War Propaganda Is Fun On Your Xbox 360

from the the-battle-in-your-livingroom dept

Historically, film has been a dominant medium for propaganda, as filmmakers working for and against governments have used it to express certain viewpoints. It appears, though, that propagandists are increasingly shifting towards videogames as the way to promote their message. In Iran, a new videogame is being developed depicting a scenario in which a top Iranian nuclear scientist has been taken hostage by US forces. The mission, of course, is to secure his release. Videogames are used similarly here as well. Recall that a few years ago, the Army released its own videogame for recruiting purposes. Recently, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez lashed out at an American company for creating a game that simulates an invasion of Venezuela. Chavez’ fears are somewhat understandable, since an invasion of Venezuela wouldn’t normally be something on people’s minds (unlike say an invasion of Iran, which wouldn’t be surprising to find in a game). Furthermore, as author Ed Halter notes, the company that developed the game, Pandemic, has a history of working side by side with the Army to develop training games. Halter’s book From Sun Tzu To Xbox: War And Video Games delves deeply into the historical and ongoing ties between the military and the video game industry. So as videogames continue to capture attention that was historically owned by the film industry, expect games to be a home of fierce propaganda battles. If only the wars could be fought virtually as well.

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Comments on “War Propaganda Is Fun On Your Xbox 360”

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Tyshaun says:

video games have always been in the propoganda bus

Even when I was a teenager I remember Atari/Commodore games like Spy Hunter that were definately propoganda vehicles. This isn’t anythingnew, but it’s interesting that the general public didn’t realized how much it was a fact until the Army simulation came out a few years ago.

If only the wars could be fought virtually as well.

That all depends on what virtual means to you. The closest thing I can think of to a virtual war today is the increase use of unmanned assets like the predator.

For now, the military maintains the stance that although they “could” develop a fully autonomous war machine, it is better to still have a human in the loop at least making the final decision to fire or not. In the future, I’ll postulate, as the military becomes more and more comfortable with machines making decsions, we may start to see drones and other vehicles that are almost completely autonomous, and that may be the dawn of truly virtual wars.

I almost hope that isn’t the case, however, because one of the biggest deterrents from going to war has been the possibility of soldiers dying. With more and more autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, that deterrent is no longer in place and while we may see less soldiers dying, the collatoral damage to infrstructure and the general population in and near the war zones would be enormous.

america's army (user link) says:

Die Jugend Marschiert

“Welcome to the offices of Economic and Manpower Analyses here at our historic and sprawling West Point Academy campus! My name is Mindy! It is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to a loving father of three (and a champion of the sanctioned use of armed force in pursuit of policy objectives). Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the project director of our newest recruitment strategy; our mission to staff future combat systems through current technologies. Without any further ado, I give to you Colonel Casey Wardynski!”

(warm applause)

“Thank you! Let me begin with some sentimental appeals to our national myths; assorted clichés coined by the state; the ideological shorthand meant to sweep your private doubts [away] of this virtual training course. This portal; this Trojan Horse that you living idiots paid for and actually rolled into your own kids’ rooms.”

(stunned silence)

“Oops, did I just say that out loud? Oh, well, it’s not like it’s something new. It’s just the logical extension of the decades of bilge water that you’ve let us pump into your homes. The pink noise that hums away in the background while you run the gauntlet we force on you everyday. The billowing candy floss that helps to soften the blow. Deep down you’ve always known that your children already belong to us, so why don’t you cut the outraged parent routine, shut your mouth and get back in your seat. Your children already belong to us. What are you? You will pass on. And they won’t know a fucking thing but this ‘community,’ this real life Ender’s Game. Forget what you think you know.”

Hairball says:

A Virtual War?

Well what good is that going to do??? I was under the impression that the purpose of war was to kill members of the opposing faction because … quite barbarically … death is the easiest way to rid ourselves of ideas we don’t agree with. Now. If the wars were completely virtual, wouldn’t that be like playing a game of battleship? or chess? “Ok! game over, you got us this time, but we’ve got your strategy down pat!” … No casualties … nothing accomplished (not that killing people accomplishes anything…) but two countries wasting a ton of money on technology for fighting technology.

TasMot says:

Re: A Virtual War?

