Blood Free Pixels

Below is an excerpt from a Wired article about Joesph DeLappe, an art professor at the University of Nevada who is engaged in what he calls online gaming intervention. Every day he logs into the U.S. Army’s official online game (America’s Army) and broadcasts names of actual soldiers who have died in Iraq.

“By bringing these names into that context it’s not only a way of remembering, it’s bringing a reality into the fantasy.”

But America’s Army already has a toehold in the real world. Billed as the “official U.S. Army game,” it doubles as a tool for Army recruiters. To a reported 6 million registered users, leveling up means getting into the game’s version of Green Berets, and qualifying for “multiplayer missions with units ranging from the elite 82nd Airborne Division to the 75th Ranger Regiment.” The training for these virtual missions mirrors the training for real-world military operations.

So how does an online memorial-cum-protest fit into this public gaming space? According to Paul Boyce, a U.S. Army public affairs specialist, “The Army does not limit participation unless there is negative impact on other players’ experiences.”


What’s interests me are the in-game chat responses he’s getting:

“dead_in_iraq…u aren’t encouraging me to join the services”

“are those real people??”

“we all know alot of guys who did”

What frightens me is the game’s rating. It’s so low that 13 year old kids can play it because of the omission of gore. There’s barely any blood or carnage:

“Thanks to a low-gore factor, however, those other players could be as young as 13. America’s Army has a Teen rating, which the Entertainment Software Rating Board says can include violence, “crude humor, minimal blood … and/or infrequent use of strong language.”

To DeLappe America’s Army is more than just a game. “This game exists as a metaphor, not wanting us to see the carnage, the coffins coming home. It’s been sanitized for us.” DeLappe said, “It’s to entice young people to possibly go into a situation that would be almost the complete opposite, completely terrifying.”