The Pentagon Looks to Videogames for the Future of War
Nicholas Thomson -
The first real computer, the ENIAC, was built in 1946. The first computer war game appeared two years later. It was built by the Army Operations Research Office, and it was as rudimentary as you might think. Since then, the relationship between the military and world of games has gotten endlessly deeper. Veterans help develop popular games, and popular games help veterans recover. The US military uses games to recruit, and critics complain that modern war’s cruelty comes because it too closely resembles videogames. In 1997, this magazine ran a cover story about Marines modifying the game Doom for training purposes. This past month, news came of soldiers training with a system called Tactical Augmented Reality.
What if the relationship could be still deeper, though? What if, for example, the best game developers produced tools for the Pentagon? And then what if those tools ended up back in games? What if, instead of videogames copying war, war copied videogames—and the two things became, in a certain way, the same?
The idea comes from Will Roper, a Rhodes scholar in his late 30s with a PhD in mathematics. Roper runs the Defense Department’s secretive Strategic Capabilities Office; his job is to study where war is headed, and to develop the technological tools that help the United States win there. The military services think about today; DARPA thinks about the distant future; Roper thinks about tomorrow.
Difficulties Limiting Recruiters in Santa Barbara Schools—Even with a policy!
The military has an enormous budget for recruiting and pressuring school districts that limit recruiter visits….Vigilance is necessary. During the school year 2017-18 Truth in Recruitment (TIR) leadership and staff met with Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) school board members Ismael Ulloa, Wendi Sims-Mooten and Jackie Reid as well as Assistant Superintendent Shawn Carey on four separate occasions. We discussed implementation of the Exhibit 5125.1 Recruiting Activities in the Santa Barbara Unified School District and the continued problem of policy violations.
First-person Shooter Games, the US Military, and Serial Killers
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.
The Missing Link in the Gun Debate
Greta Zarro -
America is up in arms about guns. If last month’s “March for Our Lives,” which attracted over one million marchers nationwide, is any indication, we’ve got a serious problem with gun violence, and people are fired up about it.
But what’s not being talked about in the mainstream media, or even by the organizers and participants in the March for Our Lives movement, is the link between the culture of gun violence and the culture of war, or militarism, in this nation. Nik Cruz, the now infamous Parkland, FL shooter, was taught how to shoot a lethal weapon in the very school that he later targeted in the heart-breaking Valentine’s Day Massacre. Yes, that’s right; our children are trained as shooters in their school cafeterias, as part of the U.S. military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) marksmanship program.
Nearly 2,000 U.S. high schools have such JROTC marksmanship programs, which are taxpayer-funded and rubber-stamped by Congress. Cafeterias are transformed into firing ranges, where children, as young as 13 years old, learn how to kill. The day that Nik Cruz opened fire on his classmates, he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the letters “JROTC.” JROTC's motto? "Motivating Young People to Be Better Citizens." By training them to wield a gun?
Perhaps what’s key above all, however, is that JROTC, and U.S. militarism as a whole, is embedded in our sociocultural framework as Americans, so much so that to question it is to cast doubt on one’s patriotic allegiance to this nation.
From "Gung-ho" to "Woke"
Isidro Ortiz | Draft NOtices | October - December 2017
Editor’s Note: For this article, Isidro Ortiz interviewed Juan Perez, a Marine veteran majoring in sociology at San Diego State University. Juan will be graduating in May 2018 and plans to pursue a career in social justice activism.
Anti-militarism is often associated with the Baby Boomer generation. Thus, as the generation begins to pass, it might appear that anti-militarism does not have a future. Missed in such an observation is the emergence of a new crop of activists in generations X and Y. Juan Perez is one of those new activists.
Juan describes himself as “woke.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “woke” is defined as being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” When Juan describes himself as “woke” he is light years away from where he was at the time he enlisted in the Marine Corps during his senior year in high school. Juan grew up as an undocumented immigrant in one of the poorest communities, City Heights, in San Diego. In this community he attended some of the city’s lowest-performing schools. By his own admission Juan was not socially or politically conscious at that time. Indeed, he gave little thought to societal conditions and was “gung-ho” about joining the Marines.
How did Juan become woke? The roots of Juan’s woke lie in an incident during his tour of duty in Helmut Province in Afghanistan. While on patrol Juan’s unit spotted what appeared to be an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). In keeping with protocol, the unit communicated to headquarters, which in turn informed the specialized team charged with IED disposal. Within a short time, Juan’s unit was instructed to verify that the suspicious item was indeed an IED. Verification would require a physical inspection of the item.
Juan and a fellow Marine volunteered to fulfill the verification task. While this at first seemed to be the appropriate action for a couple of gung-ho Marines, it turned out to be more momentous than Juan had expected.
Juan and his fellow Marine approached the suspicious item. Verification, of course, required that the item be physically lifted and inspected. Without stopping to think about the wisdom of such hazardous and possibly deadly actions, but in keeping with his tendency to follow orders, Juan lifted and inspected the item. He then returned to his post.