For many years, the US as a whole has struggled with a public image crisis of sorts. International relations with the US are strained by the worsening political and economic outcomes of US foreign policy, this is plain for anyone to see. It’s not just the constant sources of embarrassment that everyone around the globe thinks about when they evoke “stupid Americans” stereotypes either. As the US has done for decades, it continues to use military might, subversion and underhanded tactics to accomplish various goals domestically and internationally. And this constant string of targeted propaganda and assassinations, backing dictatorships, deposing foreign governments, and fostering extremism in various regions has had a marked impact on the perception of America as a nation back home. People seemingly just aren’t as fueled by blind patriotism as they used to be, judging by the US Army failing to meet recruitment targets by more than 6,500 in September 2018.
What does all this have to do with video games you ask? Let me explain.
The US military as an institution has a long history of using economic and social adversity and anxiety as a recruitment tool. Head to any high school, college campus or public place, especially in a poorer area, and you’re bound to see recruiters from all branches of the military pushing the same general idea. These recruiters promise free education and plenty of other opportunity to desperate young people, only for the “small” price of their direct involvement in the US military industrial complex. Problem is, aside from these promises often failing to meet the needs of the young men and women lulled into the system, it often costs them their health, sanity or even their lives.
The saddest part is, it still works exceedingly well. The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all met their recruiting goals for 2018. Of course it’s not squarely the fault of the US military and it’s deliberate propaganda and deception, they are leveraging generations-worth of nationalist influence here, but that doesn’t excuse these kinds of things in my eyes. Anyway, back to the point.
This same usage of predatory and deceptive practices applies to video games too. The US military needs bodies to achieve it’s often destructive goals, and even though tens of thousands stream into the meat grinder every year, the Army wants more.
Since 2002 with the release of America’s Army, the US military has tried to “gamify” warfare. There was even an “immersive simulation” aimed at mimicking the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that was created a few years ago, with a taxpayer-funded price tag of $57 million. Check out a trailer for this latest bout of glorification down below.
These kinds of tactics are a deliberate attempt to downplay the horrors of war, and it seems that the military is making efforts to continue it’s jingoistic goals by appealing to a softer form of propaganda. In this case, it’s a new national Esports team.
Yes, you read that right. The US Army wants to use the competitive environment of Esports games like Overwatch and Fortnite as a testing ground for recruiting new people into the fold. And they’re pretty open about the goal here, making the military even more visible in everyday society, mostly for younger generations.
In a post on Reddit, SSG Meaux who is a US Army Esports team recruiter stated that:
“We are actually in the process of standing up two new competitive outreach teams — an Army eSports team and an Army Functional Fitness team. Both teams will be part of the Marketing and Engagement Brigade based at Fort Knox. They will operate much like the Golden Knights and the Army Marksmanship Unit to create awareness about the Army and the opportunities it provides.Both teams will represent the Army in competitions and events across the nation…”
“…This initiative will help make our Soldiers more visible and relatable to today’s youth. Members of the eSports and Functional Fitness outreach teams are not recruiters. They will be in a support role to help young people see Soldiers in a different light and understand the many different roles people can have in the Army. They will help the Army address the growing disconnect with society.Competitive online gaming will be part of the duties of the eSports team, and representing the Army at fitness competitions will be a big part of the Functional Fitness team.”
How do you feel about attempts at military recruitment “hiding in plain sight” in your video games? Let us know in the comments below.