Snipers Use iPhone App to Target Terrorists

December 29, 2009 -

While an iPhone may not necessarily be the first thing you think of when asked what is need for our soldiers overseas, it turns out that a simple app that costs around $20 is being used quite extensively in Afghanistan.

We knew that soldiers already use modified Xbox 360 controllers to fly unmanned robotic vehicles, but a story in the Mirror details how snipers are using an app called BulletFlight, which takes into account wind and the rotation of the Earth and its affect on the path of a bullet to its target.

The story also talks about PS3 technology being used in supercomputers and radar.

According to Stuart McDougall of BAE Systems, which is developing 3D graphics technology from the PS2 to power the next wave of military engineering designs:

"Historically the military have invested in developing technology to meet their specific requirements. This technology has then filtered down to everyone else. But, increasingly, modern consumer gadgets are so powerful and so highly competitive that they're often ahead of the game - and much cheaper to buy in and adapt."

BulletFlight is available for download by anyone.

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ESA Foundation Backs Scholarships for Military Families Program

November 30, 2009 -

The Entertainment Software Association’s ESA Foundation is continuing its partnership this year with ThanksUSA, in order to help fund scholarships for the children and spouses of U.S. military personnel.

In a bid to raise awareness—and contributions—the pair are once again running an online contest, dubbed Treasure Hunt Five, which serves up American history quizzes, puzzles and anagrams. A series of prizes are available for winners. The game ends on August 15, 2010.

ThanksUSA Executive Director Michele Stork stated:

We are delighted to have the video game industry's continued support in this important endeavor. ThanksUSA has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships to more than 1,850 families across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a goal of crossing the 2,000 scholarship mark this year. With ESAF's help, this year we will award more than 200 scholarships to the families of America's armed forces.

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IED Detection: One Skill Gaming Does Not Improve

October 29, 2009 -

While gamers might be adept at flying drones and operating other types of high-tech military weaponry, they finish behind two other groups of personnel when it comes to being skilled at detecting improvised explosive devices (IED).

The Los Angeles Times reports that military personnel with hunting backgrounds or those who come from tough urban neighborhoods surpassed gamers when it came to spotting explosive devices.

Why is this the case? Gamers “do not seem to have the depth perception and peripheral vision of the others, even if their eyesight is 20/20” states the article. Army Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett added:

Video game enthusiasts are narrower in their focus, as if the windshield of their Humvee is a computer screen. The gamers are very focused on the screen rather than the whole surrounding.

Sgt. Maj. Burnett said that the best class of soldiers he’s ever seen at detecting IEDs were members of the South Carolina National Guard, nearly all of whom are from rural areas and participated in hunting.

Thanks Sean!

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Iraq War Vet, Halo Gamer Succumbs to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 1, 2009 -

…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.

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New Book Probes Link Between Video Games, Capitalism, Militarism & Social Control

August 27, 2009 -

We haven't read this one yet, but we plan to.

Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, a new book by Prof. Nick Dyer-Witheford of the University of Western Ontario and Greig de Peuter, a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University, digs into some territory that should prove fascinating to GamePolitics readers.

From the press release:

Games of Empire forcefully connects video games to real-world concerns about globalization, militarism, and exploitation, from the horrors of African mines and Indian e-waste sites that underlie the entire industry, the role of labor in commercial game development, and the synergy between military simulation software and the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan... the urban neoliberalism made playable in Grand Theft Auto, and the emergence of an alternative game culture through activist games and open-source game development.

Rejecting both moral panic and glib enthusiasm, Games of Empire demonstrates how virtual games crystallize the cultural, political, and economic forces of global capital, while also providing a means of resisting them.

The paperback edition is available for $19.95.

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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.

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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... 

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Would-be Game Designer Lost in Afghanistan

August 5, 2009 -

….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...

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New Site for Gamers in the Military Drafts Well-known Writer

August 5, 2009 -

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.


Army Robot Has Video Games and Vacuum Cleaner in its Family Tree

July 22, 2009 -

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 [360] 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.

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Don't Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em - Army Develops Anti-smoking Game

July 9, 2009 -

The image of the hard-bitten soldier grabbing a post-battle smoke may be a cliche, but it's one that the U.S. Army hopes to change.

To that end, the Texas Medical Center reports that one of its researchers has been awarded $3.7 million grant by the Army to create an anti-smoking video game for military personnel. Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D. describes his project:

The tobacco use rates in the Army are alarming – 38 percent of service members smoke cigarettes and 15 percent use smokeless tobacco... Wars boosted the use of tobacco. Research shows tobacco use in the military increased during World War II. We are going to provide ways to help soldiers kick this destructive addiction or resist it in the first place...

The video game-based education program is anything but boring. It provides a highly interactive, engaging and exciting experience.

When the demands of combat duty increase the soldier’s level of pressure and stress, smoking becomes more tempting to both the former smoker and the soldier who has never smoked. The prevention aspect of the game will address this.

