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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 2. War Culture


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(War) gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.

—Chris Hedges (2003, p. 3)

The centrality of war and the willingness to engage in war has become a distinguishing feature of advanced capitalist societies in the twenty-first century. Within the advanced societies of North America, Europe, and Australia, war has become the normal backdrop of everyday life. The act of war, whether it is a low-intensity conflict such as in Afghanistan or the more conventional “shock and awe” of the large-scale invasions we witnessed in Gulf War I and II requires both logistical as well as ideological supports to be effectively prosecuted. The creation of a pro-war cultural milieu has been a hallmark of the first two decades of the twenty-first century. In this chapter I will examine the place of war and warfare within modern society and the relationship between media and entertainment, in the form of video and computer games in the creation of a “war culture” within advanced societies. I will briefly touch on some of the key terms and ideas that will be fully elaborated in subsequent chapters.

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