Under siege and just slaughtering em
Gamer Revolution 9.35pm, ABC Welcome to the ominous side of 21st- century computer gaming
AT the turn of the millennium, the US Army faced a challenge: how to turn around a decline in recruiting numbers that was making it a struggle to maintain troop strength.
The solution? The army turned to a commercial computer games developer to create an ultra- realistic, firstperson combat game, America’s Army, that could match any bestselling combat game in quality and would be available for free download from the internet.
The game put the player in the thick of the action of real- life combat situations the US military faced across the globe, including dealing with Iraqi roadside truck bombs. It was available to the general public as well as to serving US soldiers. Two years on, the game has been downloaded seven million times and the army has more than met its recruitment goals in both of those years.
Cut to halfway across the world. In Syria, two boys are engrossed in their own shoot- em- up, Under Siege, a game that takes as its starting point the Hebron massacre in which a Jewish settler slaughtered 29 worshippers in a mosque. The game puts the player in the role of a Palestinian fighting and killing a brutal Israeli occupying army.
The developer, who created the game with the aid of the Syrian Government to counter popular US games that put Arabs in the role of enemies or victims, smiles fondly as he watches the boys play.
‘‘ The most joy I get is seeing the sparkling eyes of the children when they see our work,’’ he enthuses.
Welcome to the ominous side of 21st- century computer gaming, which is fast rivalling cinema in popularity and with which governments and societies across the world are coming to grips. The two- part documentary Gamer Revolution tries to make some sense of the $ US25 billion ($ 29.6 billion) a year industry that few older than 35 understand.
If governments are using computer games to recruit among the world’s 800 million gamers for the next generation of combatants, it’s no wonder an older generation looks on the phenomenon with trepidation.
In the wake of the Columbine massacre in the US, for example, the Australian and New Zealand governments criminalised mere possession of one of the more notorious firstperson shooter games, the ultraviolent Postal.
Yet Gamer Revolution shows that even shooting games can have a benign side, such as helping childhood cancer patients learn to fight their affliction. Think Fantastic Voyage meets Doom, with cancer cells as the enemy.
Playing to kill: Gaming can be war by other means