‘Friday essay: video games, military culture and new narratives of war‘, The Conversation, 10 March 2017
Argues that ‘the relationship of video games to history, politics and modern military cultures is no mere child’s play … [I]n video games, enactment is akin to remembrance’. Notes how RAAF recruiting has targeted gamers (‘Take your skills up a notch’). Interactive media trains modern soldiers. People writing in the area ‘have analysed the relationship between video games, capitalism and militarism and the role of entertainment media in disseminating military doctrines and creating a latent acceptance of military might in popular culture’. The Australian Defence Force website encourages gamers to battle online.
The article asks important questions like: how does a soldier’s being virtually killed in a game condition his or her response to the real thing? what are the implications for democracy of separating wartime sacrifice from individual sacrifice? do games help us understand the horror of total war and do they do this in a valedictory or a triumphal way?
Battlefield I [a game] doesn’t glorify war per se, but it reinforces nationalist narratives with zeal – the endgame sequence informs us that the Turkish heroes of Gallipoli went on to found the Republic, and that “tales of heroism and mateship were pivotal in forging [Australian national identity]”.
As an experiment, as Bishop [a character in the game], I attempt to exact vengeance on the inept British officer who has ordered me to my certain death, only to discover that in the virtual world, treason to the Anzac legacy is as impossible to commit as it is to contemplate in the real. This, in short, is how military politics are enshrined in games.