Military Entertainment Complex

McKenzie Wark continually references the “Military Entertainment Complex” throughout Gamer Theory. While Wark discusses the MEC in general, I felt that the book was missing specific examples of ways that the MEC functions in our society – especially considering the cultural influence of Military games. In March I read an NPR article on “America’s Army,” an online combat game developed by the Pentagon. The article states that the game, “has helped boost military recruitment. The game’s technology is not all that different from the tools used in today’s war zones to guide unmanned drones and perform other tasks.” And, “One study found that the game had more impact on actual recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”

The article talks about this new term of “militainment” where the US military draws from popular entertainment sources in order to draw more perspective individuals into the military. In reference to Rachel’s link of the TED video “When Games Invade Real Life”. This really is an example of games invading real life. Training costs are even going down because new soldiers know how to use the “video game” controllers of weapons.

The real effect of these games – something that Wark didn’t analyze in depth – is the “fog of war” effect that this article talks about. You can play games of war and win in the game, but real life is a totally different story. There are real effects on the ground, you cannot just reboot the game and try again. The scary thing is the desensitization. When a soldier is actually in combat, on the ground, I think they can clearly realize that they are not playing a game anymore. However, there are new missiles that are operated remotely by a soldier who looks at a screen and uses a controller very similar to that of a video game to eject to missile. In this case, the solider is put in a situation that is very similar to a game yet able to have real world effects with human lives in question. This is a very scary situation. Although we may save American lives from operating missiles remotely, is this really a good idea?

4 responses to “Military Entertainment Complex

  1. This is a very important and relevant point Jori, particularly with the militarization of our youth and the crazy budget increase on military spending with our nation’s economy declining and impacting so many people. A professor in another class said that the pentagon actually sponsors companies (like Sony) to make a certain number of war games. It’s amazing how little concerned we are.

  2. I agree–it’s very curious that after bringing up the idea of the Military Entertainment Complex, Wark doesn’t discuss military recruitment video games (or, most disturbingly, the increasingly video-game-like format of warfare.) I guess the ideology at work in America’s Army is a bit more obvious than that of the non-government-sponsored video games he examines, but the fact that the most powerful army in the world uses video games as a serious recruitment strategy ought to be worth at least mentioning, I’d think.

    I have to admit, though, the idea didn’t really hit home for me until I saw the final segment of Digital Nation, with the footage of the glitzy new arcade-style Army recruitment center, and soldiers at an Air Force base who alternate between remotely targeting missile attacks on Baghdad and playing PS2. Why aren’t we more concerned?

  3. Yuck! Sorry about the broken tag. I really wish there was a way to edit comments on this thing….

  4. There is, but you must be an administrator. Mwa-ha-ha.