Un­der siege and just slaugh­ter­ing em

Gamer Revo­lu­tion 9.35pm, ABC Wel­come to the omi­nous side of 21st- cen­tury com­puter gam­ing

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Roland Tel­lzen

Play­ing to kill: Gam­ing can be war by other means

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