The Army’s All-Time Killstreak Champion- A Proposal

“In Desert Storm, the use of night sights made the war seem more like a Nintendo game.”

At some point last year, a friend told me they were  “disturbed” that the Marine Corps had a PR department, a fact that struck me as only natural. Like any other employer, they are looking to connect with job seekers.

What does, to use his word, disturb me, is the Armed Forces growing closeness with the video game industry. While the military has understandably used simulation as a teaching tool, I’m left feeling (again) disturbed by military sponsored video game competitions, and even a video game of their own, America’s Army.

Weird for me, because I’m generally pretty ok with the concept of “Happy Violence.” Upon thinking about it, the juxtaposition of generals and colonels celebrating combo-kills in video games and America’s growing use of drone warfare is what bothers me.

Several close friends serve in the military. My grandfather served in WW2, and my great-uncle on both European and Pacific fronts. Their impressions-to me-come back to one thing researchers find in interviews with soldiers: it is actually quite difficult to kill face to face. 

Targeting recruits who already view war as a game, and removing the human element, could change all that.

My mashup takes audience through an imagined boot-camp, one in which military tradition, parade drill etc is replaced with constant encouragement to “score” more kills. In their room, players compete, seemingly unaware that they are killing people, being spurred on In the end, despite celebration, we are left with coffins.

One of the big risks I’m taking is running the fine line of condemning all first person shooters as propaganda tools that encourage violence. I am not. But, I am talking about using these games to develop a certain outlook when used by the military, and question the emotional detachment of killing via drone. Another having no experience whatsoever with editing video.

To do this, I will be using stock footage of drone combat, WW2 and Vietnam bombing runs, child soldiers from Africa and hopefully video game screens such as the popular Mortal Kombat beckoning to “FINISH HIM!” These will be intercut with children playing video games, and Mario celebrating. For a soundtrack, I intend to use a loop of applause as an icon of approval for the actions.

I hope to raise awareness on a possible reason the military uses video games to bring in recruits, as well as one of the moral quandaries of drone combat.




One comment

  1. Tom,

    This is an excellent and important issue to consider and to present in a mashup.

    I do, however, worry that your approach is already becoming too linear as you start with boot camp and end with the coffins. Mashups are non-linear. Though the progress over time, the don’t have the linearly structured arch that stories have. So, be wary of that. Not sure what you intend with the loop of applause, but we’ll see how that works.

    I also think you have an opportunity to take some metaphors out to their associative ends, such as: game, drone, target, and so on. The children playing games and the Mario are a good start.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with it!


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