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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 4. Video Games, Digital Culture, and the Militarization of the Young


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Under the rubric of war, security and anti-terrorism, children are “disappeared”from basic social spheres that once provided the conditions for a sense of agency and possibility, just as they are rhetorically excised from any discourse about the future. What is so troubling about the current historical moment is that youth no longer even symbolize the future. And yet, any discourse about the future has to begin with the issue of youth because more than any other group they embody the projected dreams, desires, and commitment of a society’s obligations to the future.

— Henry Giroux (2004a, p. 85)

Young people have, over the past half-century or more, endeavored to create distinctive ways of engaging with each other and the world in order to confront the issues associated with the transition to adulthood. In the process young people have carved out a distinct space for themselves, a space that has its own set of rules, language, dress code, music, artistic taste, and style. This space has been described as “adolescence”—usually in the context of medical or psychological approaches to young people and the ideas surrounding them. A broader, less medicalized way of referring to young people is the postwar term “youth” within which authors have identified a range of cultures or subcultures (Bennett, 1999; Bennett & Kahn-Harris, 2004; Giroux, 2013; Grossberg, 1983; Haenfler, 2010). The postwar creation of the...

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