You are forgetting one thing. The “Virtual War” with all of that real hardware still has to occur somewhere. That somewhere is still the enemy’s home turf. The “Virtual War” will initially be very one sided with the side with the most money sending in the virtual hardware to actually kill the enemy with no home side casualties.

Junyo (user link) says:

Re: Re: A Virtual War?

Yeah, people tend to forget that “virtual war” is a nice way of saying “rich countries killing poor people remotely”. When war has no real cost to one or more of the participants it officially becomes a game.

Amazed that no one has classic Star Trek’s “A Taste of Armageddon” virtual war episode.

Dan says:

Re: A Virtual War?


Reminds me of that very old Star Trek episode where two alien races fought virtual wars “without destroying society”. After the virtual casualties were tallied, people who were marked as killed said goodbye to family and friends and stepped into a suicide machine, thereby making wars more palatable. (How many geek points did I tally in remembering THAT one?!)

It’ll never get to that level of absurdity, but I’d imagine having robotic foot soldiers doing the dirty work of societies not too far from the realm of possibility, given enough time.

Ok, I’m done now…

Anonymous Coward says:

Wouldn’t “propaganda” imply that the game encouraged one viewpoint over another? So unless the game made an invasion of Venezuela a)incredibly easy or b)impossible AND acheived wide enough distribution that it actually influenced significant numbers of people (which would be a longshot with unrealistic gameplay) is it actually “propaganda”? The military has a real good incentive to working with video game companies; games are the primary training ground for their current crop of troops. Unlike generations ago when recruits arrived with a basic knowledge of firearms and shooting but no knowledge of tactics, you have to figure a lot of current recruits are SOCOM and Halo ninjas that have never actually handled a weapon. Training goes a lot faster when you can use an analog that the troops are used to.

And if you think we don’t have a plan in a filing cabinent somewhere detailing precisely how we’d invade Venezuela (and Canada, and Cuba, and Belguim, and Peru…) then you don’t know how militaries think. Old military saying, “At a party, treat everyone with respect, but always have a plan to kill everyone in the room.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“Chavez’ fears are somewhat understandable, since an invasion of Venezuela wouldn’t normally be something on people’s minds”…

Unless you’re Chavez himself, who — taking a page from the Castro playbook — has for years predicted a U.S. invasion every chance he gets. If the game reflects anyone’s propaganda, it is Chavez’s own.

If you think that Chavez sees this as anything except another cheap headline-grabbing opportunity to espouse his militant worldview, you’ve certainly bought *someone’s* spin.

Major Major (user link) says:


As long as its okay with everyone for me to make my game then Im all for propaganda games. Its called Civil War II Red States vs the Blue States Round II. It would have George Bush as the leader of the Red States and Bill Clinton as the leader of the Blue States. W could ride around in his F150 with Garth blarin, and his 12 gauge leading an army of rednecks. Then it cuts to a scene of a well dressed educated crowd have cocktails and laughing as they watch the live video feeds. Bill C. comes in, girls in tow, and just presses a big red button. Game over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Revolution

As long as its okay with everyone for me to make my game then Im all for propaganda games. Its called Civil War II[:] Red States vs[.] the Blue States [-] Round II. It would have George Bush as the leader of the Red States and Bill Clinton as the leader of the Blue States. W could ride around in his F150 with Garth blarin, and his 12 gauge leading an army of rednecks. Then it cuts to a scene of a well dressed educated[?] crowd have cocktails and laughing as they watch the live video feeds. Bill C. comes in, girls in tow, and just presses a big red [blue?] button. Game over.

Your statements appear to place you on the “Blue” team, but if the “Red” team is the uneducated one (as your statements also imply), then your grammar clearly places you at odds with yourself. If your game is to succeed, the “Blue” team should start by getting an actual plan. Otherwise, the gameplay will suck as much as your description.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Revolution

are u a history proff? This is a blog, retard, and was fairly easy to understand, glazing over the atricle didnt confuse anything. the big RED button was the nuke button pushed by the BLUE side to nuke the REDS. He was talking about the color of the button, not the side the button was on. Yeesh, yer retarded.

Roger Roger says:

Re: Revolution

Major, Major… that is hilarious! It is good to see that libs continue to live in their own fantasy world. Of course, that is why you keep losing in the real world.

