A political column in this morning's Washington Examiner claims video games like America's Army are the most effective recruitment tools of the U.S. Army.
Taking advantage of the massive media blitz surrounding the recent Modern Warfare 2 release, military professional and regular contributor to the D.C. Examiner Peter Singer wrote at length about the connection between video games and modern combat. Citing Congressional testimony by U.S. Army personnel claiming that video games are their most effective recruiting tool, Singer also quotes a 2008 MIT study as finding "30 percent of all Americans age 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the Army because of [America's Army] and, even more amazingly, the game had more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined."
Most gamers recognize the hallmarks of a blatant marketing tool in the trappings of America's Army (mandatory registration with an Army website, glorified profiles of current personnel and free recruitment videos) but what's more disturbing is Singer's suggestion that video games are training players to be better warriors. Singer recalls meeting an Air Force Colonel and Predator squadron commander who was continually impressed by the ease new recruits demonstrated in adapting to "the fast-moving, multitasking nature of modern warfare."
Still, the familiar concerns abound about the desensitizing effect of virtual violence. Singer recalls the same commander claiming that "the video game generation is worse at distorting the reality of [war] from the virtual nature. They don't have that sense of what really going on," recalling the cold precision of the AC-130 gunship level "Death from Above" in Call of Duty 4 that may teach gamers how to "compartmentalize" the emotional trauma of combat.