War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict

Corey Mead. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-544-03156-2
“War sucks,” says one researcher in War Play, “but it does drive innovation.” As one of the largest and highest-stakes educators in the United States, the military has led the way in developing new instructive tools, like the first standardized tests. It was also one of the earliest adopters of video games for training purposes, specifically warfare simulation. The tactic proved very effective: General Schwarzkopf recalled that during the first Gulf War, “the movements of Iraq’s real-world... forces” were so like the simulated scenarios that military communications centers were impelled to explicitly label dispatches concerning the latter as “Exercise Only” in order to avoid confusion. And the line between real and virtual isn’t the only line being blurred—as the “military-entertainment complex” has grown and cross-fertilized, military-produced games like America’s Army make it increasingly difficult to differentiate between recruiting propaganda, ideological indoctrination, and commercial entertainment. (More altruistically, “cybertherapy” simulations have been used to help soldiers cope with PTSD and develop combat stress resilience.) Mead’s account is insightful, and though he’s hopeful that military innovations will continue to benefit more humanitarian fields (such as medicine), he also recognizes its potential repercussions, as evidenced by a prescient closing image: the Chinese military’s combat simulator, where the only opponent is the United States. Agent: E.J. McCarthy, E.J. McCarthy Agency. (Sept. 17)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 09/17/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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