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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 6. The First Person Shooter


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In play there is something “at play” which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to action. All play means something.

—Johan Huizinga (2003, p. 1)

The advent of game studies (Aarseth, 2001) as a serious academic undertaking has presented the opportunity to consider digital games as more than simple diversions and has allowed us to critique their design, usability, and content. The academic debate within games studies has been binary, centering on two dominant positions. The first is the position adopted by European game scholars, such as Espen Aarseth (1997, 2001), who take a top-down approach to the analysis of games that privileges “definitional argument.” The second approach has its origins in America and centers on a bottom-up dialogue with gamers, designers, the game industry, and its fans (Jenkins, 2002; Raessens, 2006). Both approaches to games fail to consider the broad context within which this form of technology has emerged and, in particular, the military origins of some forms of games and gameplay. The dominant discourse within both paradigms does not account for the place that games and gaming occupy within the culture of advanced capitalism.

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