Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is using video games to recruit deceptive?

Next to the Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret shops in the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you can now find the state-of-the-art Army Experience Center. Complete with a Humvee, a Black Hawk Helicopter and an Apache gunship, the facility is part of a two-year experiment by the Army to boost recruiting numbers.

The Army spent $12 million constructing the facility and packing it full of computers and video games for an interactive, virtual reality experience designed to recruit new soldiers.

After four months, 33 full-time soldiers and five reservists have signed up - a figure that matches the performance of the five recruiting centers it replaced.

The army says the Experience Center is more than just a recruiting hub, and also serves to “dispel misperceptions about Army life,” according to a recent Reuters article.

"We want them to know that being in the Army isn't just about carrying weapons and busting down doors," said Jennings, who wears slacks and a polo shirt rather than a uniform. About 80 percent of soldiers are not involved in direct combat roles, he said.

But some people, including former soldiers, think the use of video games in recruiting for the Army is glamorizing war and can mislead potential recruits. Jesse Hamilton, a former Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, called the video games “very deceiving and very far from realistic.”

"You can't simulate the loss when you see people getting killed," said Hamilton, who left the Army after his Iraq tour and is now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

"It's not very likely you are going to get into a firefight," he said. "The only way to simulate the heat is holding a blow dryer to your face."

We want to know what you think - Could the Army Experience Center be considered a deceptive recruitment technique or is it just a creative way to meet recruiting goals?

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