America's Digital Army: Games at Work and War

America's Digital Army: Games at Work and War

America's Digital Army: Games at Work and War

America's Digital Army: Games at Work and War


America's Digital Army is an ethnographic study of the link between interactive entertainment and military power, drawing on Robertson Allen's fieldwork observing video game developers, military strategists, U.S. Army marketing agencies, and an array of defense contracting companies that worked to produce the official U.S. Army video game, America's Army. Allen uncovers the methods by which gaming technologies such as America's Army, with military funding and themes, engage in a militarization of American society that constructs everyone, even nonplayers of games, as virtual soldiers available for deployment.

America's Digital Army examines the army's desire for "talented" soldiers capable of high-tech work; beliefs about America's enemies as reflected in the game's virtual combatants; tensions over best practices in military recruiting; and the sometimes overlapping cultures of gamers, game developers, and soldiers.

Allen reveals how binary categorizations such as soldier versus civilian, war versus game, work versus play, and virtual versus real become blurred--if not broken down entirely--through games and interactive media that reflect the U.S. military's ludic imagination of future wars, enemies, and soldiers.


The action takes place in an oppressed yet stubborn country—
Poland, Ireland, the republic of Venice, some South American
or Balkan state …

Jorge luis borges, “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”

Pj Goes to War

PJ’s world is limited and intense. It is confined to one large street that is about four blocks long and filled with an array of abandoned shops, hotels, vehicles, and restaurants. This street is bordered by smaller parallel and interconnected alleys—two to the east and one to the west. a bright but cloudy sky casts brilliant shadows upon brownish gray buildings and shattered rubble in the streets of this city called Travnizeme. pj, however, gives scant attention to these details, as he knows that he and his fellow squadmates have a critical mission to undertake. PJ’s squad leader, named TehLux[o]r, explained in the mission briefing moments earlier that a group of Czervenian enemy soldiers is fast approaching, escorting one of their vips to safety. pj does not know who this vip is or why he is so important, nor is he aware of the strategic and political implications of his mission. This information is not relevant. He knows only that his squad’s mission is to kill this vip at all costs before he can make it to the extraction point on the other side of the city.

Five of his squadmates, Fire Team a plus the squad leader, head west to cover the exits from a side alley. PJ’s unit, Fire Team B, is responsible for covering the eastern sector for possible enemy vip extraction attempts. As two soldiers in PJ’s fire team run toward stairs that will take them to a rooftop overlooking the main street, his fire team leader, LawBringer . . .

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