War: It’s not like a video game

War Game
Not a video game

Video games have long been a fixture of military training and recruitment. When it comes to actually preparing military recruits for military life, however, new research reveals war-based video games create misconceptions about real war scenarios and the conditions under which members of the military serve.

Ann O’Connor, a graduate student in the Organization Communication program at Southern Louisiana University analyzed military recruitment tactics over the years, ranging from the U.S. Army’s ads emphasizing self-improvement, money for college and national service made and used during the mid-1980’s to the use of video games and multi-million dollar video arcades with full-scale simulators used in some urban recruitment centers in 2008. What she found is that the use of video games rather than helping recruits succeed in their military lives actually seems to produce more aggressive and impulsive recruits.

“There seems to be contradicting messages in the recruiting video games and actual military service protocol,” said O’Connor. “This excessive exposure to violent gaming may pre-condition new recruits in a manner that is counterproductive to the organization’s mission.”

The recruiting centers using simulators and video game arcades has drawn criticism in the media for distorting reality and possibly glamorizing conflict.

“The reality is that video gaming is a big selling tool to young adults,” O’Connor stated. “But there is a preponderance of evidence suggesting there is a long-term cognitive bias toward aggressive behavior in individuals who routinely play violent video games.”

The study was a critical analysis of more than 20 psychology, communication and military journals as well as content analysis of military gaming sites. The research was sponsored by a Marine Corps University Fellowship.

“Enlistees recruited from video gaming centers and deployed to combat situations may have difficulty defining what proper military protocol to utilize during situations where soldiers are required to interact with non-combatant nationals,” O’Connor explains.

The military is beginning to come to terms with this conflict by recognizing that modern day warfare and culture can come to a middle ground, where once complex cultural problems were perceived as aggressive actions. The Army is now employing video simulation games designed to teach communication skills that help soldiers develop relationships with tribal leaders. The cultural element, according to O’Connor, is being recognized as an equal to the military element.

O’Connor also expects that gaming strategies will include social interaction as a key component not just to success in missions but also in accurately portray the average soldier’s role as well as identifying recruits who can and will embody the military’s ideals and standards. A win-win outcome for everyone.

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