Pat Elder - May 23, 2018 -
Both Nik Cruz, the Parkland shooter, and Dimitri Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the Santa Fe shooter, were emotionally distraught because of girls who rejected their advances. They were both outcasts in their respective high schools. They both played video games that simulated war. In his Facebook bio, Dimitri showed interest in joining the US Marine Corps “starting in 2019.” Nik Cruz felt more at home with the Army.
This is not a cheap shot. The military recruits gamers from the virtual world.
The America’s Army(link is external) video game, a vicious first-person shooter game, has millions of avid fans. It is one of the world’s most frequently downloaded games. According to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “the game has more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”
The military exploits the visceral appeal of virtual killing. More than that, the Pentagon seeks virtual shooters who have developed surprisingly complex strategic and tactical skills learned through thousands of hours of gaming experience. These skills are like those commanders on the battlefield use in real combat.
The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center-Training has its own Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMRPGs) to train new recruits. The system, similar to World of Warcraft(link is external), allows individual soldiers around the world to log into the Army MMRPG and play as individuals or as units.
Thanks to the great defender of freedom, Edward Snowden, we know about a 2013 NSA Document(link is external), “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments.” The NSA and the CIA have teamed up with the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ to deploy real-life agents into the virtual World of Warcraft and has infiltrated Xbox Live with tens of millions of players worldwide. The world’s two top spy agencies can identify a labyrinth of social networks of those with the inclination for virtual killing. The targets of the espionage may be in Syria or Venezuela; Florida or Texas.
In World of Warcraft, players everywhere on earth share the same virtual world, walking, running, travelling around, and killing a variety of computer-generated monsters, along with custom-designed human avatars made by shooters 10,000 miles away. Build your own here!(link is external)
Pro Publica, a recipient of Snowden’s release, describes, “killing computer-controlled monsters or the avatars of other players, including elves, animals or creatures known as orcs. Players create customized human avatars that can resemble themselves or take on other personas — supermodels and bodybuilders are popular — who can socialize, buy and sell virtual goods, and go places like beaches, cities, art galleries and strip clubs.”
Real and virtual are blurred.
SAIC, the defense contractor behemoth, has studied MMORPG’s and concludes they can be used for a variety of purposes by America’s enemies, from recruiting members, training fighters, and spreading propaganda – like the US does with The America’s Armyvideo game.
It is ironic to consider the NSA may well have data on both Cruz and Pagourtzis who likely played MMORPG’s.