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New Online Gaming Network is For Military Types Only

July 6, 2009 -

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.

Via: Joystiq

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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

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Xbox Live's Major Nelson Visiting Troops in Baghdad

June 13, 2009 -

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.

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Six Days in Fallujah Debated on Fox News

June 11, 2009 -

On Fox and Friends this morning the debate over Six Days in Fallujah is back in the news.

Joining host Gretchen Carlson are Atomic Games president Peter Tamte, retired USMC Capt. Read Omohundro, an advisor on the project and Tracy Miller, who lost a son in the Fallujah fighting.

Via: Kotaku

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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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Fox News on Rendition: Guantanamo

June 4, 2009 -

Fox News offers its take on the cancellation of Rendition: Guantanamo, including an interview with Pete Hegseth of Vets For Freedom.

Hegseth, who served with the U.S. military in Iraq and as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, was also interviewed by conservative newspaper the Washington Times:

[Rendition: Guantanamo] looked like to us a blatant attempt to twist reality and change the perception of the American soldier...

 

We need to keep [pressure] on guys like [former Guantanamo detainee] Moazzam Begg and what they are trying to do in rewriting history at Guantanamo: That our troops are oppressors and that the detainees are all victims.

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U.S. Kids' Lack of Interest in Game Programming is a Security Threat, Says USAF General

June 2, 2009 -

While American kids love to play video games, the former head of the United States Air Force Cyber Command frets that a lack of interest in learning to write the code underlying those games is a threat to national security.

In a report for The Daily Beast author Douglas Rushkoff writes:

[General Elder] has no problem attracting recruits ready to operate robots or fly drones... Hell, they love playing videogames already. His problem is finding high-school graduates with any experience or interest in actually programming all this stuff. Unless something changes radically, Elder told me, the United States will be surpassed in cyberskills within a single generation. The best of our kids design videogames; the Indians, Chinese, and Russians' kids write the code on which those games run.

How could this be? It's because in America we don't value programming. We think of it like bricklaying, farming, or any other seemingly menial skill. We ship our networking jobs to India, China, and other formerly Third World nations...

Rushkoff indirectly points the finger of blame at America's IP enforcement, which discourages tinkering - and thus learning about - digital technology:

In a computing marketplace where altering one's iPhone will "brick" its functionality and where user improvement to programs is treated as an intellectual-property violation, it's no wonder we have adopted the attitude that our technology is finished and inviolable from the minute it has been purchased. Just clicking on "agree" during installation says as much.

Via: GameCulture

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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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Former Detainee Is Consultant on Upcoming Guantanamo Game

May 26, 2009 -

A British Muslim who spent three years in the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility is serving as a consultant on the upcoming Xbox 360 and PC game Rendition: Guantanamo, according to Deadline Scotland.

As GamePolitics reported in March, Rendition: Guantanamo centers around a near-future version of the controversial prison in which mercenaries are in control and scientists conduct experiments on detainees.

Moazzam Begg (left), who was picked up as a suspected Al Qaeda member by Coalition forces in Pakistan, is assisting Glasgow-based game developer T-Enterprise. Begg claims to have been tortured during his stay at Guantanamo. T-Enterprise exec Zarrar Chishti commented on Begg's participation in the project:

We approached Moazzam because it’s very hard for us to know how to design the layout of the prison and he helped. He came up two weeks ago to give his input on what we were working on...

Due to the controversial subject matter, T-Enterprise appears eager not to step on any official toes. Deadline Scotlan reports that the developer had sought advice and permissions from law enforcement and political officials. Chisti explained:

There are certain rules we can’t break after meeting politicians so we are not making the game too extreme. We have had a lot of hate mail about this, mainly from America...

 

But no US or British soldiers get killed in [the game]. The only ones being killed are mercenaries. We have set it in January 2010 because that’s when we think the camp will be closed. We are making a statement. We did not want Guantanamo to be forgotten.

Begg, who wrote a book about his time at Guantanamo, has a financial stake in the project. He spoke of his time detention:

I was put in solitary confinement with no access to the outside world and no explanation as to why I was being detained. My wife gave birth to my son six months after I was arrested and I saw him for the first time when he was three years old. It would be wrong to say I’m not angry but I’m willing to forgive 1000 times over...

The only thing I am concerned about it making sure the game does not misrepresent the prisoners. This will not demean the reality of Guantanamo but it could bring those issues to people who would not usually think about it.

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On Memorial Day, Saluting Gamers in Uniform

May 25, 2009 -

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.

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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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Soldier of 2030 Has a Video Game Look

May 25, 2009 -

Is it a case of life imitating art?

The New York Post reports on what U.S. Army soldiers will likely be wearing in 2030. The model in the Army's own graphic could have stepped right out of Halo or any number of futuristic video games.

