingly controversial computer game/military recruitment tool, is getting a makeover.

A press release issued yesterday by the Army announced that America's Army 3 will be launched later this year. Executive producer Michael Bode commented on the upcoming revision:

In AA3 we've taken all of the best features in AA2, incorporated feedback from the AA community and added the latest technology to develop a high-tech game that can be customized by the player to create a much more detailed interactive experience.

 

One of our key design philosophies is to make the game easily accessible to a new player, while at the same time keeping a deeper layer of complexity for the more advanced players to discover and take advantage of.

Col. Casey Wardynski, who created the original America's Army in 2002 and continues to serve as director of the project, added:

With AA3, we're taking military gaming to an all new level where every detail counts. We want our America's Army 3 players to have a greater understanding of the Army and its values. Our Soldiers are aspirational figures and our players are able to virtually experience many aspects of a Soldier's life from their training, to their missions, to the way the Army has influenced their lives.

As with previous editions, America's Army 3 is expected to be rated T (13 and older) by the ESRB. The new version will be based on the Unreal Engine 3.

9 comments

 
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Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
Matthew WilsonSF have to build upwards they have natural growth limits. they can not grow outwards. ps growing outwards is terable just look at Orlando or Austin for that.04/16/2014 - 4:15pm
ZippyDSMleeIf they built upward then it would becoem like every other place making it worthless, if they don't build upward they will price people out making it worthless, what they need to do is a mix of things not just one exstreme or another.04/16/2014 - 4:00pm
Matthew Wilsonyou know the problem in SF was not the free market going wrong right? it was government distortion. by not allowing tall buildings to be build they limited supply. that is not free market.04/16/2014 - 3:48pm
ZippyDSMleeOh gaaa the free market is a lie as its currently leading them to no one living there becuse they can not afford it makign it worthless.04/16/2014 - 3:24pm
Matthew WilsonIf you have not read http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/introducing-steam-gauge-ars-reveals-steams-most-popular-games/ you should. It is a bit stats heavy, but worth the read.04/16/2014 - 2:04pm
Matthew Wilsonthe issue is when is doesn't work it can screw over millions in new york city's case. more often than not it is better to let the free market run its course without market distortion.04/16/2014 - 9:36am
NeenekoTrue, and overdone stagnation is a problem. It is a tricky balance. It does not help that when it does work, no one notices. Most people here have benifited from rent controls and not even realized it.04/16/2014 - 9:23am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/04/15/riaa_files_civil_suit_against_megaupload04/16/2014 - 8:48am
ZippyDSMleeEither way you get stagnation as people can not afford the prices they set.04/16/2014 - 8:47am
Neenekowell, specifically it helps people already living there and hurts people who want to live there instead. As for 'way more hurt', majorities generally need less legal protection. yes it hurt more people then it helped, it was written for a minority04/16/2014 - 8:30am
MaskedPixelantehttp://torrentfreak.com/square-enix-drm-boosts-profits-and-its-here-to-stay-140415/ Square proves how incredibly out of touch they are by saying that DRM is the way of the future, and is here to stay.04/16/2014 - 8:29am
james_fudgeUnwinnable Weekly Telethon playing Metal Gear http://www.twitch.tv/rainydayletsplay04/16/2014 - 8:06am
ConsterTo be fair, there's so little left of the middle class that those numbers are skewing.04/16/2014 - 7:42am
Matthew Wilsonyes it help a sub section of the poor, but hurt both the middle and upper class. in the end way more people were hurt than helped. also, it hurt most poor people as well.04/16/2014 - 12:13am
SeanBJust goes to show what I have said for years. Your ability to have sex does not qualify you for parenthood.04/15/2014 - 9:21pm
 

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