In a recent NPR story, the controversial Army Experience Center reported pulling in the same number (about 240) of recruits as five regular recruiting offices, but with half the staff. So what new-fangled gimmick makes the Philadelphia-based Center so darn effective? Videogames, it turns out. The Center, in addition to having three large-scale simulations that are hard to write off as anything but games (hell, you get a score at the end), provides prospective recruits as young as 13 with access to a monstrous set of Xbox 360s and networked PCs with games like Call of Duty.
The Army Experience Center has been a controversial venture from the beginning, gaining criticism from all sides for offering a view of the military that only involves the fun stuff, and neglects to bring up aspects like “the heat, people screaming, blood, flies, horrible smells, smoke in your eyes stinging, sand” and that whole you don’t respawn thing.
The Army denies that the Center portrays war as a game, adding that recruits can tell that videogames are not realistic portrayals of war and that they know the real dangers they’ll be facing if they sign up for the less-polygonal thing.
The idea of the Military being twice as effective at recruiting, potentially saving precious tax dollars in the long term, isn’t something to scoff at. But at the same time, it’s a bit unnerving to see the Army add “provide children with LAN gaming centers” to their list of duties, especially when those videogames are all war-themed.