It's pretty amazing - from the exoskeleton armor to the data glove to the biometric facial recognition built into the headgear. From the NYP:

It's all part of the Army's starry-eyed vision of grunts 20 years from now, and it's just one aspect of the Pentagon's ambitious thinking about technologies that will transform the way the military fights. There are also plans for advanced robotic aircraft; missiles that travel seven times the speed of sound; and ship- and aircraft-based laser weapons that could blast missiles out of the sky...

Each branch of the military has its own plans, but the Army concept of tomorrow's soldier borrows heavily from nearly every genre of science fiction. Dubbed "Future Soldier 2030," the vision is the brainchild of the Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts, an Army organization responsible for researching and developing new technologies for the individual fighter.

Via: Kotaku

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Controlling Navy's Anti-terrorist Weapon System Comes Easily to Gamers

May 20, 2009 -

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.

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German Researchers See Pentagon Link to Violent Games

May 12, 2009 -

A pair of German researchers claim that violent video games are a creation of the U.S. military.

Writing in the latest issue of Current Concerns, Renate and Rudi Hänsel call for a ban on violent game and echo the military conspiracy theme espoused in the U.S. by followers of fringe political figure Lyndon Larouche:

During the nineties the killing simulators, employed for hand to hand combat in the US army and police, were released by the Pentagon to be sold for private use on the public markets. As a consequence the computer and video game industry that had co-operated with the Pentagon from the very beginning, boomed. Since then the so-called killer games have wreaked havoc among children and youths.

The US army’s electronic training programs for killing people must be taken back to the US barracks, where they came from. They have to disappear from civil society altogether. They may be appropriate for the purpose of national defense or fight against crime; they have no place, however, in children’s rooms or in living rooms.

In addition, the Hänsels relate violent games to school shootings and quote German and Swiss political figures who have called for a ban on such products.

Oddly enough, they also harken back to a post-World War II German ban on war-themed toys.

GP: Thanks to longtime European reader Soldat Louis for the tip!

119 comments

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.

129 comments

 
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Papa MidnightThe Verge says the sequel to Flappy Bird is nearly impossible. http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/21/6053297/swing-copters-flappy-bird-sequel08/21/2014 - 12:22pm
SleakerPC-Gamer wrote an article on what's going on with the Minecraft stuff: http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/08/21/minecraft-bukkit-team-lead-tries-to-end-development-but-mojang-steps-in/08/21/2014 - 11:55am
SleakerEVE had a high-profile ban today: http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/20/eve-online-lottery-site-somer-blink-shutting-down/#continued08/21/2014 - 10:26am
SleakerBut where have all the Ethics gone?08/21/2014 - 9:08am
Sleaker@EZK - one of the bigger things is that since Mojang has owned Bukkit for 2 years now, people contributing to the project have basically been doing work for them pro-bono. On top of never formalizing support. They hid the fact probably to prevent support08/21/2014 - 9:07am
SleakerIf you've played on a server with mods/plugins, you've almost for sure played on a Bukkit-based server.08/21/2014 - 8:56am
SleakerHere's Bukkit's explanation attempt at shutting down due to EULA changes: http://forums.bukkit.org/threads/bukkit-its-time-to-say.305106/08/21/2014 - 8:55am
SleakerEZK - it's the largest server mod for MC, in actuality without it minecraft for sure would not have been as popular (#1 game now).08/21/2014 - 8:54am
SleakerTo the point that it seems they have completely lost what it means to be for-community, and having transparency. Along with dumping restrictive EULA's onto people.08/21/2014 - 8:53am
E. Zachary KnightWhat is Bukkit and why should I care?08/21/2014 - 8:53am
SleakerMinecraft community exploded again today. Apparently Mojang owns all of Bukkit, and never put out a statement saying as such 2 years ago when they acquired them. I have to say, their transition from indie has been rough.08/21/2014 - 8:52am
james_fudgeThere aren't many left in America08/21/2014 - 1:50am
MechaTama31I sure have. Dorky's barcade in Tacoma, WA.08/20/2014 - 5:56pm
Matthew WilsonI have not been to a arcade in years. I know arcades are still big in japan.08/20/2014 - 5:38pm
Sleaker@AE - Ah no it's called GroundKontrol - I was just referring to it as a Bar-Arcade.08/20/2014 - 4:39pm
Andrew EisenStill looking for confirmation that High Moon Studios (dev behind the PS3/360 versions) isn't working on it.08/20/2014 - 4:38pm
ZenGotcha.08/20/2014 - 4:37pm
Andrew EisenI already updated the story with it!08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
Zenhttp://www.gonintendo.com/s/235574-treyarch-isn-t-working-call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-for-wii-u-either08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
ZenLet me send the link for the Tweet as well...they state Treyarch is not working on it. Grabbing it now.08/20/2014 - 4:34pm
 

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