Two unlikely allies: the US Military and the video game industry. Who knew?
Update: It’s New Year’s Day and Ars staffers are enjoying a winter break (inevitably filled with some wishful vacation research and cooking). As such, we’re resurfacing a few favorites from the site archives—like this look at how the military has used video games (and vice versa). This story originally ran on December 7, 2008, and it appears unchanged below.
The branches of the United States military have had a strong presence in video games since the dawn of the medium, with appearances in genres from primitive arcade shooters to real-time strategy, first-person shooters, scrolling shooters, to the occasional beat-’em-ups. Few of these titles have actually had official military involvement or input, but recently that has begun to change. Not only have the different branches sponsored “official” games, but they have also used serious games to provide training for their soldiers. So the recent news that the US Army has decided to invest $50 million into video game development was not much of a surprise to the industry. After all, the Army has realized that video games are immensely useful tools, both for capturing the public’s interest, as well as training soldiers in the art of war.
America’s Army, the free-to-play first-person shooter that aims to give players a taste of what it’s like to be a member of the Armed Forces, has been around since 2002. The shooter has garnered a number of awards over the years, and has managed to attract several million players on both PCs and consoles. While it has certainly proved popular with gamers, it isn’t an outright recruitment tool in its own right. A more accurate description of the game would be that it’s an aid in the recruitment process.