In earlier posts I mentioned the development of technology used for games – more precisely technology in connection with Virtual Reality games. Today it is time to take a slightly different look at this technological development, and how it ties into military warfare.
The idea for today’s post actually comes from a paper I wrote last semester concerning video games, violence, and the possible militarization of society through technology – and the use of video games. Anyway the actual paper itself was of mixed quality, but what was interesting were the discoveries I made in the process of writing it.
So, first things first: what connections are there between the military and video games? Well, in fact there are quite a few connections between the two. For one, the US army was involved in the development of one of the oldest video games, Spacewar! Later on, and with the emergence of Doom the US army saw potential in this first person shooter genre. The genre in itself grew in popularity through the 90s, and in 2002 the US army released its own game called America’s Army. Although never publicly admitted, this game was most definitely used as a recruitment tool for the military -as a way of creating interest about, not just the US army, but warfare in general. The game saw quite a lot of success, although precise numbers of how many people were actually recruited directly from playing the game are hard to come by. Even so, in 2011 America’s Army 3 was released, which shows that the army believes in this strategy.
Not only that, but the US army has also used shooting simulators as a part of their training regime. It is simply a much cheaper way of training soldiers to shoot a gun, and is effective, at least to some extent (it does of course not negate the use of real life shooting ranges). Or does it? Or should I say, will it?
You see, warfare technology is changing. This change is in fact most often represented in video games such as Battlefield and Call of Duty, where near future technology and warfare is imagined. This creative way of thinking about warfare has not gone unnoticed, and we are beginning to see game designers invited into think tanks and other expert groups who’s task it is to devise real life warfare strategies. In other words, there seems to be an exchange going on between cultural and technological production. That was a bit of a side note to be honest. What I am really trying to get at, is that military technology is changing the ways in which warfare is being conducted.
More and more bombings now take place through the use of remotely controlled drones, and the US daily usage of drones is only set to rise. This I believe is just the beginning of a trend. A trend that sees robotics taking major leaps forward, especially when it comes to practical appliance of robotics, and their mobility, which is important. It does not seem unimaginable that remotely controlled robotic soldiers will at some point in near future replace real life soldiers – becoming a kind of surrogate soldier on the battlefield. If this indeed becomes the case, we won’t need soldiers in peak fitness anymore, but instead solders that are well equipped to control a robot on the battlefield – placing it not very far from the experience of playing a video game.
In short, warfare is becoming increasingly remote, although I am not here today to talk about the societal consequences of such a development – there sure will be consequences though. But, as warfare becomes more remote and game-like, video games are developing in the opposite direction! They are becoming more realistic.
I have already mentioned Virtual reality (VR), and when you say VR, most people not think about the glasses:
But in an earlier post I also mentioned another type of VR, more specifically, the Tesla Suit:
The combination of these two would be an incredibly immersive experience. Not only would you visually feel as though you are within the game environment, because whichever way you move your head, the game camera moves as well. But you well also feel as though you are in the game through your sense of touch because of the Tesla Suit! Anything from a soft breeze, to, probably, a gunshot. As interesting as this sounds from a gamer’s point of view initially, I do have some concerns – especially when it comes to first person shooters. This kind of immersion could to a great extent trick the brain into believing that you are in an actual warfare environment, and I am not sure most people would actually like to experience that – especially if we think of how many soldiers come home from war with trauma. I honestly don’t think it is too far a stretch of the imagination that when such technology becomes widely available we will also begin to see cases of trauma amongst gamers – at least those who have experience prolonged exposure to such stressful environments.
So isn’t this all kind of striking? At the same time as warfare is becoming more remote and game-like, video games are becoming more realistic. How realistic is too realistic in games? What do you think, am I on to something here, or completely off the mark?
Let me know in the comments section below.