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Video Games and the Militarization of Society


John Martino

The impact that First Person Shooter video games have had on the evolution of youth culture over a decade or more has been the focus of attention from political leaders; medical and legal specialists; and the mass media. Much of the discussion concerning these games has focused on the issues of the violence that is depicted in the games and on the perceived psychological and social costs for individuals and society. What is not widely canvassed in the public debate generated by violent video games is the role that military-themed games play in the wider process of militarization. The significance of this genre of gaming for the creation of a militarized variant of youth culture warrants closer interrogation. War/Play critically examines the role that militarized video games such as Call of Duty play in the lives of young people and the impact these games have had on the evolution of youth culture and the broader society. The book examines and critiques the manner in which the habits and social interactions of young people, particularly boys and young men, have been reconfigured through a form of pedagogy embedded within this genre.


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Chapter 1. Introduction


· 1 · introduction ‘And it had to be a child, Ender,’ said Mazer. ‘You were faster than me. Better than me. I was too old and cautious. Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart. But you didn’t know. We made sure you didn’t know. You were reckless and brilliant and young. It’s what you were born for.’ — Ender’s Game (Card, 2002, pp. 300–301) This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other uni- verses based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war. —William S. Burroughs (1992, p. 95) Writing is often a political act. In writing a book about new forms of pop- ular media, such as video and computer games, one can choose one of two approaches. The first views video games and other forms of new and popular media as a form of art or a literature—opening up the domain of literary and filmic critique and analysis. The second emphasizes the technical and opera- tional aspects of media such as video games—the focus of this type of study is more often an examination of the structure of video games, their playability, or the utility of a specific form of new media, for example the use and abuse of Twitter or other social media. As I will argue throughout this book, neither of these approaches is particularly useful when artifacts such...

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