It is also instructive when liberals are actually honest about their willingness to nuke the half of the US population that doesn’t agree with them. This is why Americans are unwilling to give you the power of the military and the military is 80 – 90% in support of “W the redneck”.

Tonight as you are spanking your monkey dreaming about hooking up with one of Bill’s girls, remember that the big red botton belongs to the red states. No amount of active immagination is going to change that.

MOhd says:

Games to change Points of view

Most of the games which show some type of “propaganda”,,,most of them are made under government influence in order to make a countries’ population have a certain point of view which could later on benefit that government.(eg.War on Venzuela,as mentioned tries to make a generation hate or dislike Venzuela just by killing Venzuelan troops in a game,,then the may create some hatred against venzula.

Some IT Bastard says:

War Games

How about a nice game of chess?

Chavez just spent over 2 billion dollars on guns, tanks, subs, boats, and planes.

What does that mean…?

A new video game where you are in charge of a secret marine group that needs to stop supplies from Russia and Spain in order to take over Venezuela.

I don’t think because I learned how to jaywalk after playing frogger, that military games will influence young people into joining the Army.

BlackCow says:

Its funny that they are advertiseing to a bunch of gameing geeks. I meen I like to play Battle Field 2 (on my PC of corse) and CS:S but I dont think I would ever want to go to war. (well maby flying that would be cool) Meh, now im haveing second thoughts. Because who else are they going to target for the army. Gamers are easy to communicate to (though internet) and have some experience with tactics. More then ur average joe dirt.

I, for one says:

All war games are propaganda

I reckon the games designers are just cowards that need to appeal to safe concepts. The bad guys are always stereotypical swarthy villians with slanty eyes and comical accents.

I imagine that if someone were to release a game where the objective was to blow up an American city with suitcase nukes and assasinate the president it wouldn’t go down too well. Or maybe save some unarmed civillians from being massacred by US troops on a rampage? Despite that fact that outside the USA it would probably be the most popular title of the year I can’t see that happening.

I very much enjoyed Operation Flashpoint. All the same the flag waving, trumpet playing “Sir! Yes Sir!” Americanisms did get a bit sickly after a few levels. So I was really looking forward to Red Hammer – the add on campaign where you get to play the evil Russians with T80s and RPG7s. What better challenge could there be than going up against the USA with their superior weapons? (Notice that the American guns always fire further and more accurately by default in any game?) How disappointed I was. Didn’t get to shoot a single American. The designers thought that too much to stomach for an American audience so the entire campaign was slaughtering civillians. I had to learn to mod my own levels to get the challenge of taking down an Apache helicopter with an RPG 🙂

What happened to the good old days when you got to kill Nazi cliches who screamed “Got in himmel, mien lieben!”? Or might some poor sensitive soul get “offended” by that? Pathetic hypocrites the lot of them.

Brian says:

Iran's Video Game

A video game that depicted a scenario where you lead a team of Iranian Special Forces against US forces would sell like hot cakes. First off the controversy alone would help to propel the game to newspaper headlines, driving up interest and eventually sales. Plus who wouldn’t want to try putting on the other team’s helmet and giving it a go against our best of the best?

jsnbase says:

Deep breaths

Let’s not oversimplify the issue here. Spy Hunter as propaganda? For what? Spy Hunter doesn’t make me think of the CIA, it makes me think of Knight Rider, and that makes me think of Manimal, and now I’m in a dark place and I hold you entirely responsible.

This is entirely different, and as far as I’m concerned the perception that it’s propaganda is at least as interesting as whether or not it actually is. Keep in mind that the original Mercenaries was set in North Korea, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Kim Jong Il had been beating his tiny fists against a copy as he ordered the missle launches of the last week.

Norberg says:

Sad Predictable Comments

I wish I were more surprised by the comments to this article. I have been playing video games for almost 20 years and they have always had a heavy dose of military propaganda. Men have been taught to be soldiers since they were old enough to walk. Before video games, there were wooden guns and swords, cowboys and Indians, Stratego, Battleship etc. Repeating the same action over and over again is a form of self brain washing – war simulations will always change minds. I played the demo of the game in the article – Chavez should be offended. Venezuela has never attacked the USA. The game is pratically a preemtive strike. If they are going to write a plot that is fiction, than let it be fiction (example: Resistance FOM, Halo) instead of offensive fiction based on real-world would-be wars that don’t need more logs of there fire.

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