MediaFile

Army to release latest version of video game

March 26, 2009

The Game Developers Conference is not necessarily the place one would most expect to see a presence from the U.S. military. But video games are so enmeshed in popular culture – particularly for young males – that the Army has for years been using them to appeal to potential recruits.

The Army will release the latest version of its free, downloadable first-person shooter game, “America’s Army 3,” this summer.

In an interview, Maj. Michael Marty emphasized the game’s realism. “It’s not Rambo.”

“You’re going to come in here and learn what it’s like to be a soldier.  Look, with the economy being what it is, people are saying the U.S. army is not hurting for recruits. Well, we don’t want to be the fall back position. We want kids to self-select into our business. And we think that if they understood all of the things that go into being a soldier… the Army will sell itself. All we want is the opportunity to tell our story.”

“And there will be some kids who thought ‘I’m going in the Army.’ They experience it here virtually and they say ‘you know what, it’s not quite what I thought.’”

The first version of the game launched in 2002, with the second following in 2004. The Army says the games have been downloaded more than 40 million times, with nearly 10 million registered users.

Marty said the Army realized in the late 1990s, as the military was shrinking in the post-Cold War era, that kids were getting too much negative input from movies like “Full Metal Jacket” and “Platoon” about military life. “We wanted to educate the kids about what the real Army is.”

He said the game is accurate down to the most minute detail, vetted by members of Army Special Forces: weapons, equipment, planning, tactics, barracks, even the actual sound of whizzing bullets. “Everything in here is authentic … every detail about the weapons is accurate, every detail about our soldiers. From patches and uniforms to how they dress their kit. Everything about it is exactly what out soldiers deploy with today.”

The Army even put the game developers through a week of actual basic training – shaved heads and all – to give them a better fell for designing the game.

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